A NEW way of registering to vote which was introduced last year has been blamed for leading to a decline in the numbers signed up.

But Oxford City Council leader Bob Price has said the council is working to get more people on the electoral roll and called on people to make sure they can vote in May.

Banbury Cake: Bob Price, Oxford City Council

Bob Price

The new individual voter registration system means everyone who wants to vote must sign up themselves.

Under the previous system one person in a household could register everyone else who lived there.

Some politicians have claimed this has led to the number of people registered dropping from 111,863 in February 2014 to 99,729 in Oxford by the end of last year.


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That means one in three people have not registered.

Mr Price said: “The new system is not necessarily straightforward.

“There is a move towards online registration, although you can still register on paper, and you have people who are not used to the internet or who live in a house where they do not have access to the family computer.

“There are three categories of people who are really affected by the new system.

“The first one is students who have come to Oxford afresh at the beginning of their course and have to register in a short time following their arrival.

“Previously the universities could register them.

“The second big group are those who, because of the high turnover of people in Oxford, have arrived in the last year and they have to be made aware of the need to register.

“The third group are those who were put on the register by the head of the household under the old system but have not been invited by the head of the household to sign up individually this time.

“Or they may have been invited to sign up but have decided not to bother.’’ Mr Price said some parts of the city with high student populations such as Holywell and Carfax have been particularly affected by the changes.

And each household in Oxford has been sent a letter by the city council telling them which people in the house are registered and how those who are not signed up can do so.

Mr Price said: “The fight for universal suffrage was long and hard fought and is the basis of democracy across the world. It is pretty tragic if people are denied that right by a bureaucratic system that is hard to address. It is important people exercise their right so we know what the will of the people is in regards to issues which affect us.’’ Cabinet Office spokesman Ross Palmer said: “We are transforming electoral registration to make it fit for the 21st century. Individual Electoral Registration has replaced the outdated head of household voter registration system and is increasing the accuracy of the register and giving people more control over the process.’’

HOW OXFORDSHIRE VOTED LAST TIME

IN THE General Election of May 2010 voters went to the polls to elect six MPs across the county. There was no change in five of the seats, four of which remained in the hands of the Conservatives and one, Oxford East, which stayed with Labour. There was a change in Oxford West and Abingdon where Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris saw his 2005 majority of 7,863 vanish as Conservative candidate Nicola Blackwood won by 176 votes.

BANBURY