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Most local authority electoral officers support the information commissioner's recommendation to scrap the edited electoral roll, according to a new survey.

The survey of 204 councils, taken during August by the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Electoral Administrators, found that 98 per cent of officers were against making information on local residents available to marketing firms through the edited register.

It found that the councils each receive an average of £1,900 annually for selling edited electoral rolls, meaning that the scheme's abolition would have almost no financial impact on local authorities.

The survey also found that 88 per cent of electoral officials believe that the current system deters people from voting – despite it being straightforward to avoid appearing on the edited roll through marking a box on the registration form.

Councillor Richard Kemp, deputy chairman of the LGA, said: "The new survey clearly shows that town halls hugely resent having to pass the electoral roll to direct marketing companies. Most people hate junk mail and cold calling and councils don't want to be a part of the process that generates money for junk mail companies in this way.

"Selling the electoral roll undermines democracy, dissuades people from voting and gives people the impression that the council is profiting from selling their personal information. Ministers must change the law to ban junk mail firms from getting their information through the electoral roll," he added. "Keeping two separate electoral rolls is fiddly, costly and frankly a pain in the backside for councils."

Councils have been required by government to prepare an edited electoral roll, available to all for a price, since 2002. The full electoral roll is available for electoral use and to credit reference agencies.

In July, information commissioner Richard Thomas and Mark Walport, director of medical charity the Wellcome Trust, recommended in their Data Sharing Review that the edited electoral roll be discontinued.

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.

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