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Portakabin polling station ordered after West Hampstead school refuses to close on election day

Electoral history next week to be made with Camden's first portable voting station

26 April, 2018 — By Tom Foot

WHATEVER happens on May 3, this year’s council elections will forever hold a place in the annals of Camden’s rich democratic history. For the first time in the borough, votes will be cast in a Portakabin-style polling station.

The temporary structure is being set up at the teachers’ car park of Beckford Primary School, in Broomsleigh Street, West Hampstead – part of Fortune Green ward on the council electoral map. Staff at the school could not be reached last night (Wednesday) as parents said that it had refused to shut for the day.

Three other schools around the borough have been asked to close to pupils to make way for voting. One resident angry at the school’s apparent stance told the New Journal last night: “Quite frankly, I think it’s outrageous that, at great expense, Camden is having to install a Portakabin at Beckford. Parking spaces are being lost for most of the day. The school has missed an opportunity as well. One hundred years after the emancipation of women, what an opportunity for the school to get pupils thinking about the right to vote. That has been lost.”

The school is believed to have taken the decision not to close so as not to disrupt the week for hundreds of children and parents, who often have to find childcare or take time off work when schools close on election day. Polling stations are chosen by the council, which finds “suitable spaces”, wheelchair accessible, in each ward.   The portable building will have a ramp for pushchairs and wheelchairs, the council said.

Similar structures have been used in other areas, but not in Camden.

A Camden Council statement said: “By bringing in a mobile unit – the first polling station of its kind in Camden – we’re providing an accessible polling station that is convenient for voters in Fortune Green to get to, while allowing children at Beckford Primary School to continue their education. “There are not many accessible buildings suitable for hosting a polling station in this part of the ward, so we have got creative and worked with the school to come up with this solution.”

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