England

London attack: Increased security at polling stations

Copeland polling station Image copyright Getty Images

Security will be stepped up at polling stations during Thursday's general election in light of the London terror attack.

Police forces across the country said safety was being reviewed, with an increased presence expected as people cast their votes.

A security expert has warned there is a "significant risk" of polling stations being targeted.

Saturday's attack in London left seven people dead and 48 injured.

It followed a suicide bombing on 22 May which killed 22 people at Manchester Arena and an attack on Westminster Bridge on 22 March.

Latest updates: London attack

Security expert Michael Fuller, whose firm has worked for the 2012 Olympic Games in London and the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil, said measures such as officers at polling stations and checks on poll cards would improve security.

"There is a significant risk that people will be intent on disrupting the voting process and to do that at a polling station on the day would be a positive achievement from their point of view," he said.

"There are simple things that can be put in place [such as] a visible police [officer] in place in the area of a polling station, and I wouldn't think that would be too much of a drain on resources."

Polling stations in numbers

50,000

Approximate number of polling stations across the UK

  • 2,500 maximum voters per polling station

  • 24.5 million people voted at polling stations in 2015

  • 6.5 million voted by post

Getty Images

While The Electoral Commission issues regular bulletins to electoral administrators, which cover security, there is no national police strategy when it comes to elections and it falls to local authorities and police to organise arrangements at polling stations.

The commission said in a statement: "It is ultimately for the (Acting) Returning Officers to make decisions on what arrangements are appropriate."

A spokesman for the National Counter Terrorism Policing HQ said security around polling stations is "constantly reviewed and updated by local police forces".

Image caption Armed officers guarding the entry to Borough High Street following Saturday's attack

A number of local police and councils have confirmed security is being reviewed ahead of the election.

The Metropolitan Police said a "full review" of the policing operation for Thursday had been carried out.

"Every borough will have a specific, dedicated policing operation," the force said in a statement.

"Across London there will be a specialist and highly flexible operation in place that can deploy and respond as needed."

Westminster City Council said it has a "range of measures in place to ensure the safety of voters at the polls across the city".

Chief executive Charlie Parker said: "We are working closely with the police and colleagues to ensure Westminster's streets are as safe as possible, and arrangements for the general election form part of that planning."

West Midlands Police said there will be "an increase in patrol in some of the areas where voting is taking place where necessary", while Leicestershire Police said the force was "actively reviewing" its operational plans to police the election and would, if necessary, increase security at polling stations.

Essex Police's Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh encouraged people to "go out" and vote.

Speaking to Sadie Nine on BBC Essex, he said: "When you see this type of vile challenge on our lifestyle, more than ever, people need to go out there and vote.

"We will do our very best to try and keep them safe."

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