Andover’s Mayor has said that his party will not put forward candidates if an election is held in May over safety concerns.

Councillor Richard Rowles told the Advertiser that the recently re-registered Andover Alliance would not put forward candidates for the local elections due to be held in three months time as it is “irresponsible” to do so. He urged other parties to follow his lead.

His comments follow a survey which suggests nearly 95 per cent of councils in the UK have concerns about the possibility of running a May election.

The Andover Alliance was temporarily de-registered by the Electoral Commission in November after Cllr Rowles allowed the registration to lapse, having been locked in a stalemate following the expulsion of Cllr David Coole, the party’s nominating officer, meaning that the party was unable to use its name and description in elections without his permission.

The party has now been re-registered with the commission as of January 13, with Maurice Sweeney as the replacement nominating officer.

Despite this, Cllr Rowles told the Advertiser that the party will not be standing if elections are held in May. Currently, local elections are due in England on May 6, which were postponed from last year.

He said: “It is irresponsible to be holding elections in May. Preparations should have already been made for postal votes, which has not yet happened.

“We will not be putting candidates forward if the elections do go ahead, and urge other parties to do the same.

“You’re asking everyone in an area to go to the same place. What could be more dangerous? It’s madness.”

He added that he believed that the government would change its mind on the issue in the coming weeks.

His comments follow a study by the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU), a thinktank composed of local authorities, which found that 94 per cent of the 374 bodies consulted were concerned about holding local elections in May. They found that 66 per cent were “very concerned” about holding elections, with another 28 per cent “somewhat concerned.” Only one per cent of those who responded had no concerns whatsoever.

The authorities’ main concern was that the election would be postponed at short notice following preparations, as well as training workers and potentially disenfranchising voters who would not attend due to Covid worries.

Instead, over two thirds believed that a delay until the autumn would be more achieivable for them.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of the LGIU, said: “Local government is committed to democracy, but the overwhelming view from councils is that it is no longer possible to hold safe and open elections in May.

“The logistical challenges are formidable and there’s a real risk that we effectively disenfranchise millions of people who do not feel safe going to the polls.

“The worst scenario of all would be for the Government to push ahead only to have to make a U-turn late in the day when councils will already have spent a fortune in money and time preparing.

“Better to take a bold decision now to delay the elections and use the additional time to ensure they can be run safely.”