THE leader of Worcestershire's Tories today called on the Government to postpone local elections from Thursday, May 3.

County councillor June Longmuir said a decision to go ahead with the original date would "disenfranchise" people living in the countryside who were struggling with the foot-and-mouth crisis.

"I can't believe the Government could put party politics above the concerns of most people living in the countryside, virtually disenfranchising them by refusing to postpone local elections in the shires," said Coun Longmuir.

"Yes, there's postal voting. And, yes, there's the telephone service. But candidates have no free post and their costs are legally restricted.


"Who can put their minds to vote when livelihoods are at stake?"

Tory leader William Hague told Radio 4's Today programme that it was too early to say that the local election dates should not be postponed.

Worcester MP Mike Foster said the Government had another week to make a final decision over May 3.

But he added that to postpone local elections could send out a mixed message, and it would tell the outside world that "something extraordinarily bad is happening in Britain."

"The tourist industry's being hit increasingly hard. The Government is trying to do things to release the canals and waterways and some land from tight restrictions for people in time for the Easter break," he said.

"If you do this and then tell people in two weeks that they can't vote, that sends out a mixed message to them."