Britain’s elections watchdog has asked the government to reconsider proposed changes to its oversight arrangements, warning they could impact its independence.

The government is hoping to pass wide-ranging legislation to update the laws around elections with what it calls the aim of protecting the health of Britain’s democracy.

The Elections Bill includes a provision under which the government will set out the Electoral Commission’s strategy and policy. The commission is an independent body overseeing elections and regulating political finance.

“It is the firm view of the Commissioners that the introduction of a Strategy and Policy Statement — enabling the Government to guide the work of the Commission — is inconsistent with the role that an independent electoral commission plays in a healthy democratic system,” the Electoral Commission said in a letter to ministers.

“If made law, these provisions will enable a government in the future to influence the Commission’s operational functions and decision-making.”

“We therefore urge the Government to think again about these measures, to remove the provisions, and to work with the Commission and Speaker’s Committee to ensure that suitable accountability arrangements are in place to ensure confidence across the political spectrum. Strong accountability is essential for this, but so too is demonstrable independence. The Commission’s independent role in the electoral system must be clear for voters and campaigners to see, and preserved in electoral law. “


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