LANCASHIRE County Council's Conservative leader has said elections for the authority should be delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Geoff Driver was responding to a call from Labour group leader Cllr Azhar Ali for postal votes for the poll on May 6 to be sent out now.

The county council - which covers 12 boroughs including Burnley, Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Pendle and Rossendale - is responsible for many major services including highways, education and social services.

The polls for Lancashire's police and crime commissioner, Blackburn with Darwen's all-purpose authority and district councils were delayed for 12 months last year because of Covid-19.

Ribble Valley, except for by-elections in Mellor and Langho wards, is not due to go to the polls in May.

Cllr Ali, who represents Nelson East division, said: "Elections are the foundation of our democracy and people should not have to choose between voting and their health.

"People have a right to vote safely and early postal voting will enable them to do that. People can already put in for a postal vote, however many people believe this is still on medical grounds or being absent during voting time, which is no longer the case.

"In order to overcome any confusion every voter should be sent an early voting postal vote form by their local council along with a pre-paid return envelope so they can choose to use a postal vote.”

Cllr Driver said: “There needs to be early certainty about the local elections scheduled for May.

"It is not just the difficulties associated with voting and counting the votes but it will also be extremely difficult for all parties to conduct meaningful campaigns in the present circumstances.

"It is also a fact that many people would prefer not to use the postal vote system.

"There is also the further complication that council officers who would have to prepare for the elections are currently working very hard to help the people of Lancashire through the pandemic.

"It is always difficult for those of us who are currently serving to suggest delaying the elections, but in my view they should be delayed until it is safe to hold them in the usual way."

Cllr Phil Riley, Labour deputy leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: "I think at the moment it is difficult to see how local government elections can go ahead on May 6.

"I think a short postponement might be the best option."