A senior politician was warned of a problem with schools opting out of being polling stations saying that in his ward elderly and disabled residents now had to struggle up 'half a mountain' to cast their ballot.

Darwen West's Dave Smith raised the issue as Blackburn with Darwen borough's Policy Council approved a shake-up of voting places.

The planning committee chair told the meeting on Thursday schools declining to be polling stations could cause real problems for residents in wards across the borough.

Cllr Smith said: "There are a number of schools throughout the borough who are not happy at being polling station any more.

"Up 'till very recently most schools were very happy to be polling stations without any problems whatsoever.

Lancashire Telegraph: Councillor Dave SmithCouncillor Dave Smith

"Currently, 19 schools are used as polling places. They play a crucial role in our local democracy and always have done with very few problems over many, many years.

"In this report alone there are five schools complaining they don't want to be polling stations.

"I predict there will be more schools next year saying they don't want to be polling stations and the year after and the year after that.

"It will affect every ward in this borough.

"In my ward for example, last year Avondale School has been used as a polling station right in the heart of the ward probably since the second world war without any problem whatsoever, and suddenly they did have a problem.

"So the only alternative was the methodist church at Bright Street.

Lancashire Telegraph: Ballot box

"It's situated right on the very edge of the polling district. It's a mile away from other areas up one of the steepest hills in the borough.

"It's ridiculous. Elderly people, disabled people, people with any sort of walking difficulty and without transport have real difficulties getting there and back. It's not fair on those people.

"The wider point is the number of schools not wanting to be polling stations.

"It needs to be seriously addressed because in some wards there aren't alternatives to schools other than out of the ward or, in our case, up half a mountain."

Cllr Damian Talbot, executive member for public health, prevention and wellbeing, said: "I do share Cllr Smith's concern.

"In many polling districts the school is the only public building that's suitable.

"They've been used as polling stations for generations. If they all said no we would have a big challenge."

Council leader Cllr Phil Riley said: "We do need to become clear that schools play a part in this, and if there is just nowhere else we shouldn't be forced to invent somewhere else."