THE number of people eligible to vote in Essex has gone up by nearly 14,000 since 2013.

Annual figures published today by the Office for National Statistics show Colchester gained the most voters in the past five years - 3,824 - followed by Uttlesford (2,649), Basildon (1,981), Epping Forest (1,386) and Thurrock with a 1,231 boost.

Across the county there are now more than 1.3 million people able to vote in upcoming elections.

A Colchester Council spokesman said: “We believe a number of factors have contributed to the rise in voter registration in the borough in recent years, including population growth, but also all out elections and the EU Referendum, which are both likely to have provided a greater incentive for people to register.

“We have also undertaken a great deal of proactive publicity ahead of elections to encourage residents to register to vote, including promoting online registration, issuing e-news bulletins, social media posts, and online and print media.”

But Harlow, Southend and Chelmsford have suffered the biggest losses as well as Tendring, which is among the six wards to have lost eligible voters.

Numbers in Brentwood, Harlow and Rochford have also dipped.

What the election statistics also revealed are the numbers of people choosing to opt out of the open register has grown annually in most parts of Essex.

In eight of 14 council areas, there has been a more than 50 per cent rise in those residents opting out since 2013.

The open register can be bought by any person, company or organisation, and is separate to the full electoral register.

Except Braintree and Castle Point, the remaining 12 wards have seen more people drop out year on year.

Some 39,098 people deregistered in Uttlesford last year, compared to 9,818 five years ago.

Maldon went from 13,194 to 28,308 and Colchester, where 78,833 opted out, there has been a 96 per cent rise.