Great Yarmouth UKIP electoral fraud probe - calls for by-election
PUBLISHED: 15:04 15 May 2013 | UPDATED: 15:04 15 May 2013
A Tory county councillor toppled by UKIP is calling for a by-election if a police electoral fraud probe finds wrongdoing.
Ormesby pub landlord Jonathon Childs won East Flegg division at last week’s Norfolk County Council elections, claiming the seat for UKIP.
But a police investigation into electoral malpractice is under way, after allegations one or more signatures on Mr Childs’ nomination form were forged. Election rules state candidates must sign the form, along with 10 people who support the nomination.
Mr Childs has not responded to requests for comment, but on his Twitter page - @jonathon_childs - he wrote he had approached the borough council with concerns himself.
Another user asked him: “R U saying someone forged your signature?”
On April 28 he replied: “I am aware of it that’s why I went to GYBC [Great Yarmouth Borough Council] !!
“That mark ain’t mine that’s why I went there.”
Mr Childs did not attend last Friday’s election count at the town hall, where the tally was revealed as 997 votes for UKIP, 906 for the Conservatives and 486 to Labour’s Brian Pilkington.
His victory ousted Conservative Jim Shrimplin who had held the seat for 16 years and was tipped to be the county council’s next chairman. Mr Shrimplin said he “sincerely hopes” the allegations will be “fully investigated”.
“If the signatures are not of those they say they are the electoral form application is not completed,” he said. “In 16 years I’ve had a good run but I don’t think the way in which I was defeated was quite the way I would like to have seen it done. I think there would have to be a by-election [if wrongdoing is found].”
A by-election could affect UKIP’s county-wide position as main opposition group, with a single seat between their 15 and Labour’s 14.
“He has made the allegation - not me,” added Mr Shrimplin. “After the election people may well say that it’s sour grapes as I’ve not got in, but it’s to be hoped the police diligently pursue it.”
Under the Electoral Commission guidelines, false statements on nomination papers can carry a maximum penalty of one year in prison or a fine. This includes “anything which purports to be the signature of an elector who proposes, seconds or assents to the nomination of such a candidate”.
But UKIP agent Matthew Smith, who was the winning candidate in Gorleston St Andrew’s division, said everything has been done properly.
“It’s sour grapes,” he added. “Jon ran a hard campaign, delivered leaflets, knocked on doors, and it’s just sour grapes.
“Jim has been a councillor for a long time and he’s taken it for granted. He comes across as a child who has thrown his toys out of the pram.”
A Norfolk police spokesman said a probe into electoral malpractice is still ongoing.
Linda Mockford, assistant returning officer, said the elections went ahead as planned as signatures on nomination forms are taken at face value.
She added the allegations are a matter for police and not for investigation by the council.
The turnout for East Flegg division was 32.83pc.
The Mercury has made several approaches to Mr Childs for a comment but at the time of going to press none had been forthcoming.