Call for Breckland election results

RICHARD PARR Calls were made last night for an independent review of Breckland's election results amid claims of “serious failings” in the way ballots in four seats were counted.

RICHARD PARR

Calls were made last night for an independent review of Breckland's election results amid claims of “serious failings” in the way ballots in four seats were counted.

The Green Party alleged that there was evidence of a miscount in Two Rivers - which includes East Tuddenham, Hockering, Mattishall and North Tuddenham - and Thetford Castle.

Concerns have previously been registered over the district results in Dereham-Humbletoft, where not all of the votes were originally counted, and town results in Dereham-Central, where there was an unusual discrepancy between numbers of town and district votes.

Tim Birt, co-ordinator of Breckland Green Party, said only a public review of all the district election results would restore the public's faith in the accuracy of the count.

The claims followed problems with the new computerised counting system used by Breckland on May 3 which saw the count abandoned on May 4 after just 29 of the 54 seats were declared and the remaining votes counted by hand the following week.

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Breckland has resisted calls to recount votes in the 29 wards that were tallied electronically, unlike Warwick District Council, which also had to postpone its count because of similar problems and decided to carry out a full recount.

Mr Birt claimed that “at least 221 non-existent ballots” were included in the Two Rivers result.

He said: “We have now identified serious failings in four of the Breckland local election declared results.”

He pointed out that in the case of Dereham-Humbletoft this failing has been proved with a manual recount of the ballots.

“The case for the other three is overwhelming. I feel that an independent public review of the results in the only credible way to restore trust in the electoral system.”

Mr Birt stressed that the results would not have made any difference to the Green vote but he feels that the failings should be looked in the open.

“Everyone makes mistakes but it is what you do afterwards that is important,” he said.

Mr Birt's views were supported by Labour agent John Cowan, who also warned of a loss of public confidence in the counting process.

“In the 16 years of being involved in the elections I have never seen such a mess,” he said.

Last night a spokesman for Breckland Council told the EDP the authority did everything within its power to ensure that the election count was carried out fairly and accurately.

“We have responded fully to Mr Birt's inquiries but ultimately, if a person is dissatisfied with the way the election count has been conducted, then there are formal channels they need to follow.”

The spokesman added: “Once the results have been declared our hands are tied and legally we are not able to take any further action.

“The only way this can happen is pursuant to a formal channel through the courts. We have told this to Mr Birt on several previous occasions since the election took place.”

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