Gloomy outlook as voters stay away

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Turnout or the lack of it could make all the difference in districts across the region as polling stations reported a steady but slow trickle of voters giving their electoral verdict on local councils.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Turnout or the lack of it could make all the difference in districts across the region as polling stations reported a steady but slow trickle of voters giving their electoral verdict on local councils.

Maybe it was the fraying political nerves or the overcast weather, but the overwhelming mood appeared to be a mixture of anxiety and glumness at the apathy of voters - whose verdict appeared to be a collective sitting on hands.

The Tories control nine of the 13 councils up for grabs in the region, the Lib Dems three and Labour one.

And with many of the polls looking like foregone conclusions there was little prospect of any political earthquakes.

Even in South Norfolk, where the Tories are hoping to seize the council from Lib Dem control, there were signs that many voters had stayed away, but much could have depended on a late evening pick up.

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There were also suggestions that the rising popularity of postal voting could be having an effect.

At Broadland, council officials said they had been struck by the high level of postal votes despite printing delays which meant officers had only two days to verify them.

“The postal vote seems to have been a huge success,” a spokeswoman said. “We sent out 12,300 postal votes and have already received 10,485 back. We sent out 4,400 postal votes for parish elections and have received 2,560 back.

Postal votes are still coming in,” she added. “Very few are invalid, most have the required signatures and dates of birth and there has been no evidence of voting fraud.”

But the authority did face criticisms from some voters after failing to provide a ramp for disabled access at a polling station at Swannington, near Norwich after voting was switched from the usual church location to a mobile.

With the exception of Norwich and Yarmouth, which counted votes last night and into the early hours, the rest of the councils sealed the ballot boxes ready to start the counts this morning.

Most authorities are hoping to have definitive results by 3pm - though with Breckland council experimenting with an electronic count, officials believe the results will be known even sooner - assuming there are no technical glitches.

For the most comprehensive coverage of the results and full analysis turn to the EDP and this website where we will be bringing you up-to-date results and analysis in a series of special reports.

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