No new election for village after polling mix-up

SUS-150528-103929001
SUS-150528-103929001

A parish council election, which was due to be re-run following a mistake at a polling station, will not take place following a council U-turn.

The mistake allowed a number of people to vote in the Westfield Parish Council election, despite not being eligible to do so.

As a result, the votes were not counted and Rother District Council announced the parish council election would be re-run on June 18.

But following legal advice, the local authority has now backtracked and said it has gone ahead and counted the votes and a result has been declared.

The saga began on May 7 when voters turning up to the polling station at Westfield Village Hall were presented with voting papers for the general, local and parish elections.

For the local elections, Westfield comes under the Brede Valley Ward.

But not everyone living in the ward lives in the Westfield parish, therefore they are not entitled to vote in the parish election.

A number of people were mistakenly given parish voting papers – despite not being eligible to vote.

Rother District Council previously apologised to Westfield Parish Council for the mistake and both councils had discussed the way forward.

Shortly afterwards, the new election date was announced.

Had the re-election gone ahead, the move would have cost RDC around £900.

But this week Rother said it had counted the original votes after all.

Commenting on the decision, the head of the local authority said it had to act ‘to the strict letter of the law’.

Malcolm Johnston, Rother District Council executive director of resources and returning officer, said: “Due to the errors at the polling station on election day and following discussions with Westfield Parish Council, we looked into the possibility of re-running the election for the parish council.

“However, we subsequently received legal advice indicating that once an election has been held, by law the votes have to be counted and the result declared, which has now happened.

“Legally, we are only able to re-run the election if the outcome is challenged through an election petition.

“We appreciate this is not an ideal situation but we have to act according to the strict letter of the law in this matter.”

The saga of the Westfield Parish Council votes was just one of a series of headaches for RDC during the election.

In the run-up to May 7, 
a number of residents in Bexhill and Battle complained their postal votes had not arrived.

In some cases, the postal votes have still to materialise.

And last week Bexhill resident Alan Pitches threatened to go to the police after his family’s postal vote forms allegedly went missing from Rother’s doormat.

Mr Pitches said he put the completed postal votes registration forms through the door of the Town Hall.

But RDC later said it had never received the forms.