‘It’s a Sham’ - But ELDC stands firm as controversy continues over by-election

Stuart Davy EMN-140520-114807001
Stuart Davy EMN-140520-114807001

East Lindsey District Council is remaining defiant amid mounting criticism of its controversial organisation of a Horncastle by-election.

ELDC has admitted it failed print and send out almost 50 per cent of the polling cards for last month’s district council election.

Despite the blunder, the council insists the election was legal and valid and pointed out people did not need polling cards to vote.

There has been growing unease about the election with Horncastle town councillor Maurice Lamb describing it as a “complete sham” and “worse than a Third World Country.”

Town businessman Richard Ingram-Hill reported ELDC to the Electoral Commission.

The Horncastle News has seen a copy of an email sent by the Electoral Commission to Mr Ingram-Hill which appears to contradict claims polling cards did not have to be sent out.

The email, from Chis Hindle of the Electoral Commission, states: “The conduct of elections, including by-elections, is governed by legislation and part of the statutory process requires the Returning Officer to send an official poll card to all registered electors.

“All electors in the Horncastle ward should, therefore, have received a poll card well in advance of the election.

“This clearly did not happen and, as the Returning Officer acknowledged, some 43 per cent of electors did not receive a poll card.”

Mr Hindle does go on to point out that electors could access information about the election from various sources.

He added polling cards alert voters to the fact an election is taking place although they are not actually required when it comes to casting a vote.

Mr Hindle reveals the Commission does monitor the performance of Returning Officers. In the case of the Horncastle by-election, that was Stuart Davy, ELDC’s chief executive.

Mr Hindle added: “Although based mainly on a self-assessment process, the Commission does have the power to change a Returning Officer’s assessment of their performance.

“We do this in cases where we receive information that a Returning Officer is not meeting a particular standard or standards.

“The information we have about the Horncastle by-election will be taken into account when we next review the performance of the Returning Officer.’

Mr Ingram-Hill welcomed the Commission’s views but believes a full-scape investigation should be held and the election - won by Richard Avison for the Conservatives - re-run.

The by-election was discussed by members of the Town Council last week when Coun Lamb made his statement.

He added: “In our own backyard, we seem to mess it up. No-one seems to take responsibility. The person who messed it up should be sacked.”

Town councillor, David Roark - who finished second to Coun Avison - said someone had told him they would have voted for him but thought the election was being held tomorrow (Thursday) alongside the EEC election.

ELDC said they had nothing to add to their initial statement.