More votes declared than cast in Thatcham North election blunder
District council's returning officer admits error but says it's "impossible to say" if it affected result
WEST Berkshire Council has admitted that a blunder was made when counting the votes for the Thatcham North ward at the recent district council local elections.
The Liberal Democrats gained a seat from their Tory counterparts after Lee Dillon was elected after polling 2,160 votes.
However, a discrepancy has emerged after it was revealed that there were more votes declared than cast.
The council’s returning officer and chief executive officer Nick Carter said this week that it was “impossible to say” whether the extra votes would have changed the outcome.
The council has now agreed that the election counting process will be reviewed by its Overview and Scrutiny Management Commission.
Conservative Sheila Ellison was elected alongside Mr Dillon with 1,523 votes, but fellow Conservative Tony Stretton missed out on a seat after polling 1,163.
Lib Dem Owen Jeffrey came fourth with 877, while 18-year-old Labour candidate Michael Wakelyn finished on 381 votes.
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News, Mr Stretton said: “I am disappointed by the discrepancy and that it has taken so long for it to be announced.
“I made the returning officer and others aware within five minutes of the result being declared.
“It is not about whether I won or whether the Conservatives got elected, it is about the electorate of Thatcham North getting the right result.”
Mr Dillon said: “It is unfortunate that there was a mistake in the counting, but it is impossible to draw any conclusions as to where these votes would have gone or if the result would have changed.
“I was a district ward member before and have been a Thatcham town councillor for eight years.
“I don’t think anyone was surprised when I was elected, it was only afterwards an issue came to light.
“The result was not challenged when it was declared to agents.
“All I can do is concentrate on representing the voters of Thatcham North. I have already got stuck in and have taken on role as opposition spokesman for finance.
“The offer to review the whole process by the Overview and Scrutiny Management Commission should be welcomed.”
During a meeting on Tuesday, the council’s returning officer Nick Carter said: “Subsequent to May 8, a particular issue has emerged.
“It became clear that there has been a discrepancy with the Thatcham North result with more votes declared than cast.
“It was not picked up through the control process prior to declaring the result.
“Since the result has been declared, no challenge to the outcome has been made. There is nothing more I can do and cannot comment on whether this has affected the result. I can only say it has occurred.”