‘Democracy in Newham is still a sickly patient’: Council criticised over local election blunder

East Ham Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears

East Ham Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

The council has come under fire after errors in May’s local election results were exposed.

Rachel Collinson from the Green Party. Pic: HELEN LYNCH

Rachel Collinson from the Green Party. Pic: HELEN LYNCH - Credit: Helen Lynch

A Newham Council report reveals votes in the Stratford and New Town, Beckton and Green Street West wards were incorrectly allocated to candidates.

The errors did not affect the outcome of the ward elections, but did have an impact on the number of votes received by the losing candidates in the three wards, the report states.

By law ballot papers must put candidates in alphabetical order of commonly used surname.

After the votes are counted they get transferred onto a declaration of results form, which has to place candidates in order of their legal surname.

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This can change the order of the candidates when common and legal surnames differ. This happened in at least one case with Green Street West Tory candidate Kamran Qureshi dropping down the order when his legal surname, Yousaf, was used on the declaration form.

His name shifted but his votes were incorrectly allocated to fellow Tory candidate Abdul Karim Sheikh.

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The blunder, uncovered by a Green Party activist, affected split votes – ballot papers giving voters the option to choose candidates from more than one party.

Green Party candidate for Stratford and New Town, Rachel Collinson, said: “What other serious mistakes have been missed without decent scrutiny? Democracy in Newham is still a sickly patient in urgent need of a doctor.”

Beckton Green Party candidate Jane Lithgow added: “We are staggered by the level of incompetence.”

The mayoral election was not affected by the error and the council reported itself to the elections watchdog, the Electoral Commission, the report states.

The commission agreed the council’s returning officer could use legal powers allowing corrections to be made to results but that stop short of preventing a recount once these have been declared.

The report authors recommended the council update the results, apologise and take steps to avoid it happening again.

A council spokeswoman said: “We wrote to all the election agents providing a full explanation. Additional checks have been put in place to prevent any recurrence. It is an issue that largely only affects local elections.”

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