Tower Hamlets vote count 'inadequate', says election watchdog

Winning councillors
Image caption The returning officer declared the results of the final ward count on 27 May

A review into vote counting for the local and European elections in Tower Hamlets has found the management of the count was "inadequate".

The result for the final ward election in the east London borough was declared on 27 May - five days after votes were cast.

The Electoral Commission warned the council to take precautions to prevent a recurrence of the delays.

The council said it "welcomed the report's recommendations".

'Planning failure'

The review found there was "inadequate resource management" during the verification and count between 23 May and 25 May.

Jenny Watson, chair of the Electoral Commission, said the problems were down to a "failure in planning".

"There were delays in getting counting staff and counting agents appointed by parties into the venue, then there were insufficient staff to be able to recover from that," she said.

Image caption Counting for the local elections at Tower Hamlets took more than 23 hours

"Fundamentally that meant a local election count that had planned to take six hours took 23 and a half hours."

She said the commission would be monitoring the council's response to the review.

The returning officer must publish an overall plan for the management of the count in next year's general election by the end of this year, the Electoral Commission said.

High Court petition

Tower Hamlets Returning Officer John Williams said that despite the duration of the count "the overriding aim of a free and fair election was achieved".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Met Police stationed an officer at each polling station on 22 May

He said: "I welcome the report's recommendations and look forward to developing our plans for future elections in Tower Hamlets, learning the lessons from May 2014 and working in partnership with the Commission and all stakeholders locally."

Earlier this month a petition calling for the mayoral election in Tower Hamlets to be held again was submitted to the High Court by the Red Flag Anti-Corruption Party.

The group accused mayor Lutfur Rahman's party of electoral fraud, corruption and political smears. The mayor has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

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