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Caerphilly BC chief executive Malgwyn Davies this week faced criticism centring on his performance as counting offi...
Caerphilly BC chief executive Malgwyn Davies this week faced criticism centring on his performance as counting officer during the September referendum to set up a Welsh Assembly.

Mr Davies, previously deputy chief executive of Gwent and a returning officer for more than 20 years, could now find his performance at the referendum subject to an inquiry following a promise by Michael Ancram MP, the Conservative constitutional affairs spokesman, to raise the matter in the House of Commons.

Mr Davies's conviction about the legality of the Caerphilly result and procedures is now echoed by the local Labour Party official responsible for raising the original concerns.

Letters leaked to newspapers this week revealed that Derek Lamb, secretary of the Caerphilly constituency Labour Party - whose MP is secretary of state Ron Davies - met Malgwyn Davies last October to discuss his concerns that the local count had breached the Representation of the People Act.

Matters raised included claims that it was not possible to monitor the count properly, that votes were counted in a haphazard way, and that ballot boxes were not adequately identified.

'The matter was resolved to everyone's satisfaction,' Malgwyn Davies said this week. 'I have no concerns regarding the legality of the result or of the procedures involved in the conduct of the Caerphilly referendum.'

Mr Lamb also pronounced himself satisfied. In an interview with The Scotsman newspaper he went further to admit that the count was 'a foreign situation' for him, and that he 'was on the wrong track when he started'.

But politicians seized on written statements between local Labour Party officials about the need to protect Welsh secretary Ron Davies.

They have also pointed out that the referendum was won by just 6,700 votes, or 0.6% of the votes cast, and the Caerphilly result turned in a 6,000 majority in favour of Welsh devolution.

This is the second time in nine months a chief executive acting as a returning officer has been caught in political wrangling. Winchester City Council chief executive David Cowan accepted his polling station staff made mistakes on general election day, leading the High Court to order a Parliamentary by-election after Liberal Democrat Mark Oaten won the seat by two votes from the Tories.

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