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ROUNDUP OF LOCAL AUTHORITY STORIES IN THE MEDIA - UPDATED 16:10HRS

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ELECTIONS 2004: FEARS GROW OF LEGAL CHALLENGES FROM DEFEATED CANDIDATES ...
ELECTIONS 2004: FEARS GROW OF LEGAL CHALLENGES FROM DEFEATED CANDIDATES

The state of play with half of all councils declared is available on LGCnet's Elections 2004 mini-site.

REVIEW OF POSTAL VOTES PROMISED

Downing Street promised a careful assessment of all-postal ballots yesterday, amid allegations of widespread vote-rigging and chaos in the European and local elections, reports The Daily Telegraph (p4). The prime minister's spokesman promised: 'There will be an evaluation to see how the system has worked after the elections.'

The Electoral Commission is to carry out an opinion poll among 14 million voters in postal ballot pilot areas amid fears that allegations of fraud have damaged public confidence uiin the voting process, reports The Independent (p4). Officials from the watchdog are also meeting the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to examine the implications of fraud allegations which marred the all-postal ballots.

BIRMINGHAM COUNCILLOR CLEARED OF WRONGDOING

Birmingham City Council Labour councillor Mohammed Kazi was cleared of any wrongdoing after his midnight perusal of ballot papers in his car on an industrial estate, reports The Times (p11). Mr Kazi was spotted by a Liberal Democrat postal ballot surveillance team.

NURSING HOME WORKER INTERVIEWED BY POLICE IN CONNECTION WITH ALLEGED POSTAL VOTE FRAUD

Essex Police confirmed to The Times (p11) that they were investigating allegations that a worker at a private nursing home had fraudulently applied for postal votes on behalf of seven elderly residents, after Brentwood BC said it had spotted most of the signatures on the applications were similar. A further seven to 10 applications, the council said, might also be fraudulent and may be forwarded to police today.

GOING POSTAL

The apparent ability of all-postal voting to reverse the decline in turnout makes it more likely that yesterday will mark the last time traditional voting will be used for local elections, reports the Financial Times(p1).

UNITED KINGDOM INDEPENDENCE PARTY SECURES FIRST COUNCIL SEAT

John Cornforth became Britain's first UK Independence Party councillor when he scored a surprise win on Kingston upon Hull City Council, reports

Independent.co.uk . He said: 'The people of Hull have had enough of the same people being responsible and are looking for new blood.'

BRITISH NATIONAL PARTY FAILS TO MAKE FURTHER INROADS

The British National Party humiliatingly failed to live up to its election boast in its stronghold of Burnley, Lancashire, last night when it managed to win - by 28 votes - only one of the eight seats it contested, reports Guardian.co.uk. It had confidently expected to take four seats, but at the end of thenight had to be content with Hapton with Park, where local BNP leader Len Starr already has a seat.

FINGER REMOVED FROM DAM AS DUTCH BREAK RESULTS EMBARGO

The Netherlands last night plunged the Euro-elections into a legal controversy as it released unofficial results of its vote before most of the 24 other EU nations had gone to the polls, reports Independent.co.uk. The move brought a threat of legal action from the European Commission which said that voting in other nations might be influenced by the result.

MULTIPLE BALLOTS MAY BOOST TURNOUT BUT ENCOURAGE PROTEST VOTES

Holding multiple elections on a single day may increase turnout but at the cost of encouraging protest voting, leading opinion pollster MORI has claimed. With ministers pointing to increased turnouts as justification for the complexity of holding three different elections yesterday, MORI's Bob Worcester told the Financial Times(p6) that the flipside for mainstream parties was an erosion of traditional voting loyalty.

'A DAUNTING STRUGGLE TO MAKE THE POLITICAL PROCESS CONNECT WITH MORE OF THE ELECTORATE'

A leading article in The Independent (p30) sums up Super Thursday as: 'A vote marred by a bad experiment and public apathy.'

BNP CANDIDATE ARRESTED ON SUSPICION OF ASSAULT

British National Party candidate Ian Leadbitter has been arrested outside the Sunderland City Council local election count on suspicion of assault, as voters in the north-west turned their back on the far-right party, reports Timesonline.co.uk.

BOLTON FALLS BACK ON BALLOT BOXES

Voters had to use polling stations set up by Bolton MBC after at least 6,000 postal ballot packs failed to arrive, reports The Daily Telegraph (p4).

STEPS AND NARROW DOORWAY SEE DISABLED MAN FORCED TO VOTE ON THE STREET

For the second time in two years, wheelchair user Christopher Curtis has been forced to cast his vote in the street, reports the South London Press(p4). On Wednesday, he said he was contacted by a Lewisham LBC officer who told him nothing could be done to rectify the accedd problem in time for yesterday's elections. Lewisham mayor Steve Bullock said: 'I whole-heartedly apologise to Mr Curtis. I am appalled that he was unable to gain access to his local polling station to exercise his right to vote in the way he chose. I will be demanding that the returning officer carries out a full inquiry into this failure.' By October the council will be required under the Disability Discrimination Act to remedy the situation or risk prosecution.

AND FINALLY ... THE ROAD TO ELECTIONS 2005

  • One columnist in the Financial Times (p 18) has many of the big election stories of the next year already mapped out: 'At some point a minister may float the idea of making voting compulsory; others will call for measures to make the process even less labour-intensive, possibly through the use of internet polling.'

  • The Times(p11) suggests the Labour Party might like to make use of its Blue Peter-style 'Build your own ballot box'.

    NON-ELECTION NEWS:

  • More than 600,000 children in England will lose their right to free school transport under new government proposals, reports the Times Education Supplement (p11). The draft School Transport Bill gives local councils the power to charge pupils for using school buses. The government also wants to charge 100,000 with special needs to use the buses, the paper reports.

    by assistant editor Neil Watson

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