Accuracy of electoral roll challenged by councillor

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THE ACCURACY of the electoral roll in a north-west London borough where 47,000 eligible voters failed to register, is being challenged in an important test case in the High Court.

Alarm at a 14.9 per cent drop in registered voters in Brent within a year has led a local councillor to question the way the local electoral registration officer is carrying out his duties.

Margaret Quirke, chairman of the Labour group in Brent, was yesterday granted permission to seek a judicial review of what she says is a failure by the officer, Tony Elliston, to conduct house-to-house inquiries or make other reasonable investigations to discover the real numbers of adults in the borough entitled to vote.

Mr Justice Potts ordered that the full hearing should take place as soon as possible as the new electoral register is due to come into force on 15 February.

The Labour group says Brent's voter registration is 'the worst in London'. The borough's adult population is 195,000 with 190,000 people registered for poll tax. But official figures showed that in November the number of people on the electoral register was just 148,667, compared with 174,801 in the same month in the previous year - a fall of 26,134, or 14.9 per cent.

The Labour group criticises the Tory-controlled council for having cut resources available for registration. Mrs Quirke, who represents Wembley Central ward, said: 'This case is very important from the point of view of local democracy. It is the first challenge of its kind and has implications throughout the country.'

Brent has three MPs - Sir Rhodes Boyson, Ken Livingstone and Paul Boateng - but could lose one seat under Boundary Commission changes if many eligible voters fail to register.