Elections 2014: London borough Tower Hamlets still counting ballot papers

The borough has faced allegations of postal fraud in the past

A Tower Hamlets councillor has criticised the “chaotic” procedures that have left the East End London borough still counting council election votes more than three days after polls closed.

Peter Golds, conservative councillor for Blackwall and Cubitt Town ward, said the figures were “in a mess” and that police had failed to ensure that counting could take place without interference.

Electoral chiefs suspended their operations at 3am on Monday with plans to recommence counting on Tuesday.

Recounts have been taking place at Bromley South ward - but even when the Bromley result is resolved the councillors’ team will not be complete as there will still be three vacancies in Blackwall and Cubitt Town where the election was postponed after a candidate's death.

The provisional council line-up shows Tower Hamlets First Group - backing re-elected mayor Lutfur Rahman - and Labour on 18 seats each. There are four Tories and no party has overall control.

 

This year’s poll was conducted in the shadow of previous allegations of postal fraud. Police officers were posted at every polling station and the Electoral Commission warned that the borough was at “high risk” of electoral fraud. A wide-ranging investigation was launched however, police did not find sufficient evidence to prosecute anyone.

Mr Golds said that he hoped police would take any allegations of electoral fraud seriously.

“There is suspicion about postal votes and I hope the police are investigating and not brushing it under the carpet,” he said.

“I think they do not like confronting it because it involves a certain group of people.”

Mr Rahman first came to power in 2010 after leaving the Labour Party. He became mayor alongside a cabinet of Independent councillors.

Mr Gold said that there were “arguments, threats and chaos at the counting tables” this year, with supporters of Mr Rahman “challenging vote after vote”.

And he said that mainstream journalists were only allowed on the counting floor if escorted by a member of staff – but the branch of the media supporting Mr Rahman was free to come and go.

“This is not the first time this has happened – it happens over and over again,” he said.

“I just despair over the whole thing. We have laws in this country that need to be enforced, but the police are too frightened to exercise their power.”

The ongoing ballot count in Tower Hamlets also held up London’s European election announcement. In the capital Labour doubled the number of its MEPS, winning 37 per cent of the vote. The Tories came in second place with 22 per cent, while Ukip gained 17 per cent of the votes.

But nationwide, Ukip topped the polls – with only Scotland left to declare the anti-EU party has 27.5 per cent of the vote and 23 MEPs.

Labour is in second place with 25.4 percent and 18 MEPs, while the Tories, in third place with 23.9 per cent, also have 18 MEPs.

Additional reporting by  agencies

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