Council chief to forgo election fee over poll queues

Click to follow
Indy Politics

The acting returning officer in a city where hundreds of people were prevented from voting because of long queues at polling stations said today he would not claim his £20,000 fee.

John Mothersole, chief executive of Sheffield City Council, said the authority had launched its own review into the events at polling stations on Thursday night, which saw residents and students turned away.

Mr Mothersole said he had also written to student union presidents at the city's two universities to apologise.

The problems saw angry scenes in Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg's constituency of Sheffield Hallam, where students who were unable to vote tried to prevent ballot boxes being taken to the count.

Mr Mothersole later apologised and said a large turnout and students turning up to vote without polling cards had led to issues in some areas.

The Electoral Commission pledged to carry out a thorough review of what happened in Sheffield and a number of other areas across the country, including London, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.

Today, Mr Mothersole said: "First of all I'd like to reiterate again how sorry I am that there are people in Sheffield who did not get to vote on Thursday.

"I recognise everyone has a right to be able to cast their vote. In some locations in Sheffield we got things wrong and that's unacceptable. I do not excuse nor hide from this fact."

He added: "I have never wanted to be one of those civil servants who failed to acknowledge mistakes and pretended lessons could not be learned.

"I have made the decision not to claim the fee for the role of acting returning officer, which would have been paid after the elections."

Mr Mothersole continued: "Sheffield City Council is responding to The Electoral Commission's request for information as to what happened last week. We are also doing our own review into what happened on Thursday so that we can avoid these problems occurring in the future.

"I have already written to the presidents of the student unions at both the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University to apologise. We are also going to meet up with student representatives soon to discuss the issues and to work together on improvements for the future."

Kate Baldwin, a philosophy and French student at the University of Sheffield, set up a Facebook group in protest at the treatment of student voters at St Johns polling station in Ranmoor, where more than 100 people were left unable to vote at 10pm.

The 19-year-old, from Bristol, said election officials divided the queue into residents and students and has launched on online petition calling for "acknowledgement and apology for discrimination against students".

She said she respected Mr Mothersole's decision not to claim his fee but said it did not excuse the "unnecessary discrimination" shown to students.

"We're really glad the council now recognises the situation but just hope they will make sure this does not happen again," Miss Baldwin said.