Despite the local press carrying the story that Birmingham City Council remains BNP-free and the Council's website still carrying the follwoing statement from its Acting Chief Executive, Stephen Hughes:
I believe the result declared at the count in Kingstanding Ward was wrong. However, in law, I cannot declare the correct result without a court order. I will seek this order at the earliest opportunity so that the result can be corrected.
It appears that an error in the calculation resulted in the British National Party candidate being declared elected, when in fact she should have been placed third. The correct result was that both the Labour candidates should have been elected.
I have immediately launched an investigation in order to ascertain how this has occurred.
Reports coming from the BNP claim that the council have backed down in the face of a threat of legal action and will swear in the BNP candidate that was originally declared as having been elected in Kingstanding.
Even taking anything that emanates from the BNP with a hefty pinch of salt, their account of how this situation arose is pretty disturbing stuff – the original result was declared after two recounts, both of which the BNP claim saw their candidate elected with a 200 or so vote majority, only for a third recount to be conducted without, the BNP allege, any observers present – not even the Police – following which it was declared that there had been an 'administrative error' and that the Council would be going to court to overturn the previously declared result.
If this is true then the question that has to be answered is was this a cock-up or conspiracy? Either way it does raise serious questions about whether Birmingham City Council is competent to conduct its own elections – and remember this has all taken place under a Tory/Lib Dem administration.
Either way, at the very least there need to be an independent inquiry to establish precisely what happened here and, in the mean time, it would seem prudent for the council to turn over the running of elections in the city to an independent body until the council can provide satisfactory evidence of its ability to do the job properly…
While writing this, a new statement has appeared on the Council's website, which appears to clarify matters, which suggest that a cock-up it is – non of which mitigates the comments above as regards whether the council is competent to run an election:
Statement from Stephen Hughes, Acting Chief Executive and Returning Officer for Birmingham City Council:
I am today writing to all the candidates in the Kingstanding Ward elections on 4 May, to explain the error that was made in the declaration of the result.
The declaration at the count was that Sharon Ebanks (British National Party) and Zoe Hopkins (Labour Party) were elected. However in collating the paperwork it was clear that an error had been made, in that some of the votes had been counted twice.
A recalculation was then done that indicated that the correct result should have been that Zoe Hopkins (Labour Party) and Catharine Grundy (Labour Party) should have been elected.
I have taken legal advice on the matter. This indicates that the only way in which this result can be corrected is for one of the candidates to raise a petition to the courts.
We will support in any way we can any candidates who wish to raise such a petition.
On the declared result (Table 1) a total of 12,329 votes were recorded against all the candidates:
Candidates Party No. of Votes Candidates Party No. of Votes Anne Rita Bennett Independent 328 Hubert Joseph Duffy Liberal Democrat 597 Sharon Elizabeth Ebanks British National Party 2310 Catharine Cecilia Grundy The Labour Party Candidate 1973 Mark Haddon Liberal Democrat 719 Mick Hawker The Conservative Party Candidate 1349 Robert John Higginson The Conservative Party Candidate 1043 Zoe Hopkins The Labour Party Candidate 2088 Mohammed Omar Malik Independent 109 Richard John William Pitt The Green Party 606 Terry Williams 1207 Total votes 12329
As there were only 4,981 ballot papers, with two votes to be cast per ballot, this means that the maximum number of votes that could have been cast were 9,962.
Some votes had therefore been double counted. When these were removed the result should have been as per Table 2:
Candidates Party No. of Votes Anne Rita Bennett Independent 171 Hubert Joseph Duffy Liberal Democrat 446 Sharon Elizabeth Ebanks British National Party 1329 Catharine Cecilia Grundy The Labour Party Candidate 1823 Mark Haddon Liberal Democrat 514 Mick Hawker The Conservative Party Candidate 1134 Robert John Higginson The Conservative Party Candidate 966 Zoe Hopkins The Labour Party Candidate 1894 Mohammed Omar Malik Independent 58 Richard John William Pitt The Green Party 315 Terry Williams 615 Total votes 9265
On the basis of this, Zoe Hopkins (Labour Party) and Catharine Grundy (Labour Party) should have been elected.
It would seem the right course of action is for Catherine and/or Zoe to put forward a petition with the full backing of the party – it'll be interesting to see how the BNP react to this.