Former chief's election test

WHILE returning officers across Suffolk are preparing for their big day in little more than a week, one former chief from the county could be excused if she's looking forward to it with apprehension.

WHILE returning officers across Suffolk are preparing for their big day in little more than a week, one former chief from the county could be excused if she's looking forward to it with apprehension.

Lin Homer was chief executive of Suffolk County Council until autumn 2002 when she moved to take over a similar role at Birmingham City Council.

Among her duties there is to be returning officer in elections - and this landed her in the centre of a legal storm earlier this month.

Electoral commissioner Richard Mawrey QC earlier this month overturned the election of six Birmingham councillors amid allegations of vote-rigging in the handling of postal votes.

And he reserved some of his strongest words for Mrs Homer saying the chief executive “threw the rule book out of the window" to deal with overwhelming numbers of postal vote application forms received.

Since then Mrs Homer has suspended the head of the city's elections office over an unrelated incident involving ballot papers.

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And she has called in a top-level team of experienced election officials to organise the voting procedures.

Mrs Homer was chief executive at Suffolk County Council for four years until she moved to Birmingham - but never had to organise elections here because that is a function of district and borough councils.

Although she is officially returning officer for the city, the work is done by the elections office, which had had a good national reputation until the postal vote scandal came to light.

In the general election, the votes in Birmingham will be carefully scrutinised across the country to ensure that everything goes well.

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