Inquiry into votes scandal

INDEPENDENT experts could be called in to investigate Ipswich's lost postal votes scandal.Last month the Evening Star revealed how more than 300 votes were left to gather dust in a civic centre office.

INDEPENDENT experts could be called in to investigate Ipswich's lost postal votes scandal.

Last month the Evening Star revealed how more than 300 votes were left to gather dust in a civic centre office.

Now a special scrutiny panel is be created to fully investigate how the astonishing blunder was allowed to happen.

An Ipswich council meeting last night heard from monitoring officer John Goodrich that the failure to count the votes was illegal.


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But he stressed to councillors his report was not an in-depth investigation of what happened. He refused to cast any blame and backed the actions of chief executive James Hehir.

Councillors then agreed to form a special overview and scrutiny panel made up of all three political parties and empowered to call in expert outside help.

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The panel will report back to council in November,

Embarrassed council officials admitted the huge blunder when contacted by the Evening Star and said they planned to keep the investigation private.

They confirmed a pile of postal votes had been confused for an unimportant public survey. The mistake was not discovered until three months after the election.

Mr Hehir called Tory leader Stephen Barker, Liberal Democrat leader Inga Lockington and the leader and deputy leader of the council Peter Gardiner and David Ellesmere to a special meeting.

They were joined by deputy returning officer Brenda Welham Clarke. The votes were opened, but no election results were affected.

Tories at last night's meeting called the procedure into question and Mr Barker said he would not have joined in if he suspected the legal position had not been thoroughly investigated.

He also called on Mr Gardiner to apologise for his statement to the Star that publicising the blunder was not necessary.

But Mr Gardiner declined, saying it was an extremely rare situation which was much easier to examine with the benefit of hindsight.

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