26.11.06
19:51
By: Neil Fawcett
BNP candidate Sharon Ebanks has officially taken up the position of Birmingham City councillor despite being told that her election "win" in the Kingstanding ward was a mistake. Acting Chief Executive and Returning Officer Stephen Hughes publicly urged Ms Ebanks not to make the declaration of acceptance of office but there was no legal power to prevent her doing so. The declared result can only be overturned by an election court.

Having made the declaration of acceptance of office Ms Ebank is entitled to a monthly paycheck from the City Council for the Basic Members Allowance of £15,148 per annum. However, she can renounce her entitlement by giving notice under paragraph 2.4 of the allowance scheme. Birmingham rate payers will wait with interest to see whether she accepts any payment under the scheme and if so, whether she is required to pay the money back if and when the result is overturned in court.

Ms Ebank has announced that she is reporting the conduct of the election to the police and that people in Kingstanding are getting up a petition to keep her in office. The obvious fault in the conduct of the election is that Ms Ebank was declared a winner when she should have been declared a loser. It is unclear how the police will be able to assist her in that respect.

Stephen Hughes' letter to all the candidates now published on Birmingham's web site clarifies what apparently went wrong. Two councillors were to be elected, so the counting procedure was more complex than if there was only one vacancy. Each voter was able to vote for two candidates. It can be calculated from the published tables that 697 voters used one vote only. These papers presented no problem in counting. Another 2572 voters appear to have voted on straight party lines and these papers were also simple to count as "labour", "conservative" or "lib-dem" giving one vote to each of the two candidates for those parties. The remaining 1532 papers were mixed - the voter having cast each of his/her two votes for unconnected candidates. These votes had to be totaled up on paper rather than simply being counted into bundles. In some way or other (there is a suggestion that there was a defect in the design of one of the forms used) the votes from these "mixed" papers for each candidate were written down twice and then added into the candidate's total of votes twice.

It appears that Ms Ebanks' had 348 votes from voters who cast only one vote and another 981 votes from voters who also cast their second vote for another candidate. That gave her a total of 1329 votes but because the double counting of the 981 votes she was declared wrongly to have received 2310 votes.

Fawcett & Pattni Solicitors at http://fp-law.com Links