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Election loser seeks ‘clarity’ on 3 recounts

The losing candidate in the knife-edge election that saw the Conservatives retain control of West Norfolk Council has said he is asking for clarification of the recount process.

Independent Paul Bland at one time had been declared one of the three successful candidates returned for The Woottons in the count at Lynn’s Corn Exchange last Friday.

But in the end Conservative candidate Graham Middleton was declared the winner with a majority of just 11.

The result meant that the Tories had one more seat than the combined total of the opposition, Independents, Labour, Greens and Liberal Democrats.

Mr Bland was not present for the count, which was the final one of the day, and he did not have an election agent either overseeing the recounts, which were conducted under the auspices of West Norfolk Council’s chief executive Ray Harding, acting as the returning officer.

Paul Bland
Paul Bland

Mr Bland said: “I can confirm that I have written to the chief executive asking for clarity on the sequence of events and numbers of votes.”

On the first count Conservatives Lord Greville Howard (1,089)and Elizabeth Nockolds (1,178) were elected, but Mr Middleton only squeezed in by three votes ahead of Mr Bland. On the second count, Mr Bland was 30 votes ahead of Mr Middleton. A third recount was called, however, and Mr Middleton was elected with 914 votes to Mr Bland’s 903.

A spokeswoman for West Norfolk Council said that Mr Harding had made sure that when the recounts were undertaken everyone had been moved away from the tellers, apart from candidates and election agents.

The final recount was only counting the votes for Mr Middleton and Mr Bland and examining ‘blank’ votes to make sure none of them could be deemed as votes for either of the candidates.

Slim Wilkinson, a borough alderman and 50 years an election agent for the Labour Party, contacted the Lynn News and said: “I was not the Labour Party’s election agent but did attend the count at the Corn Exchange. I have witnessed elections decided on the toss of a coin, but I have never seen an outcome such as that declared for the Woottons ward.

“With a difference of 71 on two counts, I find it impossible to see how the third count could be considered safe and certainly not sufficiently safe to deny Independent Paul Bland a proper recount.”


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