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Polling cards missing in Wrotham election for Tonbridge and Malling council

By Alan Smith

The Independent Alliance Party which fought four seats in the recent council elections for Tonbridge and Malling - winning three of them - is not happy.

It believes its candidate in the fourth seat - for Wrotham, Ightham and Stansted Ward - may have been disadvantaged because a number of electors did not receive polling cards telling them there was an election taking place and where to vote.

There were two councillors to be elected in the ward and only four candidates. Conservatives Robin Betts and Martin Coffin were both elected, but Scott Millener standing for the Independent Alliance Party was only 52 votes behind Mr Coffin. The fourth candidate Laura Roberts, for the Greens, was a further 138 votes down.

Independent Alliance candidate Scott Millener
Independent Alliance candidate Scott Millener

Mike Taylor, the alliance party's leader, who was returned for Borough Green and Long Mill Ward, said: "We began to get email messages from people on the day of the count, saying they hadn't received a polling card.

"The problem seemed to be centred on Pilgrims Way in Wrotham. I immediately notified Julie Beilby, the council's chief executive and also the returning officer for the election, She seemed to be aware there was a problem but said it was an error by the post office."

Mr Taylor said he had since become aware of at least 37 households in Pilgrims Way where polling cards were not delivered - there are about 170 electors in the road.

He said: "Our candidate only lost by a small margin. If these people had been aware of the election, perhaps the result would have been different - especially if there was also a problem in other roads which as yet we don't know about."

He has asked Mrs Beilby to conduct an investigation into what happened and how extensive the problem was.

He said: "We are waiting to hear the outcome of her investigation.

"We have until May 23 to lodge an appeal to the Electoral Commission to have the election quashed."

Mike Taylor leader of the Independent Alliance Party
Mike Taylor leader of the Independent Alliance Party

Mr Millener, a self-employed air conditioning and audio-visual engineer, said: "It's not really about whether I was elected or not.

"But I was standing against the borough's plans to impose a 3,000-home garden village in our area on greenfield land in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are an awful lot of people opposed to that and some were denied the chance to express their opposition.

"I'm very disappointed for them."

It is not at all clear whether the Electoral Commission would consider the non-delivery of polling cards a reason to quash an election. It is not necessary to have your polling card with you to vote. If the Alliance did decide to lodge an appeal, they would have to pay a £2,500 surety against the costs if they lost the case.

Tonbridge and Malling council said: "The returning officer has received reports that a number of voters within the Wrotham, Ightham and Stansted Ward did not receive poll cards. These reports are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment further until those investigations are complete."

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