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Tower Hamlets Criticised Over Count Delays

Tuesday 27th May 2014

The election watchdog has confirmed it will be investigating the organisation of the count in Tower Hamlets, which has been severely criticised following last Thursday's Local Election.

A polling station in Tower Hamlets

"More than four days after the polls closed here the entire electoral set-up on this borough has been called shambolic and not fit for purpose," LBC's Lorraine Horgan reported from Tower Hamlets.

The people Lorraine has been speaking to in the borough have labelled the delay a disgrace.

"I'm going to guarantee you there's a lot of things that we don't know about that needs to be investigated," one woman told Lorraine while another called it "diabolical".

The count had already been delayed twice when electoral chiefs at Tower Hamlets suspended the operations at around 3am yesterday morning. It is due to resume at 6.30pm this evening.

The further delay is being blamed on candidates and political agents being at work today.

The local election results were due on Friday following the votes being cast on Thursday. Tower Hamlets is the only borough that has yet to declare its results.

It has also been blamed for the London Region's results in the European Election being the last in the UK to be announced, finally coming through after 3am on Monday morning.

The council has since been accused of failing to prevent voters being intimidated outside voting stations. with some politicians saying they witnessed crowds shouting at people as they arrived to cast their votes. Leaflets were also allegedly left behind in booths to influence voters at the last minute.

The Electoral Commission has now confirmed it will investigate.

A spokeswoman said: "Everyone should be able to vote free from intimidation and be confident that their vote is safe.

"It is also important that elections produce results voters can have confidence in and that candidates know the outcome as soon as possible.

"Clearly there have been issues at the Tower Hamlets count and we need to make sure we understand what happened, and the reasons for it, before reaching any conclusions.

"As part of our review, we will be talking to the returning officer and regional returning officer. We will be looking closely at what happened during the count, as well as the planning that took place beforehand."

The findings of the review will be published in the commission's report on the elections.

Police are also urging anyone who believed they had witnessed behaviour amounting to criminal activity to come forward.

Acting Superintendent Helen Lewis, of Tower Hamlets borough, said: "Although we have received no allegations of harassment, intimidation or fraudulent behaviour at polling stations, we would, of course, be keen to speak with anyone who has concerns."

The council has said it had in place the most stringent set of measures across London and insisted it had found no evidence to support allegations of malpractice in previous elections.

It also confirmed that parties used their right to request that ballot papers be individually adjudicated by the returning officer.

The provisional council line-up shows Tower Hamlets First Group - backing mayor Lutfur Rahman who we know has been re-elected - and Labour on 18 seats each. There are four Tories and no party has overall control.

Recounts are taking place at Bromley South ward, however even when the Bromley result is resolved the councillors' team will not be complete.

There will still be three vacancies in Blackwall and Cubitt Town, where the election was postponed after a candidate's death.

- Local Election 2014: London Results

- European Election 2014: UK Results