Stoke & Staffordshire

Newcastle-under-Lyme Council: Labour toppled amid election row fallout

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Media captionCouncil leader quits and blames political rivals

A council leader has resigned as the fallout continues from a row over voting in June's general election.

Elizabeth Shenton stood down as the leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council after losing the support of independents. The Conservatives have now taken control from Labour.

Almost 1,500 people were unable to vote in a constituency that saw the successful MP win by just 30 votes.

Two council officials were suspended last month.

Chief executive John Sellgren and Elizabeth Dodd, head of audit and elections, were criticised for a number of issues.

Image caption John Sellgren was suspended as the council's chief executive last month

'Highly regrettable'

The council met on Tuesday to discuss the findings of an independent investigation into the election by the Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA), which found a "complex picture of administrative mistakes around registration and postal voting processes".

But as proceedings were getting under way, Ms Shenton announced her resignation.

She said: "It's not because I accept any responsibility.

"It's highly regrettable that the borough independents have chosen to withdraw their support from the Labour group and that the Tories and their allies have chosen to destabilise the council at a time when senior officers, including the chief executive, are suspended."

Ms Shenton has been replaced by Conservative councillor Simon Tagg.

"The buck must stop at the top and it has tonight. I understand that I'm taking on this role and the buck will stop with me," Mr Tagg said.

Image caption Labour's Paul Farrelly won the seat in June by 30 votes

"I'll be working hard to ensure that future elections run OK and that we set a budget and that the council gets some standing back."

'Inexperienced staff'

Labour's Paul Farrelly got 21,124 votes in the election on 8 June to win the Newcastle-under-Lyme seat, narrowly holding off Conservative Owen Meredith who polled 21,094.

The AEA said the result could not be challenged as the 21-day deadline to do so had passed.

Its report found first-time voters, including students, postal voters - some in their 80s using the system for the first time - were unable to vote.

There was an "inadequate performance by inexperienced and under-resourced elections office staff", it concluded.

Image caption Ms Shenton has been replaced by Conservative councillor Simon Tagg

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