South Oxfordshire elections 'inadequately planned'

Image caption,
Counting in the South Oxfordshire council election took 15 hours

An independent review of the May elections in South Oxfordshire has found there was evidence of "inadequate planning and organisation".

It also highlighted failings with a printing firm, which resulted in further problems for the council.

Complaints at the time included claims the count took too long, ballot papers were badly labelled and postal votes failed to arrive.

Printers Paragon said it was working to address the issues highlighted.

Independent democratic consultant Tim Revell was appointed by the returning officer David Buckle to investigate the issues.

Mr Revell found that in the Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire district councils a total of 2,035 postal vote packs were not supplied to the Royal Mail.

This meant that postal vote turnout in some areas of South Oxfordshire was significantly below the district average of 62.5%.

In the Stanton St John parish there were no postal votes.

Missing candidate

Mr Revell said that none of the printing firms considered by the council had significant electoral experience.

He said this inevitably led to the appointment of a firm which introduced an "element of risk" to the process.

Technical problems, delays and misunderstandings led to a series of errors in the Didcot Ladygrove parish where the election team had to use their office photocopier to rectify ballot papers which were missing a candidate.

The actual count at Thame leisure centre took 15 and a half hours which, according to the report, was longer than comparable counts.

Here Mr Revell highlighted a number of problems with the facilities and preparation saying "a fundamental review should be undertaken of future arrangements".

A spokesperson from Paragon said: "We are fully aware of the difficulties with regards to the provision of electoral print for South Oxfordshire District Council and Vale of White Horse District Council.

"We acknowledge the findings and are working internally to address the key areas highlighted with regards to the provision of specialised electoral print."

The district councils are now seeking financial compensation from the printers.

Mr Buckle said: "There are a number of changes that we can and will make before we next run district wide elections.

"We must also improve our communications with voters, candidates and agents.

"Finally, it goes without saying that we will also look to minimise any risk regarding printing."

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