Wales politics

Vote 2011: UKIP backs late north Wales election count

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) has defended what it calls "sensible" plans to start counting votes in north Wales the day after the assembly election.

Wales MEP John Bufton has supported north Wales' chief counting officer and criticised what he claims is "bullying" by the assembly's four main parties.

Those parties want the north Wales to fall into line and count overnight.

But officials in north Wales say arrangements are in place and they do not plan to change their minds.

In a letter to north Wales chief counting officer Mohammed Mehmet, Mr Bufton applauds an "honourable decision to protect the welfare of your staff and not succumb to the political class in the Welsh assembly who have decided to apply what amounts to bullying tactics at such a late stage in proceedings".

The leaders of Welsh Labour, the Welsh Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Liberal Democrats put aside rivalries this week to increase the pressure on Dr Mehmet.

In a joint letter, they said counting votes the day after the 5 May election could cause an "unacceptable" delay to the final result.

Counting for the referendum on changing the system for electing MPs, which is taking place the same day, will start at 1600 BST on Friday, 6 May.

But Mr Bufton said "reorganising staffing would carry far greater implications than sensibly delaying the count".

'Extremely interested'

He said: "The arguments put forward by the leaders of the four main parties reflect the egocentricity of the political class in Wales who are putting their own desires above those of the people who will be directly involved in the counting process.

"Although they argue that postponing the count will affect coverage of the results, I cannot see how this is the case.

"The people of Wales will be extremely interested in the outcome of the assembly elections and will not, I am sure, be deterred from following the results despite them taking place at the same time as the AV referendum and results in other elections across the UK."

Meanwhile, councillors in Flintshire have supported a motion calling for the local returning officer to arrange that votes in the two local constituencies - Alyn and Deeside, and Delyn - are counted when polls close.

A spokesman said the council had no authority to instruct the returning officer how to carry out his role.