Politicians unite in dismay over election count

SPEN politicians say they are dismayed by news that the general election count is to be held in Huddersfield.

Thursday, 4th February 2010, 2:45 pm

Last week's Spenborough Guardian revealed that while the counts for both the general and local elections will be held overnight, they will not be in Cleckheaton as in previous years.

Spen Labour MP Mike Wood was one of the campaigners who fought for the count to take place straight after the polling booths closed, instead of the following day. But he also wanted the count to take place locally.

He said: "After initial resistance I am delighted Kirklees has conceded and agreed to hold the election count straight after polls close on election day as is the tradition.

"This is going to be a close election nationally and people will want to know their local results sooner rather than later.

"But the decision to hold all the counts in Huddersfield is a bitter disappointment and another example of how the democratic process is being eroded.

"I hope officers can be convinced to look at this again and will change their minds, as they did with the timing of the count."

His views have been echoed by both Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

Liversedge/Gomersal councillor Margaret Bates (Con) has written to Kirklees Chief Executive and Returning Officer Rob Vincent urging him to change his mind.

"I understand from a source that two buildings will be used," she said.

"If this is the case why cannot one of these buildings be in North Kirklees for the Batley/Spen and Dewsbury count?

"This request is not simply parochial, my concerns are borne of a desire to engage the public in the political process - something we as an authority have advocated for some time.

"It is also another reason for North Kirklees residents to raise the issue that everything happens in Huddersfield."

LibDem leader and Cleckheaton councillor Kath Pinnock said: "It would be so much better to have the count in our own town hall where local people can see the result as soon as it is declared.

"The Returning Officer has decreed that it will be held in Huddersfield where there will be much less room for the public and party workers to attend, which is a tragedy.

"I understand the reasoning for it, which is so that the last-minute postal votes can be counted, but you just despair that changes like this are driving the whole process away from local people.

"The public will feel shut out - at previous counts in Cleckheaton the public gallery has been full.

"It is sad, a bit of excitement will be gone as it becomes more of a bureaucratic process."

Mr Vincent said holding the count at one location would make best use of experienced staff, limit time lost transferring postal votes around the district and simplify transport arrangements.

If the local and general elections are held on the same day - Thursday May 6 - the general election count will take place the same night. The cout for the local elections will begin at 5pm on Friday May 7.