Council ‘getting tough’ on poll fraud in Kirklees

COUNCIL chiefs insist they are getting tough on election fraud after recommendations from a national review.

Kirklees chief executive and election returning officer Adrian Lythgo said some proposed measures are already in place.

A report by former local government secretary Sir Eric Pickles was published last week.

It concluded that “politically correct sensibilities” means a blind eye is turned too often to voting irregularies. This is particularly so in Pakistani or Bangladeshi communities, leading Sir Eric to make 50 recommendations.

These include:

• Banning political activists from handling ballot papers;

• Police cordons around polling stations;

• Voters to show proof of identity at polling stations;

• Abolition of permanent postal votes.

Kirklees was placed on an Electoral Commission watchlist after problems at the 2012 council poll, which was the latest and possibly worst of regular accusations of electoral fraud.

Three people were cautioned as part of a probe into illegal activities in the Dewsbury South ward.

There were concerns about a big rise in postal ballots in Savile Town and Thornhill Lees and accusations of coercion and intimidation of voters.

Claims of postal vote tampering, allegedly a factor in the defeat of Tory councillor Khizar Iqbal, were investigated by police. The controversy centered on the campaign of Labour’s Abdul Patel, who stood down in May this year after just one term in office.

Mr Lythgo gave Sir Eric a written submission which contained ideas featured in the report.

Mr Lythgo said: “I welcome that the recommendations reflect a number of concerns and suggestions made as part of my submission.

“Some of the recommendations for elections are already in place within Kirklees.

“And I am keen to see an introduction of the requirement for voters to produce personal identification at polling stations.”

Mr Lythgo also wants to see the Electoral Commission’s code of conduct beefed up.

He added: “In the meantime, we continue to work with the Cabinet Office, the Electoral Commission and the police to improve the integrity of the electoral system in the Kirklees area.”

The council began sending out voter registration forms from Monday, which must be completed even if there are no changes to personal details.

Individual Electoral Registration means each person is responsible for being on the electoral register.

A council spokesman urged residents to “respond quickly. This saves money as we will not need to send costly reminders”.

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