Council boss 'mortified' by postal vote delays

A hand posts a postal vote envelope into a post box
Residents in the North West Essex constituency - formerly known as Saffron Walden - have reported delays in receiving postal votes [PA]

The chief executive of a council has apologised after revealing 2,600 postal votes had been sent out late because of "human error".

Peter Holt said Uttlesford District Council was trying to resolve the matter by hand-delivering ballots, but warned a close result on election night could be challenged if a large proportion were not returned.

It is thought Chelmsford wards of the North West Essex constituency, including Writtle, are the most affected.

Mr Holt said: "I'm mortified. I take full responsibility for it, and I cannot apologise too much."

Uttlesford District Council's offices in Saffron Walden
Uttlesford District Council's office is based in Saffron Walden [CHARLIE RIDER/LDRS]

When asked if he needed to consider his postition, Mr Holt replied: "Honestly? Yes.

"But I'm going to do that after the election day because the last thing any of the voters in this constituency need... is fewer people with their hands to the pump fixing the issue."

He said the Electoral Commission was being kept informed of the situation and that all candidates and agents were informed on Thursday afternoon.

Among those candidates is the government’s trade secretary, Kemi Badenoch.

Mr Holt is confident the majority of the ballots will be returned in time for the general election.

But he suggested if 50% or less of the delayed ballots were not counted in time, compared to some 75% of those dispatched the previous week, then this could prompt a challenge from a losing candidate in a close result.

He added: “The proper process is that I shall declare a result at the conclusion of the count next Thursday night/Friday morning, and it would be for candidates or voters to determine whether to challenge the result through the usual process.”

Wendy Bailey, a Writtle resident who
Wendy Bailey has not received her postal vote, and told the BBC: 'It denies the voters the right to vote' [Louise Graham/BBC]

Wendy Bailey, 56, lives in the Writtle area and was told on her poll card that her postal vote should have arrived on or before 28 June.

She and her husband have been using postal votes since the Brexit referendum in 2016.

"It has made me think about whether I would still elect for a postal vote in the future," she said.

“It’s just quite shocking that there’s an error been made, and I will be very disappointed if I’m not able to vote."

An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: "If a voter's postal ballot pack does not arrive in time, there may still be options available to voters, such as requesting a replacement from their local authority.

"If voters are concerned their postal vote won't be sent back in time, they also have the option of handing their postal pack to their polling station on polling day".

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