Council leader demands investigation over postal gaffe

North Lanarkshire Council leader Jim McCabe has ordered an investigation into the mix-up which led to wrong postal vote guidance being issued to 26,500 voters.

In a guidance note issued to postal voters the wrong illustration of a ballot paper was used. The illustration showed a ballot paper with an ‘X’ in the box instead of numbers.

While the ballot paper and instructions were correct the council have written to all postal voters at a cost of around £20,000 to amend the guidance.

Councillor McCabe said: “This error is extremely regrettable and I have asked the chief executive for a report into the circumstances. The Electoral Commission have also been informed.”

The cost of the gaffe will not be footed by the taxpayer, with Councillor McCabe insisting those who made the mistake will pay to rectify it out of their own pockets.

He said: “Senior officers are paid here according to performance. So we are able to ensure the taxpayer does not pay for the reissue of the guidance as the cost will be deducted from senior officers’ performance related pay and election fees.

“Where there are failures in performance we are able to act accordingly – something no other council can do. I have ordered a full investigation and we will consider the chief executive’s report so that we can be sure that procedures are in place to make sure that nothing like this happens again.”

The ballot papers included in the postal voting packs and already received by postal voters are entirely valid and can be used.

Depute returning officer John Fleming said: “The ballot paper and instructions sent to postal voters are both absolutely correct. However, a production error meant an incorrect illustration of a ballot paper was printed on a guidance note.

“As soon as we became aware of the situation, we immediately took steps to issue new guidance notes with the correct illustration to all postal voters.

“The returning officer has provided an assurance that the costs of this communication exercise will not fall on the council taxpayers but will be offset against election payments and other remuneration to chief officers.

“Anyone who thinks they may have filled in their postal vote incorrectly should contact the council’s election office on 01698 302119 or 01698 302340.”