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Monday, 22 December 2014

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High Court strikes out challenge to 2013 elections in Cumbria

TWO election petitions that sought to challenge the conduct of Cumbria County Council elections in Allerdale last year have been struck out in the High Court.

The petitioners were ordered to pay the Returning Officer’s costs.

The petitions were launched last May and concerned the Maryport South and Moss Bay and Moorclose divisions of the county council.

The Maryport South petition was launched by four people: Jean Gartland, Alison Rumney, Charlotte Rumney and Steven Musgrave. It made a number of claims, mainly concerning how the postal vote was run.

The Moss Bay and Moorclose petition was brought by Stephen Stoddart, who stood as an independent candidate for that division. His petition challenged a decision not to offer him a recount when the first count showed he had lost by 20 votes.

Both petitions were struck out yesterday by two judges, Mr Justice Supperstone and Mr Justice Jay, at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

They ruled that the petitioners had not complied with the relevant legal requirements and their petitions should be dismissed, with costs awarded to the Returning Officer.

Allerdale Borough Council ran the local election on behalf of Cumbria County Council, but Cumbria County Council’s chief executive Diane Wood was the Returning Officer, with Allerdale’s chief executive at the time, Harry Dyke, the Deputy Returning Officer.

Diane Wood, Cumbria County Council Chief Executive, said: “I am delighted at the outcome, but disappointed that we have been obliged to go through this distracting and diverting process. It is now time for everyone to move on.

“I am confident that the local elections held in these two divisions last year were robust and fair and that the two councillors who won the elections, Councillor Keith Little and Councillor Gerald Humes, are the ones who won the most votes fairly and squarely. These are the people who the local electorate decided they want to represent them and make decisions on their behalf.”

Ian Frost, Allerdale Borough Council chief executive, said: “We have worked closely with Cumbria County Council, both in preparing and running last year’s county council elections and in building a robust defence to this legal challenge. It is vital that everyone has confidence that the democratic process is fair, unbiased and accurate and I would like to assure local people that this is the case.”

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