Last week’s election farce in Barnet has cost the council’s CEO his job and could very well have affected the overall list result for the London Assembly.
But most importantly of all, the administrative disaster, which resulted in thousands of voters being turned away from polling stations, prevented the general public from having their say in these vital elections.
The total incompetence displayed by the election team in Barnet, led by Andrew Travers, seriously damaged people’s faith in the system and disenfranchised voters.
To make matters worse, the count at City Hall on Friday was delayed by close to seven hours when a multi-million pound system, purchased to avoid these kinds of issues, crashed.
It meant the London Assembly results were not announced until shortly before midnight, whilst the Mayoral ballot was not read until the early hours of Saturday morning.
These major errors left elements of London’s election looking like a farce.
Andrew Travers has left his post following Barnet’s election shambles – a situation which was later blamed on a ‘printing error’ – and I welcome that news. The performance of his team was nothing short of disgraceful and I am glad to see he has done the decent thing and fallen on his sword.
As well as the damage done to Barnet Council’s reputation though, there is a serious point to be made about the effect these blunders had on the overall result. Whilst Barnet’s constituency and Mayoral results would have been unaffected, missing votes could have had an impact on the allocation of list members for the London Assembly, the final count of which was very close.
The Conservative group missed out on securing an additional list member by just 6,000 additional votes in net terms. In a Tory borough like Barnet, where it is estimated 15,000 voters could well have been affected, the missing votes could have made a key difference.
I am demanding a full explanation for the abysmal performance of both London Elects and Barnet Council. They have had four years to plan for this important London ballot but they both failed to get it right when it mattered and the voting public has suffered.
I am calling on all parties on the Assembly to back my motion for a full and urgent inquiry so we can establish what caused these catastrophic blunders.
I will be raising this at the Assembly’s first AGM on Friday. Barnet’s voters deserve better and those responsible for these blunders need to provide answers.
Gareth Bacon was elected in 2008 as a Londonwide Assembly Member, and was elected Assembly Member for Bexley and Bromley on May 5th. Gareth has also been a Councillor in the London Borough of Bexley since 1998, where he represents Longlands Ward. He comes from a background in the financial recruitment industry and has Bachelors and Masters degrees in politics and government from Kent University.