Fresh parish council elections will be held in Duston and Upton in February 2016 after £42,000 administrative error

Parish council elections will have to be held again in Duston and Upton after an administrative error.
Parish council elections will have to be held again in Duston and Upton after an administrative error.
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Opposition members vented their frustrations after Northampton Borough Council was forced to order a re-election of two parish councils due to an “administrative error” which ruled the previous ones void.

At the full Northampton Borough Council meeting last night, councillors agreed to order the re-election of Duston and Upton parish councils in February after the Electoral Commission ruled the vote both parishes held in May was not legally binding.

While the commission reviewed the boundaries of the Upton and Duston parishes back in 2013, somehow the authority failed to implement those changes when it came to election time.

The mistake is expected to cost the council up to £42,000.

Cabinet member for finance, Councillor Mike Hallam, said the ward boundary changes in Duston and Upton were not “picked up” in 2015 and said that chief executive David Kennedy had started an investigation as to why.

Duston parish councillor David Huffadine-Smith asked for assurances that the cost of the election would not fall on either of the two parishes.

However councillor Hallam said the £42,000 would come out of the council’s general fund.

Opposition councillors on the borough council vented their frustration at the cost last night.

Labour group leader Councillor Danielle Stone, said: “This is a bit worrying. Yet another administrative error that’s costing us a lot of money.

“But I don’t understand, having made that mistake, why there is such a rush to rectify it?”

“Wouldn’t it be cheaper to hold the reelection at the same time as the police and crime commissioner election in May?”

Councillor Dennis Meredith, lib Dem, Talavera, said: “I’m gobsmacked, that’s another £42,000 of council money we will have to shell out.”

Councillor Hallam said the borough council did want to hold the election to be held in May, but the Electoral Commission had ruled against it.

The move has been taken after guidance from the Electoral Commission because, while the borough reviewed the boundaries of the Upton and Duston parishes back in 2013, somehow the authority failed to implement those changes when it came to election time.

The Electoral Commission has stated: “We have reached this decision because the elections to both parishes in May 2015 should have been held using the new electoral arrangement as set out in the Northamptonshire (Electoral Changes) order 2013.”

In 2013 the borough council carried out its own review of parish boundaries in Northampton, called the Community Governance Review (CGR) and concluded that there should be no changes made to the boundaries in Upton and Duston.

However a separate review by the Boundary Commission made earlier in 2013 should have superseded it.

The commission concluded that Duston should be split into three separate wards, new Duston East, New Duston West and Old Duston.

It also decided Upton should be divided into two wards, Upton North and Upton South.

However at the May 2015 election the borough council elected both parishes using the guidance set out in its own CGR. In Duston electors voted in only two wards and Upton in just the one.

A report by chief executive David Kennedy, states: “That matter is being investigated and can only be explained as an oversight.

“It would appear that the Community Governance Review (CGR) having included no changes to the arrangements in Duston and Upton, it was not realised the changes had in fact taken place through the Boundary Commission Review.

The parish council elections, held on May 7, were therefore held under the pre-existing electoral arrangements.”