Two parish council elections will have to be held again in Northampton due to ‘oversight’ costing £42,000

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.

A costly administrative error will mean parish council elections in Duston and Upton will have to be held again after boundary review changes were not adhered to in May.

A report set to go before tonight’s full Northampton Borough Council meeting has revealed an “oversight” at the previous elections for both parishes has meant they are not “properly constituted.”

It means the borough will have to hold fresh elections in 2016, at a cost of approximately £42,000.

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However a separate review by the Boundary Commission made earlier in 2013 should have superseded it.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

Leader of the opposition Labour group, Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle) said: “This looks very bizarre and it is quite a dramatic step to have fresh elections for two parish councils. It is being put down to an ‘administrative error’ but this I suspect is going to be a costly mistake.

“I feel sorry for those parish councillors in Duston and Upton who were elected in May for a four year term to do a job but will now have to go through it all again and it’s no fault of their own. It is very odd.”

The matter is due to come before tonight’s full council meeting at the Guildhall.

It is proposed the parish elections will be held again in February 11, 2016.

Upton parish councillor Peter Evans, claimed to have spent around £250 on expenses at the previous election and said no one will be relishing having to canvas for support again - only nine months since voters last took to the polls.

He said: “I could see how it could be quite stressful for candidates, especially if they haven’t had to do this sort of thing before.

“It could put people off running for a second time in February. Especially as they will have to pay out of their own pocket to pay for election materials.

“They aren’t going to be recompensed for that.”

He added: “The people held responsible for this have to be held to account.”