By-election polling card row

A BY-election planned for west Suffolk was last night called “a complete farce” after it emerged polling cards had not been sent out to voters in order to cut costs.

Laurence Cawley

A BY-election planned for west Suffolk was last night called “a complete farce” after it emerged polling cards had not been sent out to voters in order to cut costs.

Four candidates are battling it out for the Abbeygate seat on Bury St Edmunds Town Council ahead of Thursday's by-election.

But yesterday it emerged no polling cards had been sent out by the council to let voters know the by-election was taking place.

The reason, according to the council, is to cut down on costs.

Linda Sherer, town clerk, said her “hands were tied” by members of the council who ruled out paying the £750 for polling cards.

Most Read

“I've posted the election notice in the Buttermarket and here on our noticeboard in Guildhall Street. It would have cost between £700 and £750 and I wasn't allowed to do it.”

Town council chairman Roy Bebbington said: “We decided against polling cards because of the cost of it. It was a decision by the council in cutting back on costs.

“Most candidates will be in touch with people in the lead-up to the election so most people will know about it.”

Under election law, councils do not have to post out polling cards and they are not required for electors to vote.

But Abbeygate Independent candidate Paul Hopfensperger said: “It is a complete farce. I've been out and nobody knows this by-election is on.”

He said the only people who did seem to know about it were Conservative voters who, Mr Hopfensperger, a former Conservative, claimed had been targeted by Tory election agents using a list of likely Conservative voters. He said this gave the Conservatives an unfair advantage.

This was categorically denied by Paul Farmer, the Conservative candidate for the Abbeygate ward, who said: “If it affects the candidates it affects the candidates equally. Some people do like to have polling cards and they do feel they want to have one.”

The other candidates standing for the Abbeygate ward, who were not available for comment yesterday, are the independents Mark Hardy and Brian Lockwood.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter