Referendum cost '£20 per vote'

A REFERENDUM in west Suffolk on the future of a town council cost taxpayers around £20 per vote after the turnout was just 1.27%, it has emerged.The £8,000 exercise was last night branded “a complete waste of money” after just 358 people out of a possible 28,143 voted on whether they were in favour of Bury St Edmunds Town Council.

A REFERENDUM in west Suffolk on the future of a town council cost taxpayers around £20 per vote after the turnout was just 1.27%, it has emerged.

The £8,000 exercise was last night branded “a complete waste of money” after just 358 people out of a possible 28,143 voted on whether they were in favour of Bury St Edmunds Town Council.

And yesterday members of the public claimed they did not know about the poll or did know about it but were unable to vote.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council yesterday said publicising the poll was not its responsibility and that people could only vote in the polling stations allocated to them.


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Of the meagre turnout that, 257 said they were not in favour of the town council and 101 thought it should stay.

The cost of the poll will have to be footed by the town council even though it did not want it or call for it.

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Retired headteacher Penelope Carter, who lives in the Minden ward, told of her “irritation” at failing in her bid to cast her vote.

Miss Carter would normally have voted at All Saints Church. But because the church is currently being renovated, she went along to the Home Guard Club in Abbott's Road, where she was told she could not vote.

She said: “I have no idea how many other people either did not know about the poll or who found themselves being told they had to go elsewhere to vote. I am really peeved. I am very irritated by this.”

Kathryn Giffin, who lives in Northgate Street, said she knew nothing at all about the poll as there had been no leaflet drops.

She said: “How are we supposed to take part in a democratic debate if we have no notion it is going on, and I would have voted on this issue, but now it is too late.”

A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which ran the referendum on behalf of the town council, said: “Like in all elections, people can only cast their vote in a parish poll at their local polling station. Anyone who did not attend the polling station allocated for their ward would not have not been able to vote there, but could have done at their own station.

“Regulations state that St Edmundsbury is only responsible for administrating the poll and not for publicising it. We did, however, carry details of the polling stations and hours during which people could vote on our website and in the notices published at our offices.

“As the name suggests, parish polls were originally designed for use in parishes rather than towns and the rules governing them have not been amended to reflect the change of scale.”

The EADT yesterday polled all 16 town council members to find out how they would have answered the same question but just seven were available. All members were in favour of the town council continuing in existence.

And they joined forces to criticise the poll, branding it a “waste of money”.

Robert Corfe, town councillor for Westgate, said: “It was a very miserable turnout but we did not want to have this situation anyway.”

Paul Simner, member for Risbygate, said: “It was an absolutely total complete waste of money which could have been used in many other ways.”

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