The voters who moo-ved in next door

By Liz HearnshawA COUPLE who were frustrated with increasing levels of council bureaucracy added the names of their pet dog and two cows to the electoral roll in protest at the authority's constant demands for information.

By Liz Hearnshaw

A COUPLE who were frustrated with increasing levels of council bureaucracy added the names of their pet dog and two cows to the electoral roll in protest at the authority's constant demands for information.

But Barry and Brenda Gould's “joke” backfired when she was fined £100 by magistrates after being convicted in her absence of giving false information.

The exasperated couple had been sent electoral roll registration forms to both their home in Dullingham Road, Newmarket, and the barn next door about three years ago.


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In retaliation, they completed the forms with their names and those of their five-year-old dog, Jake Woofles, and their cows, Henry and Softie Bull.

As a result of the additions to the electoral roll, the couple have been receiving credit card offers and loan application forms addressed to all three animals, but insisted they never intended to use the names to gain either money or an extra vote.

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However, they fell foul of East Cambridgeshire District Council, who took Mrs Gould to court because she had signed the forms.

Mr Gould, 56, who runs a taxi business, said: “It is a joke and I think it is disgusting that these jobsworths try to get money out of you for fines.

“We have been getting post addressed to the dog, offering him credit cards and loans, which makes us laugh. If he had taken any of these offers, he would be the richest dog in East Anglia.”

He added: “It all started when a man came to the gate while I was working on a vehicle. He was whinging because we had not filled in the voters' form.

“As I don't have much patience and he thought this piece of paper was the most important thing in the world, I then decided if he wanted information, he could have it and put everything down.

“I find these people frustrating and I decided if they were going to be silly, then I would too. This is just bureaucratic nonsense, but at least our cows were the first to feature on the electoral role.”

Under the Representation of the People legislation, Register of Electors forms are sent to properties each year so that occupants can register their right to vote in elections.

Mrs Gould said: “The council kept on sending forms addressed to the barn, demanding to know who lived there, so we wrote and told them.

“They kept going on and on, wanting this information and we got so fed up with it. We were just trying to point out that it is a barn where animals live and not part of our home.”

She added: “I find it really stupid. But I would imagine action like this is quite profitable for the council. It adds up if every little detail is picked up and other people are fined.

“Things would be different if we had tried to obtain money or use the vote, but this was nothing underhand and just a joke which seems to have backfired.

“The court case seems heavy-handed - there was no ill intention and we are law-abiding people.”

But a spokesman for the district council said the extra names could have jeopardised the voting system.

“Mrs Gould completed her form for 2003/2004 indicating that her address had been split into two properties, with her residing in one part and showing two other persons living in the second,” he added.

“It emerged that the other persons Mrs Gould claimed to be living in the second property were, in fact, her cows.

“It is the second time she has submitted false electoral information, as the electoral form she submitted for the previous year had listed her cows, Softie and Henry Bull, and her dog, Jake Woofles, as being eligible to vote in local government elections.”

The spokesman continued: “Our main purpose in bringing the prosecution was to prevent someone having more than one vote, which jeopardises the voting system.

“While this may appear to be a bit of eccentricity, nevertheless the safeguarding of the voting system is important.”

liz.hearnshaw@eadt.co.uk

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