Wouldn’t it be ridiculous – like something from Kafka or Colombia or Mexico – if the powers that be allowed small independent candidates to campaign within their allotted ward boundaries and then – at midnight just before the day of the vote – changed those boundaries, shifting hundreds of people from one ward to another?
Well that is exactly what has happened in Newton Abbot.
Last night boundaries between College and Buckland and Milber, and between Bushell and Buckland and Milber, were altered, depriving College and Bushell of hundreds of voters. At the same time the new parish of Brunel was created, leaving hundreds of people with nobody at all to vote for in town elections.
All Independents standing on a Newton Says No ticket were given a link to the Ordnance Survey election boundaries map – now incorrect. In none of our literature or guidance does it state that the ward boundaries for Newton Abbot would suddenly change, and that on the day itself we’d be faced with an entirely new geography.
One disenfranchised voter we spoke to was was told to call a returning officer, who was ‘less than helpful’. And in any case, he said “There is nothing that can be done today.”
Charlie Fisher, of Electoral Services at TDC, said "Unfortunately, we are in the same situation, we don’t have detailed maps yet. Ordnance Survey will change their maps when the new boundaries come into force on May 2nd" (ie, today). He added that candidates WERE given a street-by-street list of constituents.
Unsurprisingly, none of us used these lists to canvass. We used the maps we were given because - well, why wouldn't you? We don't eed to know everyone's personal information. We just need to know if their house is in our ward.
So who DID know about the boundary changes, and that the maps were less than useless? It seems that those already ensconced in the chamber at Old Fraud House knew perfectly well which houses to leaflet and canvass. We're sure the boundary changes were brought up and discussed. But were they circulated to all candidates hoping to partake in ‘democracy’? People, who, for obvious reasons, are not yet au fait with ALL the chicanery and deceit of which local government is capable? No, they were not.
Needless to say, this stinks. What has happened today is criminal.
Whatever the outcome, we will be demanding a full investigation. And if the Ever-Returning Officer, the Master of Every Disaster, Phil Shears still has a job at the end of it - we’ll want to know why.
NB: We need to state that we bear no ill feeling towards Charlie Fisher or anyone else on Teignbridge Electoral Services who we dealt with. We understand that they did the best job for us they could with the materials they were given.