VOTE 2014: Five days after the local elections, and Croydon Council is still showing “unofficial” and inaccurate election results on its official website.
It is not clear when the finalised, and corrected, election results will be posted on the council’s own website. Council officials were saying today that some online services were not available today, “due to a major system migration”. Migration seems to get the blame for all sorts of short-comings these days.
The inaccuracies are not thought to affect the overall outcome of the election, which saw Labour win 40 of Croydon’s Town Hall seats to seize control from the Conservatives, who won 30 seats.
But the errors are nonetheless serious, understating some candidates’ votes by many hundreds. The mistakes appear mainly in transcription and publishing, rather than the count, yet still ought to represent a massive embarrassment over such an important democratic function.
The conduct of Croydon’s election count came in from widespread criticism on Thursday night, for the choice of the out-of-the-way venue and a lack of tellers – Inside Croydon reported that around 110 were on duty, around two-thirds of the number estimated to be necessary to handle a 24-ward count – which contributed to the delay in declaring results. Expected by 3am on Friday, none were announced until after 6am.
Paul Smith, the former senior Labour councillor, summed it up: “Most returning officers strive for the fastest declaration. Croydon seem to be going for slowest.”
A former Town Hall insider told Inside Croydon: “As I see it, the whole thing is a cock-up: the choice of Trinity School rather than Fairfield for the count; the shortage of tellers, which made the count longer than necessary; and now the failure to have all the results accurately posted on the council website by 9am on Friday morning.”
The responsibility for organising the election and the count falls to the council’s interim chief executive, Nathan Elvery, who as returning officer can expect to paid an election bonus of around £20,000 on top of his already generous six-figure council wage packet. “There seems to be a generally sloppy attitude among senior management in Croydon, which Tony Newman needs to crack down on as a matter of urgency,” said our source.
The process was complicated slightly by the need to spend some time first checking the votes in the European elections staged on the same day. But in past years, local results have been declared by 3am even when there have been parliamentary elections on the same day.
According to a senior council official, the results, posted here, were to appear in “real time” in the early hours of Friday morning. But as the errors have emerged, Town Hall sources have claimed that the results published on the council’s website are only “unofficial” and “provisional”. Shame that nothing to that effect is stated on the official council website that still shows the inaccurate information.
Our council, in its cost-cutting wisdom, had outsourced one of its most vital public democratic functions to a company called Associated Knowledge Systems, which has nearly 30 years’ experience in the field of copying numbers off pieces of paper and keying them into a content management system.
The various transcription errors were identified by a local Conservative Party activist and sometime election junkie, John Cartwright. Last week’s elections had been the first in around 20 years that Cartwright had not stood for election in one of the borough’s wards on behalf of the Monster Raving Loony Party.
Cartwright contacted Elvery to report the errors on Friday, but the chief executive was not in his office to respond. It would seem that the council had no contingency to deal with glitches or flaws in its election results over the period of the Bank Holiday weekend.
Cartwright – who had himself struggled to locate the result on the Croydon Council website – wrote to Inside Croydon to say, “There seems to be an anomaly in my copy of the results from Sanderstead ward.”
Even at 1pm today, the official council website showed UKIP’s Sanderstead candidate polling just 201 votes. Cartwright’s notes showed 281 votes, or just 6 per cent of the poll. “But if the correct figure is 1281 then it would be 29 per cent, which is more likely because it would be comparable to the 28 per cent which UKIP got in Heathfield, 24 per cent in Selsdon and Ballards, and 17 per cent in Kenley,” Cartwright said.
“If the UKIP vote in Sanderstead was indeed 1281 (29 per cent), it would help to explain the fact that Sanderstead was one of only two wards in which the percentage of the vote for Labour actually went down (the other being Selsdon and Ballards). The figure of 281 is unlikely to be correct, because if true it would be the lowest percentage vote for UKIP in the whole borough.”
Similar errors have been noticed in the results for other wards.
By Sunday, Cartwright had been “reliably informed that the correct figure for UKIP in Sanderstead is 891. All of the results sheets are being double-checked and will be published on the Croydon Council website on Tuesday morning, after the Bank Holiday”.
That is still yet to happen. It indicates that while council officials had access to more accurate information, they were unable to take action to correct their own website, presumably because the AKS alone had access to the election pages.
Here is what we believe to be the overall election results for Croydon:
Council elections 2014
Overall votes cast (and vote share)
Lab 36,303 (36.0%)
Con 33,640 (33.4%)
UKIP 15,477 (15.4%)
Green 8,052 (8.0%)
LibDem 5,503 (5.5%)
Others 1,773 (1.7%)
European elections in Croydon 2014
Overall votes cast (and vote share)
Lab 32,439 (32.9%)
Con 26,687 (27.1%)
UKIP 19,560 (19.8%)
Green 6,829 (6.9%)
LibDem 3,768 (3.8%)
Coming to Croydon
- Greek Myths: stories and mask-making, May 27
- Weenies meet artist Hale Man, Whitgift centre, May 27-28
- The Information Project Crystal Palace debate, May 28
- Howard Marks: Scholar, Smuggler, Prisoner, Scribe, May 29
- David Lean Cinema: Dallas Buyers Club, May 29
- Tales from Ancient Greece, Upper Norwood Library, May 29
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, May 31
- Junction Road Big Lunch, June 1
- Stitch Pitch quilting workshop, Upper Norwood Library, June 2
- Croydon Tech City “summit”, June 6
- An Improvised Murder, Spread Eagle Theatre, June 7
- Crystal Palace Transition Town annual meeting, June 11
- Lakes Playground Action Group fun day, June 14
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, June 15
- Norwood Society Talk: The Concrete Church, June 19
- Airport House swing dance free event, June 21
- Classic Car Show at Purley Rotary Fields, June 22
- Crystal Palace Overground Festival, June 26-29
- Warnings to the Curious, Spread Eagle Theatre, June 27
- South Norwood Allotments open day, June 28
- Fragile, Spread Eagle Theatre, July 24-26
- CODA’s Midsummer Night’s Dream at Wandle Park, Jul 30-Aug 2
- Elm Tree Cottage garden open day, Aug 10
- Norwood Society Talk: War Memorials, Sep 18
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
Inside Croydon: Croydon’s only independent news source, based in the heart of the borough: 72,342 average monthly page views (Jan-Mar 2014)
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