Dismore slams Bungling Barnet’s ‘investigation’ into fiasco election as a woefully inadequate cover up and whitewash

Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden Andrew Dismore AM has slammed the announcement of Barnet’s investigation into the 5th May London elections as a woefully inadequate cover up and whitewash, designed to save  the political skins of Cllr Cornelius and Cllr Scannell,  rather than trying  to put things right for the future.

Mr Dismore said:

‘How the Council can imagine voters will  have any confidence in this investigation beggars belief.

‘I can’t see how anyone can expect this investigation  to get to the bottom  of Bungling Barnet’s electoral dung heap and put things right in time  for the EU referendum.

‘Apart from the missing registers issues, it is clearly designed to divert attention away from the many other failures in Barnet’s election administration that keep occurring, and to scapegoat the ex- Chief Executive,  rather than getting  to the  bottom of political accountability for what happened.

‘‘Rather than addressing the issues I flagged up in my letter to Cllr Cornelius on 10th May, (copy below)  this is about cover up and whitewash, and saving the political skins of  Council Leader Cllr Cornelius and Cllr Scannell, chair of General Functions Committee ( responsible for elections),  rather than trying  to put things right for the future.

‘The investigation is even being conducted by a local government insider, who is also Chief Executive of another ‘ Capita’  council, rather than by an independent  QC, which would have given it the degree of independence  needed to reassure the public.

‘It is not being held in public, but behind closed doors, which is outrageous. What price transparency? This is about as transparent as tar on the road.

‘It has not been publicised, other than on the council’s own website, and then it was slipped out late on Friday,  so how are those affected  supposed to know how they can contribute?

‘The terms of reference are woefully too narrow, limited only to matters relating to the wrong electoral registers at the polling stations.

‘The investigation should be  much broader, looking at the many problems, including,  but not limited to, late or non delivered  postal votes ( for which  Capita was responsible), the hapless hotline on the day ( for which  Capita was also responsible), missing  poll cards and the appalling  state of the electoral register,  for example.

‘Many of these problems have arisen time and again, and if they are excluded from the investigation, there can be little doubt  they will happen next time and the time after that – especially as they have been  flagged up as problems before.

‘The investigation is not looking at the resourcing of election administration either , especially in the run up to elections. It should look at budgets, staff numbers, and their training and  experience, too.

 ‘It  is not looking at political accountability for the mess- It is even reporting to the  very council committee which is responsible for elections- and therefore  the cock up as well-  rather than being published free of any possible political interference.

‘ There can be no confidence in this investigation, or in democracy in Barnet, especially when looking ahead to the EU Referendum next month.’


Text of letter from Andrew Dismore to Cllr Cornelius

Dear Cllr Cornelius,

Re Barnet election fiasco, 5th May

I am writing to you about the large number of unanswered questions surrounding the botched election-day process last Thursday.

The departure of the Chief Executive Officer and Returning Officer for the election, Mr Andrew Travers.

1) The wording of the press release on his departure was not clear- was he sacked or did he resign?

2) Has he received any pay off for the early termination of his employment, and if so how much?

3) What was his fee as Returning Officer; has it been paid to him; and given the shambolic way the election was handled, will this fee be refused or abated if not paid; and if paid will it be reclaimed in whole or part?

The inquiry into the debacle

4) What are the inquiry’s terms of reference?

5) Will it be limited solely to the events of 5th May or will it include the wider failings in the run up to the election, including, but not limited to:

  1. a) the compilation of the electoral register and the large number of voters missed off
  2. b) the compilation of the supplementary register
  3. c) the dispatch of polling cards and why many electors did not receive them
  4. d) the administration and dispatch of postal votes and why many electors did not receive them in time, or in some cases at all
  5. e) the location of polling stations which made it much harder for some voters to cast their ballots
  6. f) the resourcing of electoral administration, including levels and numbers of staff and their experience, the funding of the department, and the impact of cuts and privatisations

6) In relation to the 5th May, will the inquiry cover:

  1. a) the printing of the electoral register lists for polling stations and why the wrong ones were sent in the first place
  2. b) the dispatch of the correct registers, and the time and order in which they were sent out
  3. c) how long it took for registers to arrive
  4. d) the instructions that were given to polling clerks , and when
  5. e) why some polling stations were closed entirely while a solution was found
  6. f) what advice was given to the public, when and by what means

7) How will you ensure the inquiry is fully independent?

8) Who is being appointed to run the inquiry? I believe a senior independent QC would be best qualified to do so, accompanied by an independent chief executive of another authority with a good record of electoral administration, as an assessor and advisor

9) How will you ensure the process is transparent?

10) How will the public be engaged?

11) Will those members of the public who were undemocratically denied their franchise be able to make both written and oral representations to the inquiry?

12) Will the inquiry be held in public?

13) When will the inquiry be expected to report?

14) Will the report be published independently of the council, direct to the local press, councillors, and other interested parties without editing or other interference by leading members or the bureaucracy?

The immediate future

15) What steps are being taken to ensure the smooth running of the Referendum next month?

16) in view of the major failings in this election, and not for the first time, and the short time that would inevitably be available after the inquiry reports to implement any recommendations, will you bring in another Council , such as Camden, to run the administration of the Referendum, given their successful and trouble free election record ?

Finally, political accountability

17) Whilst it is welcome news that Mr Travers has taken responsibility for the administrative failures, the question remains as to who should take political responsibility. I believe that should be you as leader of the Council, and Cllr Joan Scannell as chair of the General Functions Committee, which has the role of oversight of elections administration. For the good of the borough you should both do the decent thing and resign your posts.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Dismore

Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden