HIGHWORTH voters last night said they would not stand for the result of a bungled town council election count that saw 10 councillors receive more votes than there were ballots cast.

Swindon Borough Council chief Susie Kemp held a crisis meeting at Highworth Town Council’s offices, explaining behind closed doors to candidates why the result had been wrong.

In a press statement, Ms Kemp, who served as the borough’s returning officer for last Thursday’s local elections, admitted she could not be sure that the right people had been elected.

But she said little could now be done to rectify the counting error, which the Advertiser understands saw each of the 10 Conservative Party candidates handed an extra 2,650 votes. If they want a recount, Highworth voters must petition the Royal Courts of Justice, where the application to challenge the election results would be heard before a judge.

Despite the borough council on Friday saying the problem with the count would not have made a material difference to the final result, in a volte face Ms Kemp last night said: “It is very clear that there has been an error in the numbers given in the declaration of the election for Highworth Town Council.

“The votes allocated to some candidates are incorrect. I cannot be certain that this has had an impact on the candidates elected as I am unable in law to recount the ballot papers once I have declared the results of the election.

“I cannot take legal proceedings in respect of the election. Only those within section 128 of the Representation of the People Act 1983 can bring a petition. These are four or more who voted or who had a right to vote or someone who was a candidate. I cannot and will not give legal advice but I draw attention to the fact that a petition has to be presented within 21 days after the day on which the election was held. That takes us to Friday, May 24, but I suspect a legal adviser would suggest that one should present earlier than that.

“As it stands, those who were declared in the early hours of Friday, May 3, are elected and therefore able to take their seats on Highworth Town Council.”

MORE NEWS: What went wrong with the Highworth Town Council vote? And where do we go from here?

Yesterday, Highworth voters staged a quiet protest outside the town council officers where, inside, Ms Kemp was having to explain the borough’s mistake.

Resident Adrian Young said of the count: “I think it’s just a cock-up. But they have to sort it out. I don’t think the people of Highworth are going to stand for something that’s wrong.”

Sue Dyer added: “I don’t think my grandmother as a suffragette went on marches a century ago only for someone at Swindon Borough Council to do this. I’m sure the result is incorrect.”

Kerry Cope, who helped organise the protest, said: “We should settle for nothing less than an independent recount.”

15 Highworth town councillors were elected following last week’s poll, including all 10 Conservative Party candidates.

However, the Advertiser understands that the results would have been significantly different if 265 bloc votes had been counted correctly – with potentially four Tory candidates missing out on town council seats. Swindon Borough Council has not published or verified the “accurate” results.

Town councillors on all sides of the political spectrum were last night said to be keen for the problem to be sorted.

Independent councillor Simon Wolfensohn said as he greeted protestors: “I hope the borough will recognise the nature of the mistake made and rectify it.”

A Conservative councillor told the Advertiser: “A great many of us have written in to the borough and said something to be done about it. It’s got to be rectified.”

Last night, Jim Grant, the Labour group leader on Swindon Borough Council, said: “Clearly a mistake has been made. This mistake needs to be rectified and I believe the council should take on responsibility to rectify it.”

Justin Tomlinson, MP for North Swindon, added: “I have been pressing the returning officer to either do a full recount that can be publicly viewed or make it absolutely crystal clear why she feels the count still stands despite the discrepancy. Everybody wants this resolved.”