A BY-ELECTION could be held in Winsford after a judge ruled last May’s local election for the Over ward is void.

An election court trial took place at Winsford Lifestyle Centre last Thursday and Friday.

The respondents were Steve Robinson, Cheshire West and Chester Council’s chief executive and Winsford Town Council ward members for Over, Gina Lewis (Labour), Graham Cawley, (Labour) and Margaret Dolphin (Conservative).

Charles Parkinson, who lost his seat in the ward following the May 7 election, petitioned the High Court to review the case after claiming the nominations of three other candidates were invalid.

The votes cast were Mr Parkinson: 518 votes, Mrs Lewis: 833, Mr Cawley: 759 and Mrs Dolphin: 678. 

Mr Parkinson, who came sixth out of nine candidates, said the nomination forms for the three respondents were signed by seconders who did not live in Over ward.

Despite this, the forms were declared valid by Mr Robinson, who was the returning officer during the local, borough and Parliamentary elections.

Mr Robinson told the court he carried out an ‘informal’ check on the nomination forms, before running them through council software.

“On the face of it the forms looked valid and then we did the check and it did not say it was invalid,” he said.

Mr Robinson was made aware of the error three weeks before the elections, the court heard.

Mrs Lewis, who was mayor of Winsford at the time, said her nomination form was partly filled out by the Eddisbury Labour Party’s agent, Brian Clarke.

Mr Clarke, Winsford Town Council ward member for Gravel and CWAC cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure, seconded Mrs Lewis’ form but he didn’t live in the ward.

Mr Cawley’s form was invalidly seconded by Don Beckett, CWAC Labour councillor for Winsford Over and Verdin who also lived outside the area. Mr Cawley could not attend the trial.

Mrs Dolphin, who decided to remain neutral in the proceedings, had her forms seconded by a couple who believed they lived in the ward.

Aileen McColsan, QC for Mrs Lewis Mr Cawley, argued that the election should be saved as the error was merely a ‘minor technical breach’ which had no effect on the outcome.

“The fact they won their seats and won by some margin demonstrates that they have significant support to stand in the election,” she said.

“There were no fundamental breaches that would have affected the outcome.”

Judge Saffman said the breach did affect the result as the three invalidly nominated candidates won the election.

While acknowledging they had made 'innocent' mistakes, Judge Saffman said the three candidates were the ‘authors of their own misfortune’.

“It is clearly the responsibility of the candidates to make sure that the forms are properly completed,” he said.

However, Judge Saffman said he could not ‘absolve’ Mr Robinson entirely as he supplied defective forms that did not include the word ‘ward’.

The forms also referred to the wrong guidance in its appendix.

Delivering his verdict, Judge Saffman said: “I conclude that the election for the Over ward is void and if necessary will be re-run.”

Notice will now be given to fill three casual vacancies for the Over ward. If 10 people request an election then a by-election will take place later this year.