Update 21/4: Council election dispute back in the High Court

By Matt Taylor

Update 21/4:

The case over a Hanley woman who took legal action against the council over a disputed election result has still not been resolved despite spending the last two days in the High Court.

Eve Maley took the city council to court over the election for Northwood and Birches Head because she felt aggrieved that the Liberal Democrats were allowed multiple recounts which led to the eventual announcement of their representative Dave Sutton being declared the winner by one vote, when Eve had been ahead in the previous three totals.

There is now debate over a missing postal vote which could hold the key to Eve achieving her aim of changing the result of the election with the possibility of a re-run.

But although these were counted yesterday, no decision has yet been made and there will now be a further hearing, which is to happen next Friday, 30th October, at an as-yet undisclosed location.

The battle thus far has cost Mrs Maley seven thousand pounds, with further costs still adding up paid for by legal aid, as well as mounting costs to the taxpayer for lawyers representing the city council.

As published on October 19th:

Eve outside her home in Eaton Street

Eve outside her previous home in Eaton Street (now subject to a CPO)

Eve Maley, aged 64, from Hanley, took umbridge when the vote to elect a councillor for Northwood and Birches Head last year went against her by one vote – after several recounts.

In the first three counts Eve was found ahead in the ballot. But with Dave Sutton being second in the running, the Lib Dems called for the multiple recounts which led to the fourth overturning the decision, instead putting Sutton one ahead. It was when this occurred and after Eve was refused the right to a recount herself, that she decided to take action against the council.

But a year-and-a-half on, several hearings in the Royal Courts of Justice, and costly appearances by QCs on behalf of both Eve and Stoke-on-Trent City Council, nothing has been resolved. And today’s hearing before a commissioner was no exception.

However, it does seem as if the long battle is coming to a long-awaited conclusion.

The case has taken a turn from what it was originally concerned with, as the count of votes which were delivered by the city council to the courts did add up to the tally declared in the final count. Now it has come down to postal votes, because the numbers published by the Returning Officer did not add up correctly, meaning there was one missing vote. Since this vote could have been for Eve, the argument is that, of course, it would have led to a draw.

The postal votes and spoilt ballot papers therein will be examined tomorrow, when Eve returns for another appearance in the big smoke. But this could still not be the last, with a possible final hearing to happen in Stoke before the matter is ultimately resolved. Eve said:

“We got what we wanted in that they are going to check the postal votes. There’s one missing and they can’t account for that. So it could have been declared a draw.

“The commissioner wasn’t happy that the whole thing had taken 18 months.

“But it could still not be sorted tomorrow and if not will be completed in Stoke. It’s been a nightmare.

“If they had just given me a recount in the first place, then either way the result went, none of this would have happened.

“The best outcome is the truth – what went on needs to come out. People who voted for me need to know the truth.”