09:14AM, Tuesday 03 October 2017
Members from all parties were dismayed at a decision to withdraw from a voter ID pilot scheme, which was taken at a Slough Borough Council (SBC) meeting on Thursday.
At the meeting in The Curve, in William Street, Slough’s Labour group submitted a motion proposing a withdrawal from a government-led voter ID pilot scheme.
In January the council unanimously voted in favour of the scheme, which was set up as a part of an electoral fraud crackdown.
It would see Slough residents given government funded voter IDs to use in 2018’s local government elections.
In 2009, Slough Tory councillor Eshaq Khan and five party activists were jailed for voter fraud prompting Cllr Rayman Bains (Con, Upton) to propose joining the pilot.
Several Labour councillors said they had been whipped to vote to quit the scheme, causing seven, many of whom took part in the debate, to walk out of the room for the vote.
Cllr Ted Plenty (Lab, Langley St Mary’s) walked out brandishing a large cucumber and did not want to give an explanation when asked by The Express.
Two Labour councillors, Cllr Nora Holledge (Cippenham Green) and Cllr Martin Carter (Britwell and Northborough) defied their party whip, voting against the motion.
“It’s better than 50 Shades of Grey with all the whipping that’s gone on,” said Cllr Diana Coad (UKIP, Langley St Mary’s) who called the leadership’s motion ‘a disgrace’.
The decision to quit the scheme was approved with 20 votes for, 10 against and one abstention, with seven councillors not taking part.
Cllr Natasa Pantelic (Lab, Cippenham Meadows) said: "I'm absolutely disgusted at my colleagues on this side of the chamber that are going to supporting this recommendation and absolutely ashamed of the leader of the council for even putting this on the table.”
Supporters of abandoning the voter ID scheme said it would disenfranchise many voters including lower income families and ethnic minorities.
Cllr Amarpreet Dhaliwal (Con, Langley St Mary’s) accused the councillors of playing ‘a race card’, calling the withdrawal a ‘slap in the face of the officers who put this together’.
Cllr Bains suggested after the meeting that the motion was influenced by Labour members on a national level.
After the meeting Cllr Hussain said: “This pilot offers the worst of both worlds: making it harder for most people to vote while not preventing those who really are trying to defraud the system from doing so.”
Cllr Munawar said: “We are not closing the door to working with the government to protect the integrity of the vote in Slough.
“All councillors want to make our democratic process as secure as possible, but in doing so we must not restrict a person’s right to vote.”
In an email on Monday, October 2, former SBC leader Richard Stokes asked Cllrs Munawar and Hussain to reconsider the decision, recounting the voter fraud he came across as a Haymill Ward councillor.
“I had to obtain between about 240 or 250 votes before the contest really started because about 240 or 250 votes were regularly fraudulent at elections,” he added.
“I had hoped that elections could be held in Slough that would be competitive but honest. Your decision sends out the wrong signals and will be welcomed only by fraudsters.
“The honest Slough residents will view your decision with dismay.”
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