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WALSALL: Labour candidate election “farce”

WALSALL: Labour candidate election “farce”

009.JPG Walsall Council House, photo George Makin. copyright Trinity Mirror

Wednesday 8 December 13:03

An administrative ‘farce’ will prevent a Walsall Labour candidate taking up her seat if she wins – in a ‘pointless’ by-election taking place this month.

Simran Cheema had hoped to fill the Pleck ward seat, which became vacant following the death of deputy mayor Harbans Sarohi in July, in the ballot on December 16.

But she will be unable to do so as she was serving out her notice from her part-time job working for Walsall libraries when her nomination was confirmed last month.

Rules state that a candidate cannot stand for election on to a council if they are employed by that local authority.

The seat was due to be contested in May anyway and it is understood both Walsall Labour and Conservative leadership teams were not in favour of the by-election taking place so close to the overall election next year.

The cost of putting on the by-election has been estimated at around £20,000.

Walsall Council confirmed that both her and Conservative candidate Mohammed Saghir will be the only names on the ballot paper.

Should Ms Cheema poll the most votes, the seat will remain vacant until the council elections in May.

If Mr Saghir wins the election he will only be in the seat for five month before defending it in May.

In a statement, Simran Cheema said: “I put myself forward to stand for election to Walsall Council because I wanted to represent my local community.

“However, regretfully it has now been brought to my attention that due to the nature of my employment at the time of my nomination as a candidate, the requirements of electoral law mean I will not be in a position to take up the position on the council if I am elected in the upcoming by-election.
“I apologise to the voters and community of Pleck for not becoming aware of this issue sooner.”
Pleck is a Labour stronghold with the last Conservative councillor being Mushtaq Ahmed, who was elected in 2007.
Walsall Labour Group leader Aftab Nawaz said: “She has given a statement and held her hands up. Simran made an honest mistake and has apologised.”
He added: “I would always advise people not to vote for the Conservatives.”

Walsall Council leader and Tory boss Mike Bird said: “We certainly didn’t want to call (the by-election) because we’ve only got five months left of the term.

“Now we’ve got a situation where it’s cost the council in the region of £20,000. We will be asking the regional Labour party to foot the bill.
“The law says the election must go-ahead. It’s just a farce. You couldn’t write it – it could only happen in Walsall.

“It is pantomime season and the Labour party’s panto will no doubt play out to the people of Pleck.”

Walsall Council: “The Returning Officer has confirmed that the by-election will proceed on the basis of the two candidates nominated for election, the deadline for nominations having passed.”

This is the latest blow to Walsall Labour and comes days after former leader Sean Coughlan was charged with child sex offences. He will appear at Wolverhampton Crown Court on January 4.

A notice of vacancy for the Willenhall South seat – made available following Coughlan’s resignation as councillor – has been served.

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