A JUDGE will decide whether a recount of ballot papers in a local election will go ahead, after a second error came to light in a council’s voting procedures.

Darlington Borough Council applied to a county court to have the sealed ballot papers reopened and votes recounted in the Hurworth ward after it emerged some votes may not have been tallied in the recent local election.

An initial investigation suggested that around 500 postal votes were verified and checked to make sure they were in order, but were not included in the final count.

The Conservative candidate, Lorraine Tostevin, topped the poll with 653 votes. As Hurworth elects two councillors, the Liberal Democrats’ Joe Kelley was also elected, with 582 votes, while his wife, Claire, missed out after coming third with 531 votes.

They raised the alarm when they returned home from the count, after realising the number of votes cast in the ward appeared to be low compared to the number of ballot papers issued.

“I was predicting around 1,000 votes for myself, around 900 for my wife and around 800 for the Tory candidate,” said Councillor Kelley.

“This has been the most stressful period of my entire existence. I was absolutely devastated, crestfallen at the result.

“Claire has been as cool as a cucumber during all this - she has been my rock.”

A hearing will be held tomorrow morning (Wednesday, May 20) at Middlesbrough County Court, where a district judge will decide whether the sealed ballot papers can be reopened and recounted.

If permission is granted, a recount of votes will be held at 4.30pm tomorrow at Darlington town hall.

However, the recount will not change the result declared on Friday, May 8.

Instead, to contest the outcome, an election petition can be submitted to the High Court who can quash the original result.

The recount will not be open to members of the public, but the seven candidates will be invited, as well as their agents and members of the press.

Cllr Tostevin, who will attend the count, said: “It is very disappointing that it has happened in the first place.

“But having said that, if the public have voted and their votes haven’t been counted then obviously they need to do something about it.”

The error occured just hours after 89 ballot papers for the General Election, held on the same day, were issued at the town’s Whessoe polling station without the name of the UKIP candidate, David Hodgson, on them.

That mistake happened when the guillotine used to cut the ballot papers for the Darlington constituency was set in error to the size of the neighbouring constituency, meaning Mr Hodgson was cut off some papers.