Tim Shields, Hackney Council’s Returning Officer, today announced that Andrew Boff (Conservative) will be listed as a candidate in the Mayoral election booklet.
He continued, however: “[Mr Boff’s] election address was deemed invalid because it broke the rules concerning references to other candidates.
“It therefore cannot be printed in the booklet. This ruling was confirmed by external independent legal advice sought by the council.”
Notice of the mayoral elections was issued on Monday 29 March, along with the closing date for nominations on Thursday 8 April at 12 noon.
Mr Boff says that he went to the Town Hall at 9.30am on Thursday 8 April to check he could submit an election address to the Council within the deadline and then come back to make any necessary amendments.
Hackney Council maintains that at this point Mr Boff was advised that he could submit his election address and return after the deadline to make typographical corrections only.
Mr Boff then submitted his election address at 11.30am on Thursday 8 April, half an hour before the deadline.
Mr Boff says that at this point he drew attention to and circled the particular phrase, “The Mayor and his cabinet pay themselves £335,000 a year.” and asked the Interim Electoral Services Manager if it was acceptable, as he knew that criticism of other candidates is not permitted in the mayoral election address.
“When I returned to the office at 11:30am, I specifically asked if the offending phrase was acceptable and was told that as it referred to a post and not a person that it would be okay,” said Mr Boff.
However, the matter was then considered by the Deputy Returning Officer who concluded that the address breached the regulations as it referred to another candidate in the mayoral elections.
Mr Boff returned at 4.30pm on Thurs 8 April and requested to change some of the paragraphs in his election address.
The Returning Officer considered these and ruled on Monday 12 April that they went beyond what was allowed in the regulations, saying only typographical corrections were allowed.
Under the Local Authorities (Mayoral Elections) (England and Wales) Regulations 2007 an election address must not contain any material referring to any other candidate.
“The guidance issued by the Electoral Commission states that ‘[t]he Returning Officer must give election agents the opportunity to check and correct (if necessary) the content of the candidate’s election address.
“However, if the agent does not use this opportunity, the Returning Officer may make any corrections as they think appropriate…’. It does not restrict them to typographical ones,” said Mr Boff.
“The advice given to me on Thursday was not about typographical corrections, it was more extensive than that, it was about amendments,” said Mr Boff.
“The advice also given was that they [the amendments] could be made if I could get them to the office ‘before close of business or before it went to the printers.’”
Throughout, the Returning Officer and Deputy Returning Officer consulted a Queen’s Counsel who is an expert in election law. His advice to Hackney Council was that Mr Boff’s election address was invalid and that, in any event, the law does not allow for the extensive changes he wished to make.
Hackney Council maintains that under the regulations if there is a breach of the rules, the entire election address becomes invalid.