Print delay hits council election

THOUSANDS of voters in the borough will get ballot papers almost a week late due to a problem at the printers.

Letters containing voting papers for the local and European elections should have reached voters yesterday.

But it could be Tuesday before many of the 150,000 South Tynesiders receive theirs.

The delay is embarrassing, as the borough council was held up as an example after the way it handled last year's all-postal vote.

A pilot scheme was hailed as successful and extended to other areas after the turnout increased.

Households in Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland and North Tyneside are also yet to receive their voting papers - 600,000 people in all.

Ironically, it is the number of forms needed for the all-postal vote which is believed to have caused the problem at the printers.

After an emergency meeting last night, Royal Mail and election officials said they were confident papers would be delivered by Tuesday - just over a week before polling closes on June 10.

George Wilkinson, chairman of South Shields Conservative Association, local election candidate for Westoe, said:"This reduces the amount of time the electors have got to get their votes in."

The ballot papers were supposed to be with Royal Mail on Tuesday. Under Government regulations all papers have to be with the public by June 1 at the latest.

When people receive their papers they should post them back to the town hall by 10am on Thursday, June 10, or they can post them into collecting boxes.

A South Tyneside Council spokeswoman said: "In common with a number of local authorities, technical issues with our contractors have caused delays.

"After discussion with the Royal Mail, we are assured that the ballot packs will be posted by the deadline of June 1."