An investigation into alleged electoral fraud has been launched following council elections in Preston.Advertisement
A complaint has been made against Preston Conservatives chairman councillor Daniel Dewhurst about an irregularity in the Larches ward election.
Alice Buchanan, understood to be studying at Durham University, was the Tory candidate in the ward.
Lea councillor Dewhurst, 22, was the agent for the Conservatives in the city council elections.
A Conservative party spokesman said: “Following an allegation made against Councillor Dewhurst, Preston Conservative Association has followed Party guidelines in dealing with this matter and are awaiting the outcome of an investigation by the relevant authorities. We do not feel that it would be appropriate to comment further until the investigation has been concluded.”
The spokesman confirmed Cllr Dewhurst had been suspended from the party while the investigation was carried out.
Related: Recap the live updates from the council elections in Preston
A Preston Police spokesman said: “We can confirm that we have received information regarding an alleged electoral irregularity and we are in the process of looking into the matter. These enquiries are on-going.
“Lancashire Constabulary works very closely with Returning Officers and electoral administrators to tackle electoral fraud and integrity issues, and ensure elections are delivered in an open and fair manner. Any allegations made will be investigated appropriately.”
A Preston City Council spokesman, whose chief executive Lorraine Norris was the returning officer for the election, said: “It’s our role to ensure the professional, fair and impartial conduct of elections and the democratic process.
“Where we receive any information or allegations of electoral irregularity then, as a matter of course, we immediately refer these to the Police to carry out the necessary enquiries.”
Mr Dewhurst was listed as the agent for Ms Buchanan, who is listed as living in Ashton on Ribble.
The proposers listed for Alice Buchanan to stand in the election were Graham W Blunt, John Hardy, Vicky A Higham, Angela M Bell, Kathleen Varley, Esther M L Angell, John C Angell, Valerie D Hunt, Stephen P Hunt and Janet McCrea.
Ms Buchanan came third in the Larches ward with 256 votes. The ward was retained by Labour’s Mark Yates with 793 votes.
Preston Labour leader councillor Peter Rankin said: “I’m shocked and really surprised this has happened. In all the years I’ve been involved in local politics in Preston I have never known such allegations to be made.
“Now it’s been reported to the police, they need to investigate quickly and thoroughly to get to the bottom of what is an extremely serious matter.”