VOTER fraud has cost local taxpayers £202,000 in the last four years.
At a meeting on Thursday last week (11 February), Conservative Councillor for Mount Hermon East, Carl Thomson, questioned local authority chiefs on what costs the council had incurred as a result of election deception in the Maybury & Sheerwater ward in May 2012.
After months of lobbying from Labour officials for their claims of fraud to be heard, it was ruled in court that Mohammed Bashir, the former Liberal Democrat councillor for the area, was guilty of fixing the result of the vote.
Tactics uncovered during the hearing included registering false voters and harvesting other residents’ postal ballots without their knowledge or consent.
Five relatives of Mr Bashir were also found guilty of fraud offences in early 2015.
Following questioning from Cllr Thomson, it has now been revealed that the cost to local taxpayers of uncovering the rigged election – including legal advice obtained by the council, staff hours and participation in the tribunal, as well as resources diverted from other priorities – amounts to £202,000; counting £27,000 spent on the Maybury & Sheerwater by-election in 2013.
It means the total bill of the saga stands at more than seven times the revenue due to be generated by the changes to council tax announced last week. Cllr Thomson expressed his dismay at the final tally, and said residents should feel angry that money had to be diverted from services as a result of Mr Bashir’s deceit.
Cllr Thomson told the News & Mail: “Like most people, I was shocked and appalled at the corrupt and fraudulent
tactics that were used to elect a Liberal Democrat councillor in Maybury & Sheerwater in 2012.
“The insult is made even worse knowing that this flagrant abuse of our democratic process has left people in Woking out of pocket to the tune of £202,000. This is money that should have been used to fund vital local services, such as day care centres, and to help provide much needed housing in the borough.”
Responding to Cllr Thomson’s questions on this issue, Council Leader John Kingsbury noted that steps had been taken to protect the integrity of the ballot at future elections.
Cllr Kingsbury also said that the council had been covered through its insurance for £82,000 of the costs, and that the authority is still pursuing Mr Bashir for the remainder.
The revelation comes ahead of the all-out Borough Council Elections in May.