TIF 'Yes' Campaign scrutinised by returning officer

Date published: 26 November 2008

The returning officer for the Greater Manchester Transport referendum is to keep a close eye on the vote 'Yes' campaign after they released a leaflet that offered to help voters fill out their ballot papers before the papers themselves were even sent out.

The promotional leaflet was sent to every household in Rochdale and anti-congestion charge campaigners say it was in breach of referendum guidelines.

The leaflet states: "You should have received your voting form. If you haven't received it or need any help completing your form, please contact the Yes office."

It also gives the telephone number to the Yes campaign office above the number for the official referendum hotline.

A statement from the returning officer Sir Neil McIntosh, released today (Wednesday 26 November), says that the leaflet has 'compounded the situation' and that it 'should not have happened'.

The statement continues: "It is now essential to bring the situation within the full terms of the code of conduct. I have therefore required and received an absolute assurance that:

"A. All other material does not and will not contain the statement in question

"B. With immediate effect all calls received by the 'yes' campaign on the number stated in the leaflet concerned will by answered by the following statement.

"'Before I direct your enquiry can I ask that if you are calling about not receiving a ballot paper, or want help in filling in a ballot paper, the Yes campaign is not able to assist you with these specific matters. You should telephone the Returning Officer's helpline on 0800 7839828'."

"I am assured that out of hours calls will also carry a message to that effect. I have advised the campaign that I will be arranging for random checks to ensure that this is the case."

Commenting, The Yes Campaign Director Dan Hodges said: “We welcome this statement. We have been asked to continue to ensure all calls are referred to the Returning Officer, which we are happy to do.”

He added: “We share the Returning Officer’s concern that our leaflet was inadvertently distributed in advance of the distribution of the ballots. We are in urgent communication with our distributors TNT since last week to identify the reason for this incident.”

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