Birmingham could break with tradition by counting next year’s General Election results on the Friday morning, the day after votes are cast.
City council chief executive Stephen Hughes fears the volume of work for staff running the count will be too great if, as expected, the government goes to the country on May 6, the same day as the local council elections.
Although Mr Hughes, the Returning Officer, has yet to decide, the prospect of delaying counting the General Election votes until the Friday is proving highly controversial and contradicts a promise given by deputy council leader Paul Tilsley.
Asked in September about Birmingham’s intentions, Coun Tilsley (Lib Dem Sheldon) pledged to continue the “proud tradition” of Thursday night counts. His commitment followed a national Conservative Party campaign pressing council chief executives to maintain same-night election counts.
Mr Hughes’s stance has annoyed both halves of the council’s Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition. They fear a next-day count will destroy the drama of General Election night and deprive Birmingham, a key political battleground, of live television coverage.
When general and local elections have been held on the same day in the past, Birmingham has always combined both counts.
But an increasingly large number of postal votes, which have to be checked manually, and the likelihood of recounts, means that the final seats are not usually declared until about 4am, leaving counting staff exhausted.
One possibility is declaring council seats on Thursday night immediately after polls close and counting the votes to elect Birmingham’s ten MPs on Friday morning.
Alternatively, both elections could be counted on Friday morning, saving the council a hefty bill in overtime payments to staff. Wolverhampton and Newcastle are among UK cities to have announced Friday counts for the General Election. Manchester opted for Thursday.