Police have been asked to investigate a "secret" election recount in Birmingham which resulted in the British National Party being told that its candidate had not topped the poll after all.
BNP leaders yesterday lodged a formal complaint following events in King-standing at the city council elections when, after three counts, their candidate Sharon Ebanks was told her votes had been cut from 2,310 to 1,329 - which meant that Labour's Cath Grundy was the winner.
Birmingham City Council blamed the mix-up on a mistake in the counting process, which saw more than 2,000 votes counted twice.
However, the discovery was too late to prevent Ms Ebanks being declared one of two councillors elected in King-standing. She was sworn in as a city councillor yesterday.
Under UK election law a result is legally binding once announced by a returning officer and can only be over-turned through an election petition to the High Court, which Labour is now doing.
BNP regional organiser Simon Darby said it was inconceivable that 981 votes for Ms Ebanks could have been double counted, while only 194 votes for the Labour candidates were double-counted.
Mr Darby also questioned the validity of a fourth and final count of the Kingstanding votes, after the result had been declared and representatives from political parties had left the building.
Mr Darby said: "It would appear that rather than the BNP votes being counted twice, as claimed by the Birmingham elections department, a much easier explanation was that some of the BNP votes have gone missing.
"The question has to be asked who gave the authority to count the votes again, once the official result had been declared, in secret and in the absence of candidates and agents from all parties."
Mr Darby said the discrepancies between the two declared results were beyond belief, especially as the original result was only declared after two recounts. "You don't make that kind of schoolboy error three times," he said.
Stephen Hughes, the returning officer for Birmingham and council chief executive, rejected Mr Darby's allegations of a secret recount.
"What happened was that once everyone left, someone looked at the figures and they realised a wrong result had been declared. The ballots were not recounted but we have worked out what the right result should be."