The Labour Party may be facing legal fees of more than #50,000 in its attempt to oust Birmingham's sole British National Party councillor.
City council chief legal officer Mirza Ahmad confirmed last night that the local authority would not meet Labour's costs in bringing forward an election petition to contest a result in Kingstanding.
Mr Ahmad said that although the council admitted it was to blame for a mix-up at the Kingstanding count last week, which resulted in BNP candidate Sharon Ebanks wrongly being declared the winner, it had no power to use public money to fund Labour's legal challenge.
An election petition setting out how the mistake occurred and putting the case for Labour's losing candidate, Cath Grundy, to replace Coun Ebanks will be submitted to the High Court in London within the next few days.
Labour's only hope of recovering its legal fees rests in the court finding in favour of Mrs Grundy and awarding costs against the council. The court could also order the council to pay the BNP's costs, landing the local authority with a bill in excess of #100,000.
Mr Ahmad said: "The petitioners will have to take their chances before the judge. The council is not going to give money up-front to any party or candidates to bring an election petition."
Hopes of a quick decision by the High Court were dashed when BNP regional organiser Simon Darby confirmed that the party would fight the petition "all the way". It is likely to take several months before both sides iare ready to come to court.
Mr Darby said: "We don't have much money because we are funded by ordinary people rather than the unions and big business. But we are certainly going to contest this petition because we believe Sharon Ebanks won fairly and squarely."
The latest events came as a blow to Sir Albert Bore, leader of the Labour group on Birmingham City Council. Sir Albert has called on the council to pay all of Labour's costs.
Sir Albert (Lab Ladywood) said: "I would hope that the court takes the view that this is an open and shut case. This is not about the distribution of votes to different parties, it is about a simple mistake in double counting and declaring more votes than were actually cast."
The Labour leader is appealing to the Government for a change in the law to make it easier to over-turn election results. At the moment, even when an error has occurred, it is usually impossible to change a result once it has been declared.
* A similar counting mix-up at last week's elections for Stratford-on-Avon town council was sorted out without the need for legal action.
Harold Scott, a Conservative candidate, was declared the winner in Alveston ward but council officials immediately realised a mistake had been made and persuaded Mr Scott to voluntarily stand down. Following a recount, Liberal Democrat Joan McFarlane was declared the winner.