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Labour pay price.

Byline: By Neil Connor and Campbell Docherty

Labour felt the fallout of last year's Birmingham postal ballot election fraud as it suffered heavy losses today in two of its former strongholds.

Six seats - three in Bordesley Green and three in Aston - needed to be filled following the sacking of six Labour councillors by Electoral Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC in April.

The Liberal Democrats made a clean sweep in Aston, taking all three seats, while the independent PJP party grabbed two seats in Bordesley Green, with Labour's Shafique Hussain Shah taking the third.

The Aston ward, where the turnout was 25.9 per cent compared with last year's 45 per cent, was secured for the Lib Dems by Ayoub Khan, Abdul Khalique and Abdul Aziz after a recount between third and fourth place.

The winning candidates said 'corruption' at the 2004 local election on the part of the Labour candidates had helped secure their victory.

The result had boosted the Liberal Democrat position within the ruling coalition which they are part of along with the Conservatives.

Coun Khalique said: 'Because of Labour's corruption the people of Aston have put usin power and put their trust in the Liberal Democrats.

'Labour were quite organised to do that last time but the people of Aston are aware of that.'

Coun Paul Tilsley (Lib Dem Sheldon,), deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, said: 'This will obviously enhance our status within the partnership. We have already made the deal for this year but I am sure that Councillor Mike Whitby (Conservative group leader) will be aware of the result.'

The ballot was heavily policed by about a dozen officers who assisted election officers as they carried ballot boxes into the count.

Officers also stood at the doorway of the count to stop any interference by the crowd of about 80 people outside. In Bordesley Green, where the turnout of 31.3 per cent was 23 per cent down on last year's, Shaukat Ali Khan and Saeed Mohammed grabbed two seats for the PJP.

Coun Ali Khan also criticised Labour's antics at last year's polls and said today's result, which was declared about half-an-hour after midnight, proved the PJP had been cheated in 2004.

'The PJP clearly won in the Bordesley Green ward. We were cheated by fraud and this has been now been proved with this result,' he said.

The new elections were ordered following a month-long court hearing at which five of the then Labour councillors were found guilty of forging, stealing and altering thousands of ballot papers at the June 2004 local election.

The sixth, Muhammed Afzal, was later cleared on appeal.

Before the polls opened yesterday, election officials were confident the city would not see a repeat of the fraud.

However, they also confirmed there had been less than half the number of postal votes as at the 2004 poll.

In Aston there were 2,350, compared with 5,241 last time, and in Bordesley Green the number dropped from 8,647 to 3,018.

The results means the Lib Dems now have 31 seats on the city council. The Tories have 39 and Labour now has 46
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 29, 2005
Words:526
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