Lancaster mum sparks election count toddler row

Lizzi Collinge, Lancashire County Councillor for Lancaster East, with her three-year-old son Nye and husband Miles.
Lizzi Collinge, Lancashire County Councillor for Lancaster East, with her three-year-old son Nye and husband Miles.

A councillor has slammed an election policy which she claims discriminates against her and her three-year-old son.

Lizzi Collinge has complained about a law which she says will stop her son Nye from attending the county council election count unless he is classed as a counting agent – calling it “bizarre”.

Coun Collinge, a Labour Lancashire county councillor for Lancaster East, wants her son and her husband Miles, as well as her allotted election agent and three counting agents, to join her at the election count on May 4.

But rules state that only one extra guest can attend the count along with the agents, meaning Nye would have to be classed as a counting agent if he was to attend with Miles.

Coun Collinge has said if her husband and her son can’t come she will be unable to go herself.

She said the rule puts her at a clear disadvantage because it would mean she would have fewer counting agents than the other candidates.

“I can only participate in this count if my husband, Miles, can take care of our son,” said Ms Collinge in a letter addressed to Susan Parsonage, deputy returning officer.

“As a candidate, I am allowed a guest for personal support for which the obvious choice is my husband, however he also needs to look after our son. If my son can’t come, neither can my husband. “If my husband comes without my son, then I can’t be there as I will need to take care of our son.

“In reality, child care and caring is still predominantly organised or provided by women – it is women who will mainly feel the effects of this sort of decision and it is effectively gender discrimination.”

Mrs Parsonage said: “Numbers are limited in this way to prevent overcrowding within the count room.

“Whilst children are able to attend we ask that they are included within the candidate’s allotted provision and every candidate is treated equally in this regard. In this case the candidate has been informed they can appoint three counting agents and has chosen to include their son within this allocation. The candidate could, of course, have decided to include them as their guest but has chosen not to do so.”

People are due to go to the polls on the Lancashire County Council elections on May 4 and results will be announced on May 5. The 10 seats for voting in our area are as follows; Heysham, Lancaster Central, Lancaster East, Lancaster Rural East, Lancaster Rural North, Lancaster South East, Morecambe Central, Morecambe North, Morecambe South and Skerton. The county council election count takes place at Ashton Hall, Lancaster.