A TRIAL to fight electoral fraud at polling stations will now not go ahead across Slough – after a dramatic U-turn by ruling councillors who blocked it.

Slough Borough Council had unanimously agreed in January to be part of a central government pilot to introduce identity checks at next year’s council elections.

But on Thursday of last week, leader of the council’s Labour Group, Cllr Sohail Munawar, brought forward a motion to pull out of the scheme and used the whip to ensure his colleagues fell in line.

Despite a rebellion where two Labour councillors voted against, seven walked out, and the mayor abstained, the motion still passed by 20 to 10 in favour. The seven Tories and single UKIP councillor, Diana Coad, also voted against.

The rebels slammed the decision. Cllr Natasa Pantelic (Lab, Cippenham Meadows) said: “We need to do everything to combat fraud. I’m disgusted with my colleagues. We should be the ones setting the example for other towns, considering our history.”

Cllr Rob Anderson (Lab, Britwell and Northborough) said: “The US and UK are the only advanced democracies where you do not need to bring photo ID to vote, and in the US, some states do actually require you to do so. Northern Ireland introduced voter ID in 1995, and subsequently has seen a massive reduction in voter fraud.”

Other Labour councillors defended their reasons for pulling out, claiming poorer groups are less likely to have access to appropriate ID, such as driving licences, meaning the pilot could disenfranchise the poor.

Cllr Mohammed Sharif (Lab, Chalvey) said: “We don’t want to use the residents as guinea pigs, and I don’t want to punish the law abiding majority or create hurdles for them.”

But Cllr Wayne Strutton (Con) shot back that the pilot would have provided free ID to all residents.

Cllr Sohail Munawar, leader of Slough Borough Council, added: “There’s been some healthy debate, but it’s a very simple situation. When we are ready and know the system is strong, we will introduce the pilot – not where we are now, where we are just putting people off voting.”