THE DEPUTY Mayor has been cleared of any wrongdoing in relation to alleged electoral malpractice while on the campaign trail last year.

In a series of text messages between Labour campaigners in Slough last year, a message was sent from an unidentified party which said: “Chalvey wards postal vote - I have already collected 250 for Labour.”

Cllr Paul Sohal (Lab, Wexham Lea) responded to the person in the WhatsApp group, writing: “Plz don’t say that. Not allowed to handle any postal ballots.”

The messages , seen by The Observer, were dated to May 29 of last year, when Labour was out campaigning for the now elected Slough MP, Tan Dhesi.

Under Slough Borough Council’s (SBC) voluntary electoral guidelines,‘campaigners should never touch or handle anyone else’s ballot paper’.

But despite Cllr Sohal being aware of this breach of the code, the leader of the Slough Tories, Cllr Strutton, claimed that Cllr Sohal did not then go on to report the person to the council.

Cllr Strutton told the Observer that candidates and their supporters should not be handling postal votes, under the guidance. He said: “He (Sohal) has a duty to report them.

“When people go around collecting that amount of votes, it gives the impression that underhand practices are in play. This is one of the reasons I supported changes to the postal vote system and Voter ID – we do have a problem in this town.”

Cllr Strutton reported Cllr Sohal to SBC, Thames Valley Police, and the Electoral Commission.

Cllr Sohal said: “This was not a private conversation – this was a WhatsApp group set up for the Labour Party during the elections in May last year.

“I don’t know who this individual is – he put up this message talking about the votes. I thought that was very wrong, and he shouldn’t be doing that – so I just gave him a word of advice. I’ve made this very clear to the council.”

Asked if he thought the message hinted at ‘underhand practice’, as Cllr Strutton had suggested, Cllr Sohal said: “I don’t know anything about it. It might have just been someone boasting about working hard.

“I live in Wexham, I was just concerned – I don’t know anything about Chalvey.

“Anyone with any information should go to the council or the police.”

TVP declined to take action due to lack of evidence in relation to the anonymous campaigner, and the Electoral Commission clarified that they have no powers of investigation into electoral fraud.

A spokeswoman for SBC said that the council would not be investigating the matter further in relation to Cllr Sohal or the mystery campaigner. A spokesperson said: “The police have advised that, without some other evidence, the collection and handling of postal votes (in itself) is not a criminal offence under the Representation of People Act 1983.”