COUNCIL officials have blocked revealing information about the printing blunders that hit elections in South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse.

Thousands of people were denied the chance to vote after problems with the local elections in Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire in May.

Last month an independent review highlighted a string of issues around the election, including major problems with the firm hired to print polling cards.

The review, conducted by democracy consultant Tim Revell, revealed 2,035 postal votes were not delivered, while more than 2,250 polling cards were never printed.

On July 14, the day the report was published, the Oxford Mail submitted a Freedom of Information request asking the councils to disclose correspondence between returning officer David Buckle, both councils and printing firm Paragon between April 7 and May 5, the day of the election.

The request was made after the councils released a statement days before the election saying all postal votes should arrive by April 30. Mr Buckle said last month that the statement was made “in good faith” because he was not aware of the extent of non-delivery of cards until after May 3.

The councils’ democratic services manager Steven Corrigan is now refusing to release any correspondence.

One of the reasons given is that Mr Buckle is appointed under the Representation of the People Act and is therefore “not subject to the Freedom of Information Act”.

South Oxfordshire district councillor John Cotton said: “What happened was more cock-up than conspiracy, but a significant number of people were denied a vote and unless we know what went wrong we cannot prevent it next time.

“It does concern me that the newspaper has been denied the information.”

Margaret Davies, leader of South Oxfordshire District Council’s Labour group, said: “There should be total transparency – if all is not revealed it does give the impression that there could be something to hide.”

Mr Corrigan said the review had already covered the issue “extensively” and a number of recommendations from the review have been adopted.

Gavin Walton, a spokesman for the councils, said a final decision on whether any further information would be released would not be made until Mr Buckle returned from holiday next week.

Mr Walton said the councils first learned of a problem regarding polling cards in a phone call on April 13, a week after Paragon discovered a problem on April 7. The Vale’s scrutiny committee meets on Wednesday, when it will make its recommendations.