AN angry row about postal votes ahead of the Crompton by-election has deepened after UKIP and the Liberal Democrats echoed concerns raised by the Bolton Tory group.

In The Bolton News yesterday, Conservative leader Cllr David Greenhalgh suggested that a late list of more than 300 names registering to vote by post in next week’s by-election could have come from “undue pressure” from politicians on voters in an area of the ward with a high Asian population.

Labour has branded the claims as “outrageous” and say they want a full public apology when the accusations are proved to be false.

UKIP leader Cllr Sean Hornby and Lib Dem chief Cllr Roger Hayes have now also waded into the row.

Cllr Hornby, who has called for an overhaul of the postal vote system, said: “I share Cllr Greenhalgh’s serious concerns about the appearance of 312 people on the postal vote application late list — 309 of these are Asian voters from only three of the seven polling station areas of the ward.

“The manner in which these applications were delivered en bloc to Bolton Council’s election office does indeed raise suspicions about the possible manipulation of the individual votes behind the scenes.”

He added: “The Electoral Commission’s own review of electoral fraud last year showed that when electoral fraud is attempted, or committed, it is by candidates and their supporters — voters are the victims.

"In view of this, criticism is not and should not be directed at the individual Asian voters.”

Cllr Hornby said he would go further than Cllr Greenhalgh and suggested that Labour’s “reliance on the ethnic vote” for previous electoral successes is “unhealthy for a balanced democracy.”

Labour’s election co-ordinator, Cllr Nick Peel hit back strongly.

He said: “Since Sean Hornby was kicked out of the Labour Party, he has pursued a personal vendetta against the party and this is his latest attempt — jumping on the bandwagon of an outrageous complaint made by the Tory Leader, Cllr Greenhalgh.”

He added: “The Labour Party is the only political party in Crompton that is conducting a campaign in this by-election — the absence of the other parties has been shocking and shows their utter contempt for the political process.

“We have had large teams out of up to 30 people at a time working hard and have campaigned in all geographical areas of the ward and across all communities.

“The basis of our campaign has been traditional door knocking and canvassing, and we do not discriminate in any way on which doors we knock on and to suggest otherwise is blatant nonsense.”

He said his party was committed to fair and democratic campaigning in elections and was also fully committed to the Electoral Commission Code of Conduct for Campaigners.

Cllr Peel added that both Cllr Greenhalgh and Cllr Hornby had made other “unfounded accusations” with “absolutely no evidence”.

Lib Dem leader Roger Hayes has called for a thorough investigation into the “highly unusual” increase of postal voters by election officials and the police but accused both the Tories and Labour of using the Asian community as a “political football” in yesterday’s article.

He added: “Bolton deserves better than to be dragged into the gutter where communities are played off against each other to win a few votes here and there. We need politicians who are willing to work together to ensure fairness in the democratic process and fight for a more open, honest and accountable Bolton Council.”