A HIGH Court ruling has forced Bournemouth council to call a by-election after a ballot box blunder earlier this year.

Kinson North ballot papers were sent to Kinson South polling stations and vice versa for the May 7 local elections.

The mix-up was discovered shortly after 7am, but a number of voters were unable to cast their votes until the right ballot papers had been delivered.

The authority’s chief executive, Tony Williams, took to the streets door-knocking alongside other senior staff in a bid to contact as many affected voters as possible.

There were, however, 115 people unable to vote in the Kinson South election as a result of the mistake.

Labour’s Beryl Baxter finished fourth, 64 votes shy of third-placed Conservative candidate Norman Decent, who was elected alongside fellow Tory Roger Marley and UKIP’s Laurence Fear.

Ms Baxter has now successfully challenged this result in the High Court and a by-election will be held on December 10.

The judge ruled that first-placed Cllr Fear had been validly elected because the number of voters affected by the error was not sufficient to affect his election.

But the election of the second and third-placed candidates was declared invalid because the numbers involved were sufficient to change the result.

Ms Baxter said: “I am extremely pleased with this outcome and the fact that the residents of Kinson South will be able to have their views heard.”

Patrick Canavan, chairman of the Bournemouth Labour Party, said the ruling "justified our taking this action" and added: "The Labour Party in Bournemouth welcomes the decision and we are now keen to get on with the campaign."

Cllr Andrew Morgan, chairman of Bournemouth West Conservative Association, said: “While the Labour Party has been busy in the courts trying to have the result of May 7 overturned, Norman Decent and Roger Marley have both been out and about looking after the interests of the residents of Kinson South.”

A statement released on behalf of the two Conservative candidates said although the pair are disappointed by the ruling, they understand the basis of it.

It added that they would both be seeking re-election to so they can “provide a strong and effective voice for people living in Kinson South.”

An independent investigation into the mistake, described by the court as a "simple, unfortunate printing error", has been undertaken. This will be considered at a public council committee meeting on January 20.