WINCHESTER City Council has come under fire from the Conservatives for its late sending out of postal votes.

The council had been due to send out around 17,000 postal voting forms on April 21 but scrapped initial plans because of sub-standard printing.

The packs have been reprinted and were due to be send out on Wednesday April 27, only a week before the election on Thursday May 5.

Cllr Caroline Horrill, leader of the Conservative Group, said voters working away from home, especially overseas, are now unlikely to get their voting papers in time to return them - especially with the bank holiday on May 2.

She said: “This is an appalling failure by the Liberal Democrat administration. They have effectively disenfranchised up to 17,000 postal voters including service personnel away from home.

"People who will now be disenfranchised from voting as they will be way before a new ballot paper arrives and not back before election day. Shocking."

Cllr Horrill added: “This is a disappointing state of affairs that goes to the heart of democracy and our right to cast a vote in the way we want. I will be asking the council’s chief executive for a full explanation of what has gone wrong.”

The Tories are warning postal voters to act quickly and send off their forms after the city council delayed issuing the ballot papers by a week.

Postal voters who will be away from the 27th cannot replace their postal vote with a proxy vote.

In a statement the council said: “During our routine quality assurance checks of live postal packs, issues were identified where the printing fell below standard. Nearly 4,000 reprinted packs were dispatched from our printer on Monday including all our overseas voters. All remaining packs will be with the Royal Mail by Wednesday April 27 and should be with residents the next day.

"We encourage residents to complete and return their postal vote as soon as possible so it is with us by 10pm on Thursday May 5. The packs can be posted back to the City Council, taken in person to our reception or put in our post box at Colebrook Street, Winchester. Sealed postal packs can also be taken to polling stations on election day.

"All postal votes have been dispatched in line with the national timetable and there is more information on our webpages:”.