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Last Updated: Monday, 15 January 2007, 11:47 GMT
Council chief's e-mail ruins poll
E-mail sent by Paul Masterman
The e-mail gave technical advice on how to influence the vote
A BBC online poll has been suspended after a council chief gave staff tips on how to influence its outcome.

The poll on the BBC Shropshire Where I Live site asked if people were for or against a proposed merger of the six local authorities in the county.

Shropshire County Council's head of communications Paul Masterman wrote to colleagues detailing where to find the poll and how to vote more than once.

But his e-mail was leaked to the BBC and he has since apologised.

In his e-mail, Mr Masterman said: "We need to ensure that those keen on voting yes, do so."

I think I should apologise
Paul Masterman
Shropshire County Council

It went on to give technical advice on how to get around a block which normally stops people being able to vote more than once in the poll.

His advice was forwarded to staff across the county council, which is in favour of a merger between itself and the five other borough and district councils in the county.

When the poll was closed on Monday morning, with thousands of votes already registered, 36% were in favour of the merger with 64% against it.

Speaking on BBC Radio Shropshire, Mr Masterman said: "I think I should apologise to you and to the listeners of Radio Shropshire for the mistake which I think I made personally by giving people tips and hints on how to bypass the technical side of things.

"That was a mistake on my part. I have actually got quite a lot of feedback from people internally about this who feel quite rightly that it doesn't sit very happily with our core values about being open and honest in terms of the way we communicate locally."

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