MOVES to mothball Bury's polling booths in favour of a vote-by-post system has failed to win a mandate from ministers.

The offer to pilot a 100 per cent postal election for this May's council elections was turned down after it failed to attract support from council members across the political spectrum.

Proposals to make the authority one of a handful to pilot the idea were submitted to Government in December.

The plan followed an experiment in Whitefield's Besses ward two years ago, when electronic voting at polling stations was tested.

Bury's relatively small size as a metropolitan borough, coupled with the fact that it had already piloted new electoral methods, were considered favourable factors.

But in an announcement from the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions last week, Bury was one of 11 councils to have their offer turned down. A majority of council executive members were in favour of the experiment, hoping that it could yield an increase in voter numbers. But Tory members committee members argued that the system might be abused.

Council leader John Byrne said: "One of the reasons that we weren't accepted was that we did not have the support of all three political parties.

"It would have made an interesting experiment although we had perceived some drawbacks and people were worried about security.

"Wherever full postal voting has been tried in the past it has been the one thing that has increased voter numbers, which have been falling in local elections.

"We would have preferred to make the bid for postal voting in three or four wards, but what we were offered was a scheme for all the borough or nothing."

Conservative group leader Councillor David Higgin said opposition members were concerned about the integrity of vote witnessing arrangements, and the possibility that individuals might register more than one vote.

Coun Higgin said: "We have a perfectly good ballot system in this country, and often the tried and tested methods are the best.

"The security aspect is something that we were unhappy about."

Bury's chief executive, Mark Sanders, said: "In cash terms it would have worked out costing slightly more, but with many polling stations being schools we would have got an extra school day.

"In addition we think that it would have increased turnout."