LABOUR chiefs have ruled an internal party vote to elect the deputy leader of the party’s St Helens group must be re-run after doubts were cast over its validity.

On Monday night members of the St Helens Labour group voted to elect its deputy leader, with the winning candidate replacing Andy Bowden, who resigned last month.

It is understood that councillors Sue Murphy, David Baines, Marlene Quinn and former council leader Barrie Grunewald were among the candidates in the ballot.

Cllr Murphy, ward member for Billinge and Seneley Green, secured the most votes, followed by Cllr Baines, ward member for Windle.

On Tuesday morning the St Helens Labour group Twitter account sent out a congratulatory message to Cllr Murphy, the former deputy police and crime commissioner for Merseyside.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands that doubts were cast over the outcome of the vote later that day– despite being verified on the night by several independent tellers and the regional director from Labour North West.

A recount took place on Tuesday and it is understood that this showed that Windle councillor, David Baines, had secured the most votes.

It is understood that once made aware of the issue, Labour North West ruled the outcome of the vote null and void and ordered a re-run of the ballot, which is expected to take place next week.

Labour sources have said the situation has caused more unrest within the group, where tensions and divisions have increased in recent months.

The splits within the group have been exasperated by a series of leaks, with deputy regional director Andy Smith speaking to members at Monday’s meeting about the issue.

One Labour councillor said the situation was “unprecedented”, after they were informed the vote would have to be re-run.

Another Labour source said the current situation within the St Helens Labour group was “embarrassing”.

Labour North West said it was Labour Party policy not to comment on internal party matters.

When Andy Bowden stepped down earlier this month, he relinquished the roles of both deputy council leader and the deputy St Helens Labour Group leader.

However, whoever is elected as deputy group leader following the re-run will not automatically become the deputy council leader.

That is a cabinet appointment made by the leader of St Helens Council as part of a separate process.