HUNDREDS of North Yorkshire and York votes in the Euro-elections were wasted - because they arrived too late to be counted.

An Evening Press survey of local councils has revealed that postal ballot forms have been turning up by the score since polling finished on Thursday, too late to play a part in deciding which Euro-MPs will represent this region.

Selby District Council reported that 166 arrived on Friday, while another 33 turned up yesterday.

City of York Council said 59 ballot forms were delivered on Friday, with a further 26 arriving yesterday.

Hambleton District Council said it had received ten on Friday and a further 35 yesterday.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council said 49 arrived on Friday and Ryedale District Council said it received 20 forms on Friday.

However, Harrogate Borough Council said only one had turned up late on Friday and none yesterday.

It was unclear how many late arrivals were due to people posting ballot forms too late, and how many were because of delays in delivering forms.

But City of York Council stressed that Royal Mail had done a final sweep of all mail at lunchtime on Thursday and promised to ensure delivery of any votes in the system by the 10pm cut-off.

Royal Mail said the last recommended posting date for ballot papers had been June 8, but the company did its best to deliver anything posted after that date.

"If someone posted their ballot paper on Thursday within the area where they live, it went into their local mail centre and was handed over to the appropriate Returning Officer before 10pm," said a spokeswoman.

"If, however, they posted their ballot paper on Thursday outside the area where they live, it may have gone into a different, non-local mail centre and so may not have reached their Returning Officer in time for the vote.

"Local authorities were aware of this."

Tory MEP Edward McMillan-Scott said such problems only confirmed some of his worst fears about the postal ballot system.

"The post box is not the ballot box," he said. "People are entitled to expect their votes to be registered."

A spokesman for Labour MEP Richard Corbett said such problems had to be taken seriously and addressed by the Government. He said the purpose of staging the pilot postal ballot was to identify potential problems so they could be ironed out.

Updated: 11:44 Tuesday, June 15, 2004