Friday, February 08, 2008

Lib Dem - Call for police probe into Lib Dem letters

CONSERVATIVES are calling for a police investigation after Liberal Democrats repeatedly used Sheffield Council post to send out political literature at taxpayers' expense - in party leader Nick Clegg's constituency.

Enclosed with letters to residents in Dore and Totley were yellow papers praising the "good results" of their "local Liberal Democrat team" - Coun Keith Hill, Coun Mike Davis and Colin Ross, who is standing for the party against sitting Conservative Coun Anne Smith in the May elections.

Under council rules, and the law, only serving members can issue letters in the council post to residents in their ward - and only provided there are no references to their political party.

But the Tories have revealed offending papers were enclosed in three separate mailshots, including when Coun Hill mailed residents in November and December about public transport in Totley.

They were signed by all three men, giving updates on their campaign to retain the 97 bus service.

Lib Dem leader on Sheffield Council Coun Paul Scriven has issued a public apology for what he said was a "genuine mistake".

He told The Star the £56 total cost of the postage would be repaid.

But Sheffield Conservative Association chairman David Pinder said: "We believe an offence may have been committed of attempting to obtain pecuniary advantage by deception.

"Therefore, we have written to the police to request an investigation, and are taking the matter up with the District Auditor and the Standards Board for England.

"This is, of course, in party leader Nick Clegg's constituency and, while he has been whiter than white in Westminster, he is clearly not keeping an eye on what is going on in his own backyard."

Conservative Party leadership and the Tories' shadow local government spokesman Eric Pickles have also been informed about the matter.

Coun Smith said: "It's a sad indictment of the Liberal Democrats when they have to stoop this low to take my seat. I've looked after this ward for eight years.
"This kind of behaviour from any political party demeans us all in politics."

Independent Coun Martin Davis, who joined with Coun Smith to form the Sheffield Group on the council, led a successful campaign for changes to rules governing council post.

Alterations agreed last month banned councillors sending letters to more than 20 households, after Coun Martin Davis raised concerns about mass-mailshots at taxpayers' expense.

Councillors must now also only write to residents who have contacted them directly about issues in their ward.

Coun Martin Davis, who is also fighting the Lib Dems to hold onto his Stocksbridge seat in May, said: "They will get in the gutter to do anything to take a seat off an experienced councillor."

Coun Scriven has not taken disciplinary action against Couns Hill and Davis, or Mr Ross. Speaking on their behalf, he said: "This was a genuine mistake and I apologise.

"Like all Liberal Democrat councillors, we don't want taxpayers' money being used for party-political purposes."

Nick Clegg added: "This is an entirely innocent oversight for which we have already apologised."

Council leader Jan Wilson did not want to comment on the controversy.
But Liz Bashforth, the authority's assistant chief executive, said: "The issue of using council post has been raised with us, and we have already clarified the position with members. We believe that this matter has been resolved."


Hat tip: Sheffield BNP

No comments: