Marlborough Elections - Misleading advertising by the Conservatives?

Written by David Thornton on .

Dear Sirs

I think that this matter is newsworthy for Marlborough residents in light of the upcoming election on 2nd May.  I have received a flyer titled;

"Vote for the Conservative candidate in the Wiltshire Council Elections Marlborough East".

I found the document misleading in two ways;

Firstly, in the text headline the statement under the name of Council Election candidate Mr Stewart Dobson;

"Thanks to the Conservatives our council tax has not increased for the last four years"

I have checked my Wiltshire Council, council tax statements for the most recent years and find the above statement to be incorrect.  I have lived in the same house throughout and the council tax band has not changed.

While the Wiltshire Council council tax has not risen for the years 2013-14, 2012-13 and 2011-12 my view is that this is due to the diktat from the Westminster government, not solely the action of Wiltshire Council.

In the preceding years the Wiltshire Council council tax rises were 2.5% for 2010-2011, 3.4% for 2009-10 and 4.5% for 2008-2009  (the latter two also included Kennet District Council council tax).

Based on my evidence the claim;
"Thanks to the Conservatives our council tax has not increased for the last four years"
whichever four years are referred to, the claim is factually incorrect.

Secondly; The statement above suggests the claim is the result of Marlborough Council Conservatives.

If readers assumed as I did, that the flyer relates to the Marlborough Council where Mr Dobson is a candidate in the forthcoming election, then the statement is misleading because he has not specified whether he is referring to Wiltshire Council Conservatives or Marlborough Council Conservatives in the claim.

I have checked my Marlborough Council council tax statements for the most recent years and find the above statement to be factually incorrect too.  My records are as follows;

Marlborough Council council tax changes year on year;
2013-14  +  3.7%
2012-13  +  1.9%
2011-12  -  0.1%
2010-11  +  3.0%
2009-10   -  0.5%
2008-09  + 49.1%

My view is that the Marlborough Council conservatives singularly failed to curb Marlborough Council council tax rises.  Either way, the total council tax for Marlborough residents has increased every year for the past 4 years except 2011-12.

During the Eastleigh by-election there were reports in the press of misleading advertising by various candidates.  Surely our Marlborough Council candidates should be open, clear and correct about their claims.

I have send a version of this email on 11/4/13 to Mr Dobson, the Marlborough Council Town Clerk, The Devizes Conservative Association and the Wiltshire Deputy Returning Officer.

Mr Dobson wrote to me today in reply stating that at the time of establishing the Unified Council the Kennet District Council council taxes went up "ever so slightly" (actually 2.5%) while others areas went down.  Thus he asserts that the overall result was a freeze in council tax.  However, this is the Marlborough Council election and all Marlborough council tax payers saw an increase in 2010-11 of 2.5% and hence for us, council tax has increased for us during the last four years and Mr Dobsons claim is wrong.

He similarly claims that the council tax freeze is due to "the Conservatives".  The real reason for a council tax freeze is the diktat to to do so from the Westminster coalition government, not the conservatives.

All of these statements I contend are misleading and inaccurate.

Mr Ian Philpot the administrator of Devizes Conservatives in Marlborough told me he will query the matter with the former conservative Chairman Mr Mike Smith.  I would be interested in your thoughts and opinions on whether matter is newsworthy.  My view is that this advertising should be corrected and withdrawn in the interest of accuracy.

I have no affiliation to any political party or candidate in the forthcoming election.


David Thornton