Councillor challenges the legality of Tory election leaflets with Wiltshire’s returning officer

Written by Gerald Isaaman on .

The legality of Conservative election leaflets claiming that Wiltshire Council has frozen council tax demands is being challenged by independent Councillor Peggy Dow, who is seeking re-election to the unitary authority in Marlborough’s East Ward.

In the wake of claims that the leaflet, used throughout the county, is apparently misleading and causing confusion for voters, she is asking Dr Carlton Brand, Wiltshire’s official Returning Officer for the elections, to investigate.

Marlborough resident David Thornton has pointed out the controversial issue in a letter to Marlborough News Online after he received an election leaflet from town councillor Stewart Dobson, who is standing for the Tories in Marlborough’s East Ward.

And Mr Thornton’s claim that the leaflet is “factually incorrect” been supported by Marlborough town councillors Richard Pitts and Andrew Ross.

Councillor Ross in particular is a retired chartered accountant and chairman of the town council’s Finance Committee, which increased the council’s budget by 3.73 per cent for the coming year.

He has called for an apology to be made and for a retraction to be issued to the electorate.

Example Band F Council Tax bill 2010-2011 showing increasesExample Band F Council Tax bill 2010-2011 showing increases“I shall point out all the facts to Dr Brand and ask him to investigate the question of voters being misled,” Councillor Dow, who is also a town councillor, told Marlborough News Online.

“I understand it is an offence under the Representation of the People Act to issue misleading and/or false information.  So it is vital to know the legality of these leaflets and what the situation is before polling day next week.”

The issue has been confounded by the fact that, at least to electors in the Marlborough area wards, that the Tory leaflet does not make it clear that the “freeze” relates both to Wiltshire Council and town and parish councils too.

But that is not the view of former Marlborough mayor Councillor Nick Fogg, who is Councillor Dow’s independent counterpart, seeking Wiltshire Council re-election in Marlborough’s West Ward.

"The facts on this issue are clear,” he told Marlborough News Online. “Either Stuart Dobson was unaware of them, which reflects badly on his candidature, or he chose to ignore them, which is even worse.

“It's this sort of thing that contributes to the general disillusion with party politics." .