Boston Labour councillors have demanded that the Tory leadership on the borough council removes all recent publicity referring to donations made from the Lincolnshire County Council “Big Society” fund – because they claim that it is being used as part of the Conservative campaign in the run up to the County Council elections in June.
“These Conservative county councillors are being allowed to misuse the Boston Borough Council website and staff, “says Labour Group Leader Paul Gleeson.
“We are accusing them of misleading the public, as the money that they are giving is county council money allocated to each councillor for the sole purpose of supporting local groups.
“They should be advertising them on the county council website – and not Boston Borough Council’s website, as the money has nothing to do with their roles as borough councillors.
“So Boston Labour councillors are asking Boston Borough Council to remove all these announcements about the big society from their website immediately.
“Stop using Boston Borough Council for electioneering purposes.
“Boston Borough Council should not be used for the Conservative party’s county council election campaign.”
Certainly, the timing of these donations is interesting, to say the least.
According to the Lincolnshire County Council website, between September 2011 and the end of this month, all 77 county councillors were allocated £4,000 a year to give to local groups and community projects.
We sure that no-one needs reminding that of the 77 county councillors, 62 are Conservative members – with just five Labour, four Lib Dems and six Independents - so the project has to give the Tories an advantage of some kind in terms of image.
So far this year, three Conservative members of both the borough and the county council have appeared on Boston Borough Council’s website doling out cheques from the fund.
Council Leader Pete Bedford was featured just yesterday, and previously in January, whilst fellow Cabinet members and joint deputy leaders Michael Brookes and Raymond Singleton-McGuire have bobbed up three times and twice respectively in the past few weeks.
Their pictures have also appeared in the borough council's “good news” bulletin.
They certainly paint a warm picture of good-hearted generous Conservative councillors, and it is worth asking why these donations have come in such concentration and at such a late stage.
One can only speculate.
But a fact is that councillors cannot make any awards during the period quaintly known as “purdah” which restricts publicity seeking activity ahead of elections.
Purdah is the period between the notice of the election – to be published on 26th March – and the date of the election on 2nd May.
Contrast the rush to generosity of our local Tories with donations by Boston West Independent County Councillor Ray Newell – the only non-Conservative Boston representative at County Hall – who had disposed of most of his good causes cash before Christmas – without as far as we can tell, much by way of a hoo-ha in the local papers.
Whilst it is certain that the local Conservative leadership will reject the Labour group’s call, we cannot help but feel that it has some merit in that the publicity plants an image in the minds of the electorate which – who can say – might well prove influential at the ballot box.
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