POLICE are investigating a complaint that South Tyneside’s Labour leaders used Town Hall resources to push the party’s recent local election campaign.
The Gazette has seen copies of e-mails which carry the official South Tyneside Labour Group logo sent from the e-mail accounts of two local authority officials and signed by council leader Iain Malcolm and his deputy Alan Kerr.
That has angered independent councillor George Elsom who has lodged a complaint both with the police and town hall bosses, branding it a “disgrace” that council resources were used for political purposes ahead of the elections, which took place on May 22.
The e-mails not only included campaign updates and appeals for electioneering support in various wards, but also instructions that “it is important to continue to canvas and maintain a presence in your wards to ensure maximum turnout by our supporters.”
They also urged all Labour candidates to ensure they contact the Gazette to request “exposure” for their bid.
The e-mails – the most recent of which was dated May 7 – were sent to up to 70 addresses. Recipients included various sitting and prospective Labour councillors, trade union officials and South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck.
Northumbria Police has confirmed it is now investigating the matter while South Tyneside Council says they have received a complaint and will look into the matter once further information is received.
Coun Elsom, an Independent for the Cleadon Park Ward in South Shields, said: “Who does Coun Malcolm think he is running his election campaign through South Shields Town Hall?
“This equipment and these employees are there to work for the people of South Tyneside, not his political party.
“Does he think this is North Korea and he can do what he wants with council officers and council resources?”
Coun Elsom has reported the matter to Northumbria Police and also to the council’s returning officer and is waiting for a meeting with council chief executive Martin Swales to discuss his complaint further.
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: “We have received a complaint regarding electoral malpractice in regards to the recent elections in South Tyneside.
“Police are looking into the matter.”
A council spokesman said: “We have received an initial complaint and once we have received any further information we will look into the matter.”
EMAIL DATED APRIL 28
Just to bring you up to date where we are with the election campaign.
There are still some wards which need their postal vote letters packing. Joyce Welsh is in Ede House every day from 10am so please pop along and help.
Ideally we want all branches packed by Thursday lunchtime.
For those wards who requested them, main leaflets will arrive either Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning. They will be delivered to Ede House and we will advise when they arrive.
These of course should be delivered to households before the postal vote letter, so you and your supporters will need to get your walking shoes on this weekend!
Postal votes go out from May 12th onwards, it is important that our postal letters are delivered by then. The campaign does not end when the postal vote packs are delivered by the Town Hall, it is important to continue to canvas and maintain a presence in your wards to ensure maximum turnout by our supporters.
The Gazette has carried stories about independent candidates standing for election. This evening they have a story about an independent in Horsley Hill. Once they appear, our candidate should immediately contact the Gazette and request similar exposure, they will not refuse your request but if they do the Labour Party will take the matter further. However it is imperative you contact the Gazette to request similar exposure in the first instance.
The Euro campaign team will be visiting South Tyneside on May 10th, please keep the morning free and we will advise of campaign arrangements nearer the time.
Finally please forward this e-mail to other Labour supporters and try and encourage them to play their part in the campaign.
Iain Malcolm, Group Leader
Alan Kerr, Deputy