AN angry South Tyneside councillor has hit out after discovering police will not be pursuing his complaint that Labour leaders used Town Hall resources to push the party’s local election campaign.
The Gazette saw copies of e-mails, carrying the official South Tyneside Labour Group logo and sent from the e-mail accounts of two local authority officials, which were signed by council leader Iain Malcolm and his deputy Alan Kerr.
That angered independent councillor George Elsom, who 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.
Northumbria Police told the Gazette last month it was investigating a complaint regarding electoral malpractice but last night confirmed it would not be taking any further action.
A force spokesman said: “Inquiries were carried out and we are taking no further action into the matter.” That prompted a disappointed Coun Elsom to say: “I am shocked but not surprised that the police are taking no further action, but it would have been nice for them to tell me, or at least tell me on what grounds they have dropped the case.”
Coun Elsom, an Independent for the Cleadon Park ward in South Shields, has also met and raised his complaint with the council’s chief executive Martin Swales – who is also the local authority’s returning officer – and is now waiting to see what response he gets.
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.
The local Labour party enjoyed a very successful night at the polls on May 22, winning 17 of the 18 ward seats contested to maintain a firm grip on political control of the borough.