An investigation led by Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) has found that local Westminster parties in Uttlesford have wasted more than £20,000 of tax payers’ money by filing vexatious complaints at Saffron Walden Town Council and Uttlesford District Council to try and prevent R4U from implementing its manifesto.
R4U’s Cllr Paul Gadd, Leader of Saffron Walden Town Council said “The latest in a string of vexatious complaints filed by political activists from Westminster parties against R4U has been completely dismissed. Now that the independent investigation has been concluded, we are able to discuss it, and the cost to the Council of the many complaints. This latest spurious complaint against me was to try to stop R4U councillors making public comments exposing false statements made in the local press by Westminster parties and their activists.”
Cllr Gadd added “This was just the most recent in a long campaign of harassment by Westminster party members against R4U. Their campaign has included more than 30 vexatious formal complaints made against R4U councillors which after independent investigations have been found to be without merit and so were dismissed. To protect members of R4U and their families from harassment and intimidation the police have also been forced to take formal action against a local Westminster party activist and former councillor. What is clear is that Westminster parties are refusing to accept the overwhelming vote of the electorate for local change, and so want to silence local voices by non-democratic means.”
R4U’s Paul Gadd continued “There are serious implications for local taxpayers. At Saffron Walden Town Council alone, more than £20,000 of tax payers’ money has already been wasted in dealing with vexatious complaints, and more at UDC. That money could have been used to refurbish playgrounds, provide new sports facilities, or spent on other community facilities. This intentional and dishonest wasting of residents’ money by Westminster political parties and their activists is unacceptable. Residents expect better. They don’t want political games that waste their council taxes – they want positivity in politics that allows councillors to get on with the job they were elected to do.”
Who is wasting residents’ tax money?
Following the publishing of the results of the investigation a number of local Westminster parties sought clarification over which parties had made complaints. R4U can confirm that the £20,000 spent at Saffron Walden Town Council was related to a series of spurious and vexatious complainants by a Conservative activist and former councillor. More tax payer money has been spent at UDC dealing with similar spurious complaints from the same Conservative party activist and former councillor, as well as additional ones from other Westminster parties.
R4U believes that online or physical intimidation and harassment of individuals by political parties and their members is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.
Vexatious complaints by former Tory councillor highlighted in local newspaper
In a follow up article, the Walden Local newspaper reported:
The Conservative party activist highlighted in last week’s Local for costing taxpayers £20,000 in vexatious complaints responded on Wednesday morning by putting in a Freedom of Information request, asking for a breakdown of the reported total.
It is understood that this cost around a further £200. The Walden Local has been told that the £20k quoted last week covers more than 30 complaints over a period of around five years. The total is estimated to include £4,100 paid to external lawyers to handle the complaints, £3,750 additional fees payable to the auditors in 2017/18 when the audit was continually challenged and in excess of £12k in staff manpower time (salary, employers NI and pension costs) over the years.
In last week’s front page story ‘£20,000 of local taxpayers’ money wasted by vexatious complaints’ it was incorrectly reported in various paragraphs that ‘local Westminster parties in Uttlesford’ were to blame.
Responsibility should have been attributed to ‘a member and political activist for a Westminster party’ who was a Conservative councillor until he stepped down in 2014.