Wycombe Labour today demanded an answer from Wycombe District Council about money held by the Leader which could be used to influence voters. Wycombe Labour also complained to the Conservative agent about inaccurate information given to residents of Disraeli by Wycombe Conservatives.
There are strict rules about public spending close to an election to avoid the possibility that politicians in power target money to influence voters, particularly key voters in marginal constituencies or wards.
In line with these rules, Wycombe District Councillors were required to apply for funding from their individual ward budgets by last December. In the four months before the election, they are therefore unable to use this money in a way that might influence voters in their wards, or use it in a way that might be seen to influence voters in their ward.
However, unspent money from the ward budgets, just over £3000, has now been set aside to be spent at the discretion of the Tory Leader of the Council.
At the same time, Tories have been telling Disraeli residents, on different occasions, that Councillor Maz Hussain, the Tory Councillor for Disraeli, has spent his ward budget on fencing on a footpath in Disraeli, a rubbish bin for Hughenden Park and six road signs for Disraeli.
However, Councillor Hussain has not even applied for any of his Ward Budget let alone spent it on any project in Disraeli – his unspent money is now in the hands of the Leader potentially to be spent in Disraeli Ward.
Councillor Ian Bates, Leader of the Labour Group, said, “What on earth is the use of having a strict deadline for Councillors to stop them using the money in their Ward Budgets, when the money is then put in another budget and can be spent by the Leader?
If it is right to remove the possibility of Councillors using money to manipulate the vote, then it is right to do the same for the Leader. It is a relatively small amount of money but we all know that relatively small things can sway voters.
I have written to WDC to ask that the money is not to be spent at the Leader’s discretion this close to the election but I still haven’t got a satisfactory answer.”
Linda Derrick, Wycombe Labour’s candidate for Disraeli, said “I’ve been helping out in Disraeli while Councillor Ahmed, Wycombe Labour’s Councillor for Disraeli, has been Mayor.
I have been surprised during that time at the misinformation the Tories have put out in Disraeli. Most of it has been about small things and I’ve ignored it. But now it is getting ridiculous and I think it is time for it to stop.
We know Councillor Hussain has failed to apply for any of the funds in his ward budget which are specifically allocated to Disraeli. This money - £490- is now lost to Disraeli. I would like to know why he didn’t make good use of this money for Disraeli. And why he said he has spent it on fencing and bins and signs when he hasn’t.
I would also like to know where the money came from to mend the fence and buy the rubbish bin as it didn’t come from Councillor Hussain’s ward budget. Is this Councillor Hussain’s own money? If so,I do wonder why Councillor Hussain continues to pretend it comes from the Council.
It’s all very well for Councillor Hussain to make these gestures, presumably from his own pocket, but it doesn’t solve the problems of poor maintenance of footpaths and inadequate rubbish collection.
The maintenance of footpaths and rubbish collection are the responsibility of local councils. However, local councils are failing to discharge these responsibilities, not least because of the savage cuts to local authority budgets. Councillor Hussain remains silent about these failures and about the Tory cuts.”