Cabinet member finds himself wrong side of election law for using council worker to forward political email to Editor

Virginia Bucknor

Virginia Bucknor - Credit: Archant

A POLITICAL storm broke after a county council Cabinet member missed a ‘y’ from my name which led to a secretary forwarding his email which then broke election law.

Guided Bus Ticket Giveaway, Cambs County Councillor Ian Bates

Guided Bus Ticket Giveaway, Cambs County Councillor Ian Bates - Credit: Archant

The council admitted tonight that Councillor Ian Bates, the Cabinet member for growth and planning, had blundered.

shire hall, Cambridgeshire

shire hall, Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

A council spokesman said: “A junior member of staff made a genuine mistake by forwarding on the message.

“The councillor had unsuccessfully tried to send the message directly and was asking the officer if there were IT problems.”

Ironically had Cllr Bates had checked the letter – highly critical of Wisbech independent candidate Virginia Bucknor- he would have realised the final ‘y’ in my name was missing. As a result the email kept bouncing back.

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The spokesman said Sharon Roberts, a member of the democratic services team at Shire Hall, then forwarded his email.

“The staff member forwarded the message on to be helpful and without being asked,” said the spokesman.

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“There is no suggestion it was to promote a particular candidate or party. We have spoken to the officer and reminded all staff and councillors of the pre-election restrictions to prevent a recurrence.”

The council insists that irrespective of the missing ‘y’ there were IT problems at Shire Hall at the time.

However Cllr Bucknor, already a town and district councillor and candidate for Wisbech North in the county election, is furious.

She has complained to the returning officer Mark Lloyd pointing out that Cllr Bates broke a cardinal rule of electioneering which is to keep local government workers out of politics.

She also said Cllr Bates had clearly broken the council’s election code of practice and was angry too that he had used council staff to “send a disparaging letter asking newspapers to print false information about me.”

She told Quentin Baker, the county’s most senior legal officer, that the email from Cllr Bates contained statements “that are false and in my opinion defamatory.

“Cllr Ian Bates has never met or spoken with me on any occasion.

“He is a current Cabinet member of Cambridgeshire County Council and therefore an experienced councillor, fully aware of the standard of conduct councillors should endeavour to maintain.”

In his email Cllr Bates claimed that Mrs Bucknor had been wrong to suggest she had been a “driving force” to improve the A47.

“The A47 became a focus during the Wishech 2020 project – again nothing at all to do with her.

“It was driven forward by the Council Leader, Nick Clarke, and by the local councillors Samantha Hoy, Simon King and Steve Tierney.”

In December Fenland Council Leader Alan Melton admitted there were “huge technical difficulties with the A47 as the finance is no longer there”.

County council Leader Nick Clarke also told Wisbech 20/20 Vision meetings last year dualling of the A47 wasn‘t likely till 2030 at the earliest.

It prompted Cllr Bucknor and others to launch WIN – Wisbech Infrastructure Now.

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