POLICE INQUIRY INTO POLL CLAIM
BY KATHY CANHAM
10:30 - 03 May 2006
A Police investigation is underway following an alleged incident involving rival parties out on the election campaign trail. After four weeks of electioneering, a row over rubbish collection allegedly came to a head in a quiet residential road in Brentwood on Friday night.
It is alleged that a 22-year-old university student was canvassing alone on behalf of the Lib Dems when he was 'confronted' by members of the Conservative Party.
The student, who comes from Brentwood, was collecting signatures from residents for a Lib Dem petition to oppose any move by Brentwood Borough Council for a fortnightly collection for household rubbish.
Council chief executive Bob McLintock and council leader, Tory member Brandon Lewis, have consistently denied any plans to change domestic refuse collections to fortnightly.
The incident, which has since been reported to Brentwood Police by the Lib Dems, took place at around 7.30pm.
Det Sgt Tom O'Brien, from Brentwood CID, said: "The allegations have been referred to the Special Branch as they have a remit for dealing with electioneering. One of the allegations is under section four of the Public Order Act."
The Lib Dems have also made a formal complaint to Mr McLintock in his role as returning officer in the council elections.
Lib Dem councillor Pauline Myers, one of her party's election agents, said: "The people concerned know only too well the procedure if they have a grievance during an election campaign and that is to contact the election agent for that ward."
Lib Dem leader Cllr Vicky Cook said: "Our canvasser was simply doing what every other party worker does at election time."
Conservative leader Cllr Lewis said: "This is just a desperate last-minute attempt by the Lib Dems to try to get some press coverage.
"With regard to their petition, I have been saying for several weeks that it is a misrepresentation. We have never said we will go to a fortnightly rubbish collection. That is what the Lib Dems did in Chelmsford which the Conservatives repealed."