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Wokingham Borough Council: An extension into Political Statement?

September 10, 2012 12:00 PM

Wokingham's Lib Dems are furious at an attempt by Conservative-run Wokingham Borough Council to offload blame for an unpopular government policy onto the Liberal Democrats, violating the requirement for councils to be politically neutral.

On 7th September, the Council issued a press release about the government's plans to relax the rules on planning permission for home extensions. In the press release the new policy was associated with Nick Clegg, although it is Eric Pickles (Con) area of ministerial responsibility and both Eric Pickles and David Cameron had been involved in announcing it.

The press release came out despite official notice having been sent to officers that there was a greater than usual need for political neutrality during the period of the by-election for Wokingham Town Council which started on 5th September.

Cllr Prue Bray, Leader of Wokingham's Lib Dems, said "For the Council to solely blame Nick Clegg for something which is likely to be unpopular is not acceptable. The decision to relax the rules is a decision of the Coalition government, mainly driven by the Chancellor. The Conservatives are at least as responsible for it as the Liberal Democrats - in fact more, as they have the majority of the cabinet and Eric Pickles, a Conservative, is responsible for planning policy.

"I am deeply concerned that the Council is publishing material that appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party, something explicitly forbidden by law during an election. Do the Conservatives think they can just ignore the law?"