A £5 Christmas gift from a British National Party councillor has left pensioners confused about what to do with it.
Councillor Paul Cromie (Queensbury) insists the donation he made to more than 200 pensioners in the area was a goodwill gesture from his councillor's allowance and not a donation by his party. But Bradford Council legal officers have been asked to probe whether the gift breaches regulations after receiving complaints.
Coun Cromie said he had sent about 210 letters containing £5 donations to pensioners in sheltered housing in Ashbourne Crescent, Albert Crescent, Park Lane and Albert Road and £100 to Goodwin House's community fund. The 54-year-old retired businessman said: "I have given a percentage of my councillor's allowance back to the community. I think the people who are getting the worst deal are the elderly people. I owe this community a lot and I intend to give it back to the community. I think a councillor should not get paid for being a councillor other than legitimate expenses and they should do it for the well-being of the community. If I did not represent the BNP I would now have received a medal as big as a dustbin lid."
Coun Cromie said three donations has been returned to him but he has been inundated with messages of thanks from grateful pensioners. However, the two other Queensbury ward councillors, Michael Walls (Cons) and Stuart Hanson (Cons) said they had received many calls from concerned pensioners.
Great grandmother Wynne Howes, who received the £5 in a Christmas card, said she planned to donate the money to charity. "I don't want it," said Mrs Howes, 90. "I do not think a lot of the BNP. I have been a Tory all my life and I certainly would not change to BNP. Lots of people have spent the money and think it's wonderful but I don't think it's right. If the Conservatives did that I would do the same."
Coun Hanson said he had been contacted by 15 to 20 people and their families. "Everyone who rang has been absolutely appalled," he said. "Of course, there is a percentage who have accepted it because £5 is £5."
Coun Walls added: "I have had calls from a number of residents of the sheltered housing because they were rather annoyed and did not know what to do. Quite a few were going to give it to charity."
Bradford South Community Housing Trust, which runs the sheltered housing schemes, sent out a letter to residents saying it had been told that the BNP had made the donation. The Trust suggested to residents who did not want to accept the gift that they give it to the Lord Mayor of Bradford's Appeal, return it to sender or send it to a charity of their choice.
A BCHT spokesman said: "It's not an issue for the housing trust. It's a personal matter for the tenants as to what they do with the donation. The housing trust's tenants were concerned about what they should do with the money so we sent out the letter to reaffirm that it's a personal matter for them."
Coun Cromie has since written to the pensioners to state the gift is from himself, from his councillor's allowance, and not from his party.
A Council legal services spokesman said: "The allegation that Coun Cromie has sent Christmas cards enclosing a £5 note to constituents has been reported to the Council's monitoring officer, who will decide what further action is required."
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