June 02, 2008

BNP man in fraud probe

Police and council officials are investigating allegations that a newly-elected BNP councillor has broken strict election laws.

John Burgess was elected to represent the far-right party in the Meir Park and Sandon ward on Stoke-on-Trent City Council on May 1. But concerns have been raised about statements he made on his nomination papers.

It is claimed he incorrectly stated he had a business interest at an address in Stoke-on-Trent.

Mr Burgess lives outside the city, in Blythe Bridge, and has been a BNP councillor on Staffordshire Moorlands District Council for a year. But he used a business connection in Longton to stand for election in Stoke-on-Trent.

He stated that his military memorabilia business, J & J Antiques, operates from a premises in Wood Street, as well as from his home address in Crossfield Avenue. But a Meir resident claims he has breached the Local Government Act 1972 and the Representation of the People Act 1983 by making false declarations on his nomination papers.

Now Staffordshire Police, the city council and the district council are all investigating complaints about Mr Burgess's conduct.

A police spokesman said: "Officers from our economic crime unit, which oversees electoral issues for the force, are liaising with Stoke-on-Trent City Council following a complaint concerning the May local elections."

City council head of legal services Paul Hackney said: "We have received a complaint which we are investigating. It would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage."

The district council has passed the matter to its standards committee, which is assessing whether to investigate further. Breaches of the Local Government Act can see defendants jailed for up to a year or given a heavy fine.

An Electoral Commission spokesman said: "We do not investigate breaches of the Act, as they are a police matter."

Mr Burgess vehemently denies any wrongdoing over his nomination papers and insisted the election campaign and result were legitimate.

He said: "I won that seat fair and square. This is just sour grapes from someone. I make pottery at the building in Wood Street, and although I don't have a rental agreement, I have an arrangement with the owners where they let me work there in return for some of the pottery I make.

"I also hold a military memorabilia fair twice a year at Longton Town Hall, which I rent from the city council, and I've done that for nine years. I'm not worried about these allegations and will continue to serve my ward and the city council as normal."

Stoke Sentinel

1 comment:

iliacus said...

"I also hold a military memorabilia fair twice a year at Longton Town Hall"

Jeeezz, I stayed at the Ely Travelodge twice last year - does that qualify me to stand for Fenland Council ???