Future of Wisbech conference postponed after fears raised it could break electoral laws because of by election

PUBLISHED: 10:13 25 April 2014 | UPDATED: 10:13 25 April 2014

Wisbech Nene Waterfront.Police Station and Court house. Picture: Steve Williams.

Wisbech Nene Waterfront.Police Station and Court house. Picture: Steve Williams.

Archant

Council officials have postponed a conference on the future of Wisbech after fears it could break election law.

With a by election due in the Roman Bank ward of Wisbech on May 8 – and fears of a possible second by-election- the half day conference on the 20/20 Vision for the town has been postponed.

Fenland Council chief executive Paul Medd said yesterday legal advice had been sought about the conference and today he issued a statement confirming it had been postponed.

“Unfortunately, the Wisbech 2020 Summit scheduled for next Friday has had to be postponed,” said his spokesman.

“Fenland District Council has had to put it back after taking legal advice on the election “purdah” restrictions regarding the FDC by-election for the Roman Bank ward on May 8.

“Roman Bank sits within the Wisbech 2020 action area and, as a public body, the council is required by law to not hold events or release materials during periods of heightened sensitivity, especially immediately before an election takes place.

“The 2020 event was scheduled before the by-election was called and the statutory timescales the council is obliged to meet regarding the electoral process meant that a clash between the two events could not be avoided.”

The spokesman said the event will go ahead later in the year –but its timing could be influenced by a possible second by-election.

Medworth ward councillor Jonathan Farmer was in court at Cambridge today for a plea and directions hearing in respect of a firearm charge and the outcome could decide if a vacancy arises as a result.

The Wisbech 2020 Vision is a joint, long-term project aimed at the regeneration of Wisbech and its surrounding area.

It was formally launched in January 2013 and next week’s ‘summit’ was due to review the progress that has been made so far and to help plan the next steps. It includes:

Postponement of next week’s conference would have been the last time both Councillor Alan Melton, outgoing leader of Fenland Council, and Councillor Martin Curtis, outgoing leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, would have shared a platform.

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