Tory controlled Wisbech Town Council under fire for promoting residents' survey including questions on Brexit ahead of May local elections
PUBLISHED: 14:10 12 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:08 12 March 2019
A political row broke today after Wisbech Town Council authorized a residents' survey with questions that included views on Brexit and other issues of Conservative Party policy.
Question five for instance invited residents to list which “two of these national commitments, made by the Conservatives, are the most important to you?”
It then goes on to offer a selection of choices that range from cutting taxes, successfully leaving the European Union, to reducing the national debt.
Town council leader Sam Hoy was asked whether the survey passed the Local Government Association advice of ‘could a reasonable person conclude that you were spending public money to influence the outcome of the election?’ In other words it must pass the ‘is it reasonable’ test.”
She replied: “Since Facebook is free how can public money be being used?”
But her statement came under fire from the retiring independent district (and former town) councillor Virginia Bucknor.
Cllr Bucknor protested: “Why is this being posted by a council body on behalf of the Conservatives?
“This is not an ‘annual’ survey but on behalf of a political party.”
The Conservative controlled council faces elections on May 2. Under what is know as purdah rules all local government bodies have tough restrictions on linked political activities in the six week run up to an election.
Resident Garry Monger said he was shocked to see the survey being promoted by Wisbech Town Council.
“I can’t believe a local parish/town council thinks this is an appropriate set of questions for a residents’ survey,” he said. “Mistake? If so by whom?”
Another question in the ‘residents’ survey’ asks people how they voted in the 2015 General Election.
Another asks for the voting intentions of residents in May – whilst another invites those completing the survey to fill in their name, email address and phone number.
The survey also asks residents if they are happy with their local town and district councillors. There are four options: yes, very happy, I’m on the fence about it, No, I am not happy, and 4) I don’t really know.
What do you think of the survey? Is it the right thing for Wisbech Town Council to be doing so close to an election?
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