Northumberland Labour group are demanding that a transparent investigation takes place by Northumberland County Council into an apparent ‘scam’ which sees Liberal Democrat leaflets delivered at a discount if they’re delivered with other publications such as magazines or leaflets circulated by the county council, Arch, Active Northumberland or any other public body such as the NHS.
It is believed that Liberal Democrats such as leader Jeff Reid and his neighbour Lesley Rickerby may have financially benefitted from the ‘use of public resources for party political purposes’ as it is believed that a contract they have with a leaflet delivery company shows that Lib Dem leaflets are delivered cheaper if more publications are dropped through resident’s doors at the same time.
Labour have urged the Lib Dems to transparently release details of delivery drops across South East Northumberland over the last three years and Labour believe that the benefits accrued to Lib Dems in the South East ‘could run into thousands of pounds’. Labour are urging senior Lib Dems in the South East like Reid, Rickerby and Morpeth Lib Dems led by Andrew Tebbutt to guarantee that public money hasn’t been used to support the Lib Dems.
Labour have confirmed that they do not receive any benefit from these type of delivery contracts as they operate a ‘fixed price’ contract which means no financial benefit accrues from a multi publication drop unlike the Lib Dem contract.
A Northumberland Labour group spokesperson said
“These are more important questions for Cllr Reid, Rickerby and Tebbutt to answer and more importantly, we think the county council need to establish whether public money is being used to subsidise the Liberal Democrats. We’d also urge Northumberland Conservatives to confirm that they do not receive a financial benefit from ‘multi publication drops’ and its clear the public need to be reassured that the Lib Dems and Conservatives are not being subsidised to deliver political material by tax payers money. We can confirm that Northumberland Labour group do not receive any financial benefit from this type of contract and we’ve had a fixed price contract since 2011 with the same delivery company. We’ve estimated that the financial benefit that could be accrued by the Lib Dems and potentially, the Conservatives could run into thousands of pounds and until this has been transparently investigated by an independent body then the public will rightly be suspicious that their hard-earned tax payers cash is being used to subsidise the Lib Dems and Conservatives seeking election”.
Lib Dem Cllr Jeff Reid confirmed in written communications with Northumberland County Council that
“Having used the same or similar delivery service, I am aware that the cost of delivering two items simultaneously benefits from a significant discount on the cost of delivering two items separately”.
· Has Jeff Reid and the Lib Dems received a ‘significant discount’ from multiple leaflet drops and can the council confirm that it, or any other public body has not had a leaflet delivered with Lib Dem leaflets?
· The same question applies to Northumberland Conservatives.
· South Beach was booked in by Walter Rickerby for delivery on the 2nd & 3rd of March also again on the 28th March.
· They have further publications for distribution on the 12th and 13th of April.
· Morpeth Liberal Democrats have had a range of distributions booked in with them since 2013 on a frequent basis.
· Jeff Reid himself used the company in June last year, did his material go out with others and did he therefore financially benefit from a price reduction?
· Alnwick Conservatives booked in Distribution recently, were these at the same time as ARCH material?
It is unlawful under the Local Government Act 1986 for local authorities to confer advantages on a political party. If the Lib Dems and Conservatives have accrued a financial advantage from circulation of leaflets with other authority or public funded body material, then that constitutes an offence under election law. This also includes PPERA 2000 and subsequent legislation including the Localism Act 2011.