Party critical of election enquiry

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Police investigating claims of election fraud this week have been criticised by the party at the centre of the allegations.

A 30-year-old official at the UK Independence Party (UKIP) was quizzed by detectives on Monday after voluntarily attending Blyth police station regarding reports of a possible postal fraud.

The allegations stem from a complaint made to police on Friday regarding the campaign for UKIP’s Cowpen ward candidate Barry Elliott, who is not involved in the allegations.

Detective Inspector Dave Brown said: “We can confirm that we have received a complaint regarding possible postal fraud in the Cowpen area.

“Enquiries are ongoing.”

But officials at UKIP criticised Northumbria Police for their handling of the report and claimed they were not being informed of what the complaint entailed.

Party director Lisa Duffy said on Tuesday: “So far all we know of the allegation is what we have read in the Press.

“It is hard for us to rebut these damaging allegations while the police will not say what they consist of.

“The UKIP candidate for Cowpen went to the police station in Blyth voluntarily and was told by the investigating officer that he did not know the details.

“Again, through the media, we have found the allegations concerned one of our supporters who helped an elderly neighbour with her postal vote and offered to post it for her.

“We understand a complaint was made by a member of another party who arrived at the lady’s house an hour later.

“The UKIP member involved has also been voluntarily to the police station accompanied by a solicitor who has told us that his opinion is we have no case to answer.

“As things stand, we have received damaging press coverage while the police have made no effort to contact us, the local candidate or the member involved.”

A spokesperson for Northumberland County Council said: “We are aware that an allegation has been made and that the police are investigating.

“As a local authority we have no investigatory powers although we are working closely with the police to look into this matter.

“We issue extensive guidelines to candidates and political parties before and during the election process and any allegations of this nature are extremely rare.

“We’d like to reassure voters in Northumberland that we have well established and robust systems in place for managing local elections.”

The four candidates for Thursday’s election in the Cowpen ward are: Susan Davey (Lab); Barry Elliott (UKIP); Alisdair Gibbs-Barton (Lib Dem); and Connor Rumble (Con).