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Serious questions persist concerning Calder Valley Conservative Association

Friday, 10 June 2016

The journal Impolite Concersation has now published an update on its original piece on the police raid of Calder Valley Tory HQ, raising serious questions of public concern:

  • "Councillor Howard Blagbrough, Mayor of Calderdale, was Treasurer at this time and responsible for the accounts. Should he step down as mayor while the investigation proceeds?
  • "Councillor Scott Benton, Leader of the Conservative Group on Calderdale Council, seems to have been paid money by CVCA without providing invoices. Should he step down as group leader while the investigation proceeds?"
  • Does Conservative Central Office consider Craig Whittaker MP implicated in this matter?

Read more questions raised by the article here

Cllr Rob Holden, to whom the letter quoted below was addressed, is now no longer a Conservative Party councillor on Calderdale, but an Independent Conservative councillor. Rob Holden is very well known in Hebden Bridge as the creator of the Calder Valley Flood Support Facebook page which was vitally important and immensely useful after the Boxing Day Flood.

Impolite Conversation (9 June)

Impolite Conversation (26 May)

Police seize documents at Calder Valley MP's HQ

Friday, 27 May 2016

On Wednesday, police seized the accounts of the Calder Valley Conservative Association in connection with enquiries they are currently undertaking.

Cillr James Baker leader of Calderdale Liberal Democrats told the HebWeb, "We are calling on Craig Whittaker MP to explain to the people who elected him what has gone on here. People deserve transparency and openness from their politicians."

Constituency Chair Resigns

The Constituency Chair, Charles Moran, has resigned.

In a letter to the Deputy Chair, Rob Holden, Charles Moran has written of the breakdown in relations with Craig Whittaker and two officers of the Party.

"As you are aware, it has taken some time to get to the bottom of the Association's finances, a task you requested be carried out last October. Whilst there are still outstanding issues with the accounts I have submitted to the Electoral Commission,it is a best estimate and I have also copied it to Andy Stedman at Compliance. The reason I have been unable to accurately finalise the accounts is as a result of missing records that have been requested from the Treasurer on several occasions and have not been supplied. Attached to this email is a copy of a Chartered Accountant's report which states that the accounts are not being kept as they should be. There are issues regarding the recording of cash receipts, lack of cash recording with no receipts issued for payments received, missing invoices and a lack of authorisation for expenditure. Clearly the Executive has a responsibility to correct these shortcomings.

"You will also be aware of the toxic nature of my tenure as Chairman, due to the breakdown in relations with the MP and two officers of the Association. This situation is unacceptable and steps need to be taken to separate the Parliamentary Party from the Voluntary Party. The fact that the MP is able to not only access the Association's funds without authority from the Chairman or the Executive is a matter of grave concern. The Constitution is clear that all funds are controlled by the Association and its Executive, the fact that two officers are able to withdraw funds without authority is clearly in breach of the rules. The fact that I, as Chairman, am not on the mandate and neither are you, the Deputy Fund Raising and Membership, is also a matter which I consider to be unacceptable."

Jumbled records and missing invoices


A letter from the Association's Pierrepont Accountants has the following to say about how Craig Whittaker's Constituency Association handled their accounts:

"The records presented were a jumble of records and reports with little structure and therefore not straightforward to follow. There are a significant number of invoices missing making it unclear what the payments made related to. It was not clear how the figures were arrived at on the Association reports and annual accounts with the lack of a trail and no complete books of prime entry."

Ten police forces have so far announced they are investigating candidates' election spending, including West Yorkshire. At this stage, it is not clear whether Wednesday's raid was anything to do with this investigation.

See also

Mark Pack blog: Police seize financial accounts of local Conservative Party association (27 May)

Impolite Conversation (26 May)

Channel 4 - Election Expenses Exposed