THE chairman of UKIP’s Hartlepool branch said claims the formation of a new political party is an attempt to get their councillors elected by the back door are “nonsense”.
Hartlepool Independents – Putting Hartlepool First was accused of trying to deceive voters in an email circulated to all councillors earlier this week.
Party members denied the accusations and Eric Wilson, chairman of the UKIP Hartlepool branch, has also slammed the claims.
Mr Wilson said: “The suggestion that the formation of Hartlepool Independents is an attempt by UKIP to get councillors elected by the back door is nonsense.
“UKIP want our candidates to be elected on their own merits.”
It comes after an email from former UKIP councillor and Hartlepool Independents secretary Stephen Allison, dating back to last July, was leaked by former UKIP member Stephen Haddow.
Mr Haddow said Hartlepool Independents – Putting Hartlepool First was deliberately created and registered in a bid to elect UKIP councillors by the back door.
At the time Mr Allison was vice chairman of UKIP and a member of the party’s national executive committee. But he severed all links with UKIP last November.
The email was a report of an NEC meeting which featured talks about “dual candidates”, something Mr Allison said he was pushing for at the time.
In the email, Mr Allison said: “If, for example, an organisation called Hartlepool Independents or Hartlepool Residents was registered with the Electoral Commission, UKIP could reach an agreement to field joint candidates.
“The ballot paper could say Hartlepool Independent and UKIP candidate or Hartlepool Residents and UK Independence Party candidate.”
Mr Wilson said: “I question Mr Haddow’s motives for leaking the email weeks before important local elections. It’s a pathetic attempt to discredit UKIP and Hartlepool Independents.
“Mr Haddow claims to be a former member of UKIP. He has never been a member of the Hartlepool branch and to my knowledge has never requested information about UKIP.”
Mr Wilson said UKIP intended to put forward candidates in all 11 wards for the all-out local elections in May in which the number of councillors will be cut from 47 to 33 and the number of wards reduced from 17 to 11.
Councillor Geoff Lilley, leader of Hartlepool Independents, previously said: “Hartlepool Independents has no links to UKIP. I am not, and never have been, a member of UKIP.”
Mr Allison said: “There is no link between Hartlepool Independents and UKIP.”
The party is registered with the Electoral Commission as Hartlepool Independents – Putting Hartlepool First.