A POLITICAL party has been accused of costing the taxpayer “thousands of pounds” by triggering a by-election date.
The by-election for the Seaton Ward, in Hartlepool, is to be held on Thursday, October 25, after election chiefs received two signatures from members of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
That means it will now be held just three weeks before the mayoral referendum and police commissioner election on November 15.
Conservative group leader Ray Wells has condemned UKIP because he said holding the by-election on a different day will cost tax payers thousands of pounds extra.
But Dave Pascoe, branch press secretary and North East press officer for UKIP, said the elections should be held on separate days and that the vacant post should be filled as soon as possible.
Officials at Hartlepool Borough Council say they are not in a position at the moment to accurately say how much the by-election will cost.
The seat has become available after independent ward councillor Mike Turner, 59, handed in his notice due to increasing caring responsibilities.
Coun Wells said: “I condemn the actions of UKIP because it will cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds extra.
“UKIP are fully aware the by-election could have been held on November 15, the same day as the police commissioner and the mayoral referendum.
“That would have saved thousands of pounds of hard-earned taxpayers money but they have decided to call it.”
Coun Wells added: “Of course I am in favour of democracy and people in the Seaton ward should have three elected members but for the sake of a couple of extra weeks, the local authority could have saved that money.”
But Mr Pascoe hit back and said: “The elections are about three separate issues and should be held separately.
“They shouldn’t be held on the same day just for the sheer convenience.
“I don’t think the residents of Seaton should be without representation for any longer than is necessary.
“It is essential that they are represented.”
Mr Pascoe disagreed it was a waste of money and said it is important the voters were given a stand alone election day in which to cast their vote as it would help people focus on the issues in Seaton.
He added: “Democracy does not belong to the councillors, it belongs to the people.”
Election procedure states a by-election must be held within 35 days of the returning officer receiving a request from two electors from the borough.
The UKIP members that submitted signatures were Mr Pascoe and Phil Fenn, branch secretary.
If they had not been received then the vacancy would have been filled at the next elections on November 15, the same day as the mayoral referendum and the police commissioner election.
Coun Wells confirmed the Conservative candidate for the by-election would be Shane Moore. Meanwhile, Tom Hind is UKIP’s prospective candidate for the Seaton ward.