Rap on the knuckles for Kettering Greens after police investigate election complaint

Police gave the councillors words of advice after a five-month investigation, deciding not to prosecute them

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 7:45 am
L-R: Cllr Sarah Tubbs, Cllr Dez Dell and Cllr Emily Fedorowycz

Three of Kettering's history-making Green Party councillors have been given 'words of advice' after a police investigation into electoral malpractice.

Cllr Dez Dell, Cllr Emily Fedorowycz and Cllr Sarah Tubbs stunned the Conservatives to take all three Clover Hill seats at the North Northamptonshire Council elections in May.

The following month a Kettering resident, who did not want to be named, gave a statement to police alleging that election rules around spending, expenses declarations and legally-required imprints had been broken.

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Cllr Dez Dell and Cllr Emily Fedorowycz celebrate their election success.

After a five-month investigation some allegations were dismissed, but police found party-branded dog poo bag dispensers put up with councillors' names during the election period should have had an imprint on and that there were declaration form issues.

The three councillors - who became the county's first elected Green representatives after campaigning to save Weekley Hall Wood - will not face prosecution after Northamptonshire Police ruled they would give words of advice instead of opening criminal proceedings.

In a joint statement given to the Northants Telegraph Cllr Dell, Cllr Fedorowycz and Cllr Tubbs apologised and said they had 'noted their oversight for the future'.

They said: "We are very grateful to the officer involved for the advice given and pleased to confirm that it was not deemed necessary either to caution or charge us.

The dog poo bag dispensers were investigated.

"We are aware of the serious nature of this matter, however, and would like to thank whoever reported us for giving us the opportunity to learn lessons that we can apply to further election success.

"Last year, in response to residents’ comments about dog poo in the area, we began to pick up other people’s dog poo ourselves. Next, we installed dog poo bag dispensers on lamp-posts, so responsible dog owners could help themselves if they had forgotten a bag of their own. These dispensers have been very popular.

"In November 2020 one of the dog poo dispensers was installed in the alley between Brambleside and Blandford Avenue. Unfortunately, in April it was removed by persons unknown. We immediately replaced it with a spare, but in our keenness to resolve the situation we overlooked the necessity to add an imprint to the standard notice, which reads ‘Green dog poo bag station. Need one? Take one. Have a spare? Top me up. Greens recommend compostable dog poo bags for our community.’ We also wrote ‘Please don’t destroy me, love Dez, Emily & Sarah’ on the dog poo bag dispenser in marker pen.

"This was during the election reporting period and as such should have had an imprint. We apologise for this oversight and, as advised by the detective sergeant who spoke to us, we have noted this for the future."

The Greens are now putting up new wooden dog poo bag dispensers.

The complainant said they had reported a Facebook campaign before the May elections, questioning whether electoral spending rules had been breached, before a report about fly-posted material was made.

In June they gave a 16-page statement to police alleging the dog poo bag dispensers, made from cut-down plastic drinks bottles stuffed with bags, lacked the legally required details of the publisher and printer (imprints).

They also alleged that all three had submitted false election expenses declarations.

An allegation of overspending over the use of an election video and Facebook site was also submitted in the statement.

An investigation found the dog poo bag dispensers should have had an imprint on them, with all three councillors being given words of advice and education on future conduct.

Police ruled that the election video did not appear to have breached any spending limit. They said the failure to declare on a form had been addressed and the candidates were educated on how this should have been done.

An investigating officer said expenses forms themselves had been reviewed by the relevant electoral bodies and appeared to be in order, adding that the candidates had been informed that they need to be aware of the relevant procedures.

And they found that a Facebook site which supported the candidates did not spend more than permitted by law.

The complainant has since lodged an official complaint about the force's handling of the investigation, claiming they were "asleep at the wheel" and that they "shrugged their shoulders" when it came to stopping electoral shenanigans.

A Northamptonshire Police spokeswoman said: “A proportionate investigation was conducted after allegations of electoral malpractice were raised in regards to the May 2021 local elections.

“The most appropriate outcome was deemed to be words of advice as opposed to criminal proceedings.

“As this case is now the subject of a formal complaint, we are unable to comment further."