SENIOR Conservative councillors have been accused of trying to influence the selection process over two ward members by sending damaging emails to an approval panel.
Secretary of the Tory Group on East Riding Council, Felicity Temple, wrote that one of the councillors, Geraldine Mathieson, had “destructive allegiances” with campaigners in Bridlington.
Cottingham councillors Geraldine Mathieson and Lena Slater left the ruling Conservative group last week after being deselected as election candidates.
Complaints about the process have since been made to regional chairman Debbie Toon.
Coun Temple emailed chairman of Haltemprice and Howden Conservative Association David Whincup, who was chairing a meeting of the candidate approval panel, on March 11 to say Coun Mathieson “appeared to still have destructive allegiances ...namely Justice for Bridlington”.
Copies were handed to the panel, including East Riding Council leader Coun Steve Parnaby, who did not vote. The two councillors were absent, having already appealed about the way they were being treated, and were voted off.
Justice for Bridlington had angered the Tory hierarchy by questioning the stalled multi-million-pound plans to regenerate the town. But Coun Mathieson says she merely attended a single public meeting. Other claims, which she denies, included supporting a Labour amendment and not backing the group over welfare reform.
The email “on behalf of the group officers” went on: “These positions should have been discussed privately with Coun Parnaby before the relevant meetings and more preferable cohesive outcomes could have been arranged. As it was there was no sense of the group being a team and indeed the schism was obvious.”
Coun Mathieson was among councillors who refused to support the controversial “golden goodbye” to former council director Sue Lockwood, whose pension fund was paid £364,205 when she took early retirement in 2010. Later that year Coun Parnaby and others failed to be selected as candidates, but were later reinstated.
Coun Mathieson, now an independent Conservative, said: “Myself and others were made scapegoats for senior councillors failing to be selected. Since then I have been persona non grata within the group.
“The email is riddled with errors; it is grasping at anything they can to malign us. All I did was attend a public meeting in Bridlington last May and appeared on one photo, but that’s as far as it goes.”
Another email from Coun Temple said Coun Slater “continued to ally herself” with the two Cottingham North councillors and “excluded” a fourth Cottingham councillor, Helen Green, who they recommend is kept on in a third email.
When Coun Slater finally saw the email she said: “It is a complete and utter fabrication. In two and a half years I have voted twice against the group and that was to support local residents. They expect blind, unquestioning loyalty and any hint of dissension is tantamount to treason.”
In January, Howdenshire councillor Nick Evans resigned from the Tory group citing “bullying and intimidation” by party colleagues.
Neither Coun Temple nor Coun Parnaby were available for comment.
Comment: Page 14; Elizabeth Peacock on party selection: Page 15.