Local Lib Dems were showing signs of strain last night as it emerged that further complaints regarding the party election expenses have been made to the electoral commission.
Pressure group the Sunlight Centre for Open Politics have written to the Commission claiming they have discovered irregularities in MP Chris Huhne’s expense returns in the form of undeclared spending.
Sunlight COPs had previously sent a letter to Party Treasurer Anne Winstanley – who is also Party Agent for Mr Huhne – expressing concerns over election spending but had met with no response.
This latest development follows the release last week of an audio recording which Independent councillors allege shows evidence of an election overspend.
Lib Dem councillors attending closed door Local area committee meetings last night were reluctant to talk to the press regarding the latest allegations surrounding Mr Huhne and remained tight-lipped with the exception of Cllr Roger ‘100%’ Smith– who was distinctly cheery – and Cllr Chris Thomas who did stop to speak to hacks.
Cllr Thomas was adamant that there was nothing untoward about the meetings and that allegations regarding expenses or Mr Huhne were not discussed.
The party loyalist added he was ‘laid-back’ about the expense allegations and was confident they would stand up to scrutiny.
When asked about the Independent Councillors who had made the expense allegations he said that the Independents has chosen not to attend the meetings that evening and his own personal opinion was that making secret recordings of private conversations was ‘sneaky and underhanded’.
Cllr Thomas refused to respond to questions about Chris Huhne but paid tribute to the MP’s work in the constituency saying that the last time he had seen Mr Huhne, the MP had appeared to be his ‘usual self’ and was continuing with his local casework despite everything that was going on.
Cllr Mike Thornton, who represents Bishopstoke West with Anne Winstanley, also made a brief statement to say that the expenses allegations had not been under discussion at the meetings.
The press waited to speak to Ms Winstanley in order to give her the opportunity to respond to the latest complaint however she gave reporters the slip – clearly having nothing further to add to her previous statement released to the press:
“The general election expenses were as declared to the Electoral Commission. Additional expenditure in this period was for the local election campaigns, or not attributable to the campaign.”
Elsewhere it was revealed that both Mr Huhne and his estranged wife Vicky Pryce have both made statements to the Police regarding a speeding offence which occurred in 2003.
Photo: Matthew Myatt