EXCLUSIVE: Senior East Lancs politician suspended after election fraud accusation (From Lancashire Telegraph)
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EXCLUSIVE: Senior East Lancs politician suspended after election fraud accusation
A SENIOR Labour politician has been suspended by her party during a police investigation after her father accused her of election fraud.
Clare Pritchard, deputy leader of Hyndburn Council, faces her dad and UKIP candidate Malcolm in a head-to-head contest for Milnshaw ward in Accrington in the local polls tomorrow.
Yesterday, it emerged he had claimed there was evidence that four voters from other wards had been registered as living at her Moss Hall Road home address in the ward. This would allow them to vote for her in tomorrow’s election.
Mr Pritchard claims his daughter is responsible. Ms Pritchard has not responded to invitations from the Telegraph to answer the accusation.
In the latest round of an increasingly bitter family political feud, he reported her to Hyndburn’s returning officer Jane Ellis who then passed on the complaint to Lancashire Police who are taking a tough line on alleged electoral malpractice in East Lancashire.
As a result of the investigation, the Labour Party suspended her membership until the probe is completed.
However, she will continue to contest the ward as a Labour candidate in tomorrow's election.
She will also be at least temporarily stripped of her post as deputy leader of Hyndburn Council and chairman of Lancashire County Council’s audit and governance committee.
A Lancashire Police spokesman confirmed there was an investigation in relation to allegations of electoral malpractice.
A Hyndburn Borough Council spokesman said: “A complaint regarding electoral irregularities in the Milnshaw ward has been received and is under investigation.
“We have taken advice from the Electoral Commission and the election in Milnshaw will run as normal in respect of the two candidates. We cannot comment on the details of the complaint as it remains under investigation.”
A Labour North West spokesman said in regard to Ms Pritchard: "The party had been made aware of a police investigation and therefore has suspended the candidate in question.
“The party will investigate this matter after the police investigation has concluded."
UKIP North-West press officer Lynda Roughley said: “The complaint was made by her father Malcolm Pritchard. It is about people from other wards being registered to vote in Milnshaw ward.”
The feud between the father and daughter has grown since he left the Labour party to become an independent.
In last year’s Lancashire county elections, Ms Pritchard ousted him as independent councillor for Accrington North.
He then joined UKIP and stood against her in Milnshaw ward where they both used to be Labour councillors.
Earlier this month, she accused her father of being ‘a one-man rainbow coalition’ and claimed he had ‘repeatedly accused’ her ‘of bringing the family into disrepute by standing against him in elections’.
He denies making any such statements about his daughter.
Ms Pritchard and Hyndburn Labour leader Miles Parkinson did not return several phone calls from the Lancashire Telegraph.
Mr Pritchard said: “When I examined the postal voting records I found four voters registered at Clare’s address home I knew came from other wards. One was from Peel ward and three from Church.
“I raised this with her and she declined to do anything.
“Clare has ruined her career for four votes. I am devastated. She is a talented and hard-working politician. It is very painful.
“It’s all about power struggles in the Labour Party. I am very sad for her.”
Hyndburn Tory leader Peter Britcliffe said: “I am just shocked at the allegations. She is a rising star of the Labour Party.
“It shows that political rivalry and families don’t mix.”
Earlier this month police, ministers and the Electoral Commission launched a drive to tackle misuse of postal and proxy votes in 16 ‘high risk’ areas.
They include Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Pendle and Hyndburn.
In 2012 Pendle Tory MP Andrew Stephenson claimed postal vote fraud was ‘widespread’ in the South Asian community.