ALLEGATIONS of electoral fraud are to be probed by police after a row broke out over whether a Conservative Party event breached voting rules.

The Liberal Democrats claimed 250 people attended the event in Nelson and were urged to vote for particular candidates as they tucked into a free meal.

Pendle’s electoral registration officer Philip Mousdale has confirmed he intends to meet police to investigate the allegations.

It comes as elections to Lancashire County Council are set to be held in May.

After the event at Palatine Hall, Lib Dem group leader, Cllr Tony Greaves, wrote to police and to Mr Mousdale to make them aware of his allegations.

However, the Tory Party said the meeting broke no rules and accused Cllr Greaves of ‘an outrageous waste of police time’ and of releasing ‘deliberately misleading information’.

Calls have also been made for him to resign.

Cllr Greaves, deputy leader of Pendle Council, said: ¨I lodged a complaint and requested a formal investigation into an event which took place on Saturday, February 11, at the Palatine Club in Norfolk Street, Nelson.

“It is suggested that the organisation and provision of food at the event may constitute the corrupt practice of treating under election law.”

The event was organised by the Tories to mark the visit of Government minister Andrew Percy MP.

It was also addressed by Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson, along with county council election candidates Afzal Anwar, Yasser Rauf and various Conservative councillors.

Cllr Greaves, who is also a member of the House of Lords, said he believed it was attended by between 250 and 300 men and a free hot meal of curry, rice, chicken and drinks was provided to those attending.

He said: “A speaker addressed the gathering and called specifically for the people present to vote for Afzal Anwar in the county council election on May 4.

“I believe around 800 invitations were sent to households in the Whitefield area, all residents in the county council division which Afzal Anwar is the declared Conservative candidate.

“I have sent a mass of evidence to the police and to the electoral registration officer that this was a meeting at which election candidates were heavily promoted.

“It was targeted at the voters in that area and they were provided with a hot meal.

“That seems to me to constitute treating under election law, which is strictly forbidden and indeed is defined as a corrupt practice, in effect bribing people to vote for a certain candidate or party.

“I believe the Conservatives are on record as saying that another four events like this one will be arranged before the county council elections. This is shocking.

“There is nothing wrong with organising free meals at events if that is their wish.

“What is very wrong is doing so and using them to seek votes in a direct and overt manner.

“It does look as though local Conservative councillors and even the MP’s office are implicated in this, or at the very least they have connived in it happening.”

Pendle Council’s corporate director, Philip Mousdale, said: “I have received the complaint and I’m arranging to meet with the police to discuss the investigation of it.”

On behalf of Pendle Conservatives, Mr Stephenson, said: “All political parties in Pendle have regularly held events if this nature within the local community.

“The offence of treating, as Tony Greaves well knows, only applies to regulated period before polling day once nominations are confirmed, which I believe will be about early April.

“I understand that Tony Greaves will be upset following the four Liberal Democrat councillors resigning from his party under his failed leadership.

“However, to deliberately mislead and waste police time in this way is not just libellous but is an outrageous waste of police and council resources.

“It is high time he resigned.”

A police spokeswoman said: “We have been made aware of this allegation and are looking into it.”