CLAIMS of malpractice during an election for the leadership of a local authority have been referred to the police.

Confirmation that an official complaint had been made came from Hyndburn Council Leader Cllr Miles Parkinson in a statement to the borough’s Cabinet.

It followed a shock claim by former Conservative turned Independent Cllr Pat McGinley to last month’s annual meeting of Hyndburn Council.

He said he had been approached by former MP Graham Jones to join the party so he could back a challenge to the leader of the authority Cllr Parkinson by Cllr Melissa Fisher.

Cllr McGinley told the annual meeting on May 20: "At the Lancashire County Council count on Saturday 7 May 2021, I was approached by the Lancashire Labour election co-ordinator, Graham Jones. He said to me that I was wasting my time as an Independent Conservative and that I could have a greater effect on the politics of the town if I was a Labour councillor.

“He directly urged me to join the Labour party in the next few days, keeping my role as councillor for Overton.

“I was clearly told I could have my choice of what committees I wanted to go on, and, more especially, I was promised I could pick any committee I wished to be the chairman of.

“This was all on condition I must vote for Melissa Fisher in an upcoming Labour leadership challenge/election.”

Cllr Parkinson told the Hyndburn Council Cabinet on Wednesday: “I can report that following the statements made at council highlighting concerns about financial inducement, all matters have been referred to the police so that we can uncover any improper activity or alternatively receive the appropriate reassurance.”

A police spokesman said: “We are aware and enquiries are ongoing.”

The complaint was made by Hyndburn Council chief executive David Welsby to the borough’s Chief Inspector Steve Rides.

Veteran Conservative Cllr Peter Britcliffe said: “It certainly seems that someone thinks something criminal may be going on.

“It is a pretty pass when the internal divisions of the Labour Party end up in the hands of the police.

“I don’t think this is good for the democratic process in Hyndburn.”

A Labour Party spokesman said: “Graham Jones denies the claims made by Mr McGinlay. The allegations are serious and are being actioned.”
Mr  Jones said: “I am 100 per cent committed to standing up for residents and for the Labour Party. I’ve given a lifetime of public service to this area and will continue to stand up for ordinary working people”.

Cllr Fisher, who told the meeting she knew nothing of Cllr McGinley’s claims, declined to comment.