Sunday, 21 April 2019

Election candidate in row over eligibility

A CALL has been made for an investigation into the eligibility of a Conservative candidate in the Henley Town Council elections next month.

The ruling Henley Residents Group has asked South Oxfordshire District Council to examine Simon Dunster’s candidacy.

Mr Dunster, a business advisor who lives in Lower Earley, gave the address of 64 Bell Street, Henley, as his main place of work.

This is the address of the Head Partnership solicitors, which gave permission to the Henley Business Partnership, where Mr Dunster is a director, to use as a correspondence address.

The partnership is a networking group which meets monthly and the directors are not paid.

The Electoral Commission says that election candidates need to meet at least one of the following criteria:

• Be registered as a local government elector for the parish/community in which
they wish to stand.

• Occupy as owner or tenant any land or other premises in the parish.

• Live in the parish/community or within three miles of it.

• Have their main or only place of work in the area.

Mr Dunster said: “Henley has been the focal point of my activity over the last 12 months if not longer.

“I do quite a lot of business in Henley and that’s the basis on which I wanted to be considered.

“I meet with customers and clients around Henley. I work in the town, that’s what I’ve been trying to say.”

He said he took the business partnership’s address from Companies House and was unaware it was the address of the law firm.

“Everything I’ve put forward has been accepted and I’ve not put it forward in any duplicit way,” he said.

“My understanding is that someone has raised a query and is trying to turn it into a story.

“All I can say for my part is I’m standing in good faith.” Niki Schäfer, who chairs the business partnership, said she had asked Mr Dunster to change the address that he had registered with the district council.

She said: “The partnership is a networking group for businesses and entrepreneurs and as such it is apolitical and I would like it to remain so.

“We do have members from different political backgrounds but as a group we are independent of politics. We use the address of the Head Partnership for our group’s postal correspondence only.”

According to biographical information on the partnership’s website. Mr Dunster heads up Around2it, based at his home, and Dunster Business Services.

Information provided by the Henley Conservatives on its candidates said he had been involved in business “in and around Henley for many years”.

More recently, it said, he had been working as a business advisor and non-executive director to businesses in Henley. Councillor Julian Brookes, leader of the Conservative group on the council, said he believed that Mr Dunster qualified as a “significant chunk” of his business was in the Henley parish.

He said: “The form I signed said, ‘My principal place of work during the last 12 months was in the parish named above: Henley-on-Thames’.

“It doesn’t ask for a particular place, it asks for the parish. His main place of business is Henley and that’s where most of his customers come from.”

Councillor Ian Reissmann, leader of HRG on the council, confirmed his party had reported the issue to the district council, which is responsible for the elections, asking it to invesigate.

He said: “If he’s qualified to stand then that’s fine. If he’s not qualified then it’s for the district council to take the appropriate action.

“On the face of it, his qualifications look not to meet the criteria but that’s for the district council to decide. We’re are simply drawing it to their attention.”

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