Next B&NES Council leader denies “malicious” electoral fraud allegations

The de facto new leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council has denied “malicious” allegations he committed electoral fraud.

Cllr Kevin Guy | Photo © B&NES Lib Dems

Councillor Kevin Guy was this week accused of being ineligible to stand for election in May 2019 because he had not lived in the area for the preceding 12 months.

Council chief executive Will Godfrey has investigated and accepted evidence the Bathavon North member had lived in the area since March 2018.

The allegations, which first emerged two years ago, have also been examined by Avon and Somerset Police and it found that no criminal offences had been committed.

Cllr Guy – who is set to be nominated as the new leader of B&NES Council after successfully challenging Cllr Dine Romero as leader of the Liberal Democrat group – said: “I will not allow false and malicious attacks on me to distract the Liberal Democrats from delivering on our promises to the voters of Bath and North East Somerset.

“For the past two years I have been subjected to a concerted campaign of fake and defamatory allegations by one or more anonymous people hiding behind false names.”

To stand for election a candidate needs to have lived or worked in the area for the previous 12 months or be registered as a voter locally.

It is a criminal offence for a candidate to make a false statement on their nomination papers.

Allegations published in The Week In’s East Bristol and North East Somerset edition, and on Vote-Watch, written by former UKIP and Conservative candidate Jay Beecher, cast doubt on where Cllr Guy lived and worked in the year before the election.

He listed his address on his candidate papers as New Leaf Farm in Bathampton, his husband Steve Horler’s family business, where he was registered to vote, although he said he lived in Pipehouse in Freshford at the time.

The couple are planning to build a permanent home at New Leaf Farm, which also offers holiday accommodation.

He added: “At my request these claims about my eligibility to be a councillor were investigated in 2019 by the council’s electoral officers and by the police.

“They concluded that there was no case to answer and that I was fully entitled to stand for election.

“But the personal attacks have continued and this year the same smears resurfaced.

“Once again, they were investigated, this time by the chief executive of the council with the assistance of specialist external legal advice, and with exactly the same result – there is no case to answer.

Mr Godfrey is understood to have been shown a tenancy agreement, council tax papers and Land Registry documents.

“I was eligible to stand for election and I remain the legitimate councillor for Bathavon North ward,” said Cllr Guy.

“I have no idea who is behind this malicious campaign against me or why they are doing it.

“But whoever they are, they will not distract me from my real job of representing the people who elected me and delivering on our manifesto.

“We will succeed in doing that despite the massive damage that the Covid pandemic has done to the council’s finances.”

A spokesperson for B&NES Council said: “The council was satisfied that Councillor Guy met the qualifying grounds to stand for election in 2019 and the result of that election has not been challenged through an electoral petition.

“Following a review Councillor Guy was removed from the electoral roll at New Leaf Farm from April 1 as he no longer resides there.”

A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset Police said: “The allegations were fully examined and we’ve concluded that no criminal offences were committed. No further action will be taken.”

Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter

Bath Echo