Football club threatens libel action against three councillors

Our Sutton reporter, BERTIE WORCESTER-PARK, on how the LibDems have been accused of having a ‘vendetta’ against Carshalton Athletic

Carshalton Athletic have won three legal cases against Sutton Council since 2015

“At best incompetent, at worse downright dishonest, and in either case incredibly negligent.”

That is how three Liberal Democrat councillors have been described following their publication of one of their newsletters in which they falsely accused their local non-league football club of applying for a licence in sleepy, leafy Carshalton for “adult entertainment”. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink…

The Sutton FibDems – Carshalton Central councillors Jill Whitehead, Jake Short and Chris Williams – have since issued what they describe as “a correction”. They have failed to make any apology.

Whitehead, Short and Williams could now face an expensive libel action brought by senior figures from Carshalton Athletic Football Club.

It would not be the first time that FibDem councillors’ actions over the football club have resulted in costly legal action, with Carshalton Athletic’s owner, Paul Dipre, claiming that the council has been conducting a “vendetta” against the community sports club based on Colston Avenue.

Jill Whitehead: councillor lives less than a mile from the football ground

“There is no truth in their newsletter, none. It’s full of falsehoods,” Dipre said in a statement from the Isthmian League club.

“To be clear, we have not applied for a licence to show adult entertainment nor to extend our operating hours, nor to play music later, nor to serve alcohol in new areas.

“We have made an official complaint and are commencing legal proceedings against the councillors concerned,” Dipre said.

In 2015, the Carshalton Central ward councillors at the time – which included Whitehead – “led a campaign to prevent the club from installing a 3G pitch for its 450 young players”, according to the club statement. The football club and the council ended up in the courts, with local Council Tax-payers having to foot a bill for thousands of pounds in legal costs.

There was a similar outcome in 2017, this time after the councillors tried, and failed in the courts, to block the use of floodlights.

The Carshalton Central LibDem councillors’ leaflet made a series of claims about the football club’s licensing renewal, none of which were true

Whitehead and the dim LibDems completed their hat-trick of own goals in 2019, this time losing a court action against Carshalton Athletic’s application for late-night opening on what the club says was “a few nights every year”. Once again, Sutton’s Council Tax-payers ended up forking out thousands in legal costs.

Whitehead is Sutton Council’s “lead member on transport”. A former research manager at CIPFA, the local authorities’ accountancy body, Whitehead has been a councillor for 11 years.  According to her personal profile on her local party’s website, she has also lived on Milton Avenue, less than a mile from the football ground, “for the last 19 years”.

For his part, Dipre is at a loss as to why Whitehead and her ward colleagues have made repeated attempts to restrict the community club’s activities.

“I don’t know why these councillors have a vendetta against the club and its members,” he said. “They seem hell-bent on creating conflict between residents and the club at the cost of the taxpayer.”

The latest clusterfuck by Whitehead and her chums stems from a newsletter circulated at the end of April over a licensing application which, they claimed, included, “The provision of adult entertainment”, which the FibDems said “is new and is being proposed for a residential area with many young families living nearby and overlooking the club premises”.

The application form clearly states ‘None’ for ‘adult entertainment’. The councillors now claim that they couldn’t understand the form

With their smiling mugs grinning out from the newsletter, the three FibDems laid out in fine detail what they thought was wrong with the Athletic application and then encouraged residents to register comments and “state how you think the application infringes one or more of the council’s licensing objectives which are to prevent crime and disorder, to maintain public safety, to prevent public nuisance, and to protect children from harm”.

Yet even a cursory glance at the Athletic’s application would have shown that the scaremongering over “adult entertainment” was utter nonsense: in the appropriate section of the form, it states clearly “None”.

The LibDem leafleting cult has since issued another leaflet, this time with the word “Correction” in the heading. In this latest leaflet,  they claim that they “inadvertently”, seriously, “included an inaccurate statement”.

A ‘correction’: but the three LibDems have failed to apologise

“We had no intention of doing so, but we were misled by conflicting sections of the application.” That’ll be the application submitted on an official Sutton Council form, which three councillors between them now say that they didn’t understand.

With no sign of anything even resembling an apology for their blatant libel,  Whitehead and chums could be in very deep this time – and without the benefit of council lawyers and cash to bail them out, since such matters are forbidden by law from being covered by public funds.

The Carshalton Three are not alone among Sutton LibDems in overstepping the mark in terms of their dealings with the public, even including residents that they are supposed to represent.

Williams was only elected to the council after his predecessor, Alan Salter, was caught embezzling funds from local charities for the elderly, groups which had strong links to the leader of Sutton Council, Ruth Dombey.

Another councillor, “Bogus” Ben Andrew, has been subject to an investigation by the Liberal Democrats for “bringing the party into disrepute” over his own leaflet falsehoods, which have set him at loggerheads with the long-suffering New Mill Quarter residents.

Fact-lite: LibDem leader Ed Davey made another false claim at the weekend

And Hina Bokhari, elected last week to the London Assembly, cannot shake off her own highly expensive libel issues from when she tried to smear her political opponents with false claims of misogyny, racism and anti-semitic conduct. Councillors Andrew and Short were involved in that unsavoury episode in 2019, when they helped Bokhari spread her falsehoods on social media, which ultimately resulted in her paying a costly settlement.

Perhaps Bokhari and her LibDem mates still haven’t learned her lesson not to bend the truth: once elected to City Hall at the weekend, Ed Davey, her party leader (who apparently also doesn’t understand the difference between the London Assembly and GLA) tried to claim to be the first Muslim woman to become an Assembly Member.

Except, she isn’t.

Nor has Davey bothered to correct his false claim.

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