After receiving a threat of legal action, three Sutton FibDems have admitted that the content of their newsletter about the local non-league football club was a pack of lies. BERTIE WORCESTER-PARK reports
There have been calls for the resignation of the chair of a council licensing committee, after he libelled an applicant to potentially thousands of residents and then offered as his excuse that he didn’t understand the licensing application.
Sutton Liberal Democrats Jake Short, Chris Williams and Jill Whitehead this week were forced to issue an apology to Carshalton Athletic FC (“We apologise the [sic] club, its members and all the residents who were misled by our incorrect statements”).
The FibDems issued the statement only after they were threatened with legal action over their party’s newsletter sent to local residents which claimed the club wanted to extend its licensing arrangements, including adding “adult entertainment”. None of which is true.
The dodgy newsletter is regarded by officials of the football club as just the latest example of what they see as a “vendetta” against Carshalton Athletic by the Liberal Democrats, led by veteran councillor Whitehead.
In a poorly proofed statement hurriedly published on the Carshalton Central FibDems website, Whitehead, Williams and Short claimed that they had “inadvertently included a number of inaccurate statements”. Yes, “inadvertently”.
They said, “We had no intention of doing so, but we made a genuine mistake in reading the application. It was wrong to publish an email to all of our residents before being certain of the content and we now realise how hamful [sic] it was to send our newletter [sic].”
The problem with this “mistake in reading the application” cobblers is that two of the incompetent councillors, Williams and Short, are actually members of the licensing committee.
Short even gets an extra £9,800 of Council Tax-payers’ money each year as a special responsibility allowance for being the licensing committee’s chair.
Sutton’s opposition Tories have called Short and his colleagues’ offending newsletter “either a cynical attempt to win votes for the 2022 local elections or nothing short of gross incompetence”.
Scenting political blood, the Tories yesterday issued a statement of their own, saying, “It would appear that Councillor Jake Short’s position as the lead member for licensing has become untenable and we call on him to do the right thing and stand down from this position.”
Eric Allen, a Conservative councillor, said, “As a member of the licensing committee, we had already received the application, so we knew the claims [the LibDems] were making were not true.
“I was astonished Councillor Short put his name to the newsletter, and I cannot see how he can continue in his role as chair of that committee.”
Paul Dipre, the club chairman at Carshalton Athletic, told Inside Sutton, “The councillors made unfounded libellous allegations about our highly respected community club. After a social media campaign, where their untruths were exposed, hundreds of letters of support have poured into the football club, more than 50 sent to the licensing department, and the councillors have been dressed down by many more online.
“The public outcry became too much and they finally came out with a complete retraction and apology.
“It’s a fact that we have had to put up with similarly untruthful campaigns from the same councillors for a decade. They have been deeply destructive and dishonest.
“Their campaigns have led to the poor old council having to defend appeals in court, all of which found against bad decisions that had come about following the councillors campaigns.
“This has cost the council many many thousands of pounds,” Dipre said.
While the council and its legal department has been able to carry the costs of previous cases, mainly planning appeals, Whitehead, Williams and Short will have been well aware that if Dipre had taken libel action, the councillors will have been personally liable, potentially for tens of thousands of pounds in damages and costs.
“They waited two weeks after they knew the allegations were false to apologise.
“It’s because of the huge public outcry that they had to,” Dipre said.
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