ANGER has broken out over a council tax mailshot to Herefordshire households that included what looked like election canvassing material for the area’s current police and crime commissioner.

Hereford city councillor Jeremy Milln said that while one side of the police flyer “perfectly properly” summarises how the local West Mercia force spends its “precept” or share of the council tax bill, “the other is a promotional for John Campion who happens to be the Conservative candidate for the police and crime commissioner (PCC) elections on May 2”.

The election flyer featuring the page on current PCC John Campion
The police flyer featuring the page on current PCC John Campion (Local Democracy)

Coun Julian Dean, Green Party group leader on Shropshire Council who is also standing for the police post, said the flyers issue “has come up in Shropshire too”.

“It does seem an inappropriate use of public funds,” he said. “Making personal, ‘I will…’ statements crosses a line into campaigning.”

The Liberal Democrats’ PCC candidate, Worcester city councillor Sarah Murray, confirmed that the flyers have also been distributed in Worcestershire. “I thought, ‘he’s treading on a tightrope there’,” she said.

“I won’t be getting flyers delivered to each household in West Mercia,” she added. “Officers need to look to themselves if they are allowing candidates to promote themselves unfairly.”

Asked if the flyer broke any rules, an Electoral Commission spokesperson said this would be a matter for the police, who are responsible for enforcing the law governing elections, “including on printed election material”.

“The council or PCC’s monitoring officer would be responsible for ensuring that the use of public funds for this leaflet is compliant with the law,” they added.

The office of the PCC said the flyer was “not an election communication” as it had been produced and delivered to Herefordshire Council well ahead of the election period.

Its spokesperson explained the office “is lawfully required to produce and publish a council tax leaflet every year”, and while some of its contents must be included, “other elements are at the discretion of the PCC”.

Herefordshire Council did not respond when asked to comment on its role in distributing the flyer.

The West Mercia police and crime commissioner oversees and sets priorities for policing across Herefordshire, Shropshire (including Telford & Wrekin) and Worcestershrie.