A Threatening Letter? A Fabricated Issue?

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A letter dated 22 April 2003 from Alex Wood in his capacity as "Liberal Democrat Agent for Tavistock" was received by Town Councillors on the evening of that day. I reproduce the text here, together with my commentary thereon.
Mr Wood's letter
My commentary
Dear Councillor

Liberal Democrat Concerns on A Pressing Matter

I have been asked by the Liberal Democrat team of sitting Town Councillors, newly-elected Town Councillors and Town Council candidates to bring to your attention their concerns on a pressing matter. We hope you will note their concerns and act on them for the good of the Town, and stay true to the Nolan Principles of Transparency and Accountability.

The signing of contracts for the works on your offices at Drake Road

We would ask you to exercise restraint upon those who are deciding on this matter, and point out a potential danger to yourself. The works at Drake Road are to cost at least £260,000 in a building worth at most £130,000. This matter continues to be locally contentious and is an election issue.

The contracts for the work are ready for signing, it seems. The Town Mayor and Chair of F&GP Committee have the authority to sign on behalf of the Council, we understand. The Town Mayor is in post until 20th May, the Chair of F&GP until 1st May.

We are suggesting that because the matter is contentious and is before the electorate now - and the electorate will not decide the issue until 1st May - if these contracts are signed meantime, they will have been signed "recklessly". By failing to restrain such reckless behaviour, sitting councillors might be held to be complicit.

Even if contracts are signed before 1st May, the incoming Council will still be able to review the whole matter, unscramble the contracts if it so wishes. They will be able, we suggest, to lay any costs or losses at the feet of all those who were "reckless". We note that the present Chair of F&GP will be sitting in the incoming Council, so will remain accessible and accountable.

We hope this makes clear our concerns and helps you in your deliberations.

Yours faithfully,

Alex Wood

Printed, Published and Promoted by Alex Wood, on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, all at 4 Kilworthy Hill, Tavistock PL19 0EP

This letter was not addressed to the council, but to individual councillors. It is a clear attempt to intimidate councillors. Only one LibDem councillor attended the committee meeting on 22 April. He made no attempt to raise the issue.

The works referred to are required to make the council offices and chamber accessible for disabled people and to meet current fire safety standards. The LibDem group have opposed the project because they want to sell the building. They have not said what they would do with the money.

This is deliberately misleading. If the building were sold, it would have to be replaced, which would cost at least £500,000. It is therefore worth at least that to the council, though not to a buyer, because it is only useful to the council in its present form.
It is only contentious to the LibDems, because they want to flog it off for less than its value to the town.
No-one has raised it with me as an election issue.

The contracts were signed before this letter was written. There was no basis for it not to have been. No LibDem councillor made any attempt to prevent it. Mr Wood is neither a councillor nor a town council candidate.

This is rubbish and a pathetic attempt at a naked threat.If this is how LibDems behave when they don't get their way, who wants them as councillors?
Council made a clear decision after months of open debate, outrageously filibustered by the LibDem group. They were wholly unable to show any workable alternative to the purpose-built Drake Road building for town council offices. The law requires us to adapt the building for fire safet and access by disabled people or to move into a disabled-friendly building.

It is Mr Wood's "suggestion" that is reckless. An incoming council can do what it wants, but if it cancels contracts, the taxpayer will face a very big bill, with absolutely no means of recovering it from third parties. It will still have to make its premises accessible, which will mean yet another huge bill.

There can be no further "deliberations". No councillor raised it in council and it would have been too late anyway, as contracts were quite properly signed before Mr Wood wrote his letter.

If Mr Wood's letter and tone is representative of LibDem attitudes and conduct, you may well think that you don't want such bullying and misleading representation. You may think that. I shall forbear to comment further.

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Published as an Internet document by R W Mathew, Willowby, Down Road, Tavistock, Devon