Row erupts over cabbie’s crusade

Blackpool taxi driver David Palmer

Blackpool taxi driver David Palmer

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A BLACKPOOL cabbie was today accused of launching a “dirty tricks campaign” in a bid to drive Tory councillors out of their seats.

David Palmer has delivered leaflets to homes in Waterloo and Highfield wards in the resort, as part of a crusade against Conservative husband and wife duo Ian and Susan Fowler aheda of voting in tomorrow’s council elections.

He claims the pair have put “profit before politics” because a property they owned was bought by the council for £180,000 as part of a housing development scheme in Crystal Road, South Shore.

Money

Mr Palmer, of Denstone Avenue, Bispham, says the property “has a known history of subsidence” and is now set to be demolished.

But the Fowlers today denied any wrongdoing in connection with the sale and say the building – at 25/27 Crystal Road – was priced as the result of a professional valuation by independent surveyors.

Mr Palmer, who spent £256 of his own money on around 6,000 leaflets, said the motivation for his campaign was not political.

He said: “I just want things out in the public domain and for the council to have more transparency for what it does.

“People are quite surprised when they read the leaflet because they didn’t know councillors had their property bought. They are shocked by that.

“I don’t like the idea of a council executive made up of six people deciding everything at the council. How do we know things are being done on good terms for the taxpayer?”

The council’s executive agreed the purchase of the Crystal Road property in March 2010. Coun Ian Fowler is a member of the executive, but did not take part in the vote.

Mr Palmer also claims in his leaflet a company owned by the Fowlers, Boxer Scaffolding, benefited from the council’s £5m loan to the Pleasure Beach because it secured contracts for work in relation to the construction of the new Nickelodeon Land at the park.

But Coun Ian Fowler said he did not take part in the decision on the Pleasure Beach loan although he confirmed since September 2008 Boxer Scaffolding has tendered for Pleasure Beach contracts.

Coun Fowler, who has now distributed his own leaflet in answer to Mr Palmer’s allegations, said: “I hope people see through this and see what I see, which is a man who is a bitter and twisted person.

“It has been an honour and a pleasure to be Waterloo councillor for 13 years and I’ve had a very positive response from people I’ve met in the ward.”

Coun Fowler believes Mr Palmer was hitting out because he was disgruntled about changes made to taxi rules in the town.

He said: “Most of the taxi trade has been extremely helpful, but it would appear one person is not satisfied and is trying to use various means to try and drag me down.”

He said the council had been fully aware of a subsidence claim in relation to the Crystal Road property before the sale went through.

Coun Fowler added: “This property has not been condemned and is not to be demolished.”

Council leader Peter Callow has taken legal action against Mr Palmer who is also preparing to distribute leaflets in Norbreck ward, currently represented by Coun Peter and Coun Maxine Callow.

A solicitor’s letter warns that if pamphlets are circulated in Norbreck ward, they will be subject to legal scrutiny.

Solicitor David Edwards, of Blackhurst Budd, said “We will advise our client in relation to any possible causes of action in law should any of the content amount to material that a court would ajudge to be defaming them.”

Coun Callow said: “This is a dirty tricks campaign.

“I’m assured by the chief executive there has been no wrong-doing.

“My main concern is this person is acting outside of the political arena and interfering with the democratic process.But it’s our good names at stake here and we will defend them.”

Mr Palmer added: “I have enough witnesses who will support me. Everything has been printed in honest belief so if they want to challenge that I’m willing to take that on.”