COUNCILLOR Kevin Guy was this week elected as the leader of Bath and North East Somerset council, having won his seat in 2019 after registering himself as living in a caravan inside the constituency – despite allegedly living in a completely different county.
To be eligible to stand as a candidate in a local government election, candidates must either be registered as a local government elector in the authority, have occupied a premises or lived in the constituency for at least 12 months before the election, or work predominantly in the area.
Guy, an ex Labour leader for Telford, crossed the floor to the Lib Dems before standing for a council seat in Bath in 2019 – registering himself as living in a caravan at New Leaf Farm, Bathampton, despite records clearly showing him as living and working in the Midlands.
On the 1st March 2019, Guy signed his nomination papers to stand as a candidate for the upcoming elections in Bathavon North in Bath and North East Somerset, giving his address as being New Leaf Farm, Bath. Yet Mr Guy, as it now transpires, neither worked nor lived there.
Guy’s husband, Steve Horler was granted temporary planning permission to use a caravan as residential accommodation on the farm for a period of three years. However, council records confirm that this permission ended in 2012 – seven years before Guy claims to have been living there.
Furthermore, the residential status of the caravan was withdrawn in 2014, meaning that Guy should not have legally been allowed to register as having lived there.
In what can only be described as an act of sheer negligence, the council failed to remove Guy and his husband from the electoral register, with multiple complaints registered by residents demanding to know why, evidently falling on death ears, or in some instances leading to council officials scrambling to pass the buck.
One source said: “If Mr Guy was to appear in court under oath and had to state his address and working establishment, he could not say he was resident at New Leaf Farm, nor did he work there as he was teaching at Stourbridge College.
“He shouldn’t have been on the electoral roll and Banes Council did not carry out sufficient due diligence in disqualifying Steve Horler to continue citing the caravan as his address. Mr Guy should not be registered there at all.”
Mr Guy was in fact found to have been living in Telford at the time when he claimed, on an official and legal nomination paper, that he was living in Bath. This has since been confirmed by Telford & Wreckin council via council tax records. When Mr Guy was not working in Telford, he resided with his husband in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire.
In a complaint sent to Banes (Bath and North East Somerset) council, seen by VoteWatch, one local resident has demanded answers, detailing an extensive list of questions, which includes:
“Mr Guy attended council meetings as a councillor in Telford in January 2019. Check his attendance record. Whilst he could possibly run for councillor in another area; you can only remain a councillor if you live there otherwise the position must be resigned. So where is he registered to live whilst still their full time councillor? The whole thing stinks and you must undertake your role properly and with clarity, vigour and open to public scrutiny.”
Even before his election, residents contacting the council to alert them of potential electoral fraud, had their concerns ignored or half-heartedly addressed.
“You stated the council had ‘no control’ over the allegation that Mr Guy committed electoral fraud” said one email of complaint. “It is an open secret amongst councillors, leaders and political parties that Mr Guy was not eligible to stand at the point he registered his papers and during the election campaign.
“Aurora Loi (a council election official) and the legal department chose to ignore the concerns raised to her and advised people to just carry on and we will see what happens. The result was him being elected. Indeed she imparted that it wasn’t her job to check candidates forms”.
Despite all of this, and despite a growing mound of evidence to support claims that the new council leader did not meet the legal requirements to stand as a Councillor in Bath, Guy was this week elected by the Lib Dem-run council as its leader, with not a single member of opposition supporting his promotion.
Speaking during his appointment, stalwart Labour Councillor Robin Moss aired his opposition to Guy’s appointment, saying: “There have been too many questions about the qualifications of Councillor Guy to stand in the 2019 election.
“I appreciate that we have received advice from the chief executive, and an independent legal source on that qualification… When you put a nomination paper in it has to be precise, it has to be exact, and it has to be correct.
“This is the first time that I’ve ever heard of an incorrectly filled-out nomination form being acceptable.
“The Labour group is seeking separate legal advice on this”.
Speaking to VoteWatch, a spokesman from Bath Conservatives said: “It’s unprecedented for a new Leader to receive no support from Opposition parties on his formal appointment, and even have one of his own group abstain.
“The continuing questions about how Cllr Guy qualified to stand as a councillor undermine his appointment and cloud the credibility of his administration.
“The Council is now led by someone who’s been a councillor here for barely two years, and lived in this part of the country for only a year or so longer, none of it in Bath or, apparently, in the local authority area.
“In the end it will be Bath and North-East Somerset’s businesses and residents who will suffer from this uncertainly.”
VoteWatch has sought comment from the relevant police constabulary, as well as from election officials from Bath & North East Somerset council.