Bradley Stoke Mayor hit by smear campaign

Ben Walker (Deputy Chair, South Gloucestershire Council).

Bradley Stoke Mayor Ben Walker has become the target of a smear campaign aimed at stopping him becoming the Chair of South Gloucestershire Council, a position he is due to take on next week after serving for the past year as Vice Chair.

A letter alleging irregularities in the financial management of two construction companies of which Cllr Walker is a director was circulated to the local press early last week and its content appeared on an anonymous blog a few days later.

The author of the letter (since named by the Bristol Post as Julian Williams) says he is one of a number of Conservative supporters in Bradley Stoke who have “concerns about our local Councillor Ben Walker”.

The author points out that Cllr Walker established the second of the two companies in March 2011, shortly before making an application to have the first company dissolved and observes that such a sequence of events is often the hallmark of the establishment of a ‘phoenix company‘, which emerges to trade in the same activities as a failed company but sheds any liability to cover it debts.

He goes on to claim that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has since blocked the winding up of the first company, owing to “a lack of tax returns and submission of accounts”.

The author told The Journal that he is making the information public in order to “avoid future embarrassment for the party”.

His email concludes:

“Failure to submit appropriate tax returns on time and failing in corporate governance may be considered questionable conduct for a senior Conservative Councillor, particularly a Councillor who is shortly to become Chairman of South Gloucestershire Council.”

“These revelations have now rocked the Conservative Group on South Gloucestershire Council, raising serious concerns for Councillor Walker’s colleagues, who may well under the circumstances now wish to identify another suitable candidate for Chairmanship of South Gloucestershire Council.”

“They may conclude that such stewardship of the Council at this important time may not wisely be vested in someone who has such pressing corporate and HMRC issues to resolve.”

Cllr Walker is rumoured to have ambitions of standing as a Conservative parliamentary candidate in 2015 and has also suggested that he might consider running for the newly-created position of Mayor of Bristol in the November 2012 election.

Appointment to the ceremonial office of Chair of South Gloucestershire Council would give the ambitious but relatively inexperienced politician useful media exposure over the next 12 months.

An article in Saturday’s Bristol Post reports that OPPO Complete Building Services Ltd [the company Cllr Walker wants to wind-up] “nosedived at the beginning of the credit crunch in 2009 after a client failed to pay about £60,000 which was owing to the firm”.

The Post article also reveals that Cllr Walker has personal debts that he is currently trying to pay off. According to the paper,  he has £6,000 of outstanding income tax still to pay to HMRC.

Cllr Walker told The Post:

“I am making every effort to rectify this situation as quickly as possible, despite these tough economic conditions continuing. This has in no way affected my work as a Councillor.”

Ben Walker is paying off thousands in outstanding income tax.

Image: Article in the Bristol Post on Saturday 12th May 2012.

Read more: Mayor paying off thousands in outstanding income tax

Information about Cllr Walker’s two businesses, OPPO Complete Building Services Ltd and OPPO Holdings (South West) Ltd is publicly available for a small charge on the Companies House website.

The last annual accounts for Oppo Complete Building Services Ltd were submitted on 9th January 2010. They show that the company made a loss of £26,280 in the year ending 31st March 2008 and a loss of £13,374 in the year ending 31st March 2009.

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  1. Blaming it all on the credit crunch is a cop out. Sounds like the company failed because it mismanaged its cash flow. Shouldn’t have allowed a single client to run up such debts. Ever heard of staged payments Ben? Nothing to do with the availability of credit.

    While some will argue that personal financial affairs don’t affect the ability of councillors to carry out their duties, if I owned one of the small companies that OPPO has allegedly screwed, I’d be pretty annoyed to read that Mr Walker has been attending scores of council meetings and preparing for a parliamentary campaign at a time when he should have been working his balls off to turn the company around and repay his debts.

  2. The headline of this story has been changed from “Bradley Stoke Mayor hit by smear campaign from within own party” to “Bradley Stoke Mayor hit by smear campaign” to reflect the fact that the author of the letter is not a paid-up member of the Conservative party.

    A Conservative Councillor who contacted The Journal following publication of this article claims that Mr Williams is a supporter of another political party but Mr Williams denies this, saying he is a “strong supporter of the Conservative party and has in the past delivered leaflets for Cllr Walker”.

  3. We feel that this comes as another twist to the story. The villain in the story has a bad record, but had a mask before everyone earlier. He pretended that he is genuine. Now with his over-ambitious projects, his trembling had started. He wants to rein as South Glos Chair and his absconding puppet sister to succeed him as BS Mayor. He wants to make the whole Council business a family affair. It was nepotism to its core.

    Before hearing this new story, we were not bothered about the first part of his ambition, but were really annoyed with the importation of his sister at BS. Now all people with common sense in Bradley Stoke hates him. Previously we had lot of admiration for him, but now we will spit at him. He is a selfish and crafty bloke and he does everything for his own vested interests. Remember: “Pride goes before a Fall”.

  4. Reading your article on Cllr Ben Walker appears to have all the traits of a personal vendetta. This article about the most hard working councillor I have known I find offensive when someone decides at the 12th hour to smear the character of this man. If there was any wrong doing the tax office would be taking the necessary action. From the content of your article the only wrong doing I can see is that Cllr Walker has perhaps supported the residents of Bradley Stoke at the expense of his own business interests. His trading difficulties are typical of those experienced by many in the building industry at the moment and it would appear that he is doing all he can to work through his difficulties. I commend him for what he has done for our town and am sure that he would do the same for south Gloucestershire

  5. P Turner,

    I trust you mean you’re offended by what Mr Williams has written? The Political Editor of the Bristol Post thought this story worthy of publication and so do I. You’re entitled to your opinion and I’m happy to give it a platform but please don’t tarnish The Journal with whatever you have loaded on your brush.

    BTW would you be the P Turner who stood as a Conservative candidate at a Town Council by-election in 2008?

  6. The anonymous bradleystoker blog has been updated to show two unsatisfied County Court Judgements (CCJs) against Cllr Walker.

    This information has NOT been verified by The Journal.

  7. One wonders why this person is raking up Cllr Walker’s business failure right now? I mean, businesses do fail, especially in the current climate – that’s not something to be ashamed of. If he was trying to hide anything from the authorities or engage in something criminal, it might be something I could bring myself to be bothered about.

    Not quite sure what this Julian Williams is getting at, or what he wants us to do/say.

  8. Do I smell a rat or two here.

    Does the fact that Bristol and South Glos Conservative Party recently elected a new Chairman and ousted the old one, who was big buddies with our local MP have anything to do with the recent disclousure by Julian Williiams.

  9. Speak as you find – this chap does a damn good job and works very, very hard – whether doing a few repairs to your home for a reasonable rate or committing to make life better for people in Bradley Stoke.

    If a decent guy like Ben Walker cannot make the top in politics, then politics is the reason.

    No-one is perfect.

  10. @Marc, So you’re saying it IS a “smear campaign from within own party” after all (as originally headlined)?

  11. Marc – methinks you’re not wide of the mark there. From my rudimentary knowledge of local politics (and it’s not something I’d ever aim to get involved in given my disdain for party politics), there is a certain level of influence wielded in the local Conservative party from a certain individual, and not towing the party line completely is…..discouraged.
    One more reason why parties should be barred from the council system.

  12. More “revelations” have been circulated to Councillors and the press by Julian Williams today. This time they appear to show some nasty squabbling in (unverified) emails between Cllr Walker and another Conservative member of Bradley Stoke Town Council. Meanwhile, the anonymous ‘bradleystoker’ blog referred to in the article has been “deleted by its author”.

  13. I see someone has posted serious allegations of criminal activity against Cllr Walker on the Bristol Post website, including defrauding customers and using his position on the planning committee to get advanced notice of potential contracts.

    I still find it very odd that this should all come up just now, as he was about to take the SGC chairmanship. If people think he has done something illegal, surely they would go to the police? The fact they haven’t seems suspicious to me.

  14. hang on

    why does a local builder have influence and access to building planning applications? is that not a conflict of interest?

  15. The ‘smear campaign’ appears to have been successful.

    South Gloucestershire Councillors tonight elected Cllr Janet Biggin (Con) to serve as Chair, thereby breaking the tradition that the previous year’s Vice-Chair becomes Chair.

    Cllr Biggin previously served as Chair in 2010/2011.

    The new Vice-Chair is Cllr Ian Boulton (Lab), who contested the Filton and Bradley Stoke seat at the 2010 General Election, finishing second to Jack Lopresti (Con).

    Read more: South Glos Council adopts committee system (South Glos Post)

  16. An article in today’s Bristol Post says:

    “It had been expected that last year’s vice chairman and former Bradley Stoke mayor Ben Walker would be the council’s new chairman but he was not nominated last night.”

    Read more: New chairwoman is voted in

  17. Editor, you make an interesting interpretation of the word ‘smear’. How can it be a smear to truthfully divulge public information such as readily available information from Companies House? If the information was untruthful and made up then yes I grant you a smear but if it is information in the public domain that is most truthful then it is just truth – not a smear.

  18. BBC Bristol reports this morning that Bradley Stoke Councillor Ben Walker has resigned from the Conservative party, citing “concerns over austerity measures”.

  19. Cllr Walker’s own tweet this morning:

    “I have resigned from the Conservative Party. I can no longer support an elitist, self-serving gravy train, riddled with bully boy tactics.”

  20. Funny that his “volte face” occurred as soon as he hands over the chains to little sis.

    Of course his flouncing has nothing to do with being outed publicly over his business acumen….

    This is a story for Guido Fawkes I reckon!

  21. And whilst we are on the subject of “austerity” and the “savage cuts” as claimed by Labour and their media arm, the BBC, lets have a look at the figures for government spending:

    2010= £660bn
    2011= £683bn
    2012= £703bn
    2013= £722bn
    2014= £740bn
    2015 = £760bn

    Cuts? What cuts?

  22. Hearing plenty of rumours that Cllr Ben Walker and one or more other Conservative Town Councillors from Bradley Stoke are about to defect to UKIP.

  23. UKIP’s Nigel Farage MEP tweeted:

    “And I’m delighted to announce that we have a Conservative district councillor defecting to us tonight too.”

  24. Another defector surfaces. The BBC’s Robin Markwell reports that Bradley Stoke Town Councillor Ed Rose has also jumped ship from the Conservatives to UKIP.

    No news yet on Cllr Walker’s sister, Charlotte, recently installed as Mayor of Bradley Stoke.

  25. Given that Mr Walker is no longer a Conservative concillor why he should still represent the people who voted him in? Is it okay just to jump ship ? Wonder what would happen if he had defected to the BNP?

  26. Cynical Sid,

    Whilst people may have elected Ben because he was a Conservative, when you elect a representative, be it local, district or MP, by rights you actually elect the person not the party. Hence why MP’s can walk the floor as well.
    You may not agree with it, but that is the way it works

  27. Oh! Gosh! It is not a wonder. He is an opportunist chameleon- leap frog.

    Yes, this is our fate, to bear this nasty self-centred crook in another shade. Defection is a dirty business. It is cheating. Only opportunist rascals will do that. This was a naked breach of political courtesy and trust, horrible chap! Horrible!

    One BS monkey hopped along, waiting to see where his puppets leaps to.

  28. You may be aware that ‘crossing the floor’ is not a new phenomenon.This has gone on for ages.

    In fact the greatest Briton ever ( W S Churchill ) crossed the floor not once but twice. Granted this was between Conservatives and Liberals ( in the days when Liberalism meant something and light years away from the EU subservient pathetic party they are today ).

  29. Up Up Hooray!

    Tory countdown started here.

    Until few days back, Tory donkeys were religiously shielding that scoundrel. Now they’re licking the wounds. Poor idiots!

    They did the blunder to coronate his wicked megalomaniac dummy too. Oh! Those cronies immersed their heads in the bush now.

    Haven’t heard her dive to the new camp y’day? Is she there or kept as spy in the previous camp? BSTC politics is unspeakable.

  30. Marc
    Thank you observations. However,most people voted for Mr Walker because as you say he was the Conservative candidate. however if you did vote for Mr Walker because you thought going to carry forward that party’s policies then you have been let down.
    The right thing to have done would have been to grin it out and not throw your teddy in the corner. Too far to fast springs to mind. Over ambition can be a curse!

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