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.”
Image: Article in the Bristol Post on Saturday 12th May 2012.
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.
Last 5 posts in Politics
- Jack Lopresti re-elected for fourth term as MP - 18th December 2019
- Former Bradley Stoke mayor launches new political party - 2nd October 2019
- Liberal Democrats select prospective candidate for Filton and Bradley Stoke - 16th March 2019
- Labour party selects local MP candidate - 22nd March 2018
- Jack Lopresti holds FaBS but has majority halved - 9th June 2017