A COUNCILLOR has come under fire from political rivals ahead of this May’s elections after she binned a banner belonging to an opposition party.
Houghton and Sunderland South Labour Party group launched its campaign in Houghton earlier this month, with a banner put in place on railings at the town’s Rectory Park.
However, just hours later, the banner had disappeared, with a member of the public contacting police to say she had seen it being cut down by independent councillor Sheila Ellis, who serves Houghton ward,
Coun Ellis today told the Echo that the item was removed as part of a weekly litter pick by the Friends of Rectory Park group, and added that she had tried to find the owners of it.
Police have since confirmed that the banner had been taken down and put into a bin, because it was thought the banner was “discarded property”.
Labour officials are upset that the banner has not been found and are calling on Coun Ellis to reimburse the cost of it,
If she felt so strongly about the banner being on the railings for a matter of hours she could have taken it down and returned it to us rather than destroying it.Leslie Scott, Labour party parliamentary and local government election agent
Leslie Scott, parliamentary and local government election agent for Labour and a former mayor of Sunderland, today told the Echo: “I find it hard to remember such high-handed behaviour of an elected member in the 50 years of involvement in local politics.
“If she felt so strongly about the banner being on the railings for a matter of hours, she could have taken it down and returned it to us, rather than destroying it.
“Mrs Ellis may have great pride in Rectory Park, but she is not park ranger or the sole custodian of the park.
“Furthermore, we learn that her own group displayed posters on the railings at Christmas advertising an event.
“Yards from her home the council has a large banner on the footbridge over the A690.
“The banner cost £40 and should be replaced by Coun Ellis.
“We are advised removing and destroying of the banner can be viewed as separate acts.
“The latter may give us the opportunity to seek legal redress, but this is an avenue we don’t want to pursue.
“Some of my colleagues have suggested she be referred to the Standards Board that monitors the conduct of councillors.
“However, I personally will settle for the banner being replaced.”
In response, Coun Ellis said: “We do a litter pick twice a week and always remove advertisements that are left in the park, or on the railings.
“This was an abandoned advertisement and there was nobody around to claim it.
“We walked up and down Newbottle Street, Sunderland Street and even the Wild Boar pub, but there were no Labour people around.
“There are often banners put up for events like exercise classes or pizza places and we remove them if the people who have put them there haven’t.
“If we put adverts up then we take them down ourselves.”
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: “On Tuesday, March 17, police received a report that a banner had been stolen from Rectory Park, in Broadway, Houghton.
“Inquiries were carried out and it was established that the banner had been taken down as it was thought it had been left as discarded property.
“Police updated the person who made the initial report and they no longer wish to report it as a crime.”