A political row is brewing after Mansfield District Council banned political parties from officially renting market stalls for canvassing or from setting up political stalls in the area during the election period.
Both Mansfield Socialist Party and UKIP have protested after the blanket ban was put into force as canvassing began in earnest this week.
The council says the renting of space on the Market Place to political parties calle into question impartiality.
Karen Seymour, Mansfield Socialist Party, said: “After 20 years that I know of, Mansfield Socialist Party has been told by the town centre supervisor and Nottinghamshire County Council that we cannot hold our weekly stalls in Mansfield, because of ‘impartiality’ issues in the run up to the election. Furthermore, we do not cause an obstrucion, nuisance or create litter.
“We have written a letter of complaint to Mansfield District Council and the mayor.”
“We think it is unfair that we have been asked to take down our stall after all this time, especially as we have had no complaints from market stall holders, shop managers or members of the public. I believe other political parties have complained on this issue as well.
Sid Pepper UKIP prospective parliamentary candidate said: “In December last year we applied to Mansfield District Council to stand on the market with a marquee. We appled for alicense from the beginning of March up to the election.
It was denied by Ruth Marlow, the Returning Officer.
“I understand she is banning everybody.
“Now I will have to tie my UKIP flag to the railings and hand leaflets out. The biggest loser here are the people of Mansfield.
“Rather than pushing leaflets in people’s faces we wanted to put up a marquee so only those who were interested in finding out about UKIP policies could come and talk to us.
“We have a right to promote ourselves but she has debased it.”
Ruth Marlow, Managing Director at Mansfield District Council and Returning Officer, said: “Councils are required by law to act impartially at all times and it is particularly important that impartiality is not brought into question in the sensitive time leading up to elections.
“The renting of space on the Market Place to a political party for the purpose of campaigning may call into question that impartiality and for this reason the request to hire space in the Market Place was refused.
“In addition, under the Representation of the People’s Act, as Electoral Registration Officer, I am required to make available a list of the locations and availability of meeting rooms in my area which can be used to engage the public at public meetings, promoting your views and responding to questions from an audience. If you would like a copy of the list, please contact the Electoral Services Office on 01623 463345.”