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Muddy politics at swing seat

PUBLISHED: 16:44 22 April 2010 | UPDATED: 10:54 12 August 2010

Orpington LibDems came under attack for taking £90,123 from the company in 2008 as it set about constructing a controversial store in Earls Way.

Orpington LibDems came under attack for taking £90,123 from the company in 2008 as it set about constructing a controversial store in Earls Way.

The sum, compensation for restricted access to the group's car park in Station Road, was in the party's 2008 accounts.

It followed a saga of planning applications and appeals dating back to 2004.

Tory candidate Jo Johnson said: "I am astonished to learn that Tesco has paid the Orpington Liberal Democrats £90,000. This raises serious questions over whether the LibDems are being straight with residents.

"The maximum amount any political party in Orpington is allowed to spend in the 'short campaign' for the general election is around £10,000. Thanks to Tesco they now have a massive political war chest. I guess Every Little Helps."

The LibDems have opposed the Tesco development since 2004. In 2007 LibDem councillor and parliamentary candidate David McBride warned residents to "watch Tesco carefully". He attended three council meetings about it in 2004 though only one more in the following three years.

He said: "This is more to do with the LibDem surge in the opinion polls than anything else. Jo Johnson is finding Orpington is not as safe he perhaps thought.

"I voted against Tesco being given planning permission, it has done damage to the high street and to The Walnuts. My opposition has not diminished."

The Cray Valley East councillor said his association, which made only £6,254 profit in 2007, had lost revenue due to the restricted access.

An Electoral Commission spokesman said: "There's no reason to believe there has been a breach of the rules."

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk


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