Police called in over Olney referendum hostilities

A referendum designed to bring a town together has caused a full-scale war serious enough to involve police.

Wednesday, 5th July 2017, 6:32 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 11:45 am

The people of Olney will vote tomorrow (Thursday) whether they want to adopt a neighbourhood plan that will shape their town’s future until 2031.

But relationships between Yes voters and No voters have disintegrated into outright acrimony in a town that is famed for its annual fun pancake race.

A mystery Yes campaigner complained to MK Council that leaflets put out by the No group were ILLEGAL because they did not have an imprint, which is the name of the publisher.

As a result MK Council informed police, who have already contacted some residents - including a team member of the town’s MK Pulse magazine where some of the contents of the ‘Vote No’ leaflet were published.

Publishers of the other local magazine The Phonebox have not been contacted by police. This month’s issue of The Phonebox carried a letter signed by 12 town councillors urging people to vote Yes in the referendum.

They claim a No vote would leave Olney vulnerable to developers in the future.

Meanwhile many members of Olney Town Council, which supports the neighbourhood plan, failed to attend a peace-making meeting organised this week by the three Tory Milton Keynes borough councillors.

In a joint statement, ward councillors Peter Geary, David Hosking and Keith McLean said of the hostilities: “This is a very poor situation exacerbated by personal attacks and puts the future of the town at risk.”

They added: Local people have been reported to the police, with the apparent assistance of an Olney Town councillor, over a leaflet they circulated in the town. This gives the impression that people who are supposed to be representing members of the public are afraid of debate and want to restrict residents from expressing their views. So much for democracy.”

They added: “This situation is precisely the opposite from what a Neighbourhood Plan is supposed to create. The process should bring communities together to plan for their future. This Neighbourhood Plan regrettably seems to be tearing the community of Olney apart.

“As Ward Councillors, we organised a meeting for Tuesday evening to try and bring the two sides together to try to find common ground on which they agreed. However, many members of Olney Town Council did not wish to attend, so the meeting had to be cancelled.”

Olney Town Council failed to comment to the Citizen.

However, town councillor Kevin Viney, who lives in Cherry Way, Olney, condemned the ‘Vote No’ leaflet as misleading and illegal.

“People were chasing the distributors down the road demanding to know who had published this material. Any election leaflet should bear a clear imprint to inform readers who it is from. This leaflet failed to do this. It is right it should be investigated by police as it is illegal.”

Mr Viney said it was MK Council’s decision to call the police but said he “had no idea” who complained to MK Council in the first place”.

A police spokesman told the Citizen: “Thames Valley Police received a report that a ‘vote no’ leaflet was posted through the letterbox of a property in Cherry Orchard, Olney with neither the printer nor the author contact details on the leaflet. We are looking into this matter.”

The MK Pulse magazine team member who police contacted said: “I received a call from police this morning. It was really scary. All I did was publish an article from somebody wanting to give an opinion over the referendum. I thought it would prompt a healthy debate and I never dreamed it would prompt a police investigation.”