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Crackers expenses claim: Ukip Rochester and Strood branch sued by ex-chairman over unpaid expenses including cream crackers

By Dean Kilpatrick, local democracy reporter

A Ukip constituency branch is being sued by its former chairman over unpaid expenses – including a remembrance wreath and a packet of cream crackers.

Christopher Spalding, who resigned from the party in March, says he has brought the legal action against the party's group representing Rochester and Strood “out of principle”.

He said the organisation initially refused to reimburse him the cost of a Remembrance Day wreath, raffle prizes for an EU referendum celebration, and the printing of Medway Council documents.

Christopher Spalding is suing the Ukip Rochester and Strood constituency branch over unpaid expenses
Christopher Spalding is suing the Ukip Rochester and Strood constituency branch over unpaid expenses

In the past 24 hours, the branch has agreed to pay the expenses and will send a cheque in the post today (April 25).

But Mr Spalding says he will not accept the money, and plans to continue with his court action as Ukip Rochester and Strood have rejected a compensation claim for two pasting tables which have gone missing.

He said: “I’m going to continue because I want payment of all of it. The moment I accept it I won’t get the full amount.

“There are court fees and legal costs, so nothing has changed as far as I’m concerned.”

The army reservist purchased the wreath in November 2015 to ensure Ukip was represented at a service in Chatham, despite it taking place outside of his former branch’s geographical remit.

Mr Spalding was previously told by Cllr Roy Freshwater – current constituency chairman – that the expenses cannot be paid back as they were not “appropriately authorised”, meaning the claim could not be “properly reimbursed”.

Christopher Spalding's expenses claim includes cream crackers
Christopher Spalding's expenses claim includes cream crackers

He said: “I am completely gobsmacked, particularly as it was the poppy wreath laid at the Chatham war memorial by Cllr Roy Freshwater himself.

“The Chatham and Aylesford Ukip constituency had some difficulties at the time, so I stepped in to make sure the party was represented, asking Cllr Freshwater to attend the event.”

Other expenses being claimed for include raffle prizes for a branch fundraiser celebrating the EU referendum vote.

With a “Christmas has come early” theme, gifts included cream crackers – as the usual festive fare was not available at the time of year – champagne, and traditional pudding.

Mr Spalding also wants to be reimbursed for documents he purchased from Medway Council, and is seeking compensation for two pasting tables which have not been returned.

In total, he is claiming for £93.20.

Ukip Rochester and Strood branch chairman Roy Freshwater, who is also leader of the Ukip group on Medway Council
Ukip Rochester and Strood branch chairman Roy Freshwater, who is also leader of the Ukip group on Medway Council

Asked why he was taking the action now, he added: “It’s been sitting there and sitting there and, like all things with Ukip in Medway, they don’t want to do anything about it.

“It was a party of principle at the time. It’s just not right what they’ve done, and I’m waiting to see if they are foolish enough to put a defence forward.”

Cllr Freshwater insists the claims had been reviewed by senior branch officers on two separate occasions, and deemed to be “not appropriate” both times.

However, Ukip Rochester and Strood has now decided to send a cheque of “around £70”.

He said: “We have sent him a cheque to cover all those expenses – I notified him yesterday (April 24).

"We have managed to come to a conclusion that we were satisfied with the expenses.

“I wasn’t surprised he brought this forward – he wants the publicity. I’m sure the matter is not over.”

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