STOURBRIDGE by-election candidate Russell Eden has hit out at his Labour rival - claiming the party has hijacked the litter-picking group he founded for political gain.
Former radio presenter on 102.5 The Bridge Mr Eden, who is standing as an independent candidate in the Wollaston and Stourbridge Town by-election, set up the popular TidyStourbridge group with fellow Bridge DJ Dave Colley in April 2010 to help clean up the streets of Stourbridge.
But much to 50-year-old Mr Eden’s annoyance Stourbridge’s Labour Party has been promoting its activities and forthcoming litter pick in their latest Labour Rose newsletter, which urges residents to back Labour’s candidate Barbara Sykes in the January 31 election.
The father-of-two from Heath Street said: “One could be easily forgiven for thinking that TidyStourbridge is some sort of in-house Labour project, for their latest leaflet implies TidyStourbridge has joined forces with it for two litter picks in Wollaston.
“What Labour is failing to do is mention to voters that TidyStourbridge is an apolitical organisation which was actually co-founded by one of the other candidates in the election - me!”
Labour candidate Barbara Sykes brushed off Mr Eden’s comments - saying: “He’s implying more than was ever intended.
“Dave Colley has been organising the tidy ups for some time now and I understand he welcomed and encouraged the fact that the Labour Party could circulate notification of the clean up events - he doesn't have the facilities to do so.
“Previous events in Amblecote have been similarly advertised via our ward councillor newsletters - without any objection from anyone.
“And our Wollaston newsletter went out quite some time before Christmas - so why did Mr Eden wait so long before complaining?”
The retired teacher from Oldswinford said a number of Labour party members have been supportive of TidyStourbridge and, although she has not yet attended one of the litter picks herself, she added: “If I win the election TidyStourbridge is something I would expect myself to support and help.”
Dave Colley, co-founder of TidyStourbridge, branded the dispute a “storm in a teacup”.
The next TidyStourbridge litterpick will be held on Sunday January 27.
Anyone interested in attending should meet at the Longlands Tavern, Western Road, Stourbridge, at 2pm.
To find out more about the group visit website tidystourbridge.org.uk or check out facebook.com/tidystourbridge