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Updated: Ousted Tory Councillor Urges Walton Residents to Vote Lib Dem

Published on: 29 Apr, 2022
Updated on: 3 May, 2022

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

A former Elmbridge Conservative councillor who alleged he was ousted by the party for being “too old” has written to residents urging them to vote for the Liberal Democrats in two wards.

Councillors Christine Richardson and Alan Kopitko of Walton say they’ve been told they were too old to stand as councillors. Photo Graeme Larter

Cllr Alan Kopitko, who was not selected last year by the Conservative Party to stand in the local elections on May 5, announced he was leaving the group at an Elmbridge Borough Council meeting in February.

Editor’s comment: We have removed from this article a copy of a letter from Cllr Kopitko which we now know was produced and distributed by the local Lib Dem party.

The LDRS reported in March Cllr Kopitko received an email from the chair of Cobham and Oxshott Conservatives, Catherine Davies, who said: “I think we need more younger people to represent residents as our party can be seen as being ‘out of touch’ to anybody under 40.”

See also: Walton Councillor Claims He Was Considered Too Old for Tory Selection

Ms Davies said at the time the email “has been taken out of context” and that “some are considerably older than” him.

Cllr Kopitko is now supporting his partner, Christine Richardson, as she stands as an independent in the Walton Central ward, though he is not standing himself this year.

He has sent an open letter to local residents in Walton North and Walton South urging them to vote for the Liberal Democrat candidates, saying that the party has impressed him in the way it has worked “professionally” with the residents’ association in running the council.

Peter Szanto, chairman of the Esher & Walton Conservative Association, said the letters were “a blatant attempt to smear the Conservative group working to improve our area” and claimed the letters were Lib Dem election leaflets.

Cllr Kopitko denied that the letters were a move towards him joining the Liberal Democrats, saying next year he planned to stand as an Independent.

He told the LDRS: “I’ve had no conversation whatsoever with a view to me becoming a Lib Dem, I haven’t even considered it.

“This year my concentration is to make sure that Walton gets represented in a fair way, in a correct way.”

Cllr Kopitko, who has been a Walton councillor for 23 years, said the Conservative Party in Esher and Walton was not the one he joined and that leaflets sent out by the party were a “new low”.

Elmbridge borough borders Guildford borough to the north east.

He alleged in the open letters to local residents that the Conservative party: “In their relentless pursuit of power at any cost they are spreading lies and misinformation, creating division and standing in the way of good people working together for the residents of Elmbridge.”

He told the LDRS: “Just to criticise for political gain is not the correct way to be in local council.”

Mr Szanto claimed Cllr Kopitko had appealed the decision not to select him as a candidate last year, and called the latest move “petty”.

He said: “Over the last year Mr Koptiko has been extremely keen to be a Conservative candidate in these elections, even trying to appeal the decision after being turned down last year. We always knew there was a danger when rejecting him that he would be petty.

“This is a blatant attempt to smear the Conservative group working to improve our area.

“All the statements contained in our communications are fact-checked. SurreyLive reported on the council’s plans to close the Playhouse and turn it into flats.

“All the subscribers to the green waste service know and can confirm that the bins were not collected.

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Responses to Updated: Ousted Tory Councillor Urges Walton Residents to Vote Lib Dem

  1. Paul Spooner Reply

    May 1, 2022 at 10:49 am

    I am sure it was an oversight to miss that the letter was actually a Lib Dem election leaflet with a very small imprint on the crease of the leaflet stating that it was an election leaflet.

    Editor’s response: The image of the letter, attached to the filed LDRS story, did not show the “very small imprint” but I have informed the LDRS reporter of your comment and inserted an appropriate caption to the image.

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