A TOWN councillor is being investigated after he made claims of "fraud" and "criminal activity" over the restoration of the war memorial in Ledbury.

Ledbury Town Councillor Ewen Sinclair made allegations about the work completed by the Stone Workshop, a contractor hired for the restoration of the war memorial, which is a prominent landmark in the town centre. Council documents describe the Stone Workshop's work as inadequate, and claim that unsuitable materials were used.

Coun Sinclair alleged: "If the contractor used a different standard of materials from quoted, but still charged the same price, then this is fraud. Failure to present this to West Mercia Police is a further dereliction of council duty."

These allegations, discussed in several town council meetings this year, were described by the council as "repeated and unsubstantiated".

Coun Sinclair had asked West Mercia Police to open a fraud investigation, but officers did not believe it to be a police matter. A civil agreement was made between the council and the Stone Workshop.

Erected in 1920, the war memorial bears the names of 82 men from the town who died in the First World War, and a further 43 lost in the Second.

To mark its centenary, its plinth, surrounding paving, and a section of the spire were to be restored thanks to a gift of over £30,000 from Stuart Heaton, a veteran and former Ledbury resident.

After concerns were raised about the Stone Workshop's work, two other stone masons James Cambridge and Hugh Peachey were brought in for inspections. They both said that domestic stones had been used and that these were unsuitable for a public street.

In documents made public by the town council, Mr Cambridge reported that "the slabs that have been used are not the correct ones for the job" while Mr Peachey said: "I really was shocked at the work and the costs involved. I was in the army, and I don't regard memorial repair work as an opportunity for profit."

Earlier this year, the town council appointed the IAC Audit and Consultancy director Kevin Rose to investigate the project to restore the memorial. Mr Rose described the council's handling of the project as a "case study in what not to do".

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At a full council meeting on March 30, Coun Sinclair gave a statement: "The chair of environment and leisure and the chair of finance decided they were structural engineers and authorised payment with no structural engineers' advice.

"It has not been fixed properly and nothing was done. This has never sat right with me. When I make an accusation that this council has tried to hide from its responsibility for the war memorial, I'm right."

Coun Sinclair was asked to write a letter of apology to the council, which it said was not received. At a full council meeting on September 28, the council agreed to hire a solicitor to write a cease-and-desist letter to Coun Sinclair.


Mayor of Ledbury Helen I'Anson said at the meeting: "A letter requesting an apology to the clerk and councillors was sent and signed for by Coun Sinclair. No response has been received, and Coun Sinclair is not at the meeting and therefore has failed to provide a public apology at this meeting to councillors.

"A letter had been sent to Coun Sinclair advising that as far as the council is concerned, the matter he has raised over a sustained period in relation to the war memorial, except for apologies, is at an end. No response has been received to this letter.

"A complaint has been filed in respect of what the council consider are breaches of the code of conduct by Coun Sinclair."

Coun Sinclair told the Hereford Times: "Certain people on Ledbury Town Council are trying to cancel me. The cease-and-desist letter is an attempt to hide the truth. There will be no apology. All I have tried to do is seek the truth and uncover wrongdoing."

The mayor and clerk at Ledbury Town Council declined to comment. The Stone Workshop was approached for comment but did not respond.