CONSERVATIVES in Hartlepool have urged voters not to “punish” local candidates for “mistakes” made in Westminster.

Election material for Conservative candidates in Hartlepool appears to seek to distance them from the national party.

A leaflet from James Brewer, who is standing in the Burn Valley ward, was widely shared on social media. It says: “This Thursday, please don’t punish local Conservatives for the mistakes made in Westminster, we are local and proud of where we live, and like you, we want the best for Hartlepool.”

Read more: Hartlepool Council election: What you need to know

The same message appears on other material, including a leaflet produced by Jane Reeve, who is standing in the Victoria Ward.

Ray Martin-Wells, President of Hartlepool Conservative Association, denied local candidates were trying to distance themselves from the national party but said they were keen to remind voters that it was a local election.

He said: “We are not distancing ourselves but we are just reminding the public that these are local elections with local representatives, who deal with local issues like bins and pot holes.

It’s not about how popular Boris Johnson is or Keir Starmer, it’s about local people who deal with local issues.”

The leaflet also claims that a vote for anyone other than Conservative would mean Labour becomes the largest party on Hartlepool Council – accompanied by Labour’s name next to a flag for the European Union.

Mr Martin-Wells said: “We don’t own the copyright to the Labour flag so we used the EU one. I think it was quite accepted that local Labour supported yet another referendum and local Conservatives did not.”

A Labour spokesperson said: “Once again the Conservatives are lying to residents by pretending they’re not really Conservatives. They want residents not to punish them for their covid rule breaking, tax avoiding, porn watching mates in Westminster, so instead they can punish them for what they’ve done locally.

The Northern Echo:

“’Local Conservatives’ in Hartlepool have increased council tax by the highest amount in the country, increased parking charges by up to 400 per cent, increased allotment charges by 11 per cent, cut brown bin collections, cut security for our parks and charged the disabled to park.

“Local or national these Conservatives are all the same and we would urge voters to send them a message in these elections.”

They described the use of the EU flag as "pathetic and desperate", adding: "Labour believes in making Brexit work. The decision is done and in the past. Evoking a referendum from six years ago just shows that the Conservatives have absolutely nothing to say to address the challenges faced by Hartlepool. They are simply out of ideas."

Read more: Who residents in Richmond in North Yorkshire will be voting for on Thursday

Voters in Hartlepool will elect 13 councillors on Thursday.

One councillor will be voted in for each of the 12 wards across the borough, apart from Rural West, where there will be two.

A total of 41 candidates are standing.

Hartlepool Borough Council is currently made up of 12 Conservative councillors, 11 Labour members, two Hartlepool Independent Union representatives and 10 Independents.

There is one vacant seat in Rural West, which had previously been held by Conservative Councillor Brenda Loynes until her death earlier this year.

The council is at present led by a coalition between Conservative, Independent Union and some Independent councillors.

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