Wokingham Today

Candidate accused of censoring residents

‘I’m focused on the issues that matter to them – not getting into a slanging match’

- By PHIL CREIGHTON news@wokinghamp­aper.co.uk

A CANDIDATE in the local elections accused of censoring residents’ views said he deleted comments because he didn’t want to get involved in a slanging match – preferring to focus on the issues.

David Edmonds, the Conservati­ve candidate for the Arborfield ward, has been accused of deleting comments from his election Facebook page that were supportive of the independen­t candidate Gary Cowan.

A member of the Arborfield Garrison Residents’ Action Group (AG-RAG) said that Mr Edmonds – who is trying to wrest the seat back for the Conservati­ves – has blocked them from his page and they are unable to post any further comments or reply to an invite to meet for coffee.

But the candidate said that he removed the comments because he wanted to “focus on the issues that matter to Arborfield and getting the best deal for them”.

“This is not censorship, I’m just focusing on the issues.”

Several comments have been removed from Mr Edmonds’ Facebook page asking for him for his views on a range of issues.

Gill Purchase, who helps lead the AG-RAG and has seen some of her comments deleted, told The Wokingham Paper: “He is denying my freedom of speech.

“You can’t delete comments you don’t agree with. He blocked me on Facebook.

“He might not like what we say, but will have to deal with people like me on a weekly basis if he’s elected. How can he be a borough councillor if he deletes Facebook comments?”

Ms Purchase added: “He is there to represent the ward. This is not the behaviour of a prospectiv­e borough councillor.”

Ms Purchase added that Mr Edmonds didn’t live in the ward and felt that he struggled to understand residents’ concerns.

“He doesn’t know the issues and he’s not up to speed with what the issues are,” she said.

However, Mr Edmonds said that he had been knocking on doors in the ward and listening to residents’ concerns.

“It’s all about getting out and engaging with residents,” he said, citing as examples his support for a new medical centre in the village, and his opposition to plans to build a gravel extraction plant in Shinfield and plans to build housing near to the Coombes primary school.

“I’m not interested in negative campaignin­g,” he said. “I’m only interested in getting the best deal for Arborfield residents. We need to vigilant on the gravel extraction plans and Arborfield has already taken more than its fair share of developmen­t.”

Independen­t candidate

Gary Cowan, who used to be a Conservati­ve before quitting the party in November 2015 over the way in which he felt it was then run, said that he supported free speech and while he would not endorse abusive comments, felt that Mr Edmonds needed to let people have their say.

“If he projects [his views] in the public eye like this then he has to take it on the chin. I do.

“I just take it on the chin and get on with life.”

He added that he had nothing to do with the deleted comments.

Chris Everett is standing for Labour in the ward; the Liberal Democrats have chosen not to field a candidate.

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