Prentice in by-election row

JUSTICE minister Bridget Prentice ran into a political row during a visit to Norwich yesterday when Conservative opponents alleged she had breached Whitehall election rules.

JUSTICE minister Bridget Prentice ran into a political row during a visit to Norwich yesterday when Conservative opponents alleged she had breached Whitehall election rules.

Ms Prentice visited the city during the run-up to the Norwich North by-election.

She stopped off at Norwich County Court to hear about a Ministry of Justice-funded scheme to help save people in rent arrears from eviction which is now being rolled out to mortgage borrowers.

It was this visit to the pilot Norwich Housing Arrears Pre-Action Scheme (HAPS) and an accompanying press release put out to media concerning its success, that led to the Conservative party complaint to the Cabinet secretary.


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Dominic Grieve, shadow secretary of state for justice, claimed tax-payers' money was used to fund the visit and press release in an attempt to influence the by election campaign.

“It appears that Labour ministers have intentionally broken Cabinet Office rules by using public resources for party political campaigning,” he said.

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Labour officials were not available for comment but a party insider speculated that the complaint was an act of “mischief-making.”

After visiting HAPS, which works to offer advice to those suffering financial difficulty and at risk of repossession, Ms Prentice went on walkabout with Labour candidate for Norwich North Chris Ostrowski.

The pair were joined by the local PCSO and spoke to residents of Ash Grove, off Constitution Hill in the city, about concerns around anti-social behaviour, which the Safer Neighbourhoods Team had been working to stamp out.

Mr Ostrowski said: “The Safer Neighbourhood Team in Ash Grove is showing the way forward to others. Their local PSCO has identified the problem with anti-social behaviour in that street, and with the support of other police colleagues and residents they have now got the problem under control.

“I am calling for this swift action to be replicated across Norwich and I will be visiting other communities and streets, which are still struggling to bring their anti-social behaviour problems under control. I will seek assurances from the police that extra effort will be put into solving the problem of nuisance behaviour. Norwich residents deserve nothing less."

Ms Prentice said: “We know that anti-social behaviour is an issue the affects people's lives in Norwich.

"Norwich is a safe city and it's clearly a great place to live, but it is important to tackle the anti-social behaviour of a small minority, which makes such an impact on people's lives."

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