Mayor accused of ‘payback’ over Mansfield park plans delay

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An election rival to Mansfield mayor Kate Allsop has reacted angrily after saying he was told planned work at Titchfield Park had been cancelled.

Phil Shields, who stood against Mrs Allsop in May’s election, said he had received word that a contract he had been awarded by Mansfield District Council for transforming the park’s pavilion into a café, had been halted on the day the Chad revealed a police investigation had been launched into the mayor’s campaign.

Mrs Allsop has not responded to requests for comment, but Mansfield District Council said the decision is “coincidental”.

Police are looking into the amount of money spent on Mrs Allsop’s election campaign – an investigation which she has publicly blamed on her election rivals, claiming they brought the matter to the attention of the law, while Councillor Stuart Rickersey, who helped fund her mayoral election campaign, has denied there was overspending.

On the day the matter was made public, both Mr Shields and Labour candidate Martin Lee, who finished as runner-up to Mrs Allsop in the election, denied contacting the police about her campaign spending.

However, Mr Shields said he felt the contract had been halted in response to the police probe, a claim categorically denied by the council.

He said: “The mayor thinks I’m personally responsible for this investigation.

“The decision to award us the contract has been made by a senior officer, she can’t interfere with that.”

The contract for the pavilion on Titchfield Park had been put out to tender.

Mr Shields was awarded the contract after he impressed the council with his blueprints for a café.

He also intended to reopen the toilets which have been closed for years because of drug use and vandalism.

Mayor Kate Allsop was invited to comment on the claims made by Phil Shields, but did not respond to the Chad’s request.

However, a statement was issued by Bev Smith, interim chief operating officer at Mansfield District Council, who said: “This is categorically not related to the ongoing police investigation following the mayoral election and any link is purely coincidental.”

She added that the agreement to lease the building had not been terminated and no decision has been reversed.

She said: “We have been made aware of concerns from current users of the park and other prospective tenants over the last few weeks and it is very important we take the time to listen to the views of our community before moving forward.”