A councillor and candidate for the 2021 local elections in Reading next month has been slammed for wrongly accusing another contender in Caversham of being anti-mask and anti-vaccination.

Reading Borough Labour councillor Richard Davies, who is standing for election for Caversham ward on Thursday, May 6, has been accused of “peddling falsehoods to gain electoral advantage” by accusing a Green Party candidate of advising people not to wear masks or get vaccinated.

In a leaflet distributed in Caversham, Cllr Davies attributed the following words to “the Green Party candidate for Caversham”, who is Sally Newman: “I won’t be wearing a mask, at all, not in shops, not on public transport, nowhere. It’s b******t.”

READ MORE: 'It's all about controlling people' - Green Party volunteer and Caversham election candidate in mask tirade

Cllr Davies leaflet part 1

Cllr Davies leaflet part 1

Cllr Davies leaflet part 2

Cllr Davies leaflet part 2

The remarks were made in July 2020 by David Foster, an ex-member who was a candidate for the Green Party in Caversham in 2019.

Sally Newman was selected to replace Mr Foster as the Green Party candidate for Caversham.

Criticising the leaflet, Green councillor Rob White said: "Caversham voters have been dismayed to receive a Labour leaflet that attempts to smear Green Party candidate Sally Newman, who was selected in September 2020 to represent the Greens.”

Cllr White added: "We posted our opposition to these misguided remarks publicly at the time and made clear then that the individual in question was not our candidate.

“In the light of these facts the Labour smear can only be seen as a deliberate attempt to gain electoral advantage by peddling falsehoods.

"Public reaction to Labour’s tactic suggests that it has backfired and many voters are appalled that they should stoop to such blatant fabrication. Reading’s voters expect and deserve better.

"Reading and Wokingham Green Party, including all councillors and candidates, wholeheartedly support the observance of Public Health England's Covid-19 advice.”

The Green Party councillor said he is awaiting the outcome of the electoral returning officer’s review.

However, a spokesman for RBC said: “The role of the returning officer is to organise the election.

“The returning officer is not responsible for the behaviour of candidates in the election, although the returning officer will always advise candidates on how they can comply with the law by referring them to the law and Electoral Commission guidance.

“If any person thinks a candidate is guilty of an election offence, then that matter needs to be referred to the police for investigation. The council or the Returning Officer cannot comment further.”

Why was the inaccurate information published?

Cllr Davies said: “David Foster was the Green candidate in Caversham in the last four elections and there was a reasonable expectation that he would also be their candidate this year.”

He said the leaflet was written before the Greens deselected Mr Foster “for his offensive views”, although Ms Newman was chosen as the candidate more than six months ago, according to the Green Party.

Sally Newman, the Green Party candidate for Caversham wrongly attributed to anti-Covid quotes

Sally Newman, the Green Party candidate for Caversham wrongly attributed to anti-Covid quotes

Cllr Davies added: “We understand that David Foster has been replaced as the Green candidate for Caversham. Of course, we will not therefore attribute any further comments from him to their new candidate.

“It is surely a cause for concern that if the Greens had their way in 2015, 2016, 2018 or 2019, David Foster would now be a councillor - and be advising people not to wear masks.”

The information provided by Cllr White suggests that if Cllr Davies had contacted the Green Party prior to publishing the leaflet they would have been able to confirm Mr Foster was no longer a member of the party and not standing for election.

How have other candidates responded?

Independent candidate Sara Fulbrook said: "I am hugely disappointed that this smear on a fellow candidate was ever published in the first place.

“It is obvious that David Foster was not the current Green Party candidate and that Sally Newman was, as seen in the official lists published on April 9, 2021 before any leaflet was delivered.

“It is clear that under election rules we are required to ensure that any statements published are factually correct.

“I feel that trying to besmirch other candidates by implying they disagree with Government advice is an unacceptable tactic used by Cllr Davies when so many people have suffered as a result of the pandemic.

“I think that honesty, transparency and respect are essential characteristics of those holding public office that have been absent in recent years. It is time for a change.”

READ MORE: Elections 2021: Every Reading Borough Council candidate

The Lib Dems’ candidate Chris ward said: "It's quite clear the Labour party are running out of ideas if they are resorting to attacks like this.

"It's clear Labour are slipping back in Reading and have a fight on their hands to hold onto their existing seats. Either the local Labour party are too lazy to research the areas they wish to represent or are deliberately being misleading."

Ian Binge, the Conservative candidate, added: “It’s highly regrettable that Mr Davies appears to have got his facts so badly wrong and I hope he takes whatever steps are necessary to rectify the situation but, sadly, this is an often all too common problem when the Labour Party attacks its political opponents.

“The people of Caversham deserve far better. They should have politicians who not only act with integrity and honesty but who are also entirely accurate in whatever claims they are making while seeking the trust of voters at the ballot box.”