Labour council with £2.8m hole in its finances ‘found £300,000 to silence blogger’

A penniless Labour council with a £2.8million hole in its budget set aside £300,000 to silence a blogger who was highly critical of its work.

Sandwell council, near Birmingham, had admitted to setting taxpayers’ money aside to pursue blogger Julian Saunders, 62.

The former solicitor’s blog, Sandwell Skidder, that features claims about the council has been viewed 1.9million times.   

Mr Saunders, who also ran a coach tour of the borough charging £3 to point out landmarks he claimed where council wrongdoing had gone on, which included the town hall.

Former solicitor Julian Saunders was the subject of a £300,000 fund set up by Sandwell council in a bid to remove allegations he shared on his blog, the Sandwell Skidder

Former solicitor Julian Saunders was the subject of a £300,000 fund set up by Sandwell council in a bid to remove allegations he shared on his blog, the Sandwell Skidder

Former solicitor Julian Saunders was the subject of a £300,000 fund set up by Sandwell council in a bid to remove allegations he shared on his blog, the Sandwell Skidder

Last year the former leader of the council Steve Eling, tried to have Mr Saunders arrested, The Times reported. 

Mr Eling, who resigned in 2019 after he was suspended from the Labour party, complained to police about the blog, but was told to stop wasting police time.  

Mr Saunders told The Times he has been locked in a legal battle with the council as he tries to gain access to internal documents that discussed him.

He believes the council has a fund codenamed Time to Stop which created ‘with a view to shutting him up’.

The local authority, which has seen four leaders in the last two years, has now admitted it set aside £300,000 in its budget to ‘potentially pursue litigation,’ against the blogger.

It would not state exactly how much of that budget had been spent – but at least £50,000 was used on barrister fees and external counsel. 

Steve Eling, the former leader of Sandwell council, tried to get the blogger arrested, but was told to stop wasting police time. Mr Eling resigned from the council in February 2019 after he was suspended from the Labour party

Steve Eling, the former leader of Sandwell council, tried to get the blogger arrested, but was told to stop wasting police time. Mr Eling resigned from the council in February 2019 after he was suspended from the Labour party

Steve Eling, the former leader of Sandwell council, tried to get the blogger arrested, but was told to stop wasting police time. Mr Eling resigned from the council in February 2019 after he was suspended from the Labour party

It refused to state when the fund was set up or who approved it.

The council said the fund related to the duty of care to its employees and would not comment further.

West Bromwich East’s Conservative MP said it was a waste of taxpayers’ money, a point Mr Saunders agreed with.

He said: ‘The fact that a Labour council in a very deprived borough can allocate such a huge sum of taxpayers’ money to pursue this vendetta is truly shocking and requires immediate investigation by the proper authorities.’ 

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