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Ukip Cllrs Gordon Newton and Eddie Powell, who is tipped to stand in the county elections

Ukip’s selections delayed a month

UKIP has postponed selecting its candidate for the super-marginal Maidstone south east county coun- cil division until the end of No- vember. The names of those selected to

fight all the Maidstone seats were meant to have been made by the end of October. ButDownsMail un- derstands that this has been put back for a further month so that the national party can elect anewleader and top table. Maidstone South East is the num-

ber one target seat for Ukip locally, currently held by the Conservative Gary Cooke. The top tip to be chosen to stand against Cllr Cooke is the Ukip bor- ough councillor and Chegworth res- ident Eddie Powell. He said he has yet to make up his mind whether he will stand in the county elections. Cllr Powell helped persuade DownswoodandOthamindepend- ent borough member Gordon New- ton, who carries a huge personal following, to join Ukip. Cllr Powell said: “I haven’t made

up my mind yet. I know there has been a lot of interest from people wanting to stand in all the divisions

and the south east, in particular. “Despite some of the issues we

have faced nationally, Ukip is very strong locally.” Ukip has slumped in the national opinion polls after the leader to suc- ceed Nigel Farage resigned after just 18 days and the favourite to win a subsequent contest ended up in hospital after a scuffle with an- other MEP. A senior local Tory source said:

“It would be a mistake to think that Ukip is a busted flush, not on a local level. Maidstone south east is a winnable seat for them. “But Gary Cooke can rely on a bedrock of goodwill he has built up over years of hard work and commitment to the area.” Cllr Cooke scraped in in 2013

by 283 votes, just in front of Labour. Ukip is confident it can steal both Tory and Labour sup- porters. By contrast, Cllr Cooke’s neigh-

bour and Tory ally Jenny Whittle, who leaves KCC next year, enjoys a majority of 2,225 in Maidstone rural east. That seat will be fought by Shellina Prendergast for the Conservatives.

Carer stole cheques to gamble

A GAMBLING addict has been jailed after he stole cheques from vulnerable pensioners and paid them into his own bank account to fund his betting habit. Mihai Robu removed

blank cheques from the bedrooms of two men, aged 89 and 92, he was employed to look after and then wrote them out to himself. Robu, 29, formerly of Gabriels Hill, Maidstone, stole more than £25,000 between 2015 and 2016. He was arrested by Kent Police in April this year, after concerns were raised by relatives of the victims. Robu admitted the thefts and told officers he had a gambling addiction and stole the money to fund this habit. Mobile phone records revealed photos of the stolen cheques along

with images of his victims’ bank cards. Robu pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and two counts of fraud by abuse of position. He was sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment atMaidstone Crown Court.

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