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Election heat rises as Uttoxeter candidates row over Royal Mail sale

By UttoxeterPostandTimes.3522974.UttoxeterPostandTimes  |  Posted: April 05, 2014

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UTTOXETER’S parliamentary candidates have broken into a fierce row over the ‘fire sale’ of Royal Mail as the 2015 general election race intensifies.

A scathing report from the National Audit Office this week stated the coalition had undervalued Royal Mail’s share sale - costing tax-payers £750 million in just one day.

Uttoxeter’s Labour candidate, Jon Wheale (pictured), has claimed the coalition’s Tory bosses were ‘only out for their own’.

But his opponent, Uttoxeter’s Tory MP, Andrew Griffiths, has defended the sale and accused Labour detractors of ‘hypocrisy’.

Mr Wheale said: “The government’s wilful disregard of the concerns of those many people living in Burton and Uttoxeter who value the post office shows again that Tories in Westminster are only out for their own.

“Cameron, Osborne and their millionaires club are selling off a national asset. They appear desperate to sell, sell, sell. And not to listen.

“I join the calls made by the Countryside Alliance and others in saying this poses a risk to the way of life of many living in both the towns and the villages. The Tory-led Government should listen and think again.”

Royal Mail shares have risen in value by more than 70 per cent since their original stock market price was set at 330p per share in October.

The audit office said an extra £750m could have been made if the government had priced the sale at the first day closing price of 455p.

However, Mr Griffiths said the sale had generated billions and allowed Westminster to invest in postal services.

He said: “This is a bit rich from the Labour party, who saw Gordon Brown sell off billions of pounds in gold resources at a rock bottom price, costing every resident in the UK a fortune.

“The sale of Royal Mail has generated billions of pounds and has allowed new investment into the service to ensure an imporved daily service and new equipment.”

With little more than a year until the 2015 general election, competition for votes between Mr Griffiths and Mr Wheale has intensified.

Last week, the candidates clashed on the state of Uttoxeter’s economy after inflation fell to a four-year low of 1.7 per cent.

Mr Griffiths said he was seeing ‘strong signs’ of recovery and predicted increased footfall in the town centre.

But Mr Wheale said the lower interest rate was having no ‘tangible effect’ on people in and around town and cited a recent rise in unemployment.

Business secretary Vince Cable was grilled in parliament earlier this week, when shadow business secretary Chuka Umana demanded he apologise for selling Royal Mail shares at an ‘unnacceptably-low price’.

Amyas Morse, head of the audit office, said: “The department was very keen to achieve its objective of selling Royal Mail, and was successful in getting the company listed on the FTSE 100. Its approach, however, was marked by deep caution, the price of which was borne by the taxpayer.”

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