A PARISH council by-election has become mired in a debate about fair play.

The election for a seat on Charlton-on-Otmoor Parish Council has two candidates vying for the role.

One of them, Christopher Harris, thinks there is a potential conflict of interest because his rival, John Hudson, is the nephew of the parish council’s current chairman, as well as being the chairman of the local football club.

But Mr Hudson has denied the claims and is backed up by the officials responsible for running local elections.

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Mr Harris said: “They don’t understand or accept there is a massive conflict of interest there.”

Mr Harris, who regularly attends the council meetings as an observer and previously stood for the council in 2018, wants to see changes to the way the council manages the village playing field and football pavilion.

He said the council charges no rent to the football club, which regularly uses the ground and pavilion, and he would like the pavilion to be open to bookings from community groups.

Mr Harris said even a peppercorn rent should be considered in the future, whereas current council members are happy for the club to not pay any rent for the council-owned building.

He said he felt his rival had only stood as a means of denying him a chance to propose these changes as a councillor.

But John Hudson said his reasons for standing had ‘no reason whatsoever’ to do with Mr Harris’ ideas.

Mr Hudson said: “I’m the chairman of the club and I have the club’s interests at heart. But this has nothing to do with the football club. It is about my interest in the village.”

Mr Hudson said he had been involved in other parts of village life over the years, including raising money for charity, and standing for council was a continuation of this.

He described the arrangement between the council and the football club for use of the pavilion as a lease, and said it is available for hire by contacting the club.

Mr Hudson said the football club carried out maintenance work around the playing field and pavilion for free, including cutting the grass and hedges, and repairing the car park.

Without the club, he said the costs of the work would fall on the parish council’s purse.

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Bryn Walker, council chairman and uncle of Mr Hudson, said family members sitting together on parish councils was unavoidable.

He added: “If you have a look at Kidlington parish council there is a husband and wife and that is not unusual, to have relatives who are on the same council.”

Mr Walker added the football pavilion had a long history before coming into council ownership, as it was built by the village’s footballers and cricketers in the 1970s.

A Cherwell District Council spokesperson said: “We have received and accepted valid nominations from Mr Hudson and the other candidate standing for the Charlton-on-Otmoor Parish Council. “The interests mentioned would not preclude a candidate standing in the election. If elected then councillors will need to declare appropriate interests when conducting council business.”

A spokesperson for the Oxfordshire Association of Local Councils said the body was not aware of the details of the arrangement that Charlton on Otmoor Parish Council may have with the football club.

But they added: “If a parish council is the owner of a playing field or a pavilion, the council can enter into an arrangement with any suitable and properly constituted group for them to rent the facility from the council.”

“The council would need to ensure itself that the arrangement entered into represented value for money for the community.

“Although it is possible for the council to decide that, for example, a peppercorn or lower rent is acceptable to it perhaps because there are few/no other uses or users. It is for the council to decide what arrangement is best for the community as a whole.

“The council needs to be mindful of its assets and to manage them appropriately.”

The Charlton-on-Otmoor by-election is due to take place this Thursday, January 23.