A district council has been accused of launching a “political attack” on the deputy opposition leader.

The Kidlington East councillor Ian Middleton has been extremely critical of Cherwell District Council’s acquisition of Castle Quay shopping centre in Banbury.

The council initially owned a 15 per cent share of the centre but paid around £58m for the remaining portion in 2018.

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Since this purchase, Mr Middleton, a business journalist and retail analyst, has publicly hit out against the council for making the purchase and has brought to light details in their annual financial statements which revealed the shopping centre is worth £21.6m- which is less than a third of what the council paid three years ago.

Recently, Cherwell District Council said Mr Middleton “ignores or misrepresents” information relating to Castle Quay and the councillor told the Oxford Mail he has since submitted a complaint to the council's monitoring officer.

He explained: “It seems irregular for a council communications team to be making these sorts of suggestions.

“If it was a council member then this would be different and, in the cut and thrust of the political discourse.”

“For the council to accuse me, that accusation is defamatory and I’m not in a position to sue them for defamation.”

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In the statement the council released which Mr Middleton takes issue with, a Cherwell District Council spokesman said: “Officers have been in contact with councillor Middleton regarding Castle Quay for over a year and have been providing him with regular, detailed and transparent communications.

“We are therefore disappointed that he continues to present a narrative which ignores or misrepresents factual information that has been shared with him.”

Mr Middleton said his reputation has been damaged since the council very publicly attacked him and he has called out the council for suggesting they always planned Castle Quay to be a “regeneration project”.

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He said: “They constantly put this narrative out that they brought it not as an investment but as a regeneration project.

“They have previously said it was brought as an investment and will contribute to council finances so they can’t claim this was misrepresentation either.”

Last month, Mr Middleton said the financial fallout from the council buying the shopping centre had been “simply staggering” and he has argued they constantly use “the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis” as “excuses” for why the centre has not been a success.

Mr Middleton said he remains confused as to why “cooler heads in the council didn’t prevail when retail was struggling across the country”.

He also explained that he was not surprised the centre was losing value, as they have “done nothing to re-generate it”.

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Mr Middleton said the council should pay greater attention to the fact that “lots of shops are shutting up in Banbury” and the “rest of the town is dying on its feet”.

Writing to the monitoring officer with his complaint, Mr Middleton has said the council’s statement about him was “at best misleading and at worst potentially defamatory”.

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Mr Middleton has told the monitoring officer he would like the Cherwell District Council’s statement to be “retracted immediately” and for a “written apology” to be issued.

A spokesman for Cherwell District Council said: “The council did invest in Castle Quay and this was an investment in the regeneration of the town and not a commercial property investment.

“The council report dated December 2017, on which members took this decision clearly stated: ‘It is really important to set the context of this acquisition.

“The primary focus for the Council is delivering a prosperous and vibrant town centre for the residents and visitors to the town’.

“Whilst regenerating Banbury has been and remains at the heart of the council’s plans for Castle Quay it has also managed to deliver an overall surplus after covering its interest costs since its acquisition of around £3.0m, in addition to retaining and creating many jobs and attracting significant inward investment.

“And there is so much more it can offer in regenerating the town and surrounding areas.”