POLICE are investigating the theft of Ukip election signs in Castle Point as the battle of the boards continues.

The anti-EU party accused a senior Tory’s employees of removing its placards from an empty house in London Road, Benfleet.

Norman Smith, Castle Point councillor responsible for waste and business, has hit back saying his workmen were only replacing Conservative signs taken down by Ukip.

Castle Point Council is also investigating.

The tit-for-tat, which some claim is wasting police and council officers’ time, comes as boards advertising Conservative parliamentary candidate for Castle Point Rebecca Harris were ripped down or daubed with insults.

Police have dropped an investigation into Conservative councillor Simon Hart, who admitted removing a Ukip sign from land in Essex Way, Benfleet.

But a new probe has been launched after a number of witnesses reporting seeing three people in a UK Shelving van removing and cutting up Ukip signs in Benfleet Road.

Mr Smith, who owns UK Shelving, claims someone working for the property owner had already removed the Ukip signs and his men were only putting up Tory boards.

The Boyce councillor said: “I didn’t remove them, none of my staff removed boards.

“I knowwho removed them and I know they had the landowner’s permission. We were there in my vehicle to put up signs.”

Huge numbers of election signs have sprung up across the hotlycontested constituency.

The Echo revealed last week Castle Point Council is having to spend so much time and money removing signs from highways, lampposts and other public land across the borough it has threatened to confiscate them and slap parties with fines of up to £90 per placard.

Colin Maclean, deputy chairman of Castle Point Conservative Association, said: “We have had lots and lots of signs vandalised.

“It’s bad language, including four-letter expletives, in black paint on boards in EssexWay and Benfleet High Road.

“Tempers are frayed and the election is upon us. There is no inference that this is other political parties – it’s just idiots.”

James Parkin, campaign manager for Ukip candidate Jamie Huntman, said: “The persistent removal and defacement of our signs by the Tories will not distract us from our positive campaign to deliver real change.

“It’s time the people of Castle Point were heard in Westminster.”

A police spokeswoman said: “Police are investigating the theft of signs from an address in London Road, Benfleet.

“They were taken at about 10.15am on Thursday, April 30.

“Police have received a report on Wednesday, April 22, that a sign had been removed from Essex Way, Benfleet. Officers investigated and found no crime had been committed.”

Labour’s Joe Cooke, the Green Party’s Dom Ellis and Lib Dem Sereena Davey are also standing in the election.