A ROW over “gutter” politics in Southend has escalated with police and election officials called in to sort it out.

Tory councillor Tony Cox called police claiming an opposition leaflet being posted around a neighbourhood amounted to harassment or “malicious communications” before attempting to draw up a “legal warning” which only police can issue.

Independent agent David Allen, who made the original leaflet, has since made a formal complaint to Southend Council about Mr Cox – a ward councillor for West Shoebury.

The original leaflet contained a series of claims about Tory policies on Southend Council and how West Shoebury councillors have voted in recent years.

Mr Allen said: “I had the leaflets printed on behalf of a candidate.

“When I received that letter from him, my blood pressure went through the roof and my wife started crying.

“In it, he said I had broken the law by getting this leaflet printed and threatened me with police action.

“I’m not even standing in the election and it’s because of bullying tactics like this.

“It has caused unbearable alarm and distress to me and my family.”

Essex Police confirmed the criminal complaint has been dismissed.

A spokesman said: “We received a report of malicious communications and carried out an investigation.

“We are satisfied no criminal offences have been committed.”

A letter was also sent to councillor Cox warning him that only police can issue protection from harassment notices and if he were to do so it could hinder the police.

Mr Cox delivered the “legal warning” and as a result a complaint was made against him.

A spokesman for Southend Council said: “The council has a members’ code of conduct in place.

“We have received a complaint about Councillor Cox and we are following our procedures.”

However Mr Cox has defended his behaviour and claimed he acted properly.

Speaking about the original leaflet he said: “The leaflet was knowingly put together with untruths. If someone does that they could be guilty under the Malicious Communications Act.

“I was annoyed that people were putting untruths out about me.

“It caused me a great deal of distress.

“I’ve risen above these kinds of tactics for years and it’s time they have to be confronted with it.

“This is what happens when you play with matches – you get your fingers burnt.

“I sought legal advice and I acted on that.”

In a formal response to the complaint he added: “It is essential that if you would need to take any civil remedy under the Prevention of Harassment Act, a cease and desist notice is served. Highlighting such behaviour and asking them to stop, in law, does not make you a harasser.

“Unlike my letter which clearly identifies who it is from, this leaflet does not and I do not personally conduct my business from the gutter.”

Mr Cox, who is standing in the May elections, said he was “not worried at all” about a potential investigation or the impact it could have on his re-election adding “the people will decide and on the candidates’ own merits”.