Thursday, January 31, 2008

Conservative MP who paid £1.5million to his family to quit

Shamed MP Derek Conway today fell on his sword and announced he would not stand again for the Tories at the next general election.

He bowed to intense pressure to quit and save his party further embarrassment and damage from the row over his payment of hundreds of thousands of pounds of public funds to his wife and two sons.

With the election still an expected two years away, he should earn around £120,000 in salary.

In a statement today, he said: "I have advised the chief whip and the chairman of my local Conservative association that I shall not seek to continue as the Conservative Party Candidate for Old Bexley and Sidcup at the next election.

"Though not an original supporter of David Cameron for the leadership of my party, I believe that he has shown he has both the ability and the character to be Prime Minister of our country and I do not wish my personal circumstances to be a distraction in any way from the real issues that have to be addressed.

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Playing family fortunes: Derek Conway with wife Colette and their sons Henry and Freddie, who were all on his payroll

The Daily Mail revealed that in six years the cost to the taxpayer of Mr Conway and his family was an astonishing £1,535,716.70.

The figures came to light in leaked documents seen by the Daily Mail.

They show that the MP's wife Colette, who works legitimately as his secretary, and their sons have cost £374,401.73 in pay, bonuses and overtime since 2001.

In the same period, Mr Conway himself has received £1.16million in salary and expenses - a figure which does not include his generous parliamentary pension.

Both Mrs Conway and the couple's sons Henry and Freddie - who the MP claimed were parliamentary researchers - received maximum bonuses of 15 per cent on more than one occasion.

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Political rivals have demanded a police inquiry into the way Henry, 25, and 22-year-old Freddie Conway were paid more than £80,000 of public cash for apparently doing little work.

Henry, who once called himself 'Queen Sloane' in an interview with the BBC, threw a party at a Chelsea nightclub last November charmingly titled the "F*** off, I'm Rich" party.

The fact that Freddie was being paid as a researcher by his father while still being a full-time student at Newcastle University first came to light in his entries on the social networking website Facebook.

Freddie posted pictures of his 21st birthday party he held on the terrace of the Commons.

Yesterday Tory leader David Cameron effectively sacked the Old Bexley and Sidcup MP by withdrawing the party whip from him.

Conservative sources made clear there would be no way back for Mr Conway and that he would cease to be an MP at the next General Election.

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A former anti-sleaze watchdog said it was now time for an overhaul of the entire expenses system for MPs - including the way relatives are employed.

Mr Cameron's decisive action was contrasted by Tory insiders to Gordon Brown's "dithering" over Peter Hain's undeclared donations of £103,000 for three weeks before accepting his resignation last week.

Mr Cameron is desperate to distance his party from the sleaze surrounding Labour's funding scandal.

Mr Conway was already facing a ten-day suspension after the Standards and Privileges Committee found him guilty over payments of £50,000 to Freddie, 22.

But a second investigation was triggered over Henry, 25, whose payments of more than £32,000 were revealed in the Mail yesterday.

The scandal lifted the lid on the vast expenses claims made by all 646 MPs. One in ten employs either their spouse or child as a member of staff.

Sir Alistair Graham, ex-chairman of the committee on standards in public life, called for a review of the perks system including family employees and second home allowances, which critics say is abused by a string of MPs including ministers.

He said: "There is an urgent need to clean out the stables. I argued there should be a root and branch review of MPs' expenses and allowances.

"I would hope it would be the next issue the committee on standards would look into."

Mr Conway said it was "understandable, if not inevitable" he was being ousted from the Tory Party.

Mr Cameron had suggested Mr Conway would not be excluded from the parliamentary party following a critical report into Freddie Conway by the Standards and Privileges Committee on Monday.

But Mr Cameron came under pressure to act when Labour backbencher John Mann complained to standards commissioner John Lyon about elder son Henry.

Mr Cameron said: "The usual procedure in these cases is to leave the punishment to the House of Commons authorities.

"However, having asked the Chief Whip to speak again to Mr Conway and having personally reflected overnight, I have decided to withdraw the Conservative whip from Mr Conway."

It is understood the withdrawal of the whip is complete - meaning there is no way back for the MP.

He will sit as an independent but cannot fight the next election on behalf of his Tory association, who will select a new candidate.

Mr Conway's prospective LibDem opponent called for a police investigation into payments to the MP's sons.

Duncan Borrowman said the issue was "important enough, especially in the present climate, to warrant police investigation".

A request for the names and salaries of MPs' relatives who are paid for by the taxpayer to be published was blocked by the Speaker Michael Martin in 2006.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas had been expected to rule there were no legitimate grounds for exempting the names, requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

But Mr Martin claimed such disclosure was likely to "prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs".

Heather Brooke of anti-secrecy group Your Right To Know, which made the FoI request, said: "If MPs are to have any credibility with the public, they must disclose a full breakdown of all their expenses."


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Conservative Councillor not to be investigated

Cllr Abdul Loyes

Cllr Abdul Loyes

A COMPLAINT claiming a Woodley councillor was involved in human trafficking and illegal immigration has been quashed.

Abdul Loyes, a Wokingham borough Tory councillor, had been accused of trying to defraud and compromise an Earley businessman and his company.

The complaint from Rudolph Hodgman claimed Cllr Loyes tried to involve his firm in illegal immigration and human trafficking and falsely obtained loans using his name.

Mr Hodgman, of Loxwood, and owner of a training company called On Site Training Assessment and Certification, registered the complaint against the Tory politician with the Standards Board for England.

In a decision notice, which forms part of the agenda for Wokingham Borough Council’s meeting of the standards committee tonight, the board said it would not investigate the complaint because its core was not related to Cllr Loyes in his official capacity.

Issues about fraud and deception are essentially matters for police to consider and in the circumstances it is considered this may be the most appropriate course of action,” the board’s Lucy Morris said in her report.

“With regards the Code of Conduct, it is noted from the information provided that Cllr Loyes’ alleged conduct appears to have occurred in his private capacity and not while he was acting in an official capacity as a member of the authority.”

She added: “The Standards Board for England has decided that the allegation should not be referred to an ethical standards officer for investigation.”

The Evening Post has asked Reading Police if officers were investigating Cllr Loyes, but spokesman Adam Fisher said there was no record of it.

Cllr Loyes, part owner of the Sardar Palace restaurant in King’s Road, dismissed the allegations as an attempt to damage his family name and said he would be prepared to answer questions from any authority wanting to investigate the matter.

We also contacted Mr Hodgman, who stood by his claims.


Conservative Councillor - Corruption

A city councillor has been charged with corruption after allegedly taking bribes from developers. Jezz Baker will appear before magistrates later this month following an investigation by Hampshire police's Serious and Organised Crime Unit.

The 46-year-old, who represents the Hilsea ward on Portsmouth City Council, stood down from the planning committee after he was arrested last April. He has now been charged with two counts of receiving money and wine for assisting with planning applications.

He is accused of taking £250 and wine on December 20, 2006, and £500 on January 9, 2007.

But Cllr Baker told The News he was innocent.
'This country still believes you're innocent until proven guilty,' he said.
'I'm being accused of accepting bribes, but I'm not on the city council to line my pockets. I'm on the city council to do the right thing for the people of Portsmouth.
'This whole thing should make a lot of people wonder why anyone would want to be on the city council.

'I've spent 10 months so far waiting for the police to make a decision and I still deny the accusation.'

Cllr Baker, of Mulberry Avenue, Cosham, was suspended by the Conservative Party.
remains on the council as an independent and has not yet decided whether to stand for election again in May.

Cllr Steve Wemyss, leader of Portsmouth Conservatives, said: 'It's a sad day for all of us when this sort of thing happens.

'Most people have a low opinion of politicians at the best of times and whether Jezz is innocent or guilty people will just sit and tut to themselves. It's a misconception, but a popular one.

'If he's fighting to clear his name he cannot devote his time to his duties as a member of the Conservative group and while he's presumed innocent until proven guilty, the fact he's been charged is an escalation of this serious process.'

He added: 'If he's found to be innocent he'll no longer be suspended.'

It is not known what planning applications the charges relate to.

Cllr Baker will appear at Aldershot Magistrates' Court on January 31.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Labour - Councillor Fraud

A COUNCILLOR being investigated by police over expenses claims has been suspended from the Labour Party.

The Sunday Mail revealed in 2006 that Tommy Williams was among five Renfrewshire councillors being probed by the fraud squad.

Retired businessman Tom Gatley had discovered Tommy Williams claimed attendance allowances while pocketing a full-time Glasgow council wage.

At the time, Williams claimed he had quit his job as a social worker. But it was only last month that he and his boss were sacked over the matter.

Whistleblower Gatley welcomed Labour's suspension of Williams.

Gatley, from Johnstone, who used freedom of information laws to scrutinise councillors' claims, said: "Labour have finally done the right thing.

"Given the stench around this, it is vital our police and fiscal ensure justice is done."


UPDATE 21.9.08

A POLITICIAN has been charged by the fraud squad over his expenses claims.

Tommy Williams, 55, faces court after a two-year probe.

The Sunday Mail revealed in October 2006 he was one offive Renfrewshire councillors being investigated.

We told how he claimed full-time expenses for six years while having a fulltime job with Glasgow City Council and receiving £8000 a year from a health board.

Williams, of Paisley, claimed he had quit his Glasgow job but he was sacked 14 months later.

The probe was launched after retired businessman Tom Gatley examined expenses via Freedom of Information laws. He said: "At long last the police have taken action. For the sake of taxpayers I hope the case is heard in open court."

Williams, who was suspended from the Labour Party in January, said: "I've no comment."

Strathclyde Police said: "A 55-year-old man is the subject of a report to the procurator fiscal in relation to an alleged fraud."


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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Conservative councillor charged with sex offences

Mark McCarthy

A senior politician has been charged with indecently assaulting a boy.

Mark McCarthy, 36, a member of Worthing Borough Council, will appear at Reading Crown Court on February 12 accused of two counts of indecent assault on a child under 14.

The charges are said to related to incidents between February 27 2002 and December 31 2002.

The independent councillor refused to comment on the matter other than to say they were "malicious allegations".

Coun McCarthy has previously hit the headlines after stumbling out of a London nightclub and draping himself across a car.

He was also banned from the council for one month after appearing drunk at an official ceremony.


Update 27 March 2008

A councillor facing sex charges broke down and wept as colleagues paid tribute to him.

Mark McCarthy is quitting after nine years as a Worthing borough councillor before the May 1 local elections.

Coun McCarthy, 36, who represents Offington as an independent Tory after being expelled by the ruling Conservative group, is to stand trial at Oxford Crown Court on July 2 on two counts of indecent assault on a young boy between February 27 and December 31, 2002.

At the last council meeting before the elections, Coun Reg Green, a senior Tory and fellow Offington ward councillor, said: "I shall be very sad to see Mark go. He has been a very good councillor in my ward, a great stalwart, and assisted me when I was canvassing.

"I have had many compliments from constituents about Mark and what he has done."

His tribute was greeted with applause by both parties, before Lib Dem councillor Hazel Thorpe said: "I think you are very brave to be here today."

Coun McCarthy wept as Mayor Heather Mercer presented him with a book on Worthing before kissing him on the cheek.

Deputy leader Coun Ann Barlow also went to speak quietly to Coun McCarthy before he left the council chamber.

Two long-serving Lib Dem councillors, former mayor Geraldine Lissenburg and John Lovell, are also standing down.

Coun Lissenburg, who represents Broadwater, served for 20 years, and Coun Lovell, of Tarring ward, 17 years.

There were calls for both to be made aldermen but Coun Lovell declined and said: "I think honorary aldermen should be abolished."


UPDATE 3 October 2008

A former councillor has been cleared of sexually assaulting a baby.

But Mark McCarthy was found guilty of intimidating a witness in the case.

A judge put off sentencing the 37-year-old ex-stockbroker but told him he was not likely to be sent to prison.

During his trial the seven women and five men on the jury had been told by prosecutor Alan Blake that McCarthy had indecently assaulted the tiny child on two separate occasions a few weeks apart - the first when his victim was just three months old.

When he learned he was being prosecuted he then phoned the child's mother twice, warning her he had naked photographs of her which he would send to the newspapers if she testified against him.

"You're f***** either way, darling, you really are," he told her.

Today the jury at Oxford Crown Court took four hours and 40 minutes to clear him of indecent assault on a male person.

They had returned a guilty verdict on the lesser charge of witness intimidation with the intention of perverting the course of justice, earlier in the day.

The judge reassured McCarthy, a former Conservative member of Worthing Borough Council, West Sussex, that he would not be sent to jail for his crime.

He urged him to begin addressing his alcohol problem, which was thought to be at the root of the trouble which brought him before the court.

Judge Anthony King also hinted that alcohol abuse treatment was likely to be a central part of any future sentence.

The baby's mother had given evidence that in 2002, on an occasion when McCarthy had been visiting, her son was lying in her bedroom, naked from the waist down, having just been bathed or while having his nappy changed.

The mother, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, alleged McCarthy had been nuzzling the child when he suddenly indecently assaulted it.

As he did this the woman let out a stunned laugh, bringing her daughter into the room and they both looked at each other in shock.

The mother did not report the incident, which was repeated a few weeks later, during another nappy change.

This time the woman said she told McCarthy: "It's wrong. Don't you ever do that again."

According to her he seemed surprised by her reaction. He responded: "I only did it because it made you laugh the first time."

Confused by what had happened, the woman did not report the incident to the authorities but told friends, who urged her to.

It was only when one of the people she had confided in contacted the police that a full criminal investigation was launched.

Prosecutor Mr Blake said after the police became involved and McCarthy was specifically told not to contact the woman, he made his threatening phone call.

"He said he was going to publish the pictures of her in the papers to prove he was not a paedophile," he said.

"He knew perfectly well that she was a witness and those calls were clearly intended to dissuade her from coming to court."

From the start McCarthy maintained his innocence, claiming the allegations were motivated by malice on the part of the baby's mother.

He described the alleged attack as "a perfectly innocent act."

Following the verdicts, Judge King, sitting at Oxford Crown Court, said: "I think there are unusual circumstances in this case and a pre-sentence report would be helpful.

"One of the issues it should address is the abuse of alcohol."

He told McCarthy: "Unless something unusual happens between now and then I don't propose to pass a custodial sentence.

"I am concerned that you have to do something about your alcohol abuse."

He ordered the Probation Service to prepare pre-sentence reports on the defendant, of Offington Drive, Worthing, West Sussex.

McCarthy was told to return to Oxford Crown Court on October 31 to be sentenced.


UPDATE 4/11/2008

A former Tory councillor has been spared jail despite threatening a woman testifying against him in a court case.

Mark McCarthy, a former member of Worthing Borough Council, was given a 20-week jail term, suspended for 12 months, after a jury convicted him of intimidating a witness.

The former stockbroker phoned the woman twice after learning she had claimed he indecently assaulted her baby son.

At Oxford Crown Court, McCarthy, 37, was cleared of any sex attacks but found guilty of intimidation.

The judge considered how to punish McCarthy, who has a serious alcohol problem, after the former councillor wasted a pre-sentence report session with the probation service by turning up drunk.

Full story and Source

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Conservative - Councillor vote rigging

A BIRMINGHAM man voted using the identities of two other people in order to help his cousin win a council seat, it was alleged.

Conservative candidate Altaf Adalat won by just six votes against his Labour opponent in Coventry following the fraud in May 2006, a Birmingham Crown Court jury was told.

Iftikhar Hussain, 31, of Green Lane, Small Heath, Birmingham, has denied two charges of personation by voting in the names of Abdul Khaliq and Mukhtar Hussain.

Jonathan Dunne prosecuting said: "The Conservative party candidate for Coventry City Council in Foleshill ward was the defendant's first cousin."

On two occasions Hussain went to separate polling stations and presented himself as someone else and marked his vote for the Conservative candidate, Mr Dunne claimed.

The court was told that there were four candidates and that Mr Adalat was elected as a city councillor after receiving 1,847 votes, with his Labour opponent on 1,841.

Mr Dunne said there was no dispute that the deception had taken place and said that both the people whose names were used were not present in the UK at the time.

"The question for this court is whether it is the defendant who has cast these votes."

Mr Dunn said the principal evidence against Hussain was that his fingerprints were found on both ballot papers.

Following an investigation, Hussain was arrested and questioned, and claimed he had attended the count in Coventry to support his family.

Hussain said on two occasions when he was there at the count, voting papers had started to spill out over a table and that he had pushed them back from the edge.

Mr Dunne said their was rigorous security at the count and no independent evidence that Hussain had been there.

He said the jury may think it was a 'bit of a coincidence' that Hussain happened to get his fingerprints on ballot papers of voters who were male, Asian and Conservative and also the subject of the fraud.

Mr Dunne told the jury earlier that local elections in most authorities of England and Wales took place on May 4, 2006.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Lib Dem Councillor disability benefit grants

A Birmingham Liberal Democrat who has claimed incapacity benefit for 25 years because he is too ill to work told a court that he wanted to become a city councillor because it would be an easy life.

Saeed Aehmed admitted only ever holding two jobs, between 1972 and 1982, latterly as a machine operator at a milk factory, before poor health caused him to give up work.

But in 2002 he was selected as Labour candidate for Aston ward, before being dropped by the party after failing to give satisfactory answers about four applications for disability benefit grants.

Before 2002 Mr Aehmed had served as Constituency Labour Party organiser and treasurer, branch campaign co-ordinator, had acted as an election sub-agent and had been a board member of Aston Pride.

He told the court he had telephoned his apologies for non attendance when he felt ill.

He stood in the 2002 election as an Independent Labour candidate before joining the Liberal Democrats, for whom he contested the 2004 and 2007 elections.

An election court has been considering a petition brought by Mr Aehmed claiming that he was beaten in the 2007 election following a Labour smear campaign.

The court heard how Mr Aehmed and his wife claimed four disability improvement grants for their house at 91 Bevington Road Aston from the council over a period of more than ten years. The cash paid for a downstairs bathroom and other improvements including central heating.

The application forms listed a range of illnesses, including arthritis, bronchitis, bad legs, severe back pain, asthma, depression and high blood pressure.

At one stage, Mr Aehmed was said to be so ill that he was drifting in and out of consciousness.

Mr Aehmed's wife was also said to be suffering from depression, bad legs and incontinence.

The court heard that Mrs Aehmed, who does not speak English, does not work and has had no formal education, was able to buy a house in Sutton Coldfield in 2006 for £250,000 with the benefit of a £225,000 mortgage from the Northern Rock bank.

When giving evidence to the court, Mr Aehmed said he remained unfit to work, suffering from asthma, back pain and depression. He said he had no source of income other than incapacity benefit.

Gavin Millar QC, representing the Labour Party, put it to Mr Aehmed that the role of a councillor would be a very demanding job in a place like Aston.

The test of incapacity benefit was that someone was too ill to work for a period of at least 28 weeks, Mr Millar said.

Addressing Mr Aehmed, he said: "You are well enough to serve as a Birmingham city councillor but not well enough to work for the purposes of the incapacity benefit test?"

Mr Aehmed said: "Being a councillor is very easy."

Asked to name the enduring disability which rendered him unable to work, Mr Aehmed said he suffered from asthma and back pain.

The court heard how an application for a £7,136 disability improvement grant was submitted in Mr Aehmed's name in 1998. The request for a downstairs bathroom was for his wife, but signed by Mr Aehmed. It was a similar application to a grant application submitted in 1987 in Mr Aehmed's name, but which was only partly approved, Mr Millar said.

Mr Aehmed told the court he knew nothing about the application until contractors arrived to carry out the work. He denied claims by his daughter that he had been consulted about the application. He also denied any knowledge of a third grant application in 1993.

Letters from social workers questioning the extent of Mrs Aehmed's illness were read out in court, including an admission that there was "no clear record" of how a decision to award the grant came to be made. A condition of the grant was that Mrs Aehmed should continue to live in the property for at least five years.

Almost five years to the day after completion of the work, Mrs Aehmed moved to her house in Sutton Coldfield.

Mr Millar told Mr Aehmed: "You have always been worried that these applications don't look very good and you have been trying to distance yourself from them.

"I am putting it to you that you were heavily involved in trying to get money out of the council in 2000, 1999 and 1998 putting forward you wife's disability to get the bathroom extension that you have always wanted."

The case continues.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Conservative - Councillor on Drink Driving Charge

A councillor who has been charged with drink- driving has quit the Tory group on Torbay Council after he admits to being 'stupid'.

But Shiphay councillor Roger Kerslake, who is deputy chairman of the bay's licensing committee, has said he will stay on the council.Mr Kerslake, 64, was detained by police on Friday, December 28, after a car hit a wall in Torquay at 4.15pm.

A BMW hit the surrounding wall of the Inglenook Hotel in Belgrave Road, and police were called to the scene. A search was made for the driver and a man was arrested a short time later.

He was later bailed by police to appear in a Torbay court to face a charge of driving with excess alcohol. If convicted he faces at least a year ban from the road, plus a fine.

Mr Kerslake, who is retired, lives in Shiphay, and was elected to the council in May last year. Until his resignation from the Tory group yesterday he was deputy chairman of the council's licensing committee, and the council's representative on the Devon and Somerset fire authority.

He said: "I have yet to consult a solicitor but I shall be pleading guilty.

"I had been out to a bar for a drink.

"I admit I was the driver, it was my car and I had a breath- test which gave a reading of 77, almost double the legal limit.

"I resigned from the Conservative group as I felt stupid. I have let the group down and I feel I have to show remorse that what I did was the wrong thing to do."

He says at the moment he intends to stay on as a councillor.

"I shall have to wait to see what the court decides," he added.

"It was a stupid incident and I totally regret my actions."

He is due to appear at South Devon Magistrates Court in Torquay on January 17.

Leader of the Conservative Group Cllr Kevin Carroll, who is also Torbay's deputy mayor, said Mr Kerslake has resigned his membership of the party group and so loses all his posts on licensing and the fire authority.

Mr Carroll said: "I believe he is staying on as a councillor.

"He was elected by the people of Shiphay and I don't have the power to remove him as a councillor.

"We, as a group, do not condone this behaviour, but at the same time I believe he feels quite foolish and embarrassed about what was a silly thing to do.

"Unfortunately none of us is perfect and we make mistakes, but as a representative of the people we should be clear about the responsibility of a public position."

Mr Kerslake's resignation from the council Tories means they now have 23 councillors. The Lib-Dems have eight and Independents three, with one independent Lib-Dem and Mr Kerslake as an independent Conservative.