Robinson's lawyers criticise `delays' over allegation details

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The Independent Online
NIC CICUTTI

Lawyers acting for Peter Robinson, the Woolwich chief executive forced to resign for alleged financial irregularities, yesterday criticised the building society for failing to provide them with details of his alleged misuse of resources.

DJ Freeman, the London law firm representing Mr Robinson, said it could not understand why there should be a two-week delay before it would receive written details of the allegations against him.

Irene Grieves, a spokeswoman for the firm, said: "One would assume that if he committed a series of improprieties so serious that they led to his resignation, they would already be in writing.

"It is hard to understand why the report supposedly compiled by the Woolwich's internal auditors is not being made available to us."

Mr Robinson, 54, was ousted by the society a week ago, barely three months after taking up his post as chief executive, after working at the Woolwich for about 32 years.

His departure comes as the society prepares for a pounds 3bn stock market flotation in August next year. More than 3.5 million savers are hoping to receive free shares worth about pounds 800 each from the planned flotation.

Mr Robinson resignation followed allegations that he misused society resources, including having decorating and gardening work carried out at his pounds 450,000 home in the village of Brasted in Kent.

He was also alleged to have authorised the use of a Range Rover for his family, plus other, so far unexplained, financial irregularities.

Mr Robinson has steadfastly denied the allegations, claiming that he was the victim of a concerted smear attack masterminded by a "war office" at the society.

He blames disgruntled staff at Woolwich after he was forced to make a series of redundancies within the group, and is claiming compensation worth pounds 600,000 for the sudden end to his two-year contract.

A society spokesman said yesterday: "Our lawyers are talking with Mr Robinson's and at the moment we have nothing more to add."

Meanwhile, the society yesterday denied rumours that it has entered into talks with Mike Jackson, chief executive at Birmingham Midshires, as a possible replacement.

National Counties Building Society - which has just one branch - was yesterday forced to close its doors to a flood of investors desperate to open accounts with the society, writes Nic Cicutti.

It follows press reports that should the tiny society, based at Epsom, Surrey, be taken over its members could be in line for payouts worth up to pounds 4,500 each.

John Milton, the society's general manager, said: "We have had very considerable interest and we have temporarily suspended the opening of accounts."

With just 6,500 borrowers and 16,000 savers, National Counties would never have been seen as a likely takeover target - until last week. Ranked the 30th largest society in the UK, it has reserves of more than pounds 70m, which some experts believe would value it at about pounds 125m.

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