Council `jobs for boys' inquiry begins

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An inquiry into allegations of "jobs for the boys" on a Scottish council has heard that for 17 years councillors decided all staff appointments, from junior typists to top officials.

The inquiry, into alleged nepotism at Monklands District Council in Strathclyde, began yesterday at the council's headquarters in Coatbridge.

Maurice Hart, 51, the council's chief executive said that "all hell broke loose" during acrimonious district elections in May 1992, and allegations were made on all sides.

National coverage of the claims coincided with the election of the local MP for Monklands, John Smith, as leader of the Labour Party.

The independent inquiry, ordered by the Government, is being conducted by Mr William Nimmo Smith QC.

Mr Hart, who was first to give evidence, said that a staffing rota committee consisting of the whole council took turns to decide who got council jobs.

Six councillors at a time acted on the committee, which decided jobs from the lowliest typist to the appointment of senior officials.

The system was criticised by auditors on grounds of cost in 1990 and afterwards the number of councillors involved was reduced to two, who were advised by two or more council officials.

Mr Hart said he had only once received a letter of complaint about council appointments and that was from the mother of one young applicant complaining that her daughter had not received a typing test. There were no complaints of religious bias or nepotism.

Mr Nimmo Smith QC, said: "No-one is suggesting that you are lacking in integrity but many suggest that you are a weak person and that councillors were able to get away with these things because you didn't take a strong enough line."