Labour targets town hall sleaze

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The Independent Online
A CRACKDOWN on town hall corruption was announced yesterday by the local government minister, Hilary Armstrong, as part of a drive by the Government to rid Labour of sleaze allegations in local authorities, writes Colin Brown.

The Home Office is considering introducing a new criminal offence of misusing public office to replace the powers of surcharging which councillors can face it they break the rules.

A new standards board will be appointed to investigate serious breaches of the codes of practice which are to be introduced for all local councils, banning gifts or hospitality that "might reasonably be thought to influence" their judgement.

The Government has been embarrassed by a series of scandals involving Labour-controlled councils, including Doncaster and Hull, and ministers are determined to get to grips with the allegations of corruption.

Ms Armstrong published a consultation document implementing recommendations by the Nolan Committee on Standards, but it was clear last night that the Government intends to go ahead with many of the plans. They include proposals for all councils to establish committees on standards to deal with minor breaches of the codes.

Poor behaviour and corruption, Ms Armstrong said, weakens public confidence in local government.

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