Labour under fire over junketing

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The Independent Online
The Tories went on the offensive yesterday, attacking Labour over the revelations of junketing by Labour councillors in Doncaster and suggesting that it was typical of waste by the party in local government.

The Independent revealed yesterday that members of Doncaster's ruling Labour group had been on expensive foreign trips and taken drunken "working lunches" costing pounds 50 per head.

The Conservative party chairman, Brian Mawhinney said: "Doncaster Labour councillors represent new Labour Party in power. The rest of the country should learn the lesson. It's not what Labour leaders say, its what Labour politicians do when they are in power that represents the danger to this country."

The Tories tried to widen the attack by pointing out that Labour councils have increased the amount of taxpayers' money they give to councillors and allowances have gone up in areas controlled by Labour or the Liberal Democrats. They said Cardiff council had even set up a working party to examine whether councillors should receive redundancy pay if voted out of office.

Labour played down the affair, merely calling for a copy of the report from the district auditor containing many of the criticisms. A spokesman for the party's North and Yorkshire office said: "Once we have gone through the report, we shall then be recommending action to be taken in relation to these councillors involved."

The party was also dithering over the selection process for the Don Valley constituency, with Tony Sellars emerging as the local favourite. Mr Sellars, chairman of the Doncaster Labour group, has won the first two nominations by local ward parties for the seat which is vacant because of the death last month of the sitting MP, Martin Redmond. The Independent yesterday said Mr Sellars had been one of a number of councillors who had taken trips abroad on council taxpayers' money and that the district auditor was concerned about lack of proper authorisation for the trips.

While publicly the party cannot rule out Mr Sellars' candidature, it is unlikely he will be placed on the final shortlist drawn up next week by the National Executive Committee. The Independent has learned that Labour Party HQ is planning to block the candidature of any councillors who have been on unauthorised foreign trips.

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