No new names in `vote-rigging' case

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JAMES CUSICK

Tory councillors and officials facing pounds 21.25m in surcharges over the Westminster "homes for votes" scandal have been given the first broad hint they may not be given a reprieve when the final report on the matter is delivered in September.

The hint that the Tory councillors and officials, including Dame Shirley Porter, may have to take their case to the High Court and beyond, was given yesterday by the district auditor, John Magill. Mr Magill, who is investigating the city council's allegedly illegal gerrymandering policies, announced yesterday he would not be adding a further five councillors and officials to the original 10 held responsible for the "designated sales" policy.

Since his provisional report in January 1993 , Mr Magill has investigated the potential involvement of five others: Councillor Alex Segal, Ken Hackney, deputy director of housing, Sydney Sporle, director of planning, Miles Young, former council leader, and Matthew Ives, former city solicitor. Yesterday Mr Magill, from the accountants Touche Ross, said he would not be inviting any of the additional five "to respond to a prima facie case that they were responsible for incurring or authorising unlawful expenditure or that they were guilty of wilful misconduct causing loss or deficiency".

However, what will cause concern to Dame Shirley and her co-accused is Mr Magill's hint that he intends to remain faithful to areas of his original findings.

In his formal statement yesterday he said he had written to all parties "that I am not persuaded that, on the material before me, I should depart from my provisional findings and views in respect of the Additional Respondents (the five)."

Reacting to Mr Magill's decision, the deputy leader of Westminster's Labour group, Peter Bradley, said: "Given that we have the utmost confidence in his impartiality, professionalism and thoroughness, we have to accept his decision."

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