Scandal: Sorry history of corruption in local government

Political corruption has been a recurring feature of local government. Alexandra Williams and Nathalie Dal Molin chart scandals from before the Second World War to the Westminster gerrymandering case in the headlines today.

The award of public contracts for gain, nepotism, or political favours by local party bosses has long been the hallmark of corrupt local authority politicians and officials, notably so in the Sixties heyday of the architect John Poulson and the Newcastle council leader T. Dan Smith. The evil of council profligacy flourishes in councils where the opposition is non- existent, or too weak to provide any kind of restraining force.

In spring 1985, Labour-run Liverpool council refused to set a legal budget. Derek Hatton, the deputy leader, was the key player in a game of brinkmanship against the Tory government. He was later charged with conspiring to defraud the council, but was acquitted. The prosecution alleged the council had been defrauded when licences were issued to John Monk, Mr Hatton's co- defendant, for use of two council-owned derelict sites as temporary car parks.

Councillors in Clay Cross, Derbyshire defied the Heath government in the 1970s, refusing to increase council house rents. The battle raged for two years. The rebels were heftily surcharged and declared bankrupt in 1975.

In September 1995, Labour councillors in Monklands, Lanarkshire, were suspended by Tony Blair after they were criticised in a report for nepotism and overspending. There were claims that a Catholic mafia on the council had been giving jobs to relatives.

But few scandals have been as damaging as that revealed by an independent report in May 1995 into Islington council, in north London. An investigation found that policies favouring gays and ethnic minorities had helped paedophiles, pimps and drug dealers to victimise children in council care.

Allegations of racism have also led to sackings in councils such as Hackney and Tower Hamlets, which was accused of ethnically biased housing policies.

In April 1994, a report revealed the massive debts run up by big-spending councils. The 20 deepest in the red owed nearly pounds 13bn between them. Manchester topped the debt-rate table at pounds 1.3bn, followed by Birmingham at pounds 1.2bn.

Patrick Dunleavy, a professor of politics at the London School of Economics, said: "Nowadays there's not the large-scale systematic corruption of the 1960s because local authorities are not spending so much It's fantastically easy to corrupt in a local authority without doing anything illegal by carrying out the kind of corruption that's impervious to legal inspection like triadic relationships. You have to be pretty stupid to be caught. "The Porter case is a very specific feature of a rancorous political period in the London boroughs."

But homes-for-votes scandals have a long history. Before the last war, Labour's Herbert Morrison ran the London County Council and packed areas with sympathetic voters through his housing policy.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas