Council corruption claims go to auditor

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Indy Politics
MORE allegations of gerrymandering in the Conservative flagship borough of Westminster, broadcast in a controversially delayed BBC Panorama programme last night, are to be put to the district auditor in the next few days.

'The Price of Power', orginally pencilled in for 25 April, just days before the local government elections, was postponed after senior news and current affairs executives claimed serious legal problems still had to be resolved. The BBC denied Labour Party allegations that the Government had applied improper pressure to have the programme postponed.

The programme was made by the same team which exposed the 'homes for votes' scandal in 1989 that led to an inquiry by John Magill, the district auditor. This concluded that there had been an 'improper and disgraceful' policy in Westminster of selling council properties to likely Tory voters in marginal wards. Five former or current Tory councillors and four officials are facing possible personal surcharges of pounds 21.25m.

Last night's programme alleged that the gerrymandering went far beyond the controversial 'Building Stable Communities' policy and extended to almost every aspect of council policy. Up to pounds 55m of public money could have been diverted to help the Tories.

After the 5 May election there were 45 Tories and 15 Labour members on Westminster Council. Between 1986 and 1990 there were 32 Tories, one independent and 27 Labour members.