Secrecy remains on flats report

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THE District Auditor has decided not to publish in full a report on allegations that Westminster City Council sold council homes to people who would vote Tory, and bring election victory in 1990.

The auditor has spent four years investigating claims that the council spent millions of pounds of public money to ensure marginal seats were kept in Tory control. The allegation was that council flats in eight marginal wards in the City were sold to Tory supporters.

John Magill, a senior partner of the chartered accountants Touche Ross, and the appointed auditor of Westminster council, will publish his report tomorrow. But it now emerges that he will not publish the full 500-page report, nor will he respond to questions. He will merely give a summary of his 'provisional findings' and outline his next steps.

It is understood that these steps could include the possibility of criminal charges being considered for some people named in the full report.

Jack Straw, Labour's environment spokesman, last night attacked the decision. 'The public have a right to know just as they had a right to know about Lambeth, or Liverpool. This decision is absurd, and it won't hold. The public have a right to know how their money has been spent in Westminster,' he said.

Westminster council has made a plea to the District Auditor to find some way of making the report public.

Simon Milton, deputy leader of the Tory-controlled council, said: 'We are amazed that only days before the publication of the report they now say they are not going to release all the documents.' He said that there had been plans to take delivery of thousands of copies of the final report.

However, the full report is not being made public because it may prejudice future judicial proceedings. A spokesman for the District Auditor said that each member of Westminster council would get a copy of the report, and many would be available for officers.