Voting for a new Britain: Mayor guilty of corruption

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The Independent Online
LABOUR HAS been accused of presiding over "corruption, incompetence and sleaze" in Wales after yet another leading councillor was sentenced for malpractice.

Steven Bartlett, mayor of Blaenau Gwent, was convicted on two charges of false accounting by Newport magistrates at the end of last week and sentenced to 200 hours of community service. He was one of 26 of the 42-strong council questioned by police. Eleven have been charged.

Bernard Assinder, who resigned as leader of Blaenau Gwent last year, has pleaded guilty to a series of charges including a false claim for pounds 287.77 for a trip to Newcastle.

In a dossier passed to The Independent, the Liberal Democrats draw attention to a series of allegations against Labour councillors involving corruption and incompetence.

Mike German, leader of the Welsh party, said the scandals had arisen because large parts of Wales had become mini one-party states.

Vale of Glamorgan councillor Sean Stringer faces charges of false accounting while Merthyr Tydfil local authority is being investigated by the fraud squad over a land deal.

Mr German said: "Labour has lost its right to rule in Wales. Labour council services and standards are of a very low order. Labour takes its monopolistic role in the council chamber for granted. And it takes the people it is meant to serve for granted. The result is corruption, incompetence and sleaze."

In Cardiff the three opposition parties have joined forces to condemn Labour's stewardship of the county council, accusing the party of being "arrogant and ignorant".

The Conservative Bow Group has added the charge of "financial irresponsibility" for the level of councillors' allowances and its spending on overseas trips.

Richard Ottaway, Conservative MP and the party's local government vice- chairman, claims to have come across 250 stories of "sleaze, incompetence, financial irresponsibility and criminal activity" in both Labour and Liberal Democrat councils across the UK. He said it was a scandal of "breathtaking dimensions".