Smith urged to act over Monklands 'corruption': Council worker's sacking 'was political'

A SENIOR Tory yesterday called on John Smith, the Labour leader, to act on allegations of political corruption in his Monklands constituency after an industrial tribunal ruled that there had been political interference in a decision to sack a local party member.

Sir Michael Hirst, chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party, accused Mr Smith of turning a blind eye to evidence of wrong-doing and said his 'lack of action' would 'come back to haunt him'.

For two years Monklands, 10 miles east of Glasgow, has been at the centre of a bitter local government row. Labour leaders of Monklands District Council, dubbed the 'Monklands Mafia', have failed to refute allegations of corruption, nepotism and sectarianism.

In a written judgement delivered this week, an industrial tribunal in Glasgow ruled that a former council depot supervisor had been unfairly dismissed in July 1992. Thomas McFarlane claimed he was sacked because he challenged top Labour officials.

The tribunal was told a tape-

recording of a conversation in which James Dempsey, director of leisure and recreation, said the decision to dismiss Mr McFarlane, which was made by three councillors, including Jim Brooks, the council leader, in a 'corridor meeting', was 'totally embarrassing'. No minutes of the meeting could be found.

On the tape Mr Dempsey said: 'This man McFarlane . . .it's going to be a nasty one. I'll have to go to a tribunal. No way you could sit on a tribunal and tell a pack of lies. I expect that I'll be embarrassed.'

The tribunal ruled that the decision to dismiss Mr McFarlane had not been ratified by the full council. A decision to change references to his redundancy to 'early retirement' in an official report was 'politically motivated'.

Sir Michael urged Mr Smith to 'clean up' his constituency. 'What more has to happen before John Smith acts on the allegations relating to his party's behaviour in Monklands?' he said.

Mr McFarlane said he went to see Mr Smith after he was sacked but was told he was unable to help. Sir Michael said: 'In the light of this (tribunal) decision, Mr Smith must surely regret his lack of action.'

Mr McFarlane said yesterday he was 'delighted' and would be seeking compensation and reinstatement. Monklands District Council expressed regret that the tribunal had ruled 'on a technicality'.

The Labour Party said it had been Mr Smith who orginally advised Mr McFarlane to go to the tribunal. Mr Smith was pleased there had been a satisfactory outcome and the council intended to put right those procedures that had been found to be at fault.

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