Council decides against legal action over disgraced former leader's expenses (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Essex County Council decides against legal action over Lord Hanningfield's expenses
Essex County Council will not pursue its former leader Lord Hanningfiled for almost £51,000 it says he owes in potentially fraudulent expenses.
Council leader David Finch has called on the disgraced peer to pay back the money he feels taxpayers are owed, but has decided against legal action.
The sum relates to claims Lord Hanningfield, who was jailed for nine months in 2011 for false accounting in relation to his parliamentary expenses, made on a council credit card while leader of the authority.
A committee, acting on advice from independent legal experts and the council’s external auditors, agreed the cost of pursuing the case would be significant with an uncertain chance of success.
Cllr Finch said: “This about doing the right thing.
"It is about choosing to spend money on providing care, education, and roads, instead of spending it lining the pockets of expensive lawyers.
“I’ve made sure this situation can never happen again and our governance is now second to none.
“But I am still as angry and frustrated about this situation so I am calling again on Lord Hanningfield to do the right thing and repay the money he owes.”
Leader of the Labour group, Julie Young, said legal action should be taken.
She said: “We don’t support the decision to leave it to Lord Hanningfields’s better nature.
“We would prefer the council pursue repayment.
“I think David Finch needs to recognise the strength of feeling in the community about this issue.
“While it might be costly it’s important we are seen to do the right thing.”