Senior Sandwell councillors resign over land sale claim
The deputy leader of Sandwell Council and another senior cabinet member have resigned their top level posts over allegations relating to the sell-off of buildings.
Deputy leader Mahboob Hussain and Ian Jones, cabinet member for jobs and economy, have both stood down from their posts after fresh allegations came to light concerning the sale of some old public toilets.
They remain councillors but have voluntarily taken 'administrative suspension' from Labour. They strenuously deny any wrongdoing.
Councillor Hussain has been the subject of a police investigation since October over 'irregularities' concerning the sale of council land to his son.
The Oldbury councillor has previously only stood aside from his role chairing the council's asset management and land disposal committee, but remained deputy leader until last night.
But it is the first time that Councillor Jones, who represents Tipton Green, has been dragged into the row.
The fresh allegation, details of which have not been disclosed, is understood to have been made internally at the council and is not part of the police investigation.
It claims normal processes and procedures were not followed 'in relation to the sale of some redundant public toilets'. The toilets concerned are understood to be Albert Street, Oldbury, Jervoise Lane in Stone Cross and The Shambles in Wednesbury.
Councillor Hussain has also faced questions over the sale of the old Smethwick coroner's office in Crocketts Lane to his son Azeem Hafeez.
The asset land and disposal committee had approved officers' recommendations to sell the office.
Councillors Hussain and Jones said they believed that it was in the best interests of Sandwell that they stand aside as cabinet members 'so that the matter can be thoroughly and impartially investigated'.
Council leader, Councillor Darren Cooper, said: "Both Councillor Hussain and Councillor Jones have done the right thing over standing down. They both want a clean break from front-line politics so that they can focus all their effort on clearing their names and setting the record straight."
In a statement, the Labour party said both men 'strenuously deny any impropriety and have vowed to co-operate fully with any inquiry. At the same time they have made a voluntary request to be placed on administrative suspension by the Labour party'.
West Midlands Police spokesman Catherine Hickman said: "Police received an allegation of irregularities regarding the sale of former council properties in September 2014 and an investigation was launched.
"This investigation continues. No arrests have been made at this time."
Last September Councillor Hussain apologised after it was revealed he had failed to declare a business interest in Five Star Taxis, which was awarded contracts by Sandwell Council.