Express & Star

Sandwell councillor must pay £55k after failed legal bid

Mahboob Hussain has been ordered to pay £55,000 legal costs to Sandwell Council over his failed bid to quash the publication of a damning report.

Councillor Mahboob Hussain

The authority's former deputy leader has also been told by a judge that he has no grounds to appeal the High Court decision that the council was within its rights to publish the Wragge report, which accused him of a series of code of conduct breaches.

The Labour councillor for Oldbury is due to face a standards committee hearing in the coming weeks to answer claims that he abused his lofty cabinet position to the benefit of his family and friends.

The Wragge report, which the council released in May 2016, alleged Mr Hussain procured the sale of council land to family and friends at below market value, and had parking tickets issued to family members written off.

He lodged a judicial review against the decision to publish the report on the grounds that it had violated his and his family’s human rights.

But it was thrown out by the High Court last week, with Mr Justice Green ruling that there was ‘a powerful public interest’ in a 'thorough and fair' investigation.

The court order states that Mr Hussain must pay Sandwell Council's costs of £55,000. The judge refused permission to appeal, saying that Mr Hussain would have 'a full and fair chance' to put his case to the standards committee.

Mr Hussain, who has always denied any wrongdoing, could still seek permission to appeal through the Court of Appeal.

John Spellar, the Labour MP for Warley, said: "I am pleased that the council's position has been vindicated and hope that they can now get on with running the borough.

"It is sad that this whole process has taken so long and has come at such great cost to the taxpayer."

The allegations were the subject of an investigation by West Midlands Police, which ended in March last year with no action being taken.

West Bromwich West MP Adrian Bailey had told the High Court he was 'astounded' that the council thought Mr Hussain should face a standards hearing, arguing that the Labour party 'had already come to a conclusion' about the councillor that 'was not consistent' with the outcome of the police investigation.

In January, allegations of fraud and misconduct against Mr Hussain relating to a Compulsory Purchase Order scheme were referred to police.