Mahboob Hussain: £579,000 cost to Sandwell Council over Wragge Report
A council-funded investigation into a former deputy leader who abused his position cost tax-payers more than £500,000.
Sandwell Council's Wragge Report and legal proceedings paid out in relation to Councillor Mahboob Hussain cost the public purse £579,384.
The report claimed Councillor Hussain allegedly quashed parking tickets for family members and was involved in the sale of council-owned toilet blocks.
Councillor Hussain, a former deputy leader of Sandwell Council and currently an Oldbury ward councillor, was ordered to attend training sessions as punishment by the committee. He will not be standing for re-election in May.
Sandwell Council leader Steve Eling said: "These investigation are horrendously expensive but the cost of the Wragge Report does not surprise me.
"The investigation has taken years and has cost a fortune. If it was down to me it would have taken a few weeks and taken a fraction of the cost."
Councillor Hussain tried to quash the report's publication by making a legal challenge through the courts.
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. Mr Justice Green ruled that there was a 'powerful public interest’ in a 'thorough and fair' investigation.
The council is trying to recover around £130,000 from legal costs through the courts. Councillor Hussain has already paid around £50,000. The cost of the Wragge Report alone stands at £181,668.50, an FOI has revealed.
Sandwell Council’s chief executive Jan Britton said: “Councillor Mahboob Hussain breached the Members’ Code of Conduct by being involved in the sale of council property to a family acquaintance at less than its value and trying to get parking tickets for his family quashed.
“Had he not done these things, or had he admitted his wrongdoings, the council wouldn’t be facing the cost of the investigation and legal proceedings.
“By taking the council to a Judicial Review at the High Court in London, which he lost, he further delayed the process and increased the legal costs.
“The council defeated this Judicial Review and was awarded costs, which we are seeking to claim back from Councillor Hussain.
“Currently the cost of the investigation and legal processes stands at £579,384.
“Councillor Hussain has so far paid £50,000 towards the costs awarded at Judicial Review. The council is seeking to recover a further £130,000 for the cost of the Judicial Review through the courts later this month.
“Now that the standards process has been completed, we are also considering how we might recover other costs that have been incurred and the lost value of the property that was sold.”
The Wragge Report also investigated Councillor Ian Jones and claimed he breached the authority's code of conduct over a land sales deal.
The report found no evidence of wrongdoing on his part.
In January, Sandwell's ethical standards committee unanimously found that Mr Jones had failed to comply with council rules by removing a plot of land from public auction.
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