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Lib Dems in the clear after ‘cronygate’ probe

Cleared: Cllr Steve Hitchens
FIVE Liberal Democrat councillors from Islington have been cleared of any wrongdoing in a three-year-long ‘cronyism’ investigation.
The councillors, including Islington Town Hall leader Steve Hitchins, were embroiled in a row over the appointment of Islington’s chief executive Helen Bailey.
The case was brought by the Standards Board for England following a complaint by opposition Labour leader Mary Creagh, now MP for Wakefield.
Ms Creagh alleged that Islington Council had been brought into disrepute.
The case was heard by the Adjudication Panel for England – a three man tribunal – at their headquarters in Capper Street, Bloomsbury.
The case hinged on whether Cllr Hitchins was “friends” with Ms Bailey, a former high-ranking Liberal Democrat, and he and his four colleagues had conspired over her recruitment in 2002.
The Adjudication Panel for England stated: “The Tribunal is not satisfied that the evidence has shown that there was a conspiracy or that there was collusion between the respondents to secure the appointment of Helen Bailey.”
The only matter yet to be adjudged is whether Cllr Hitchins covered up a phone call with former Mayor of Islington Margot Dunn where they allegedly discussed the appointment of Ms Bailey. The three-year case is the longest running in the Standards Board’s history and has cost the councillors hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal fees.
It was heard over three weeks last year with the final decision and summing up yesterday (Wednesday) and Tuesday.
Lawyer James Ramsden, who represented the councillors, told the tribunal: “(The investigation) was ad hoc and fumbling.
“It was a deeply flawed and at times dangerous investigation.”
 

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