Council ignored QC's advice

A LEADING QC's advice to Westminster City Council was partly ignored and misrepresented when it was put before the authority's housing committee, according to a leaked report which reveals details of a u30 million free maintenance scandal.

Residents who bought council houses were not charged for major works between 1987 and 1991, internal auditors have revealed.

And a variety of schemes were put in place by the authority in order to reduce service charges for home-buyers.

Leading counsel, Anthony Scrivener QC, advised that a 10-year waiver from repair costs should only be allowed in exceptional cases. But the committee decided to offer a 10-year waiver for all home owners whose properties were on the listed works schedule.

Scrivener, who is acting for former council leader Shirley Porter at the homes-for-votes hearing, also suggested that home-buyers should foot at least two-thirds of the bill for structural repairs. But this advice was not included in the report to committee.

And although the opinion related to right-to-buy leaseholders it was also used to justify policy for other house sales.

Westminster's Labour group claims that the Tory-run council decided not to send out repair bills as part of its wider policy of attracting voters in marginal wards. It claims that u30 million has gone begging.

But the auditors' report reveals that these figures are only estimates as the council does not have precise information on what it spent on lessees' flats.

Bill Roots, the council's chief executive, says the authority has already taken steps to put things right. External consultants are due to report on how to resolve the issues next month.

* Anthony Scrivener QC, former Bar Council chairman, has been reported to his own professional body. The conduct committee will consider claims that he made a V-sign at protesters outside the Westminster homes-for-votes hearing. Scrivener denies the allegations and the Crown Prosecution Service has already decided to take no action.