Ex-legal head back in spotlight

THE FORMER head of Westminster City Council's legal department, Matthew Ives, has been re-interviewed about his role in the alleged homes-for-votes scandal after the examination of new documents by district auditor John Magill.

Magill's solicitor, Tony Child, confirms the auditor, with the co-operation of Westminster's managing director, took joint custody of documents in March this year.

Ives, who denies any wrong-doing, says he has responded to the auditor's questioning and adds it would be “inappropriate to ventilate those views in public”.

He says he was re-interviewed in June this year, five months after the auditor published his provisional findings, but adds: “It would be foolish to regard that as in any way strange or unusual.”

The auditor has undertaken a large-scale and thorough investigation which has required him to conduct wide-ranging research, he says.

The former head solicitor, now director of professional conduct at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, was not included in the auditor's original list of six councillors and four officers at risk of surcharge for the alleged u21 million vote-rigging scandal. Magill's provisional view was that the alleged homes-forvotes policy was “disgraceful… improper… unlawful… gerrymandering”.

But now the Westminster Objectors, who sparked the original inquiry, want to have Ives added to the list, along with four other names they recently passed on to Magill. The auditor has written to Ives warning him of the developments.

One of the documents, recently looked at by the auditor, contains a handwritten note in the top right hand corner, which reads: “This paper should not have been produced by an officer. Much more subtle approach required. This paper shows officers working for a Tory victory.”

The auditor's index to the documents says the note appears to be in Matthew Ives' handwriting.

Ives refuses to comment on this. He says his name was included in the objectors' original list, but was taken off by the auditor after a thorough, four-and-a-half year investigation. He adds he has no intention of attending the public hearings beginning next month.

Westminster's former deputy solicitor Robert Lewis, now a Freshfields partner, has been implicated and is among those whose conduct will be examined at the hearings. He is one of the officers accused by Magill of wilful misconduct.

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