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Police probe for Parsons

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Leicestershire Police are investigating alleged financial irregularities involving county council leader David Parsons.

It also emerged today that Cllr Parsons has resigned as chair of the Local Government Association environment and housing board, and yesterday that he would not seek another term as chair of East Midlands Councils.

Cllr Parsons (Con) faces a vote of no confidence at a Conservative group meeting on 3 July, tabled by councillors Byron Rhodes and Peter Osborne both of whom recently left the cabinet.

A police statement said: “Leicestershire Police is investigating allegations of financial irregularities, the investigation is in its early stages and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

A county council spokesman said Cllr Parsons was informed in person by chief executive John Sinnott that matters had been referred to the police.

Cllr Parsons was strongly censured for multiple breaches of the code of conduct earlier this month over the way he handled expenses for European commitments.

It has since emerged that trips in a chauffeured car made by the embattled leader caused Leicestershire CC an excess cost of up to £29,000, council figures have revealed.

Leicestershire’s corporate governance committee is due on Friday to consider other journeys aboard that have come to light and Cllr Parsons’ use of the chauffeured car.

Figures show officers have calculated that on an average return journey time of eight hours to London, the average cost using the car was £280 compared to an average public transport fare of between £135 and £160 over three years.

With 202 car journeys to London by Cllr Parsons identified in that time, the excess cost to Leicestershire is between £29,290 and £24,240.

Example journeys put to the committee show that in 2009 the cost of employing the chauffer was charged at £18.38 an hour, raising to £19.32 the following year then falling to £18.28 in 2011.

Mileage charges followed a similar pattern from 52p to 67p then 46p. Taking account of congestion and parking charges and the chauffeur’s expenses, the difference against public transport fares ranged from £88 to £235 in the six detailed examples shown.

A report to the committee by head of internal audit Neil Jones stated that a further review of trips made by Cllr Parsons revealed “a significant number of journeys have been identified where it is not immediately obvious that they were undertaken on council business”. The county monitoring officer is to investigate further.

Cllr Parsons had chaired the LGA board since his unsuccessful campaign a year ago for the LGA chairmanship.

LGA Conservative group leader Gary Parsons told LGC: “He told me wanted to resign as he had other things he needed to focus on and I’ve accepted it.”

East Midlands Councils executive director Stuart Young said Cllr Parsons did not intend to seek a further term as chair and the majority Conservative group was due to choose a successor on 20 July.

Cllr Parsons has been approached for comment.

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