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LEGAL CHALLENGE THWARTS ALLOWANCES SCHEME

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The ruling Labour group on Nottingham City Council has had to redraw its members' allowances scheme after one of it...
The ruling Labour group on Nottingham City Council has had to redraw its members' allowances scheme after one of its own members launched judicial review proceedings.

Michael Cowan says senior colleagues and officers 'should consider their position' after the council leadership agreed to dump arrangements put in place last July and pay legal costs he has built up so far. Mr Cowan says his and the council's costs top£20,000.

He has also complained to the Audit Commission about the role of the district auditor in approving the scheme.

Although allowances this year are expected to be almost 60% up on last year, Mr Cowan's concerns centre on the way the changes were introduced rather than the level of the new payments. Complaints included: the new arrangements were introduced halfway through the financial year; increases were backdated; there was a special responsibility allowance of around£3,000 for the secretary to the Labour group; and details of the scheme were not published.

Mr Cowan said the council 'failed to take proper legal advice and obstinately refused to recognise its arrangements . . . were fundamentally unlawful. My lawyers were clear-cut on that point: there was absolutely nothing marginal or grey about any of the issues'.

Nottingham said the new scheme prohibits backdating of increases and drops the special payment to the group secretary: 'The issues were not tested in court because both sides agreed to settle the case. There was no suggestion of misappropriation.'

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