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MAGILL TO CHALLENGE HOUSING CHAIR RULING

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District auditor John Magill this week decided to pursue former Westminster City Council housing chairman Peter Har...
District auditor John Magill this week decided to pursue former Westminster City Council housing chairman Peter Hartley in the Court of Appeal, but dropped his case against former housing officer Paul Hayler.

Mr Hartley was cleared of wilful misconduct in the homes for votes scandal by the High Court last month, along with former Westminster managing director Bill Phillips and former housing director Graham England (LGC, 9 January).

But, while Mr Magill is willing to let the judgments in favour of the two officers stand, he is determined to appeal against Mr Hartley's victory. If the appeal is successful, Mr Hartley will stand jointly and severally liable for a£27 million surcharge bill with former council leader Dame Shirley Porter and her erstwhile deputy, David Weeks. Both were found guilty of wilful misconduct and described as liars by the High Court.

The court reconvened on Monday to discuss the position of Mr Hayler, who was too ill to appeal formally against the auditor's finding of wilful misconduct. As expected, lawyers for Mr Magill told Lord Justice Rose, presiding, that the auditor was willing to allow Mr Hayler's appeal 'by consent' - removing the need for a hearing.

Mr Hayler's solicitor, David Cockburn, said: 'The judgment gives great comfort to senior officers seeking to deliver policies and not politics in local government.'

Mr Magill will have to petition the Court of Appeal directly to pursue his case against Mr Hartley, after being denied leave to appeal by Lord Justice Rose and his co-judges. The auditor's solicitor, Tony Child, said the basis of the appeal was that Mr Hartley was a member of the chairman's group which pushed through the designated council house sales policy and had a 'pivotal role' as housing chairman in the crucial period of the late 1980s.

Mr Magill now has until 2 February to petition the Court of Appeal, as have Dame Shirley and Mr Weeks, who were denied leave to appeal last month.

Mr Hartley's solicitor, Phillipa Dolan, said her client would 'vigorously defend any such action - you can take that as read'.

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