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NEW ROW OVER FURTHER DELAYS TO WESTMINSTER HOUSING INQUIRY

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A fresh row over the publication of a four year old inquiry into the legality of Westminster City Council's housing...
A fresh row over the publication of a four year old inquiry into the legality of Westminster City Council's housing policy under Shirley Porter broke out this week. The Audit Commission said the report by auditor John Magill would be published on 13 January but could be delayed until 18 January. This followed a early day motion tabled by Shadow Environment Secretary Jack Straw demanding the early publication of the report, said to fill 25 lever arch files.

The commission said publication of the report had been delayed because of the recent death of the father of commission solicitor Tony Child and the death of Lady Porter's only grandson. Peter Bradley, deputy leader of the Labour opposition on the council, said Mr Magill did not want to publish the report on the 18th because the current leader of the council Miles Young will be abroad.

Mr Bradley wants it to published on the later date since he is away until January 10. Mr Bradley also sought to increase the pressure on the council's managing director Merv Montacute to publish documents seized from the office of former leader David Weeks.

The documents are believed to be fund raising letters for the Conservative group which unlawfully used council stationery. Mr Bradley and Mr Straw issued an opinion from Andrew Arden QC on Wednesday which says Mr Montacute has no right to withhold the information if he was acting on behalf of the council.

The council said Mr Montacute would not be giving up the documents because he had received contrary legal advice. Mr Bradley said costs prevented the party from seeking to enforce Mr Arden's opinion, which was paid for by the Labour group, through the courts. Mr Bradley said the council, like the millionaire Lady Porter, has an unfair advantage.

'They will go to the most expensive counsel to protect themselves with great battlements of legal arguments while we have to dip into our own pockets', he said.

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