Essex CC’s audit committee has advised against pursuing its disgraced former leader for bills run up on council credit cards.
The committee’s chair Susan Barker (Con) said legal advice showed that pursuing the case against Lord Hanningfield would have an “uncertain chances of success”, and require considerable commitment of officers’ time.
A report to the committee did not say how much it would have sought from Lord Hanningfield, but referred to an invoice for £50,689.24 sent to him by Essex CC in June last year, to which no response was received. It said officers felt this had been “reasonable to regard as potentially recoverable”.
Cllr Barker said: “It is with huge regret that, having taken account of the legal advice and the advice of our external auditors, we feel we have no alternative but to recommend that no further action be taken in this matter.
“We recognise that the council now has robust governance arrangements in place and operates in a much more open and transparent environment. We are confident that this sort of extravagant and unreasonable expenditure does not, and would not, take place today.”
Lord Hanningfield (Con) was leader of Essex from 2000-10. He was prosecuted over his House of Lords expense claims in 2011 when he was jailed for nine months.
He was later that year arrested over alleged fraud concerning his expenses in Essex but in 2012 police took no action.
In May, he was suspended by the House of Lords for a year – the highest penalty it can impose – after further abuses of its expenses system, including money that the peer said was for the care of his dog.