CALLS have been made for disgraced MP Mike Hancock to repay the £150,000 of taxpayers’ cash spent scrutinising his conduct or face legal action.
Political groups want the veteran Portsmouth South MP and former councillor to foot the bill after he admitted last month to forging an ‘inappropriate friendship’ with a female constituent after she went to him for help in October 2009.
Critics believe if Mr Hancock had owned up to wrongdoing when a complaint was first made about him in 2010, Portsmouth City Council would not have needed to spend the money investigating his behaviour.
Tory councillor Alistair Thompson will call for the council at a meeting on Tuesday to make its complaints panel committee ask Mr Hancock to pay up, and consider taking legal action if he refuses to.
Around £40,000 was spent seeking legal advice for Mr Hancock’s investigation, with nearly half of that money paying for QC Nigel Pascoe so he could conduct an independent report into the matter.
Cllr Thompson said up to £20,000 was used by the council to try to stop Mr Pascoe’s dossier being used in the High Court civil case involving Mr Hancock and his victim.
The rest of the £150,000 takes into account the amount of time spent by council officers over the years looking into his behaviour.
Cllr Thompson said: ‘I have been told that the cost of all the work carried out into this matter, including legal costs, is up to £150,000. We are scrabbling around for £5,000 and £7,000 here and there to stop groups going to the wall, yet we have wasted this money defending the indefensible. I feel sick that this money has been wasted at a time when we are making cuts affecting the most vulnerable people in our communities.’
Labour group leader Cllr John Ferrett said: ‘If Mike Hancock had admitted to wrongdoing four years ago, we would have avoided four years of investigation and cover-ups.’
Mr Hancock’s victim said Lib Dem councillors Les Stevens and Terry Hall, who sat on the sub-committee which investigated his behaviour, should also be made to repay costs as they authorised paying for extra legal advice.
She said: ‘No councillor should expect the taxpayer to fund the covering up of his misdeeds, and should foot the bill.
‘Members of the sub-committee who looked at the case took legal advice after legal advice at the taxpayers’ expense.’
Cllr Stevens ‘totally dismissed’ the suggestion of panellists having to cover costs.
‘We had to seek legal advice to ensure that full legal procedures were undertaken,’ he said.
‘But councillors should never have sat on that panel, it should have been made up of independent members.’
Legal adviser will consider situation over probe cash
PORTSMOUTH City Council’s legal adviser would help determine what action to take over Mike Hancock should the issue go before its complaints panel.
Michael Lawther would advise panelists before they make a final decision.
He said: ‘First the council would need to approve the notice of motion, then the governance and audit and standards committee would have to agree that I was instructed to review the matter.
‘I would then consider what action we could take.’
A spokesman for Mike Hancock said: ‘It is the council’s monitoring officer that considers how to proceed.’
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