Sunday, 27 January 2008

Another day, another piece of Ken Livingstone sleaze

Today's accusation of sleaze comes from The Times who report that "KEN LIVINGSTONE is facing an official investigation for alleged misuse of public funds after giving left-wing campaigners free use of London’s City Hall at a cost of £50,000 to taxpayers.

The London mayor waived the normal hire charges for the building to enable the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) to stage two weekend conferences. He is himself a member of the antinuclear group.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats said this weekend they would be lodging official complaints with the district auditor for misuse of public funds and a “shocking” conflict of interest...

Details of the CND events, billed as the group’s annual meetings, have revived memories of Livingstone’s management of the Greater London Council, which during the 1980s was famed for it links with CND and championed the capital as a “nuclear-free city”.

In a two-day conference last October up to 200 CND delegates took part in plenary sessions in the assembly chamber and enjoyed “live music and drink” in the London Living Room - the building’s top-floor venue which costs £6,268 to hire for a Saturday night.

According to its agenda, the event opened with a “welcome from the mayor”.

Taxpayers funded a similar conference in 2004 set up by Redmond O’Neill, the mayor’s policy director who is also a CND member.

Livingstone has given his permission for antinuclear activists to hold a third two-day event for CND’s 50th birthday next month.

The Sunday Times, however, a spokeswoman for Livingstone said CND would be charged an undisclosed amount.

She would only explain the change by saying it was an “international event”.

Financial records placed on the mayor’s website show that each of the earlier two-day conferences cost the taxpayer £25,000 in weekend opening costs and lost income...

The financial statement shows Livingstone personally “waived” standard hire fees to CND for weekend use of City Hall in September 2004 and October last year.

“The total standard hire charges for the chamber and conference rooms on the 11 and 12 of September [2004] will be £17,860,” one statement reads. “This income will be forgone.” A slightly larger amount was waived in 2007.

The documents also show that the £11,060 joint costs of opening City Hall for the two weekends in 2004 and 2007 were paid for by the mayor’s “international events” budget. The mayor has allowed charities, including the NSPCC and Shelter, to use facilities for receptions without charge. CND is not a registered charity.

According to current rates on the website, commercial users are charged £6,052 to hire just the chamber on a Saturday."

I wonder what tomorrow's story will be?

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