Birmingham & Black Country

Sandwell councillor Mahboob Hussain 'asked to cancel wife and son's tickets'

Sandwell Council House
Image caption Sandwell Council said it would co-operate with the police investigation revealed by the BBC in October 2014

A former deputy council leader "interfered" in parking tickets issued to members of his family, a lawyer has found.

A leaked report also alleges Mahboob Hussain tipped off his son about the upcoming sale of a Sandwell Council property

Author James Goudie QC suggested Labour's Mr Hussain committed six council code of conduct breaches.

Mr Hussain, now suspended by Labour, has previously denied any wrongdoing.

He said he could not comment now as the contents of the report were "confidential".

Former economy chief councillor Ian Jones and Mr Hussain stood down from the ruling cabinet after investigations began, but both had their suspensions from the Labour party lifted before elections on 5 May.

Mr Hussain has been suspended afresh, the party confirmed.

Image copyright Sandwell Council
Image caption Mahboob Hussain 'knew socially' the buyer of the public toilets, Mr Goudie said

The authority commissioned law firm Gowling WLG to investigate alleged irregularities in the sale of the authority's former properties from 2011-2013.

Publication of this report has been delayed after legal action by "one of the parties named", the council said, but documents leaked to the BBC shed light on its findings.

On the parking tickets, Mr Hussain gave evidence denying he sought favourable treatment.

Mr Goudie QC found Mr Hussain requested "in effect" for parking tickets for his wife and an unnamed son to be cancelled.

He said the wife's penalty was cancelled, while his son's was reduced.

This was among three occasions Mr Hussain allegedly broke the Member Code for councillors to help his family, according to the QC.

Gowling WLG investigated alleged irregularities in the sale of the authority's former properties from 2011-2013, including three old public toilet blocks and a former coroner's office in Smethwick.

A parallel police investigation ended in March with no further action.

Mr Goudie said publication of the Gowling report was "strongly in the public interest".

Image copyright Google
Image caption The former HM Coroner's office was bought in May 2013 by Azeem Hafeez for £80,000 according to Land Registry

The QC suggested Mr Hussain's breaches of the Member Code included:

  • The sale of three former council-owned public conveniences for £35,000 to a friend of Mr Hussain, two days after a district valuer said they were worth £130,000
  • Mr Hussain and Mr Jones both "agreed to ignore" the valuation, said the QC. There is no evidence Mr Hussain "obtained any advantage" and Mr Jones was a "passive bystander", said the QC
  • It is likely confidential information was shared by Mr Hussain with his son Azeem Hafeez before Mr Hafeez submitted a bid for the former coroner's office, the day before the property was advertised by the council
  • It is alleged Mr Hussain "persuaded" the council to seek to a buy a strip of land, which he knew was owned by his son - who also previously worked for the council - and the relationship was not revealed
  • The QC also said Mr Hafeez "appeared to have done nothing" to declare his interest as an employee or Mr Hussain's son, which allegedly breached Section 117 of the Local Government Act 1972 [on disclosure by officers of direct or indirect pecuniary interests] and the council's Officer Code of Conduct and meant "disciplinary action" was required

Mr Hussain gave evidence he did not know who was buying the toilet blocks because the purchase was through a company name, not the name of his friend.

He said he had not been consulted and had not been aware of the price.

Mr Jones gave evidence saying he did not know the relationship between Mr Hussain and the toilet blocks' buyer. The QC said this meant there was no misconduct issue by Mr Jones.

Mr Jones also said he could not comment now because the report was confidential. He has previously dubbed the investigations a "witch-hunt" and disputed the truth of the allegations.

Mr Hafeez, who was arrested last year, provided no evidence to the council's solicitors despite requests, the QC wrote. He has not yet responded to further questions from the BBC.

Police told him in November 2015 he would face no action.

He said in November his arrest "did not relate to the sale or purchase of any former Sandwell Council properties" and he was "considering taking legal action against a number of individuals and organisations".

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