"I am pleased to confirm that the City of London Police have now concluded their investigation into Lord Hanningfield’s Essex County Council corporate credit card during his time as Leader at Essex County Council. They have announced that no charges will be brought against him and that they will not be taking any further action.
The conclusion of the police investigation now means we are in a position to publish further information relating to Lord Hanningfield’s corporate credit card. We are committed to being open and transparent and I am pleased that we are now able to make this information available for the public to view.
Our review of ECC governance arrangements contains the following information:
- a report by our Monitoring Officer providing the context for the release of these documents
- Lord Hanningfield’s corporate credit card statements
- Internal audit reports relating to corporate credit cards, Member’s expenses and the use of the Essex County Council car
It is important to note that Lord Hanningfield ceased to be a member of Essex County Council in July 2011 after he was convicted of charges relating to fraudulent expense claims submitted to the House of Lords. This conviction disqualified Lord Hanningfield from being a Member of the council.
It is also important to note the significant progress that the Council has made to strengthen our governance framework in the past couple of years. Since I became Leader in February 2010, these changes have included:
- The establishment of a Corporate Governance Steering Board chaired by me as Leader to oversee the introduction of better governance processes and procedures. This Board includes the Chief Executive and the Monitoring Officer. Regular updates on progress are reported to the Audit Committee.
- We have reviewed and updated our entire Constitution, alongside a new Code of Corporate Governance, reflecting best practice nationally.
- We have updated and tightened policies and procedures for officers and members governing gifts, hospitality and travel, and purchase cards. No member of the council has a corporate credit card.
- We updated our policies on member allowances and expenses in May 2010 following an independent review. The Audit Commission concluded we have a “robust process” in place for member expenses.
- We have reduced the number of council cars from three to one.
- We have established a new approval process for overseas travel with trips abroad by members and officers requiring approval from a cross-party committee. This committee meets in public.
- And we became one of the first councils in the country to publish all of our spend online.
These improvements have strengthened our corporate governance and the Audit Commission’s ethical governance review conducted in July 2011 concluded that we have made “significant progress” at strengthening our governance arrangements.
I am pleased that the police investigation is now closed and we are now able to move on. Lord Hanningfield was obviously a large part of the authority for a number of years but it is three years since he stepped down as Leader and a lot has changed since then.
It is now time to look forward rather than back. "
Cllr Peter Martin