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West End Extra - by JAMIE WELHAM
Published: 4 December 2009
Former Westminster Council leader Shirley Porter
Former Westminster Council leader
Shirley Porter
It’s time to ‘bury the ghost’ of Porter

Council leader speaks out for first time to distance authority from disgraced Dame Shirley

THE head of Westminster Council has gone on the record for the first time to distance the current regime from its disgraced former leader Shirley Porter, more than 15 years after she was exposed as the mastermind of the “homes for votes” scandal.
Not only did Councillor Colin Barrow make an unprecedented public apology to those tenants who were affected by the gerrymandering policy in the late 1980s, many of whom were forced to live in asbestos-ridden flats as a result, but he also criticised Dame Shirley by name.
The illegal policy wasted £37million of public money, moving Labour voting tenants away from marginal wards so their flats could be sold to potential Tory voters.
Mr Barrow said he wanted to “bury the ghost of Porter once and for all”, adding that her actions were “the opposite of the council’s policy today”.
Never before has any leader at City Hall been so explicit in their criticism of the Tesco heiress, who is now ­living in exile in Israel.
Questions are being asked as to the timing of Cllr Barrow’s comments, given the council has faced accusations in recent months of dabbling with social engineering under the proposed regeneration on some of the borough’s largest housing estates.
In a bid to create what the council calls “mixed communities”, a portion of new-build houses on estates will be prioritised for people earning over £20,000. Labour councillors say this amounts to an ideological shift by wooing the middle classes with council houses. It may also seem a timely coincidence that a play dramatising Dame Shirley’s rise and fall at City Hall, called Shirleymander, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 last week.
In 2004, Porter agreed to a deal with the council to pay back £12m – less than a third of the £42m she owed following the scandal.
Mr Barrow said: “I am the leader now, and I know the council has changed.
“We want to look to the future to improve social housing and improve the lives of local people.
“What she did was wrong, illegal, and we are unreservedly sorry.
“I personally want to make it absolutely clear I believe Shirley Porter and her policies did significant damage and it is a legacy I want to bury once and for all.
“Our policies today bear no relation to her regime.
“These are not just words, we are acting on this and I want people to judge us by our deeds, not history.”
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, the opposition leader at City Hall, said: “In all these years, it’s a real shame Simon Milton and his colleagues have not made a proper apology.”


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