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More Allegations at NLC


29/04/16


Police are probing allegations of corruption at a company part-owned by scandal-hit North Lanarkshire Council. Detectives have launched a preliminary investigation in to central heating company Saltire after concerns were flagged up by officials at the local authority.

Their inquiry is separate to a sweeping corruption investigation announced by North Lanarkshire Council last week in response to a whistleblowing letter to its leader, Jim Logue.


However, insiders insist that the council's new political regime - Mr Logue took over the authority earlier this year - had moved quickly to pass on the latest Saltire allegations as it seeks to portray itself as a "new broom".


A spokesman for North Lanarkshire Council said: “The council made Police Scotland aware of an historical piece of correspondence in relation to Saltire which we felt should be examined. As this is now a police matter it would be inappropriate to comment further.”


A Police Scotland spokesperson said: "North Lanarkshire Council has made Police Scotland aware of the allegations and the matter will be reviewed."

Senior counter-corruption detectives have viewed the allegations but that they are currently being reviewed by divisional officers in North Lanarkshire.

Saltire - its full name is Saltire Facilities Management Ltd - did not wish to make a comment.


The company is one-third owned by North Lanarkshire Council, which has one member on its board. That member, until his resignation on March 31, was Labour veteran Jim Brooks. Saltire's majority shareholder is a firm called ALH 86 Ltd registered in London and ultimately owned by a holding firm called ALHCO Group Ltd, whose sole shareholder is businessman called John Clarke.


The business supplies and fits central heating systems and related equipment, including to North Lanarkshire Council tenants. Its most recent annual accounts showed a turnover of just under £18m, just over half of which, some £9.5m, was goods and services provided to North Lanarkshire Council.

The Saltire allegations - which are understood to date to 2013 - were brought to the council's attention shortly after a Labour coup brought down former leader Jim McCabe after 18 years in power.

Council officials, passed on concerns through normal procedures at its scrutiny panel and these were then quickly forwarded to the police. A senior council source said: "When the new leadership of the council took over one of the first issues brought to their attention was Saltire.

"This came to light when the scrutiny panel was given information by an officer. The new political leadership immediately requested that this information should be given to the police."


Council leader Jim Logue and his deputy Paul Kelly last week also called in the police after they received a detailed whistleblowing report, regarding concerns over procurement. Allegations about Saltire were not contained in that report. Mr Logue, in a rare move, publicly announced a "corruption investigation" in to the whistleblowing allegations, which he described as "extremely serious".

Mr McCabe, whose friendship with a contractor was cited in the whistleblowing report, last week declared “I am not corrupt”.

Labour and the SNP in North Lanarkshire are both deeply embroiled in factional infighting, with rival groups in both parties accusing each other of wrongdoing.