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SKIPS ON 'EVERY STREET' Lib Dems rubbish claim they bought votes.

Byline: BY AMARDEEP BASSEY

TWO Liberal Democrat councillors have been accused of attempting to buy votes by providing free council skips for potential supporters.

The allegations centre around a Birmingham City Council scheme which aims to provide free skips to local communities under the Neighbour Renewal Fund.

The project was rolled out to Bordesley Green last November, but concerns were raised when requests for the bins rose 2 0-fold in the months leading up to last May's local elections.

Leaked documents show that the project was originally awarded a total of pounds 39,000 of council cash - enough to provide 339 skips at pounds 115 each, from city council contractors ISL Waste Services.

But Liberal Democrat councillors Shaukat Ali Khan and Mohammed Saeed ended up spending nearly TWICE the amount on 615 skips.

And according to the documents, the councillors insisted on deciding which residents would be allocated the bins.

A council source said: "The pounds 3 9,000 budget to provide skips for Bordesley Green residents was supposed to be split equally between the two Lib Dem councillors and Labour councillor Shafique Khan.

"This should have meant that each councillor had a budget for about 120 skips each.

"Yet between them the two Lib Dem councillors asked for 615 skips at a cost of more than pounds 65,000, while the Labour councillor was allocated 161 skips.

"There were literally whole streets in the area where every household had a skip parked outside the front."

The total bill for all the skips came to pounds 72,000.

The source added: "What is most interesting is the way the request for skips climbs steadily as the May 2006 elections approach, before falling dramatically again after the election."

It is understood that just days after the election, Coun Shaukat Ali Khan and newly elected Lib Dem Coun Zaker Choudhry approached the council for a further pounds 80,000 for more skips.

But the request was rejected and waste contractors ISL Waste Services have been instructed to stop providing the bins until the situation is resolved.

Now Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Perry Barr, has called for an urgent inquiry into the alleged votes scandal - the latest to rock Birmingham City Council.

He said: "There seems to have been no criteria in deciding who got the skips, it was completely at the behest of the councillors.

"We need to know if they were given out purely as grace and favour or what was the reasoning behind it?

"Arbitrary actions like this does beg the question that was this a deliberate ploy to literally buy votes by providing skips?

"We need to know who agreed to let the scheme go so over budget. There has to be transparency."

Last night, Lib Dem councilor Shaukat Ali denied the skips for-votes allegations and said it was his civic duty to keep his ward free from rats and rubbish.

He said: "The project had been very successful in neighbouring Washwood Heath and we kept getting local residents asking us why we weren't doing the same.

"The reason we kept requesting more and more skips is because the demand got higher as people became aware that the skips were available.

"It was a very successful scheme and I don't see any reason why it shouldn't carry on.

"It's ridiculous to suggest this was an attempt to buy votes and I resent the accusation."

Former councillor Saeed also denied the claims.

No-one was available at Birmingham City Council last night.

amardeep_bassey@mrn.co.uk

SKIP ALLOCATION FIGURES IN BORDESLEY GREEN WARD

Up to May 7, 2006:

November 2005 13

December 67

January 2006 74

February 113

March 173

April 264

May 75

CLLR SHAUKAT

KHAN 302 skips

CLLR MOHAMMED

SAEED 313 skips

CLLR SHAFIQUE

SHAH 161 skips

CAPTION(S):

ACCUSED: Councillor Shaukat Khan' ACCUSED: Former Councillor Mohammed Saeed
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jun 18, 2006
Words:641
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