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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 06:28 GMT
Councillor 'let down' over Officegate
Constituency office sign
The row centred on Mr McLeish's Glenrothes office
A Labour councillor who helped run a charity which rented office space from former First Minister Henry McLeish has quit.

Angela McCallum was due to stand down at next year's council elections owing to ill health, but has brought forward her resignation - blaming media harassment over the controversy.

The member of Fife Council said she felt "badly let down" by Mr McLeish's handling of the affair.

Council leader Christine May has pledged that any wrong-doing would be rooted out and dealt with.

The Officegate controversy which led to the Central Fife MSP's resignation as first minister last year centred on his constituency office in Glenrothes.

It's terribly sad when someone who has served the public feels they can no longer do that

Labour Party spokesman
He claimed expenses from the House of Commons on the office during the 14 years he was Westminster MP for Central Fife - but failed to declare the 36,000 he made from sub lets.

Amid mounting controversy, Mr McLeish decided to quit when a further sub let involving the Third Age Group came to light after he had declared details of five others to the media.

Ms McCallum, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, said she had been proud to work for the Third Age Group.

In her resignation letter, she said she had worked part time for the organisation in 1995 and 1996.

Audit committee

"I was proud to work for them and feel that I and they have been badly let down by the first minister's decision not to acknowledge their existence as part of his full and frank disclosure and the resulting media attention," she wrote.

Fife Council's audit committee is carrying out an inquiry into allegations that it paid 40,000 to the charity - which provided services to old people - after it had been wound up.

Scotland's auditor general, Robert Black, has also been asked to investigate by Scottish National Party MSP Tricia Marwick.

Ms McCallum said she had raised the matter with the head of the council's social work department after she discovered the group was still receiving council cash.

Angela McCallum
Angela McCallum has resigned
She said she was told the arrangement had been put in place "to ensure that the day centres continued to operate".

Ms McCallum now plans to "rebuild her life in peace" and campaign on behalf of arthritis sufferers.

Fife Council leader Christine May said she was "very sorry" that Ms McCallum had resigned.

She also promised that the council investigation would not be a cover-up.

She said she was "extremely concerned" at the damage the affair had done to the image of Labour and the council itself.

Independent inquiry

Ms May said she had told the council's chief executive, Douglas Sinclair, that she wanted his report on the affair to be "full, open, frank and honest".

Ms Marwick said the allegations in Ms McCallum's letter backed up her demand for an independent inquiry into Fife Council's grants to the Third Age Group.

Scottish Tory local government spokesman, Keith Harding, also called for an independent investigation.

He said the resignation made it clear that "not everything about the officegate affair has been brought out into the public domain".

BBC Scotland's Alan Mackay reports
"Fife Council's chief executive is on a second investigation"
SNP MSP Tricia Marwick
"We need an external independent inquiry."
Fife Council leader Christine May
"There will be an independent inquiry."
See also:

31 Jan 02 | Scotland
Auditor probes Officegate row
08 Nov 01 | Scotland
Constituency stunned by resignation
06 Nov 01 | Scotland
Q&A: Officegate
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