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BBC Wales's Nick Palit reports:
"As he walked free from court, Mr Stringer said he was just glad the episode was behind him."
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Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 18:42 GMT
Labour council chief's expenses swindle
Shaun Stringer Shaun Stringer appeared before Newport Crown Court

The former Leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council has walked free from court after pleading guilty to four charges of deliberately and dishonestly abusing his public office.

Shaun Stringer, 33, from Barry, admitted paying for lavish meals with council tax payers' money.

Fourteen similar offences against him were ordered to lie on file.

The Judge at Newport Crown Court ordered him to repay the money and said the convictions would probably be a fatal blow to his political ambitions.

The court heard how Mr Stringer paid for four meals in Llandudno, Cardiff, Coventry and London using his corporate credit card.

The bills totalled 430 and he had claimed they were legitimate expenses.

"The cynics among us see politicians in vulgar terms with the gravy train and snouts in the trough."
The Judge, His Honour Tom Crowther

Prosecuting Christopher Llewellyn Jones, QC, said Mr Stringer had a totally arrogant and cavalier approach to claiming expenses and towards those trying to administer the system.

To a certain extent these offences were born out of greed, he said.

Political advance

The charges related to incidents which took place between August, 1996, and February, 1998, at a time when Stringer had been marked out for political advance, the court heard.

As well as being council leader, he had also been agent of Vale of Glamorgan MP John Smith at the 1997 General Election and had been tipped as a possible Welsh Assembly candidate.

Mr Llewellyn-Jones said Stringer, now unemployed, had abused his position by using a corporate credit card issued to him by the council for personal expenses.

The Visa cards had been issued to six councillors and council officials to help them pay for authorised expenses.

Stringer's card limit was 1,500. On one occasion, the ex-council leader, of Churchfields, Barry, south Wales, used his credit card to pay for a meal in London for him and his girlfriend costing 79.20 after attending a party in Downing Street.

On another occasion, Stringer used the card to pay for a 149.70 meal at an Italian Restaurant in Llandudno, north Wales, while at a Welsh Labour Party conference.

Mr Llewellyn-Jones said one fellow councillor at that meal had even quipped: "I hope this wasn't on the taxpayer."

A third charge related to a meal costing 103.55 paid for by Stringer at an Italian restaurant in Cardiff days before the General Election in May, 1997.

'Demeaned public service'

Ordering him to pay back the money the Judge, His Honour Tom Crowther, said: "The cynics among us see politicians in vulgar terms with the gravy train and snouts in the trough.

"This case is not as serious as that but you have demeaned public service."

Defending Nicholas Cook, QC, said that the defendant accepted that his political career was at an end.

He had not been greedy, but a young man who had become "carried away" with his position.

"Politics and political ambition played an important role in his life. His political career is now over."
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See also:
15 Apr 99 |  News
Welsh Tories attack Labour 'chaos'

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