Peter Jones
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Rebuilding the North Country
Poulson and Smith
in From virtue to venality
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John Poulson’s file for bankruptcy in 1972 exposed a range of corrupt practices involving not only Poulson but also T. Dan Smith the Newcastle politician as well as a range of civil servants, public health officials, railway surveyors and trade union officials. His subsequent trial also resulted in the resignation of the Home Secretary. Poulson’s bribes disguised as gifts and Smith’s public relations companies which employed local councillors were front organisations to conceal payments and retainers thus enabling councillors to vote planning applications without declaring their interests. The consequences were immense resulting in a Royal Commission Report in 1976. Newspaper reports also displayed a new kind of investigative journalism that went beyond sensationalism. Television documentaries and radio phone-ins showed how new forms of technology could expose corruption to wider sections of the population. Both Poulson and Smith served prison sentences and their trials served to discredit local government fundamentally providing impetus for the governments of Margaret Thatcher to launch a major assault on the powers and range of local government.

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From virtue to venality

Corruption in the city


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