DISGRACED peer and former leader of Essex County Council Lord Hanningfield wants to resume his political career, the East Anglian Daily Times can reveal.

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His solicitor Mark Spragg, speaking yesterday after the 71-year-old was cleared of any wrongdoing over his council expenses, said his client still had “a lot to offer”.

The peer, from West Hanningfield, Essex, last year served nine weeks of a nine-month sentence after being convicted of falsely claiming £14,000 in parliamentary expenses.

Lord Hanningfield, who was born Paul White, was arrested by Essex Police in September last year on suspicion of making fraudulent expenses claims during his time heading up the county council. But the City of London Police, who took over the investigation two months later, yesterday confirmed he did not have a case to answer.

Lord Hanningfield expressed relief before calling for an independent probe into the actions of senior officers during his time at Essex County Council (ECC). Lord Hanningfield said: “I am relieved that this chapter has closed and that the police and Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed I did nothing wrong.

“I now believe that the council must examine its actions.”

But current ECC leader Peter Martin said he was “fully supportive” of the way officers had operated.

Lord Hanningfield added: “My commitment to Essex remains. During my time as leader we did many things to help the county’s residents including reopening a dozen post offices and delivering £300million in savings.”

Mr Spragg said Lord Hanningfield, first elected as an Essex county councillor in 1970, was keen to return to politics once his five-year ban from office had expired.

He added: “He’d love to be involved to some extent, he’s still got a lot to offer, he’s spent 40 years in public service.

“He’s a loss to the community regardless of having been convicted - he has to accept to that. Privately he still doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong.”

Councillor Martin said: “It was important that concerns about Lord Hanningfield’s use of the corporate credit card were independently investigated but I agree with Lord Hanningfield that enough time and taxpayers money has been spent on this.

“The senior officers at the council worked hard during Lord Hanningfield’s time as leader to get him to understand the seriousness of the situation and to recognise his responsibilities to be compliant with the governance processes. I am fully supportive of the way they handled the situation during what was a very challenging time, and they continue to have my full support.”

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