THE leader of Barnet Council has awarded £10,000 of taxpayers' money to cover a cabinet colleague's legal fees over an investigation by the standards committee.

The money will be paid to top solicitors to represent Councillor Brian Coleman, who is under investigation for an alleged breach of the Members' Code of Conduct.

Mr Coleman had the option of using a Swansea legal firm chosen by the council's insurers, but rejected it for Beachcroft LLP - one of the largest commercial law firms in the UK.

The decision to grant the money was made by council leader Mike Freer on Monday.

It will not be reviewed by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee because Mr Freer marked the matter "urgent", bypassing normal procedures.

Mr Freer said he approved the company because it was London-based and had "considerable experience" of standards board issues in the capital.

He added: "Being able to see a local specialist could be more cost-effective than having to pay a Cardiff-based solicitor its hourly rate to travel to London.

"We took out the insurance on the understanding we would have access to local specialists.

"The urgency was because the standards board had already started their enquires and Councillor Coleman was being asked for statements and to attend interviews before the issue with the insurers had been resolved."

When approached to comment on the matter, Mr Coleman denied he was the councillor under investigation and vowed to sue this newspaper if it printed his name.

He said: "This has absolutely nothing to do with me, nothing whatsoever, and if you say otherwise you will be hearing from my solicitor."

The Barnet Standards Committee launched the investigation against Mr Coleman on March 24 following an allegation from a member of the public.

The council said it could not reveal details of the allegation until a decision has been reached for legal reasons.