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Gay and lesbian centre run by Purcell ally to be shut

A publicly funded gay and lesbian centre, headed by a close political ally of shamed former council chief Steven Purcell, is being evicted from its premises after a probe uncovered a range of financial irregularities.

The Castro Centre in Glasgow, run by councillor Ruth Black, could be forcibly shut within a week although it could take another 14 to 21 days before the venue’s doors are finally closed.

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It has also emerged that Strathclyde Police are now investigating a raft of matters surrounding Castro’s finances after a report was passed to the force by Glasgow City Council’s auditors.

In recent weeks the council has axed the £50,000 core funding it awarded the centre following the probe, while Ms Black has been suspended by the Labour Party.

However, it is unlikely that the eviction of Ms Black and her long-term partner, Jeannie McDougall, from the premises in Glasgow’s Merchant City will bring the curtain down on the matter.

In recent weeks Ms Black, who has been embroiled in the allegations of drugs and cronyism linked to Mr Purcell, claimed after her suspension to have been sexually assaulted by a Labour colleague, a claim that led to the arrest and charging of Gilbert Davidson for another matter.

Ms McDougall recently described herself as the enforcer for her stepbrother, underworld kingpin Stewart “Specky” Boyd, who died in a car crash in Spain seven years ago.

Strathclyde Police are continuing to investigate how the contract for Castro was awarded, as well as whether Ms Black had a role in the supply of drugs to Mr Purcell’s circle.

A senior source at the city council said: “There were a number of questions posed to Ruth Black which remain un-answered and these questions have been sent to the cops. This is primarily around how the council grant was spent.”

A police spokeswoman said: “Matters concerning this investigation are continuing and therefore it would be inappropriate to make further comment.”

Irregularities uncovered by the council’s auditors include the non-payment of tax and National Insurance for staff, despite deductions made from wages, the employment of a relative –Ms Black’s son – which runs contrary to council grant rules, and operating with no public or employee liability insurance.

Further checks were conducted into concerns about massive phone bills, irregularities over payments to and from gaming machines, and the use of the grant to pay for a car.

Castro accumulated debts of £44,000 and although Black has said the centre would continue trading without the grant, with only £20,000 of the grant paid before it was withdrawn Castro was trading insolvently.

A council spokesman said: “The process for eviction has begun and the audit report sent to the police. It would be inappropriate to comment further.”

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