Recent events such as the phone hacking controversy, MPs expenses scandal and the spot fixing charges in county cricket have highlighted the fact that the UK is not immune to corruption. Last week an opinion survey published by the European Commission revealed that 71% of British people polled believe that corruption is a major problem in the UK.
However, the question of whether the UK has ‘a corruption problem’ is open to debate. While Transparency International UK’s recent report on UK corruption showed that corruption is not endemic in the country, it did highlight significant corruption vulnerabilities in many of the sectors we researched.
When we published the report in June 2011 we had no idea that just one month later many of the concerns we raised on police bribery and the cosy relationships between politics and some sections of the media would be confirmed so widely by the exposure of the Murdoch corruption scandal.
These events, clustered in the capital, join recent reports of police misconduct in Cardiff and allegations of City Council fraud in Edinburgh to demonstrate that corruption is an issue relevant across the UK.
If corruption in the UK is going to be tackled effectively it will take people from every part of the country to stand up against it, so we are organising four regional events where we hope to present the findings of our report and discuss with people how to move forward.
We want to know what people in Scotland think about the allegations of corruption in Edinburgh City Council, and whether Cardiff residents believe further study is needed on corruption in Welsh-specific institutions. We want to know whether people in Manchester and Middlesbrough agree with the European Commission report which states that 64% of people think that corruption is part of the UK’s business culture.
Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International, once said that corruption can be rooted out when people join together to challenge the systems that facilitate it. We are inviting people from across the UK to come and join us to discuss whether the UK really does have a corruption problem, and what we can all do to tackle the existing risks.