Leeds City Council is going to try and recover the over £4m it says it has spent defending itself in the High Court over allegations that it acted deceitfully during the procurement process to build the Leeds Arena.
Following a lengthy court case last autumn, a judge today dismissed the claims brought by property firm Montpellier Estates for damages of £43.5 million.
“It has cost the people of Leeds dearly at a time of unprecedented enormous cuts to our budgets to have to defend this entirely unnecessary action,” council leader Keith Wakefield said.
“We will be pursuing the recovery of our legal costs of more than £4m on their behalf. This would always be the appropriate course of action when public money is involved but it would be particularly irresponsible not to on the eve of this year’s annual budget.”
“Considering whether grounds for appeal”
The £4m includes the cost of the council’s legal team at the High Court and, presumably, the cost of retaining consultants from three firms who had advised the council on the Arena procurement process. The three – DTZ, IPW Ltd and Arup – helped the council prepare for the trial and attended themselves to support the council’s defence.
The council said that during the trial process it had also been obliged to forensically search seven terabytes of data across its entire computer network- equivalent to physically searching 14,000 filing cabinets – which had identified some 200,000 potential documents for search, of which 40,000 had to be disclosed.
Montpellier Estates Chairman Jan Fletcher said after today’s judgement: “We are very surprised at the judgment and we are considering whether there are grounds for appeal.”
Leeds City Council Chief Exec Tom Riordan said the judgement was “absolute vindication of the honesty and integrity of Leeds City Council, its members, officers and professional consultants”.