Dispute over Letchworth council’s legal costs

A NON-SPENDING council has revealed it has incurred legal costs of more than �60,000 since taking office in June 2009, although the figure is much higher according to a former councillor.

The Comet asked Letchworth Garden City Council to provide details of legal costs it has paid out in the last two and a half years after an employment tribunal concerning changes to contracts found in the favour of former staff last month.

The council, in which 22 of the 24 councillors represent the Help Eliminate Letchworth Parish council (HELP) and wish to dissolve the authority, said legal fees amounted to almost �65,000.

Around �50,000 relates to tribunal costs, with further fees attributed to an ongoing dispute with a former solicitor over a decision to exercise a break clause in their office lease.

Letchworth GC resident Derek Hodgson, a councillor under the former administration, said from his correspondance with responsible financial officer Cllr Peter Groves and clerk Ian Mantle that the figure actually tops the �100,000 mark.

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“The numbers are all from correspondence with the council, I didn’t just come up with that number. I don’t know how they’re twisting this to make �60,000.”

Responding, Cllr Frank Lovett, chairman of the council, said: “I am at a loss to understand Mr Hodgson’s arithmetic and how he can take the information provided in the correspondence attached (available via www.letchworth-tc.gov.uk) and arrive at the figures he has done.

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“Perhaps you can ask Mr Hodgson to explain his arithmetic as I fear that he is indulging in trying to hoodwink the people of Letchworth by not letting accuracy get in the way of the story he would like them to believe.”

The dispute regarding the town council extended to two current councillors last Thursday during a Policy and Resources Committee meeting.

Cllr Groves had read a statement refuting evidence in the tribunal which said he had seen the revised terms for staff, which was questioned by Cllr Sue Johnson.

Cllr Groves asked the chair to reprimand her for her actions, although the matter was resolved when Cllr Johnson withdrew her statement.

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