Back in 2008/9 the councils of Derby and Derbyshire came together to set up a joint waste contract with a waste incineration plant at its core and as part of this a contract was put in place where the councils agreed to pay planning costs of the selected developer above an agreed appeal contingency fund. It soon started to raise campaigners eyebrows when a copy of the contract was issued to us - but the redactors pen had been out in force and the appeal contingency fund figure was redacted - as shown below!
This left us all smelling a big fat rat which really I guess we should not have been surprised about!
It was only a number of months later when we came across an un redacted copy of the contract that we found out the reality was that the little black smudge was hiding a BIG FAT ZERO ! the fund was nothing! as can be seen below.
The waste contract itself even states how the developer will pay up to the limit of the contingency fund with the councils paying 90% beyond it even though the fund was ZERO. As that figure was redacted it could be concluded that the councils and their contractor was looking to deceive the public by making such a claim in the contract while hiding the facts from the public. The contract states as follows. - " 9.4 Appeal Contingency9.4.1 The Contractor will bear all costs of any Proceedings (including, for the avoidance of doubt, the costs of obtaining any Leading Counsel's opinion under clause 9.3) up to the limit of the Appeal Contingency following which the Councils shall indemnify the Contractor for nine tenths of all amounts reasonably and prudently spent or contracted to be spent in excess of the Appeal Contingency in the proper and diligent conduct of the Proceedings provided that:"
Now why would councils spending tax payers money agree to such terms? further why would Derby City Council as planning authority agree to something that potentially puts their planning committee at odds with the proposal - and so condemn the council and so its tax payers to pay costs to fight itself!
Back in April 2013 the local newspaper the Derby Telegraph ran a story suggesting the council faced costs of £1.2 million from the legal battles over the waste incineration plant - this story can be read here http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/Revealed-pound-1-2m-Sinfin-waste-plant-inquiry/story-18718360-detail/story.html and it was this story sat at the back of my mind that led to me making a Freedom of Information Act (FOI) request in recent months in relation to the claimed costs.
The result of my FOI request showed that actually the claim that costs would be £1.2 million were wide of the mark but nobody had attempted to set the record straight until I made the FOI. The response from the councils FOI dept was as follows.
Total figure for the 1st and 2nd inquiries of £838, 198, which is made up as follows:-
- Agreed contribution and settlement costs paid to RRS = £725,943
- Internal City Council costs = £112,255; made up of:-
- Staff costs = £11,859
- Hire of rooms = £15,526
- Legal costs,(to No.5 Chambers) = £84,870
So from the FOI we can see that while the council spent less than £85,000 on its actual legal case - to defend its own planning committee and in total less than £113,000 including staffing and room hire it blew £725,943 paying the costs of the developer.
How can a council - a public body such as Derby City Council sign a contract which places the developer in a win win situation where what ever the outcome the residents of Derby lose out !
A prime example of an uneven playing field!
©SIMON BACON 2016