A DIVIDED parish council has agreed to investigate how it made a legal decision which ended up costing it £40,000.
Yarm Town Council has also agreed in principle to approach its insurers to see if it is entitled to any of the money back.
The council lost a Judicial Review in September 2012 which was an attempt to have Stockton Borough Council’s introduction of pay and display on Yarm High Street declared illegal.
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Since then there have been accusations that Yarm council did not properly agree to go ahead with the Judicial Review at a full committee meeting, but only to investigate the possibility, but the process went ahead any way. Other councillors say they would have continued if they knew the authority was not insured for its costs if it lost the Judicial Review.
Now members of the Save Stockton South group have issued a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to find out more about the council’s actions at the time. Some of that information has been published online and appears to suggest the authority may not have followed procedures correctly. That led Coun Chris Johnson, who was the lead councillor involved in the Judicial Review, to bring the issue up at Tuesday’s full town council meeting at Yarm Town Hall.
He argued that if the council had made a mistake it may be able to claim the money back from its insurers as councils are routinely insured against costs coming from honest errors.
The council made two decisions at Tuesday night’s meeting. One was to investigate further how the legal decisions were made. The other was to agree in principle to approach its insurers, but only after more information has been examined.
Former chairman, Jason Hadlow, handed a written statement to the Darlington and Stockton Times during the meeting.
He said: “As a result of Ms Sandra McLeavy, of Save Stockton South, making a request under the FOI Act to Yarm Town Council about the car parking Judicial Review, and the subsequent reply to that request published via the What Do They Know website, it is clear that Yarm Town Council has acted ultra vires and negligently in their conduct of the car parking Judicial Review and that as a consequence unauthorised funds have been needlessly misapplied to the initiative and wasted. In order to protect the taxpayer the council should immediately refer this matter to its insurers.”
However UKIP Yarm councillor Mark Chatburn, who is also a borough councillor, has issued a statement laying the blame for mistakes leading up to the Judicial Review on councillors Hadlow and Johnson. He said: “I am pleased Yarm Town Council has finally agreed to take action in this matter. I believe Conservative councillors Hadlow and Johnson acted without the necessary authority, which ultimately cost the town a huge sum of money.”
Councillor Ben Houchen said there were too many personality clashes at Yarm Town Council and he was disappointed there wasn’t full backing for a full investigation into the lead up to the Judicial Review. “A full investigation is certainly needed,” he said.