16:42 Friday 06 December 2013

Council in £150k legal settlement

Written byJOANNA CRAIG

Burton + Uttoxeter Local Elections at Burton Town Hall..Malcolm Barrett Burton + Uttoxeter Local Elections at Burton Town Hall..Malcolm Barrett

A COUNCILLOR has reached a £150,000 settlement with his own authority over money he claims he lost in a failed land deal.

East Staffordshire Borough Council will pay the cash to Malcolm Barrett and his business, MJB, for expenses incurred over a planned cattle market development.

Mr Barrett initially claimed £200,000 for work done by MJB from 2005 to 2008 while attempting to secure planning permission for the cattle market on council-owned land off Dove Way, Uttoxeter.

A spokesman for East Staffordshire Borough Council said that the basis of the claim had been the “ongoing encouragement” the council had given MJB to pursue the development without a contract.

In a statement, the council said it defended itself against the claim, believing it had not ‘duly authorised’ the encouragement of the development.

But following negotiations with MJB, and after taking legal advice from a barrister and external solicitors, the council agreed to settle the claim “without admission of liability” for £150,000 – including interest and costs – in order to avoid the risk of future legal costs.

A spokesman said: “It’s disappointing that the claim was made but it was clearly in the best interests of tax payers that it was settled in this way.”

In 2005, discussions took place regarding the possibility of building a new cattle market on land owned by the borough council off Dove Way.

The talks involved the council, MJB and operators of the former cattle market, Bagshaws, who in 2007 said they could not operate the new market on terms discussed. In 2008, the council decided not to go ahead after commissioning an external report on the need for a new market and its viability.

The council is currently pursuing a scheme to use the land for other commercial purposes which it expects to result in a ‘significant cash injection’.

Mr Barrett said he did not want to comment on the settlement.

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