THE full details of how much it cost council taxpayers to fight a judicial review launched by a Uttoxeter councillor after he was ruled to have disclosed confidential information have been revealed.
A Freedom of Information request by Uttoxeter’s MP Andrew Griffiths revealed that a total of £15,433.40 was spent by East Staffordshire Borough Council after Andrew Riley, who represents the Uttoxeter town ward, launched a challenge, which has since been dropped, after he denied revealing information surrounding the sale of the Carter’s Square car park in Uttoxeter.
This, coupled with the contribution of £6,000 from Councillor Riley and the local Labour group, meant that a total of £21,433.40 was spent on the failed bid.
Mr Griffiths told the Advertiser the money should have been spent on public services across East Staffordshire.
He said: “It is unacceptable that the council taxpayer in East Staffordshire should foot the bill for Councillor Riley and the Labour Party playing legal games and then abandoning them when they realised they would lose.
“This is money that could have been spent on public services, not wasted on expensive lawyers and legal vanity projects.
“Had Councillor Riley accepted his punishment then thousands of pounds could have been saved rather than wasted on expensive lawyers.”
The case was dropped after councillor Riley begrudgingly accepted a ruling that he disclosed confidential information after ‘spiralling costs’ meant the Labour group had to pull the plug on proceedings.
Councillor Julian Mott, leader of the council, said: “Upholding high standards inside councils is incredibly important.
“When claims are made, they need to be investigated which inevitably incurs costs.
“I appreciate the MP’s interest in this case and am quite willing to discuss the matter with him in the not too distant future.
“He should be aware that the council was under Conservative control when the settlement of costs was agreed.”
The council’s standards committee found Councillor Riley to be in breach of its code of conduct after he revealed to The Advertiser that the authority was planning to sell the car park to Lingfields for ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ back in 2011.
The councillor was preparing to challenge the authority at the Administrative Court in London later this month after stating he did not know the information was confidential.
Despite finding he had breached the authority’s code of conduct, the council said it did not impose any sanction on him and that, ‘unusually’, had agreed not to publicise the findings ‘for Councillor Riley’s benefit’.
A borough council spokesman added: “Nevertheless, Councillor Riley sought to challenge the decision. This brought the issue out into the public.
“A few days before the court was due to hear the case, Councillor Riley has withdrawn the proceedings and agreed to pay a significant contribution towards the costs incurred by the council.”