Council vows to pursue Leeds Arena case costs

LEEDS City Council has vowed to do its duty to the taxpayer – and continue to pursue businesswoman Jan Fletcher for its £2m legal costs in relation to her failed High Court challenge over the city’s £60m Arena contract.

Jan Fletcher

The authority had given Ms Fletcher less than a month to pay up, after a High Court judge granted permission to pursue her personally for costs it ran up while successfully defending her £40m damages claim over the way the competitive tender to develop the arena was handled.

This was after the high-profile millionaire’s firm, Montpellier Estates Limited (MEL), had been ordered to pay interim costs of £2m in April after the challenge was defeated.

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After the deadline was reached last night, the council confirmed Ms Fletcher had failed to pay – despite signing a written undertaking to do so – and it was left with “no option” but to take further action.

The authority declined to reveal details of the form that action will take.

A spokeswoman said: “It is very disappointing that despite giving us a written undertaking that she would personally pay any cost order that her company, Montpellier Estates Ltd, could not meet, as well as the High Court making an order for her to pay interim costs of £2m by November 14, 2013 – Jan Fletcher has as yet made no payment to us.

“No credible proposal for paying our costs has been brought forward either.

“In the circumstances, where we have had to defend a case which the judge said should ‘never have been brought’, we have been left with no option but to enforce the order against Jan Fletcher to recover the public money we are due. We would be failing in our duty to the council tax payers of Leeds if we did not actively pursue these very large costs.”

On April 25 this year, Mr Justice Supperstone awarded Leeds City Council interim costs of £2m against Montpellier Estates Ltd following their failed attempt to sue over the awarding of development rights to the Leeds Arena. The costs were an interim payment pending a future decision on the total to be paid. The judge had earlier dismissed the claims for damages entirely.

The Yorkshire Post was unable to reach Ms Fletcher last night. Receivers were appointed in July over a portfolio of properties owned by Montpellier Estates.