Council to pursue Fletcher for millions after she fails to meet payment deadline

LEEDS City Council is to take action against Yorkshire businesswoman Jan Fletcher after she failed to meet the payment deadline for a £2m interim costs order following her failed attempt for damages over Leeds Arena.

Last month, a High Court judge gave the council permission to pursue the former Montpellier Estates (MEL) chairman personally for its costs defending her failed court bid.

Mr Justice Supperstone issued an order that Ms Fletcher pay the costs before November 14, pending a final decision on the total amount due.

This was after he agreed an application from the council at the High Court in Leeds to join her personally into its claim for costs against MEL.

The council’s application was based on an earlier personal undertaking from Ms Fletcher to cover the costs should the company be unable to do so.

It emerged that she gave the written undertaking to the council in July last year, guaranteeing payment in the event of MEL both losing the case and not being able to pay up.

This was more than three months before her company’s £43.5m damages bid over not winning the contract to develop the Leeds Arena was heard at the High Court in London.

A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council 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, could not meet, as well as the High Court making an order for her to pay interim costs of £2m by the 14 November 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.”

Mr Justice Supperstone had originally handed down a ruling in February dismissing entirely claims in damages for alleged deceit and flawed procurement under European regulations brought by MEL against the council.

The dispute centred on the 2007 tendering process for the Leeds Arena when MEL put forward its 10-acre “City One” site, in Holbeck, as a potential location.

MEL had already prepared and put in its bid when, in November 2008, Leeds City Council terminated the process. The council went on to build the arena on a site off Claypit Lane.

The judge said that the council was perfectly entitled to bring the competitive tendering exercise to a close when other bids were found not to be good value for money and then develop the arena itself.

The original hearing took place in London’s High Court over nine weeks towards the end of 2012.