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Litigation threat could cost Herefordshire Council more than £300k
10:02am Thursday 17th October 2013 in News
A LITIGATION threat over land charge searches could cost Herefordshire Council around £375k.
The threat is listed among legal liability costs the council may have to cover over the current financial year and beyond.
Another £300k has already been set aside by the council to cover data protection breaches and claims. Earlier this year the Hereford Times revealed that a single, highly sensitive, breach in the People’s Directorate could cost the council a £200k fine imposed by the Information Commissioners Office.
The potential for litigation over land search charges, however, has been in the background for some time. The council has now confirmed that such litigation has been threatened and may be in receipt of legal proceedings.
Like counterparts across the country, Herefordshire Council is required to keep a register of land charges in so far as they affect properties within the county. Purchasers of land within the county must obtain a search of the local land charges register.
Historically, councils have charged varying rates for the provision of land charge searches. A national debate has arisen as to whether this information should be provided under the Freedom of Information Act or the Environmental Information Regulations at lesser or no cost to the purchaser.
If the claim against the council succeeds, the estimate cost is around £375k.
Initial projections already put the overspend on the council’s legal services at £123k in 2013-14. A sum that only comes down with funding found through the council’s Public Health grant.
Much of the overspend reflects the increased cost of additional in-house expertise in key areas of planning, childcare and employment law that should reduced the outsourcing of legal work to solicitors and counsel which, in previous years, has cost the authority in excess of £400k a year.
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