Council has left me ‘financially crippled’

A waste management consultant alleged this week that he and his firm have been “financially crippled” in pursuit of a legal action against Scottish Borders Council (SBC).

After confirming he had dropped his claim for £4.5million, Barry Phelps rounded on the local authority, stating that it had “acted disgracefully in this matter”.

An 11-day hearing of the case was due to have taken place at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, starting on March 24.

But within days of that date being set last month, councillors met in private and agreed to terminate the contract, brokered by Mr Phelps and his London-based firm D & P Management Enterprises Ltd, for an advanced thermal treatment (ATT) plant at Easter Langlee on the outskirts of Galashiels.

Mr Phelps had been engaged by the council for nearly four years before the contract – with a company called New Earth Solutions (NES) – was signed in April 2011.

His legal action began in August 2013 and related to fees he believed he was entitled to under a gain-share arrangement with the local authority.

On Friday came formal notification from the court that the claim had been dropped and that Mr Phelps had agreed to pay £20,000 towards the £36,416 legal costs incurred by the council in defending the action.

“With the council terminating the contract [with NES], I did not feel it right to continue to pursue them for £4.5million as they would never receive the full benefits of the savings,” Mr Phelps told The Southern yesterday.

“As far as I am concerned, however, I believe the council has acted disgracefully in this matter.

“If they had entered into some dialogue with me, both sides could have saved a substantial amount of money in legal fees.

“This action has financially crippled me and my company.”

Mr Phelps said he also believed the council would lose substantially more than the £2million it claimed it has written off by walking away from the NES contract.

“I intend in due course to let residents and taxpayers in the Borders know just how much this will cost them going forward,” he added.

A council spokesperson said this week: “The decision [to terminate the contract with NES] had no bearing on the Court of Session case as far as the council is concerned.”

SBC chief executive Tracey Logan added: “The council disputed this claim in its entirety and argued that no sum was due.

“We have been confident since the claims were submitted nearly four years ago and the court case raised 19 months ago that our stance was the correct one.

“We are obviously pleased that Mr Phelps has, belatedly, agreed that the council’s position could not be challenged. We are also pleased our legal fees will be covered at least in part by the claimant.”