LEGAL action put forward by Shaftesbury councillors could cost ratepayers up to £30,000.

Heard during a town council General Management Committee meeting in January, Shaftesbury town clerk Claire Commons explained to councillors that the authority is at risk of judicial review, for “its handling of councillors in meetings”.

She told the committee that Councillor Peter Yeo had sent a legal letter to the authority, which also “comes at a cost”.

The authority has also recently received a letter claiming “costs and damages for breach of personal data”.

Cllr Yeo has previously claimed that the council breaches European law when himself and Cllr Karen Tippins are excluded from meetings.

The clerk said: “I am quite confident that we have acted properly as a corporate body in respect of all of these challenges however with my RFO [responsible financial officer] role I must alert you to that financial risk. A judicial review could come in with a price ticket of around £20,000.”

The clerk added that the council is getting increasing legal challenges when her responses to the matter are not accepted, causing further costs.

Despite the clerk’s advice to set the lump sum aside, Cllr Piers Brown suggested the £30,000 should be moved to the pot focussing on the infrastructure of the Maltings estate, so it can “deliver good for the town”.

Expressing his “full confidence” in the clerk, he said: “This is not just money that has appeared, this is money that has come from the good people of Shaftesbury, and they are paying with the expectation that it is spent on the town, not on fulfilling the ego trips of a couple of individuals.”

Cllr Tim Cook raised concerns that putting together a court case, should that scenario arise, would cause money to “easily be eaten up”, adding: “It is in our own corporate interest to make sure we put money aside in the event of something happening.”

Describing it as “an appalling situation”, and supporting Cllr Brown, Cllr Alex Chase added: “The fear of the actions of certain individuals is potentially going to prevent us putting as much resource as we possibly can into the Maltings estate.”

It was approved that if a court case or further legal action rises, the £30,000 now earmarked for the Maltings estate infrastructure will be used to cover the costs.

During this meeting the budget was also edited to ensure there was no increase to the taxpayer, by cutting back funds for civic and ceremonial events.

The budget was adopted at the full council meeting two days later.

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