Consultant abandons claim against council

Scottish Borders Council headquarters in Newtown St Boswells.
Scottish Borders Council headquarters in Newtown St Boswells.

A waste management consultant alleged this week that he and his company had been “financially crippled” in pursuit of a legal action against Scottish Borders Council.

An 11-day hearing of the case was due to have taken place at the Court of Session in Edinburgh 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. and P. Management Enterprises Ltd, for an advanced thermal treatment (ATT) plant at Easter Langlee in 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 council. His demand was based on savings which he estimated the council would make over the 24-year-operating period of the plant.

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, I did not feel it right to continue to pursue them for £4.5m as they would never receive the full benefits of the savings,” said Mr Phelps. “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 now financially crippled me and my company.”

SBC chief executive Tracey Logan said: “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.”