Chalcots settlement could be probed by panel of councillors

The New Journal revealed Camden Council agreed to be paid £19 million

Monday, 4th July — By Harry Taylor

Claddingremoval Chalcots October 2017

Chalcots estate

CAMDEN Council’s decision to settle out of court with four contractors responsible for maintenance and refurbishment of the Chalcots towers, for less than 15 per cent of its claim could be scrutinised by a council committee.

The New Journal exclusively revealed last week that officials had struck a deal with the firms that made up Partners for Improvement with Camden (PFIC) for £19m, despite initially launching legal action for £130m.

The Town Hall has already published figures that showed it spent £15m on evacuating the estate after a post-Grenfell fire safety review and to remove cladding. Contracts to reclad the towers will cost nearly £100m.

Tom Simon, leader of the opposition on Camden Council and chair of the resources and corporate performance scrutiny committee, said that he was concerned at the amount Camden Council had settled for, and added that he may get the decision investigated by his committee.

“I get that it’s some kind of resolution, but £19m feels a little bit disappointing. It does leave the council and taxpayers a long way out of pocket when it comes to costs,” he said. “I’m hoping to get a bit more information down the road, and hopefully that will allow me to get a better and clearer sense of what has happened.”

Cllr Simon, who lives in Dorney block, added: “There is a case for councillors to look at it for scrutiny and in greater detail. Not all of it may be able to be done in public due to legal sensitivity, but as much as could be, should be, and I’ll have a look and see if we can bring it into resources and corporate performance.”

Cllr Tom Simon

In a letter sent to residents, the council said that a deal had been agreed as the companies could have gone bankrupt if a judge had ruled against them.

Former Belsize councillor Steve Adams, a Tory, told the New Journal that the settlement was “an admission of defeat”, adding: “It leaves the council with egg on its face and a £100m hole in its budget compared to where it claimed it would be.”

Alongside the announcement last week that it had reached a compromise, the Town Hall said it would launch the second part of its inquiry into events leading up to the evacuation, including an investigation into the private finance initiative (PFI) deal and works between 2006 and 2009, and its subsequent management.

Mr Adams added: “That the original cladding works were so defective should leave the council with some deep soul-searching over its in-house failings.”

A Camden Council spokesperson said: “Every step of the way we have balanced the commitment that we made to residents and leaseholders to recoup as much costs as possible from the contractors involved in the Chalcots PFI refurbishment. This has been done with careful consideration towards the legal costs involved in this type of litigation and negotiations held with central government, who asked all local authorities to pursue legal liability as part of grant requirements.”

They added: “Any litigation is inherently risky, particularly litigation with multiple parties. Throughout the process there was a risk that the parties would not have sufficient funds to satisfy any judgement.”

Three of the companies did not respond to requests for comments. One directed the New Journal to Camden’s statement.

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