Further legal indemnities for council leader and chief executive

Coun Peter Jackson and Daljit Lally.
Coun Peter Jackson and Daljit Lally.

Taxpayers are being asked to foot the legal bills of Northumberland County Council’s leader and chief executive for a second time.

At its meeting next Tuesday (November 13), the authority’s cabinet is being asked to agree that indemnities are provided to Coun Peter Jackson and Daljit Lally to get legal advice and representation in relation to an employment claim from a current council employee.

The indemnities would be £10,000 in the first instance, but can be extended in tranches of £15,000, and would be subject to very similar restrictions as those which have already been granted to Coun Jackson and Mrs Lally in relation to another legal dispute with a property developer.

A report says that the council has received an employment claim from a current employee, in which the claimant has named the pair, as well as the authority itself, as potential defendants.

It adds: ‘So far as the council is aware, the actions complained of by the claimant as far as they are understood, are actions which Coun Jackson and Mrs Lally undertook in the normal course of their duties for the council.

‘Given this, it is reasonable that the council provides them with a suitable indemnity in respect of their legal costs in respect of the employment claim.’

This is familiar territory as at the July meeting of the cabinet, members unanimously approved indemnities for Coun Jackson, Mrs Lally and the cabinet member for planning, Coun John Riddle.

These relate to the £10million High Court claim by Lugano over the way its application for the Dissington Garden Village, a development of up to 2,000 homes near Ponteland, has been handled.

Last month, the cabinet unanimously agreed to provide the trio with their second instalment of £15,000 each, subject to receipt of counsel’s opinion that it is reasonable to do so.

The indemnities in both cases would not apply if ‘their actions were fraudulent, deliberately wrong or reckless or not authorised by the council’.

Plus, if a court finds that the trio ‘behaved improperly, illegally and outside their authority, then the council is entitled to be refunded all costs paid out under the indemnity’.

The closing submissions in another employment tribunal against Northumberland County Council, brought by two former members of staff alleging unfair dismissal, are due to be heard next Monday (November 12).

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service