High court action that could cost North Northants taxpayers millions to be discussed in closed meeting tonight

Members of the press and public cannot attend the meeting

Thursday, 9th December 2021, 1:14 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th December 2021, 1:16 pm
Tonight's meeting will be held in Thrapston

North Northamptonshire Council members will meet behind closed doors tonight (Thursday, December 9) to discuss a legal issue that could cost local taxpayers millions.

Councillors have been asked to attend an extraordinary meeting to further discuss a way forward in a high court legal battle.

Although the press and public will not be allowed into the room and have not even been informed of the subject of the meeting, the Northants Telegraph understands members will be given an update on the issue that dates back more than two decades and will be asked to vote on how the council will now proceed.

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The legal battle concerns an historic case as reported by independent news outlet NN Journal in September. Landlord of the Snooty Fox Geoff Monks served time in prison for not paying a fine he'd been hit with by East Northamptonshire Council for food safety offences back in the late 1990s. This conviction was later overturned but then he was again pursued by the authority in 2003 for similar offences.

NN Journal reported that Mr Monks had begun an abuse of process civil action for malfeasance in public office and malicious prosecution against the council in 2015, although it was kept secret from members of the public and from other members of the council. Mr Monks is reported to be in pursuit of more than £14m for damages including lost earnings.

When ENC disbanded in April, the action became the responsibility of the new North Northants Council and the Northants Telegraph has been told there is significant anger among members as the cost will now be borne by taxpayers living across the whole of the north of the county. They were also upset that the first they had heard of the action was when they were sent agenda papers.

A period of mediation has now begun to try to avoid a costly high court trial and this is the second time a full council meeting has been called to discuss the issue - the first was in June when members voted to delegate the negotiations to leader Cllr Jason Smithers along with senior council officers. Since then, the parties have been discussing ways to settle the matter out of court which is likely to include a significant financial offer from NNC.

An NNC spokesman declined to comment while the matter is ongoing.