Corby Cube legal action set to be dropped as it's 'impossible to attribute blame' for failings

The council is now unlikely to take legal action over the £12 million overspend

Monday, 3rd February 2020, 7:57 am
Updated Monday, 3rd February 2020, 7:58 am
The Corby Cube opened in 2010.

Corby Councillors will tonight be told that the authority is unlikely to succeed in legal action it has been considering since 2013 against Cube builder Galliford Try and architect Hawkins Brown.

In a meeting that will not be open to the public, members of the Corby Cube committee will be told that any legal action would not succeed because it will be impossible for the council to attribute blame for what went wrong with the project without incurring 'potentially significant' legal costs.

Any compensation is unlikely to outweigh the cost of bringing the action itself.

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It has taken nearly seven years and legal advice from an outside firm for the authority to come to that conclusion. They first mooted legal action back in 2013. The cost to the taxpayer of this external legal advice has not been made public.

The authority had planned to spend £35m on the building of the flagship Corby civic building which opened in 2010 but the eventual bill came in at £47.5m. About £600,000 extra was spent to fix a leaking roof, then £180,000 was spent two years ago to convert the fourth floor to offices to be let out.

The landmark building houses workspaces for some of the council's senior leaders as well as the Qube bar, the Core theatre, the library, the One Stop Shop, the Corby police desk and response base as well as privately-rented offices. A roof terraced restaurant plan never materialised.

An audit report into the problems at the Cube, published in 2012, was delayed and the authority was criticised by Secretary of State for Local Government at the time, Eric Pickles. He said in a letter to then Corby Conservative Councillor Rob McKellar: "In my opinion it is essential that local citizens have relevant and timely information to enable them to hold their council to account."

In that audit report, KPMG said that Corby Council had lost control of the scheme. Architects Hawkins Brown, were also criticised for poorly executed cost-planning and for ‘treating the council like a cash cow’.

The architect denied this then threatened to sue the council for the contents of other critical reports - an action that they later dropped.

In 2013, chief executive Norman Stronach told the BBC that legal action against those who had built the Cube was a growing inevitabilityBut now it looks like the council will drop their plan to try to claw back some of the extra build costs.

Although tonight’s meeting will be held behind closed doors - meaning local people and the press cannot attend - the Northants Telegraph has learned that members of the committee will be informed that pursuing a legal case will cost more than the compensation they could receive it they were successful.

The committee consists of Labour leader Cllr Tom Beattie, his fellow Labour councillor Judy Caine and Conservative councillor Kevin Watt, leader of the opposition. None of them were councillors when the Cube was being built.

They will hear the report and have a chance to discuss what they think the council’s next move should be.

In a separate report that will go to councillors at the overview and scrutiny committee tomorrow night, the council says: "We have now received a final report from our external legal advisors and their advice is that we are unlikely to succeed in any future claim that we bring against either the contractor or the design team as it is nearly impossible to attribute the blame to either party without incurring potentially significant legal costs that may not be recoverable and will inevitably be greater than any potential compensation.”

Corby Council said it had no comment to make.

Neither Galliford Try - which has an annual turnover of £2.7bn - nor Hawkins Brown responded to requests for comment.