Catalogue of red tape bungles leads to £310,000 council payout to Leeds charity

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LEEDS City Council has been forced to make an out of court settlement of £310,000 to a charity after a chain of bureaucratic bungles going back almost 40 years.

The authority was pursuing the Leeds Society for the Deaf and Blind - which it had worked with for many decades - for £288,000 in surpluses it thought it was due.

When the charity disagreed and refused to pay up, the council deducted the money from future grants.

The Society sued, and after protracted legal negotiations, the council has relented. It has agreed to pay out £310,000 - covering the grants plus interest and legal fees.

The council says it had no choice but to pay up, as if it went to court and lost the admittedly “tricky and complex” case, the costs to the taxpayer would have risen to £500,000.

A report seen by the YEP shows that the council had lost track of the charity’s paperwork trail after the original officers dealing with the organisation left.

A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said: “Unfortunately in this case record-keeping was not up to standard on both sides historically, and this has therefore led to a difficult and tricky process of attempted recovery of cash owed to the council from a long time ago. Our primary concern has been to minimise any loss of public funds.

“It was our duty to pursue the costs as best we could, but in the end, given the lack of solid evidence and knowledgeable witnesses from the original setting up of the contract, we reluctantly accepted the legal advice to instead limit our losses. Had it gone to court and the council had lost, it was estimated this would have cost us in the region of £500,000.

“Clearly this contract should never have been allowed to operate in this way, but our procedures were revised and overhauled a number of years ago and all contracts are carefully managed and monitored to ensure they are running properly.”

The charity declined to comment.

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