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Worthing taxpayers face £1.5m bill as parking dispute goes to High Court
Taxpayers could foot a £1.5 million legal bill if council chiefs lose a court hearing with a parking firm.
Worthing Borough Council will face car parking company NCP in London’s High Court next week after a long dispute about parking prices and an alleged breach of contract.
Problems between the council and NCP started in 2009 when the authority raised concerns over the cost of parking in Worthing’s multi-storey car parks.
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Town hall bosses claimed NCP’s prices were having a detrimental effect on Worthing’s economy, prompting NCP to re-introduce 30, 60 and 90 minute parking tariffs that would prove cheaper for motorists but result in a loss of earnings for the parking company.
As a result the council said it agreed to meet half of NCP’s losses for a year only, totalling £152,000.
But it also claimed the 12-month period was purely a ‘trial’ and stopped paying half of NCP’s losses in November 2010.
It also ended its decade-long agreement with the firm and brought its off-street parking back in-house.
NCP is now taking the council to court on February 25 and 26 for breach of contract.
If Worthing Borough Council loses the case, it is expected to cost the authority about £1.5 million including legal costs.
Amid the row, the council’s head of technical services, Cliff Harrison, was sacked for gross misconduct – but the authority refused to explain why.
However sources have confirmed Mr Harrison, who was paid more than £70,000 a year, was dismissed in relation to the NCP dispute.
Mr Harrison appealed his dismissal earlier this month but his sacking was upheld.
Andrew Gardiner, one of the council’s strategic directors, was drafted in to fulfil Mr Harrison’s duties as head of technical services while the appeal process was thrashed out.
Neither Worthing Borough Council nor NCP would comment on the case until its completion next week.
However council insiders have voiced concern over an “already cash-strapped authority” potentially having to fork out £1.5 million because of the row.
The Argus has not been able to contact Mr Harrison.