Sheffield Council explains why it spent £38,049 on solicitors during investigation into dangerous cladding

The local authority has explained why it spent £38,049 on solicitors to find out if it could sue anyone involved in dangerous cladding being put on a Sheffield tower block.

By Molly Williams, Local Democracy Reporter
Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 4:45 pm

The findings of a three year investigation into why combustible cladding was put on Hanover Tower, on Exeter Drive, Broomhall, were published in a report last month.

It followed the failure of a fire safety test introduced in the wake of the Grenfell disaster in 2017.

Part of the reason for the delayed release of the report was caused by a solicitor review, the report says.

Cladding on the Hanover Tower block in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, was taken down after it failed a fire safety test. Sheffield Council said a single element of covering on the Hanover tower block in Exeter Drive, Broomhall, failed the inspection. June 27 2017. Picture: Benjamin Paul/SWNS

A Freedom of Information Act 2000 request revealed the council paid solicitors Geldards LLP £38,049 in 18 payments between September 2019 and June 2020, within period the report states this work was undertaken.

Councillor Paul Wood, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and community safety said: “We owed it to our Hanover Tower residents and the public to carry out a thorough review and this meant seeking legal advice.

“Geldards were engaged to advise on whether the council had a legal case against any third party. Their costs included the fees for both specialist barrister advice and expert building regulations advice. Their report was key to the conclusions made about the liabilities of third parties. That report appeared as an appendix to the Hanover Tower report.”

The report said external solicitors were appointed in February 2019, this came around the same time the council told Homes England, a non departmental public body, there was no legal claim against the contractor.

It also came after it responded to a full council members' question saying it had no plans to reclaim money spent on replacing the cladding from the original installers. Homes England were later informed of the subsequent legal investigations and the results of those.

Consideration was given to publishing the report early this year but it was decided to wait until legal investigations were finished.

Solicitors found there was not enough evidence for the council to make a claim against the contractor or sub-contractor, any claim would only be for cladding above 18 metres and the council had not suffered any financial loss on which to base a claim for damages.

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