Friday, 26 August 2011

Daily Post column: Time for answers from Merseytravel about legal bill

Daily Post column: Time for answers from Merseytravel about legal biIt seems that Cllr Dowd
David Barlett writes:
.......Merseytravel did not like the wording in a press release about the chairman's authorised personal spending on the authority's credit card.

But what sets this case apart is that the taxpayer (you and I) are picking up part of Cllr Dowd's bill.

How much will the taxpayer pay? We don't know because Merseytravel refuses to discuss it, ironically until the legal case is complete.

The transport authority has seemingly made a decision about this, yet refuses to explain it. Why?

Excuses about not wanting to interfere with the legal process do not hold water.

All we know is what Merseytravel's senior legal officer, Tony Fitzpatrick, told Cllr Makinson in an email by way of explanation: "As Cllr Dowd is chair of the authority, it was felt that the press reports had harmed the reputation of the authority, and on this basis it was considered that the authority should fund the legal costs associated with protecting the organisation's reputation.

"The expenditure for the legal advice is within Neil Scales's expenditure limit approvals as chief executive of the authority, and so no further approvals were necessary to approve this expenditure."

It is worth pointing out that it is not possible in law to defame a public authority.

In 1993 (Derbyshire County Council v Times Newspapers) the House of Lords ruled that local government or central government institutions could not sue for defamation because this would place an undesirable fetter on freedom of  speech

...............he concludes:

This story now has legs, and will continue to run and run. And those very reputations that the action was intended to protect will be eroded with each outing it gets

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