Chalcots: Camden Council lawsuit ran up £6m legal bill in under three years

Dorney block on the Chalcots Estate

Over three years, Camden Council spent £6m suing a collection of companies for £130m over fire safety issues on the Chalcots estate - then settled it for £19m - Credit: Polly Hancock

Camden Council racked up a legal bill of “approximately £6m” in its lawsuit over fire safety issues on the Chalcots estate, it has admitted.

The council announced last week that the suit had ended in a £19m settlement.

But it has amassed millions in fees, reducing the net gain to roughly £13m - just 10% of what it was suing for.

Lib Dem leader Tom Simon said councillors must be allowed to scrutinise how Camden incurred such costs.

“There will be some pointed questions about that,” he said.

“It has been going on for a long time, but it still does seem like a lot – and we haven’t even set foot in court.

“I think we really need to get this before a scrutiny committee and dig into it.”

In 2017, inspectors found safety issues so severe that over 2,000 residents were evacuated.

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Camden had to remove flammable cladding and hire fire marshals and security, among many other costs.

In 2019 it filed a £130m suit against firms who worked on the estate from 2006 - 2009.

But it has now settled for £19m, with no firms accepting liability.

Steve Adams, former Conservative councillor for Chalcots, said he believed Camden was being left substantially out-of-pocket.

“If the legals are £6m, then £13m is pathetic, frankly,” he said.

Whilst Camden has claimed £80.6m from government’s cladding remediation fund, the current cost of recladding the estate’s five blocks is £99m – so the net gain of £13m from the settlement still leaves the total recouped millions below the cost of those works.

Mr Adams said that ignored other costs, like replacing hundreds of doors, fixing exposed gas pipes and inadequate fire stopping, and putting up thousands of evacuated residents for weeks.

“I suspect the cost is over £200m,” he said.

A council spokesperson said: “Every step of the way we have balanced the commitment that we made to residents and leaseholders to recoup as much of the costs as possible from the contractors involved in the Chalcots PFI refurbishment with careful consideration towards the legal costs involved in this type of litigation and negotiations held with central government, who asked all local authorities to pursue legal liability as part of grant requirements.”