Removal of Parliament Square protesters ‘could cost �70,000’
Westminster Council’s legal cost of removing protesters for the Royal Wedding could reach �70,000, claim Labour group
Westminster residents could be faced with a legal bill of up to �70,000 for the council’s legal actions to move protesters from Parliament Square, according to the Westminster Labour group.
In a letter to Westminster Labour leader Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg enquiring about expected costs, Westminster’s head of legal and democratic services Peter Large said: “Thus far we have spent �2,625 on advice from Counsel on the present situation.
“In the event of a full blown hearing in the High Court of these present proceedings, I would estimate Counsel’s fees to be in the region of �20,000 to �30,000, but as you will appreciate, this depends on all sorts of things, including whether there is an appeal against the initial decision.
“I would estimate our all-in costs to be in the region of �40,000 to �50,000, with another �15,000 to �20,000 should there be an appeal.
“If we are successful we will no doubt be awarded costs against the defendants, but they may prove difficult to recover in practice. Should we lose, then we would be faced with an order to pay the costs of the defendants.”
Mr Large’s comments came in response to Cllr Dimoldenberg’s query into the amount the council has previously spent on legal costs to remove people from Parliament Square and the expected costs of the current action.
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Mr Large adds that the file related to the “unsuccessful application for an injunction against Brian Haw in 2002” shows “disbursements of �15,000 which would appear to include payment of the other side’s costs and our internal costs charged to the client of �7,200.”
Cllr Colin Barrow, leader of Westminster Council said: “We make no apologies for our determination to rid this World Heritage Site of people camping on our pavements.
“We support peaceful protest but after years of blighting this part of central London and ruining it for all Londoners we are working with the Government to end this fiasco once and for all.
“We have a great deal of support in this from MPs, visitors and residents alike and will seek to recover whatever costs are incurred.
“Dealing with issues like this is part of Westminster’s responsibility for the centre of the capital city. That role gives us a wider responsibility for tourism and the London economy.
“Sometimes that is unfortunately more costly than we might like. This cost would be avoided entirely if these protesters obeyed the law.”
But Cllr Dimoldenberg hit back at the potential cost saying: “At a time of tough financial choices many Westminster residents will ask why their council is prepared to spend �70,000 on legal bills instead of providing care services for the 3,000 vulnerable adults and the disabled with moderate needs whose services are being axed.
“Residents would be right to ask why this legal action has higher priority for scarce council resources at the same time as the Portman Family Centre has been told to sack staff in order to make �200,000 savings”