Leicester

Rutland Council could be the first local authority to sue for defamation

One of the smallest local authorities in the UK could be the first to sue for defamation after a series of requests from a group of councillors.

Rutland County Council took legal advice over allegations made by three independents who call themselves Rutland Anti-Corruption Group (RACP).

Lawyers said the council's reputation had been damaged and suggested they could sue under the Localism Act 2011.

RACP denies doing anything wrong.

'Wild accusations'

The three councillors, Richard Gale, Nick Wainwright and David Richardson, said they had established RACP to hold the Conservative-controlled council to account on a number of issues.

But the leader of the council Roger Begy said the volume of requests for information was "costly and pointless", and, after a full council meeting in October, the authority commissioned a report by lawyers Bevan Brittan.

It advised the council had grounds to sue for defamation because several of the requests were made in emails to every councillor and damaged the council's reputation.

The lawyers added that some senior officers could potentially take individual legal action and also recommended that a number of emails be reported to police on the grounds of harassment.

The defamation action would be possible thanks to the Localism Act 2011 which grants local authorities the power to act like an individual.

Mr Richardson denied they had done anything wrong and said the group had to ask questions to carry out their job.

He added: "The fact is, we are elected by the people, we are elected by them to represent them and to do the best for them.

"We can only do that if we have the proper information in front of us."

But leader of the council Mr Begy said he wished to put a stop to the "costly and pointless" requests.

He said: "We have a group of people making wild accusations and costing our authority a great deal of money, trying to find something that they believe is there that isn't."

The report will be considered at a special full council meeting on Thursday.

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