Officials who bungled when awarding a tree-pruning contract may have cost Birmingham taxpayers more than £200,000.
That’s the total amount the city council is believed to have paid out to end a bitter 14-month legal dispute.
Council leaders settled out of court with Central Trees after the firm claimed it was treated unfairly when bidding for a lucrative contract.
Details are being kept under wraps, but the local authority has admitted its legal costs alone were £75,000.
Under the terms of the deal, the council also had to meet Central Trees’ legal fees of £80,000 and pay compensation.
Central Trees won an injunction against the city in February 2009 after losing the council’s £20 million tree maintenance contract.
A court order prevented the contract for looking after 80,000 trees across the city from being awarded to two companies – Acorn Tree Surgery and Fountains Support Services – who had been told the job was theirs after bidding for the work.
Central Trees claimed the contract was improperly awarded and obtained a disclosure order which forced the council to hand over copies of sensitive emails sent by local authority officials.
A confidentiality agreement means neither side can reveal details of the compensation, but it is understood the bill was substantial.
The cabinet member with overall responsibility for awarding the contract, Martin Mullaney, said it was right that financial details were kept secret while compensation negotiations were taking place.
But he could understand why council tax payers might feel strongly that the full cost of the saga should be revealed now.
Coun Mullaney (Moseley & Kings Heath) added: “My hands are tied. I have no alternative but to follow the legal advice I am given by officers, and that is the amount of compensation must remain confidential.
“If members of the public feel strongly about this they should complain to the council.”
He added that any concerned resident could submit a request under the Freedom of Information Act for financial details set out in a confidential report to the council cabinet.
However, a council spokesman said the document would not be released.
The council has been forced to launch the tendering process again, incurring further costs.
The spokesman added: “We are currently going through a re-procurement process and the deadline for tenders is next month.
“We hope to complete the process some time in September. In the meantime the existing tree maintenance contracts have been extended to ensure an ongoing service.”
Central Trees declined to comment.