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Hirer sues over foot and mouth

Ruttle Plant Hire issues £1.7m writ against minister over clear-up cost of slaughtered stock

A LANCASHIRE contractor is suing the Government for nearly £2 million, claiming that it is still owed cash for helping to tackle the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001.

Ruttle Plant Hire, based in Chorley, was one of a number of firms asked to clear up thousands of slaughtered animals.

The £20 million turnover firm first hit the headlines in August 2001 when Construction News revealed it was one of three owed a total of £22 million for their work on the foot and mouth outbreak. The highest profile was Carillion which was owed £8 million and has since been paid.

Ruttle supplied plant and labour throughout the country to deal with the emergency which reached its height in April 2001 with 100,000 animals being slaughtered every day.

News of the writ comes just a week after the Public Accounts Committee slammed the way the Government had handled the crisis. The final bill for dealing with the epidemic is expected to hit £1.3 billion by the time all claims are settled.

The nine-page writ, which has been issued against Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, says Ruttle is still owed £1.7 million for work it carried out in the Preston area of Lancashire.

The writ alleges: 'The defendant has failed to agree the Preston invoices or the revisions thereto within reasonable time or at all.'

Ruttle director Mike Carrol said it is still owed a further £2 million 'at least' on top of what it is claiming for its work which stretched from Scotland to the Midlands.

He added: 'They wrote the agreements and fixed the rates and we signed up to it. We did everything asked of us. We're just wanting what we're entitled to and we're reluctantly going down this route.'

A spokeswoman for the department said: 'We are defending the proceedings.' She added that last year's National Audit Office report into the crisis concluded the Government had been over-charged in some cases and found irregularities with invoices. By May last year forensic accountants had saved the department £20 million.