City council settles with Mo Chaudry to close dispute over splash pool deal
CALLS were last night made for a secret deal between businessman Mo Chaudry and council officers to be made public.
The millionaire Waterworld owner has now dropped his long-standing threat of legal action after agreeing a "settlement" with Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
He claims the authority broke a deal to close the Dimensions splash pool and pay him £100,000-a-year to offer a discount at Waterworld instead.
The council last night admitted discussions took place with Mr Chaudry over the possible closure of the facility.
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A statement said: "The council acknowledges that there was considerable confusion around this process, which is regrettable and for which the city council is prepared to apologise to Mr Chaudry and Waterworld. Mr Chaudry and the city council have agreed to conclude their differences amicably in order to look to the future."
Both parties have refused to disclose details of any settlement, or whether it included money.
Councillor Dave Conway, now leader of the opposition City Independents, was among those who campaigned against the pool's closure and quit the Labour group in protest over the plans.
He said: "It is disgraceful. This is public money. There is a clear public interest in the public finding out how much of their taxes have been spent on this.
"I also want to know why they have paid him if there was no contract in place; which is what I was told at the time."
Paul Breeze, a non-aligned councillor and chairman of the Hanley One Residents' Association, said: "This council goes to great pains to talk about its openness and transparency.
"There is nothing open and transparent about this. The money they are paying out is our money.
"I believe they are hiding something and I don't know what, or why."
Taxpayer Daniel Arnold called on the council to reveal what had gone on.
The 24-year-old, of Meir, said: "If money has changed hands, they should have no choice, but to say how much it is."
The Dimensions controversy sparked the arrest of former councillor Roger Ibbs and then elected mayor Mark Meredith.
Mr Chaudry was arrested on suspicion of inciting, counselling or procuring the willful misconduct of the elected mayor.
No charges were ever brought and the investigation dropped.
Plans to close the centre were scrapped in 2008, because the council could not make the savings it had intended.
Mo Chaudry said in a statement "I am satisfied that my integrity and reputation are now restored."
Council's chief executive John van de Laarschot said in the statement: "It is pleasing that we have been able to come to an amicable agreement over this unfortunate legacy issue and that Mr Chaudry can now focus his business acumen on working with the city council to deliver real improvements for the people of Stoke-on-Trent."