ANOTHER half a million pounds of taxpayers’ cash may be reserved for court action against a firm involved in building Colchester’s Visual Arts Facility.

Colchester Council’s cabinet will next week be asked to approve plans to set aside £500,000 for a claim against Turner and Townsend, a former consultant on the £25million gallery project.

The authority has already won a court victory against Vaf construction firm Banner Holdings, but fears it will not get the money after Banner appealed and then went into administration.

The original plan was to put some of the millions of pounds claimed from Banner towards suing Turner and Townsend.

But with the Banner cash in serious doubt, officials are now looking to use residents’ tax money instead.

Paul Smith, councillor with responsibility for the Vaf, said: “It was always anticipated we would have to take legal action against more than one party involved.

“Initially we were hoping to get compensation from Banner which would have funded action against Turner and Townsend, but due to Banner’s administration, we may not recover all our costs.”

Turner and Townsend acted as managing agents on the Vaf project, which went into meltdown as the council sacked Banner amid disputes over the delayed and over-budget scheme.

The proposed council lawsuit would allege Turner and Townsend must have been partly to blame for the problems.

The plan to put aside £500,000 for the claim comes as councils across the country face huge budget pressures. It also comes after the council has already poured millions into the Vaf.

If the scheme is passed by the cabinet, the whole council will have to approve it as it involves taking cash from reserves and spending money that would normally go on services.

Mr Smith said the legal action was a calculated risk as the council might lose and could even be made to pay costs. He added: “Our legal advice is we have got a good case.”