THE Town Council has set no limits on the amount of public money it is willing to spend in contesting a judicial review, set to be heard in the New Year.

The case has been brought against it by one of its own councillors, Liz Harvey, who was accused of bullying staff.

Cllr Bob Barnes, chairman of the town's finance and general purposes committee, said: "The resolution is to consider legal advice to the extent of our budget and/or our reserves.

"We are being challenged legally. The reputation of the town council is on the line, definitely; and that of the councillors and of the employees - the entire council as it stands."

Cllr Harvey, in a statement, said the legal action she was bringing against the council was a matter of principle.

She said: "I believe very strongly in the principles underpinning this judicial review and this is why I have taken the personal financial risk of bringing legal action."

One figure that has been quoted for the costs, if the council should lose the judicial review, is £140,000.

The case, set to come to court this January, and will look at the processes used by the town council in finding Cllr Harvey guilty of bullying staff.

It been brought against the council by Cllr Harvey who, following an investigation under employment law, was found by town councillors to be guilty of bullying staff.

But Cllr Harvey was later found not to be in breach of Code of Conduct rules, which govern how councillors should treat others, by a separate Herefordshire Council investigation.

Cllr Harrison was also found not be in breach of Code of Conduct standards.

At last week's stormy full town council meeting, Cllr Matthew Eakin said he felt "stabbed in the back" when hearing that a standing committee would have delegated powers of expenditure to deal the judicial review, because he understood it was a matter full council would be voting on.

And speaking after the meeting, Cllr Andrew Warmington also called for more full council involvement.

He said: "The most egregiously wrong statement of all is that 'Town Council has decided it would be in the best interests of the Town Council to proceed to prepare detailed grounds for contesting the claim'. Town Council has not decided any such thing and has never been in a position to decide, because it has not been informed.

"The standing committee has apparently taken this decision, in the process exceeding the powers delegated to it. If so, this is the first I and presumably most other councillors knew of the decision. Any decision to contest the claim has to be approved by full council."

And members of the public have also expressed dismay over the possible drain on the public purse, reserves and all.

Southend resident, Steve Betts said: "It has come to my attention that at last week's meeting of Ledbury Town Council, it was declared by the mayor, as chairperson, that in order for the town council to defend itself in the judicial review case brought by Councillor Harvey, the council 'will spend an unlimited amount'.

"When challenged by Cllr Harvey on this cavalier notion of open-ended spending, the response came that if necessary, reserve funds would also be committed."

Mr Betts said this was "an irresponsible stance and misuse of public funds by our town council."