CASH-strapped council chiefs in Southampton have failed to recover £50,000 of taxpayers’ money spent settling a bitter dispute over the city’s largest mosque, the Daily Echo can reveal.
As the Medina Mosque is plunged into a new £3.3m legal dispute, it has emerged that the city council decided not to recover the costs of a High Court case to determine which of two rival factions of the Muslim community had the right to the building’s freehold.
The council believes that its costs to sort out the Mosque ownership dispute, including around 200 hours of officer time, ran to around £50,000.
A judge 16 months ago decided that the Southampton Medina Trust Ltd, which has been running the Compton’s Walk mosque since 2002, was entitled to own and manage it.
He awarded costs against the chairman of the rival Southampton Medina Mosque Trust, Mohammed Aslam, who was instrumental to getting the mosque built, and has now filed a separate £3.3m claim against three fellow original trustees for building costs.
A council spokesman said: “The council having taken legal advice has decided not to pursue the order for costs at this point in time based on Mr Aslam’s means – given that such action is likely only to lead to further cost for the taxpayer.”
Mr Aslam said the judge’s order of costs against him was “totally iniquitous”.
He said: “As a far as the council’s costs are concerned that’s settled and there is nothing outstanding from my point of view.”
He blamed the court costs on the Southampton Medina Trust Ltd for failing to fully co-operate with earlier attempts to resolve the dispute.
The council sought a judgment so it could hand over the title to the mosque site and enforce outstanding planning breaches, including use of a car park.
Around 500 worshippers regularly attend Friday prayers at the mosque.