Legal discussions are ongoing about Pembrokeshire County Council potentially recouping a £200,000 insurance excess paid by it following the 2022 fire at Manorbier school.

Manorbier Church in Wales VC School and its adjoining schoolhouse was severely damaged by a fire on October 11 of 2022, which broke out in the school roof space.

Pupils and staff were successfully evacuated with no injuries, and a ‘school from school’ was set up in Jameston Village Hall, after a brief period of sanctuary at the nearby Buttyland caravan site.

Pembrokeshire County Council’s insurers have previously said the fire was accidentally started while ‘hot works’ were being carried out by contractors to renew an adjacent flat roof, but, as has previously been stressed, no liability has been accepted to date.

Councillors have previously heard the majority of costs were likely to be met from the council’s insurers, with the caveat of the unknown issue of liability and its effect on a £200,000 insurance excess.

A submitted question, by Councillor Aled Thomas, heard at the full council meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council on May 9, asked Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language Cllr Guy Woodham “to update the chamber on what progress the Cabinet have made in recouping the £200,000 insurance excess paid following the devastating non-fault fire at Manorbier school”.

Councillors have previously been told by Cllr Woodham: “The legal issues are not straightforward but will be robustly taken forward.

“At this stage it’s still subject to legal discussion. The excess will be covered by a fund the council holds for insurance excess.”

He said that, if liability was found or accepted, the council would “pursue for the full maximum claim of the costs associated with the fire”.

Responding to Cllr Thomas’s question at full council, Cllr Woodham said there was a limited amount of information he could make public due to ongoing active proceedings.

He told members the council had not paid out a sum directly, insurance excess coming from reserves kept for such an eventuality, with the possibility that amount could be pursued legally in the future.

In a supplementary question, Cllr Thomas said: “He did commit several times that the authority will be chasing after that money; why should we as a council be paying that, reserves or not?”

Cllr Woodham responded: “My position has been stated before, I would expect the authority to recoup any losses,” adding: “If it is even recoverable, I would probably follow the legal advice of that, but my position is to pursue any loss that can be done.”