It’s all in the timing: act quickly to avoid your cuts consultation complaint falling flat.

ingela anderssonA recent judgement by the High Court quashed a decision by London Councils to cut £10m of grants to voluntary organisations. The Judge found that the consultation process was flawed and told them to do it again, properly. One of the interesting points about this case for local and national Compacts, is the timing. 

This case shows the importance of acting promptly. Legal proceedings were started before the final decision was taken and throughout the case, the solicitor acting on the claimants’ behalf argued for an early hearing in order for the case to be decided before it was too late. Had the final decision on the funding already been taken, the ruling may not have been in favour of London Councils.

The details of the case
On Friday 28 January the High Court in London quashed a London Councils decision to cut the grants to 200 voluntary organisations delivering services across London. London Councils had proposed to let each Council decide how to use their contribution, however there was no guarantee that this money would be spent on the voluntary sector and in effect most organisations were likely to lose their funding.

The Judge found that London Councils’ decision making process was flawed and ordered the body to "undertake a lawful process of reconsideration, in accordance with the public sector equality duties" set out in the Equality Act 2010.
 
The Court also ordered that no funding under this grants programme can be terminated until proper consideration has been given to the Equalities duties, and organisations must be given three months' notice after such consideration has been given.
 
My recommendation: Act quickly to improve the chances of winning your case
The chance of succeeding with a challenge, whether it’s using the Compact of Public Law, does not only depend on the severity of the breach, but also on how quickly you act, and if there is a reasonable chance for the public body to remedy the situation. If a lot of time has passed since the decision was made (a few months would count as a lot) and if related decisions have been taken since, it will be much harder to argue that the decision should be quashed.
 
I would strongly urge organisations to take advice early when they suspect a decision making process is flawed. It doesn’t matter if a consultation is still on-going or if the final decision has not been taken yet. Compact Advocacy can help you identify problems in the decision making process and support you in challenging them. Contact us on 020 7520 3161.
 

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