Public Interest Lawyers Press Release
Court of Appeal Finds that North Somerset Council Failed to Meet Legal Obligations in Taking Decisions to Cut Youth Services’ Budget
In a judgment handed down today, the Court of Appeal has confirmed that North Somerset Council failed to act in accordance with the law when taking a decision in February 2012 to reduce funding to youth services in the North Somerset area by 72% over a three year period.
In a 30 page judgment, the Court of Appeal confirms that Aaron Hunt, the 22 year old youth service user from Banwell who challenged the legality of the Council’s decision, had persuaded it on the ‘substantive points’ he had raised in argument. The Court found:
That there was insufficient evidence before the first instance Court to conclude that the Council had taken adequate steps to ascertain the views of young persons before taking the decision to cut funding.
That the first instance Court could not assume that Councillors had read critical equalities documentation when it was not in the paperwork put before them at the time of making the decision.
That the Council was not entitled to rely upon the interventions of third party objectors, who complained at the Council meeting of 21 February 2012 that the cuts would have far reaching and damaging consequences, to demonstrate that Councillors were fully aware of the equalities impact of their decision to cut funding.
By agreeing that Mr Hunt’s criticisms of the Council’s processes were substantively correct, the Court of Appeal found that the first instance Court had erred in its interpretation of the law when it first considered Mr Hunt’s claim. Having corrected that position, the Court of Appeal has validated the concerns raised by Mr Hunt about the Council’s decision making process.
The Court of Appeal had the option of asking the Council to revisit the initial decision to reduce the budget. However, due to the time that had passed since that decision, the Court of Appeal did not ultimately consider it appropriate to require the Council to return to it on this occasion.
Cianan Good of Public Interest Lawyers said as follows:
The Court of Appeal’s judgment today confirms what Aaron Hunt and others in the North Somerset area have complained about since the Council’s February 2012 decision: that the Council did not consider their views, and therefore did not act lawfully, before taking the decision to cut the youth services budget. Although the Court has ultimately determined that it will not require the Council to revisit that decision, this does not detract from the fact that the Council’s processes have been found to be wanting. It is hoped the Council will now give appropriate consideration to the criticisms made of it in the judgment and that any future decisions taken, whether in relation to youth services or any other important public service, will be sure to respect the views of those within the North Somerset area as well as the law.
For further information, contact: Cianan Good of Public Interest Lawyers
Telephone: 0121 515 5069 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The full judgement can be found at: