Council’s funding cut to short breaks for disabled children held unlawful
The High Court has held today (22 July 2016) that the decision by West Berkshire Council to reduce funding to voluntary sector providers of short breaks to disabled children was unlawful. Steve Broach acted for the Claimants, instructed by Irwin Mitchell LLP.
The claim arose out of a decision, as part of the council’s budget setting for 2016/17, to reduce the funding given to voluntary sector organisations to provide support to families with disabled children by 52%. The Judge (Mrs Justice Elizabeth Laing DBE) held that this decision was flawed because Members were misdirected as to the requirements of the public sector equality duty and because Members failed to consider the other relevant legislation, including sufficiency duties relating to short breaks.
After permission to apply for judicial review was granted, the council took a second decision to ‘reaffirm’ the previous decision. The Judge held that this decision was ‘materially affected by apparent predetermination’ and so could not cure the flaws in the first decision.
The Judge rejected the council’s argument that relief should be refused because the Local Government Finance Act would require the full budget calculation to be quashed if relief were granted. The judgment also contains important guidance on the new requirement for permission and relief to be refused if the outcome would not have been substantially different if the conduct complained of had not occurred.
The judgment is here.