Supreme Court gives judgment in landmark consultation case

29 Oct 2014 | by Caroline Sweeney

Ian Wise QC acted for the successful appellant, Michelle Moseley, in a challenge to the lawfulness of Haringey council’s consultation on its proposed council tax reduction scheme which affected over 36,000 people in the borough.  The Supreme Court, in a judgment with wide-ranging consequences for all consultation exercises carried out by public bodies, found that it was unfair and unlawful for Haringey to have only informed consultees about its preferred option without giving them at least an outline of the realistic alternatives and an indication of why they proposed to adopt their preferred scheme.

The court found that in wrongly presenting its preferred option as being the only option available to it the council misled consultees and no assumed knowledge on the part of consultees could save Haringey’s consultation exercise from a verdict that it was unfair and therefore unlawful.  In doing so the Supreme Court confirmed the case law of the lower courts to the effect that the demands of fairness will be likely to be greater when an authority proposes to deprive someone of an existing benefit than when considering a potential future benefit.

This was the first occasion that the Supreme Court (or indeed the House of Lords) has considered the requirements of a lawful consultation and as such will be the leading case on this area of law.

The judgment of the Supreme Court can be found here.

A press summary is available here.