Court makes council review funding cuts after making ‘very serious error’

The landmark High Court victory of a group of voluntary
organisations over Leicester Council will encourage more challenges
of local authority decisions, a leading voluntary sector body has

Mr Justice Silber ruled last week that the council had made a “very
serious error” in cutting £11.6m to six voluntary bodies
without proper consultation.

Chief executive of the National Association of Councils for
Voluntary Service Kevin Curley described the judgment as
“historic”, adding that in 30 years of working within the sector he
had seen no other case like it.

“We will be making sure that our 330 members know about this case
and know how to take the step of using judicial review as a means
of challenging bad practice by local authorities,” said

He added: “Crucially, Leicester Council is one of the remaining few
that does not have a compact with the voluntary sector. But even if
it had one, what matters is how councils consult.”

Overturning the council’s decisions, the judge said it had denied
the bodies, which include the Turning Point Women’s Centre, “a fair
crack of the whip” and was “conspicuously unfair”.

He added that the council would have to begin “consulting afresh”
if it wanted to cut cash for the groups.

The council wrote to groups in January this year saying it was
considering ceasing all funding and that they should reply with
comments the following month.

All groups responded but in late February they received letters
saying the council was cutting all funding.

But the judge found the local authority did not explain to the
groups what criteria they had to meet to make a case for continued
funding and the factors going against them. It also failed to give
adequate reasons for its decisions.

Council leader Roger Blackmore said he was deeply disappointed that
the judge had found some “technical deficiencies” in the way the
council had consulted with some of the six groups affected,
insisting that they had all fully understood the council’s reasons
for proposing the cuts.

Blackmore said a fresh consultation would be undertaken as
“speedily as possible” and, meanwhile, funding for the groups would

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