Four councils have lost a judicial review brought against the government’s decision to transfer the costs of care proceedings in England from the courts to local authorities.
Hillingdon, Leeds, Liverpool and Norfolk councils brought the action last month in opposition to ministers’ decision to increase council fees for care cases from £150 to up to £4,825, which came into force in May.
To meet the cost, the government transferred £40m from the courts budget to councils’ general funds, but this was not ring-fenced and authorities claimed it was not allocated according to the number of cases in each area.
The case was backed by the Law Society and the NSPCC, who warned that vulnerable children could be put at risk as a result of councils not taking out proceedings on cost grounds.
However, the High Court rejected their case.
NSPCC acting chief executive Wes Cuell said: “We are disappointed with the decision and sincerely hope that the court is correct in its assessment that vulnerable children will not be at risk under the new court fees regime.”
A joint statement from the four councils said: “We felt we had a strong case, as by increasing the cost of these court proceedings, and not putting into place what we believe to be a fair allocation system for local authorities to meet these costs, some local authorities will be out of pocket and the extra costs will ultimately be met by local tax payers.”