Monday, 31 January 2011

Judicial Review Could Have Huge Impact On Newham Cuts

On Friday, service-users of Roma Support Group, who are based on Barking Road, won their judicial review of the decision by the city-wide body London Councils to cut £10 million of funding from voluntary sector organisations in London.

In the High Court, Mr Justice Calvert-Smith held that London Councils’ consultation process was flawed and that they had failed to meet their statutory equality duties. He quashed all the funding cut decisions for the 200 plus projects and he said that London Councils must re-run the process, this time with full equality impact assessments.

In a statement [Word doc], the claimants' brief Louise Whitfield of Pierce Glynn Solicitors said:

"This case establishes that even in the current economic climate, it remains of paramount importance that public sector funding cut decisions are properly assessed for their gender, disability and race equality impacts.

If they are not, public sector funding cut decisions will be unlawful.

London Councils simply did not consider the full effect of their £10 million cuts on the hundreds of voluntary sector groups and tens of thousands of members of the public who would be affected. They will now be required to do so."

If Ms Whitfield is correct (and she is a specialist in claims raising equality issues, so I bow to her knowledge on this area of law) then Roma Support's legal challenge has a potentially huge impact on prospective public sector cuts in Newham. If the council has failed to carry out proper equalities impact assessments in deciding the services it intends to cut, then it may be acting unlawfully.

In the decisions taken so far, is the council really able to demonstrate that it has carefully considered the gender, disability and race equality impacts of cuts it proposes to make? Or are the decisions, as many suspect, arbitrary and uneven?

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