Cumbria CC cabinet disregards concerns of scrutiny councillors and pursues Judicial Review

Despite the fact that the full council has voted not to pursue a judicial review over local government reform, and that the Scrutiny Management Board asked them to think again, the County Council's cabinet has voted to go ahead with it.

This is not just an irresponsible waste of money: it makes life more difficult for the officers of the county council and other councils in working on a very tight timescale to set up the new authorities.

It is also a very cruel thing to do to those who disagree with the form of local government which the former Secretary of State opted for, because it is holding out false hope.

Judicial Review is not something which you are supposed to use just because you disagree with a decision. To win a judicial review you have to prove in court - not just express an opinion in the council chamber or a press release - prove in court - that the person or body who made the decision you object to made a material error in the process they followed sufficiently serious that if it had not been made it could have made the decision.

And if you win the court action the whole thing goes back to the person or body who made that decision and they look at it again - and it's open to them to say that they have reconsidered it having corrected the process error and taking all the matters they were required to consider into account they are making the same decision again.

So to change the decision the Council cabinet have to both prove in court that the previous minister made a serious process error and then persuade the new Secretary of State to make a different one.

I don't believe they have a cat in hell's chance of doing either of those things.  What's more, I have good reason to suspect that the councillors who voted for this do not imagine that they have any chance of winning either.

This is a cynical exercise in gesture politics by the Labour group on the county council.

The Lib/Dems, by the way, abstained when this was first discussed at the special council meeting at the end of August, abstained at the cabinet meeting when the decision to pursue Judicial Review proceedings was originally taken, voted with the Conservatives on the Scrutiny Management Board to refer the matter back to cabinet at the start of this week, and then abstained again at cabinet yesterday.

The Lib/Dem leader said he could not support Judicial Review - and then abstained. 


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