Unitary bid declared unlawful in High Court

Government decision ‘made a mockery of the consultation process’, says judge.

PLANS to implement unitary local authorities for Norwich and Exeter have been declared unlawful in the High Court today (Monday) by Mr Justice Ouseley.

James Pavey, a partner of Knights Solicitors, who acted for Norfolk County Council and Devon County Council in spearheading the judicial review proceedings, said: “After three and half years of uncertainty, the local authorities in Norfolk and Devon can now focus on their core functions without the threat of structural change hanging over them.”

Mr Justice Ouseley, in his decision on the legislation implementing the two unitary authorities said: “On the face of it, the decisions taken by the Secretary of State and the Minister simply made a mockery of the consultation process.”

The proceedings, which took the form of a judicial review, challenged the decision of the previous Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government taken in February this year to implement unitary authorities for Norwich and Exeter.

“I am delighted that after such hard-fought litigation the Judge came to the same robust view as the County Councils - that the previous Secretary of State had unfairly changed his approach at the last minute without consulting anyone about his new reasons for implementing unitary authorities,” added Mr Pavey.

This was the third in a series of judicial reviews in which Knights have acted for local authorities against, first, the Boundary Committee for England and, then, the Secretary of State to challenge the previous government’s policy of implementing unitary authorities.