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Court tells government to reconsider scrapped BSF schemes

February 14th, 2011

Mr Justice Holman tells the government to reconsider scrapped BSF schemes

It is thought six councils will have schemes reviewed, but judge rules overrall decision to scrap the £55bn programme was rational

The government has been partially defeated in a High Court row over its scrapping of the £55bn BSF programme, with a judge ruling it must reconsider its decision to abandon six schemes.

The verdict comes after six councils – Waltham Forest, Luton Borough Council, Nottingham City Council, Sandwell, Kent County Council and Newham – brought a judicial review case arguing that the stopping of projects in their areas was arbitrary and unlawful.

In today’s ruling, Mr Justice Holman ruled that the government must reconsider its decision to scrap projects in those authorities. However, in a blow for other councils that lost out, he said that the overall decision to end the BSF programme “was not open to legal challenge on the ground of irrationality.” He warned that other local authorities were in his view too late to bring any claim against the government, and that to bring any further cases would be “a grave and exorbitant usurpation… of the minister’s political role.”

Holman said: “Other local authorities than these claimants will no doubt read this judgment and may consider that they are in the same or a sufficiently similar factual position to claim the same relief. The decision is now, however, over seven months ago, and in my view  any other authorities would now be far too late to apply for judicial review.   I do not mean to trivialise so important an issue, but it may be said that fortune has favoured the brave.”

He ruled that the government must review its decision to scrap the BSF projects of the six local authorities involved in the court battle, even though it did not act in breach of any “legitimate expectation” of funding, because it failed to consult with the claimants about the effect on their individual projects. However, the future of these schemes still hangs in the balance, as he added: “The final decision on any given school or project still rests with [Secretary of State Michael Gove]..   He may save all, some, a few, or none, but no one should gain false hope from this decision.

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