QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
London WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
|THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF MEANY, GLYNN AND SANDERS||Claimants|
|HARLOW DISTRICT COUNCIL||Defendant|
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Mr J Holbrook (instructed by Harlow District Harlow District Council) appeared on behalf of the Defendant
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"With the background of the recession, reducing the funding available for advice services was agreed very reluctantly. Due recognition was given, however, to the way that the provision of welfare advice has changed over the years, with the availability of other providers and support groups, growth and availability of the Internet, and the way benefit providers assist potential claimants. Following a long period of regular cuts to jobs and services there was very little left where savings could be made and therefore a reduction to discretionary welfare advice funding was unavoidable. We would always like to do more."
"Additionally, any significant reduction in Council funding may lead to a reduction in the external funding that HWRA secures, and therefore the impact of reduced funding could effectively lead to disproportionate reduction in service. A further factor is that under the terms of the funding agreement with HWRA, the Council is responsible for any redundancy costs incurred through a reduction in funding."
"Depending upon the budget set, there may well be a reduction in the service provided.
Depending upon the budget set, there may be redundancies and pension financial stain payments, for which the council would need to identify funding.
It is likely that there would be a proportionate reduction in other funding -- and therefore services -- as most external funding is conditional upon matched funding being available."
"There is no simple solution to the challenge of being able to provide a quality welfare rights and advice service, while reducing the Council's subsidy. The Working Party has considered a wide range of data, and has considered the four options outlined above. Each of the options has benefits, drawbacks and risks. Option 4 offers very few advantages and significant risks and for this reason it has been discounted by the Working Group."
"Welfare rights and advice services often prevent people from getting into debt, or becoming homeless, and enable vulnerable people to understand and take up benefits that they are entitled to. They are therefore a key instrument in preventing social exclusion."
"Access to information about welfare rights and advice is an important mechanism for ensuring equality of opportunity for all groups in the community, but particularly those that are vulnerable to discrimination."
"(a) the findings of the Working Group in relation to the five-year contract with HWRA, particularly in relation to the high quality of the service that has been provided be noted;
(b) Option 2, as outlined in the report, be adopted in relation to the delivery of welfare rights and advice services, but a budget for the provision of those services be not determined by this Committee at present;
(c) a further task and finish working group be established to take forward Option 2 and to recommend a budget to this Committee for the provision of welfare rights and advice services and it be agreed that the Council's procurement procedures should be followed to secure a contract to provide a service within that budget."
"... due to insufficient information a budget could not be recommended to the Policy and Resources Committee for the five-year contract for the delivery of welfare rights and advice in Harlow."
"The provision of welfare rights services enables people on low incomes to obtain free advice on issues such as debt, employment legislation, housing et cetera, and therefore help to break down barriers to social inclusion."
"Welfare rights and advice services often advise members of the public on issues relating to discrimination, and therefore help to promote equality of opportunity."
"In the absence of a recommended budget, it was agreed to invite tenders at different cost levels.
(a) the report and minutes of the Welfare Rights and Advice Working Group held on 8 December 2008 be noted;
(b) an invitation to tender for welfare rights and advice services be advertised at the beginning of January 2009 and tenderers be invited to submit proposals for service provision at the following budgetary bands:-
Up to £100,000 per annum.
Up to £150,000 per annum.
Up to £200,000 per annum.
Up to £250,000 per annum."
"The initiatives outlined in Appendix J have been designed to provide information and support to individuals and organisations facing potential hardship in the current economic climate. Access to such information and advice can help to address social exclusion."
"None specific although, in relation to Appendix J, any advice and support should be provided in such a way as to be accessible to all sections of the community."
"Significant reduction in service. Core services will be specified and tendered to achieve best value for the Council. Council will bear redundancy and pension strain payments. Adverse publicity and public dissatisfaction extremely likely."
"Every public authority shall in carrying out its functions have due regard to --
(a) the need to eliminate discrimination that is unlawful under this Act;
(b) the need to eliminate harassment of disabled persons that is related to their disabilities;
(c) the need to promote equality of opportunity between disabled persons and other persons;
(d) the need to take steps to take account of disabled persons' disabilities, even where that involves treating disabled persons more favourably than other persons;
(e) the need to promote positive attitudes towards disabled persons; and
(f) the need to encourage participation by disabled persons in public life."
"Every body or other person specified in Schedule 1A or of a description falling within that Schedule shall, in carrying out its functions, have due regard to the need --
(a) to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination; and
(b) to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups."
"A public authority shall in carrying out its functions have due regard to the need --
(a) to eliminate unlawful discrimination and harassment, and
(b) to promote equality of opportunity between men and women."
"In my judgment, it is important to emphasise that the section 71(1) duty is not a duty to achieve a result, namely to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination or to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between persons of different racial groups. It is a duty to have due regard to the need to achieve these goals. The distinction is vital. Thus the Inspector did not have a duty to promote equality of opportunity between the appellants and persons who were members of different racial groups; her duty was to have due regard to the need to promote such equality of opportunity. She had to take that need into account, and in deciding how much weight to accord to the need, she had to have due regard to it. What is due regard? In my view, it is the regard that is appropriate in all the circumstances. These include on the one hand the importance of the areas of life of the members of the disadvantaged racial group that are affected by the inequality of opportunity and the extent of the inequality; and on the other hand, such countervailing factors as are relevant to the function which the decision-maker is performing."
"Ultimately, how much weight she gave to the various factors was a matter for her planning judgment."
"I do not accept that the failure of an inspector to make explicit reference to section 71(1) is determinative of the question whether he has performed his duty under the statute. So to hold would be to sacrifice substance to form."
"The question in every case is whether the decision-maker has in substance had due regard to the relevant statutory need. Just as the use of a mantra referring to the statutory provision does not of itself show that the duty has been performed, so too a failure to refer expressly to the statute does not of itself show that the duty has not been performed. The form of words suggested by Mr Drabble to which I have referred above may not of itself be sufficient to show that the duty has been performed. To see whether the duty has been performed, it is necessary to turn to the substance of the decision and its reasoning."
"Moreover, the weight to be given to the countervailing factors is a matter for the public authority concerned, rather than the court, unless the assessment by the public authority is unreasonable or irrational: see Dyson LJ's judgment in Baker at paragraph 34."
"But it is not, in my opinion, appropriate that the remedy of judicial review, which is a discretionary remedy, should be made use of to monitor the actions of local authorities under the Act save in the exceptional case."
He then went on to refer to other principles, including references to Wednesbury, and went on:
"Where the existence or non-existence of a fact is left to the judgment and discretion of a public body and that fact involves a broad spectrum ranging from the obvious to the debatable to the just conceivable, it is the duty of the court to leave the decision of that fact to the public body to whom Parliament has entrusted the decision-making power save in a case where it is obvious that the public body, consciously or unconsciously, are acting perversely."