No legal duty to consult when a public policy is being changed

Hetal Ruparelia from our Housing Management Team recently acted for Leighton Linsdale Town Council (“Leighton Linslade”) in successfully dismissing a claim for judicial review brought by a local citizen in relation to changes to market pitch fees.

The claimant argued that Leighton Linsdale is legally bound to consult market traders over variations to the pitch fees that market traders are required to pay. The judge, HHJ Dight (sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge) made two important rulings regarding consultation duties and costs.

The case confirmed that Leighton Linslade had been under no duty to consult in relation to the changes to market pitch fees, but in any event it has sufficiently consulted. HHJ Dight dismissed the claimant’s arguments because the authorities show that such a challenge required a ‘fundamental change’ in policy which might be described as a ‘moving of the goal posts’.  The Judge ruled that the changes effected by Leighton Linslade ‘do not begin to get close to the sort of changes required to create a legal duty to consult’.

The claimant had the benefit of a cost capping order in the sum of £4,000 on the basis that she was in receipt of benefits and that in the absence of a cost capping order she would withdraw the judicial review claim and it would have been reasonable for her to do so. It thereafter came to Leighton Linslade’s knowledge that the claimant had the prospect of receiving a substantial inheritance following the death of her father five months before she applied for the costs capping order. Leighton Linslade’s application to set aside or vary the cost capping order was successful. It was held that the claimant’s application for a costs capping order without disclosing her prospects of receiving an inheritance amounted to material non-disclosure entitling the trial judge to set it aside.  HHJ Dight made a further costs capping order in the sum of £20,000, an amount which the claimant was ordered to pay.

Mark Saccoccio from Linsdale Town Council thanked Hetal Ruparelia and Nick Billingham for all their hard work in support of the town council. He continued to say that ‘throughout the process, my colleagues and I have been impressed by the utterly professional service you provided us with.’ Nick and Hetal ‘offered advice and guidance at every step and when required, they responded to us promptly and in a supportive manner’.

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