Friday, 2 August 2013

Appeal Court Judges uphold One Barnet judgement

The following press release has appeared on the Barnet Council website

It says :

Barnet Council wins One Barnet appeal

Published Friday 2 August 2013

Barnet Council has won a Court of Appeal hearing against its One Barnet change programme. The programme will save the council £126 million over the next ten years. In April 2013 the council successfully defended a High Court legal challenge brought by a resident against elements of the One Barnet programme. It called into question the council’s decision to award contracts to Capita plc to run back office services and enter into a joint venture to deliver development and regulatory services.

During the High Court challenge Lord Justice Underhill ruled that the application for judicial review was out of time. His decision was appealed on 15 July and a judgment on that appeal was delivered by The Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Davis and Lady Justice Gloster today (Friday 2 August). In today’s judgment, the Court of Appeal judges agreed with Lord Justice Underhill’s ruling that the case for a judicial review was out of time. Lord Justice Davis concluded that the appeal case be rejected, stating: “My opinion is that these proceedings were properly assessed as out of time and accordingly that this application should be refused.”

Councillor Richard Cornelius, Leader of the Council, said: “I’m delighted with the judges’ decision.
“We can all now get on with making the huge savings in our back office costs which we need to do if we are to continue protecting our frontline services. Nobody has stepped forward to propose either cuts in services or increased taxes as an alternative to this programme.

 “This contract with Capita will save the Barnet taxpayer £126 million over the next decade. We have to be clear that we are in line for a decade of austerity and we have to look at all opportunities to drive down costs while supporting our services.”
Contact Press Officer: Sue Cocker

The Barnet Eye has not read the detailed judgement. Sadly having attended the proceedings, this result was not entirely unexpected. Ultimately the issue was one of timing. At the earlier hearing the Judge had determined that Barnet had not consulted, but the challenge was brought too late. At the appeal court, it seemed fairly clear that the Judges were not convinced that the lower court got this one minor issue wrong.

As far as I am concerned it is an appalling verdict. There was no way Maria Nash could realistically been expected to bring a case at the point which the judiciary and the Council seemed to argue that she should, way back in 2011, when the council were actually promising that they would do a consultion and that no contract or even detail had been defined. It is clear to me that the legal system of the UK is not fit for purpose when it comes to defending the interests of the weak, vulnerable and poor against the might of large bureaucracies. The odds are so stacked against the ordinary man in the street, that it would take something approaching a miracle to get a positive decision. We did of course see David Attfield win a welcome victory in the CPZ case recently. This is rather different in that David is a Solicitor and so he knows the law and the rules. Maria Nash has not got legal qualifications and did not even know how to mount a challenge when this process started. That is why she failed. By the time she had assembled a team and the know how and an understanding of what the process means to her, the chance to object had gone (as far as the judiciary are concerned).

Can this be good for Great Britain? I am not actually a fan of the law intervening in disputes such as One Barnet. The democratic process should be used to make these decisions, but sadly the democratic process was completely subverted. Does this mean that the likes of the Barnet Eye will go away and throw ourselves under a train? No. It means that we now have to put Capita under scrutiny. We have to make sure that we make the best of an appalling job. We have to make sure that we never again get caught out in this manner. The opposition have learned how to fight these cases. We have learned the rules and the pitfalls. On the morning after Pearl Harbour, many US Admirals hung their heads at the scale of the defeat imposed upon them by the Japanese airforce. But they learned the lesson. Within four years, the Americans had defeated the Japanese in a monumental naval campaign. As those Admirals surveyed the burning hulks in the Harbour, such a result would have seemed incongruous. The reason the Americans won, was ultimately they had the people to turn it around. If anyone at Barnet Council thinks that the opposition will melt away, it will be the latest in a very long line of very bad judgement calls that they have made.


Dave-ros said...

Ladies and gentlemen, the b******s have won :-(

paper tiger said...

Call me stupid, but I still can't work out how outsourcing services can save a council £126 million yet also make a private company very lucrative profits....?

Morris Hickey said...

I suspect that it comes under the heading of what is known in some circles as "creative accounting".