Council seek permission to appeal High Court decision

CHRISTCHURCH council “did not act promptly” in launching a legal challenge against local government reorganisation in Dorset, a draft version of the High Court judgment says.

Sir Ross Cranston, who presided over the hearing in London last week, said that the council had had earlier opportunities to challenge plans to merge authorities.

Announced on Tuesday, his judgement found that the council’s claim that the secretary of state had acted beyond his powers by allowing the process to go ahead was not justified.

Eight of the county’s nine councils support plans to merge into two unitary authorities however Christchurch council has opposed the proposals with a referendum of the borough’s residents finding that 84 per cent were against joining with Bournemouth and Poole.

On May 21 it lodged a judicial review challenging the legality of the secretary of state’s actions to go ahead with the mergers saying that he did not have power under the 2016 Cities and Local Government Devolution Act to do so.

The challenge went to the High Court in London last week, however Sir Ross dismissed the council’s case and criticised the speed at which the council put forward its case.

He said that there was “no compelling reason” for determining that the act did not allow the secretary of state to progress the scheme and that issues could have been raised at an earlier stage.

“In my view, this claim has not been brought promptly,” he added, saying that, in his view, “time had already start to run” when the council first saw the draft regulations in January.

“Promptness in this case was of obvious importance when the steps to prepare for reorganisation have been continuing during 2017 and have involved the expenditure of considerable time, effort and public moneys,” he said.

“If objection had been raised earlier, steps could have been taken to avoid any potential issue.”

The council is considering whether to appeal the decision with borough mayor Cllr Lesley Dedman saying there were “points of law” which it could argue.

Article originally appeared on Daily Echo

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