High Court stops Day Centre Closure
Rhion Jones comments on this week’s Interim Relief order preventing Birmingham Council from closing a Day Centre at Kings Norton, Birmingham.
It is unusual, but not unprecedented for Councils to be stopped from closing public services pending a High Court challenge. Plans to close the Fairview Day Centre by Birmingham Council have aroused significant opposition, and if you listen to this sound clip, you will hear Wendy Collymore, from the ‘Save Fairway Day Centre’ powerfully make her case on BBC Radio WM.
Solicitors, Irwin Mitchell have a good track record for challenging public bodies for failing to hold a proper consultation, and they were involved in an important case when Shropshire’s attempt to close the Hartleys Day Centre in Shrewsbury was found unlawful. When this case comes to Court – possibly in December all eyes will be on the Council’s defence. Has it consulted adequately? And if it hasn’t would it not be better to do so now rather than fight yet another battle in the High Court?
Campaigners against the closure of a Kings Norton day centre are appealing to Birmingham City Council to rethink their ‘unlawful’ decision, as lawyers prepare a legal challenge.
And the Save Fairway Centre campaign have launched a crowdfunder to help support legal costs as lawyers apply for a judicial review.
The Fairway Day Centre supports adults with a range of complex physical and learning disabilities and is much relied upon by its users and their families and carers.
Despite an active campaign against the proposed closure for over 12 months, Birmingham City Council cabinet decided in July that the centre will close, as the building is unfit for purpose and too expensive to run efficiently.
At the time of the decision, city council leader Cllr Ian Ward claimed alternative provision would be an improvement for service users. Birmingham Live reported he said: “It is very easy to focus on buildings but what’s important is the service, and we can do better.
“I hope in the future users and families come to realise we are delivering a better service.”
The decision was confirmed last month following further scrutiny.
Now lawyers from Irwin Mitchell’s specialist Public Law and Human Rights team is applying for a judicial review into the proposal to close the centre. The firm is acting on behalf of the family of one service user, along with supporting statements from a number of other.
They argue that the closure is unlawful on several grounds, including that the decision was taken without a proper consultation of those affected.
Oliver Carter, the legal expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office who is acting in the case, said: “Fairway Day Centre is a vital hub for vulnerable people in the Kings Norton area and the community is extremely concerned regarding the steps which have been taken to close it. After reviewing the key facts surrounding this case, we believe the decision has ultimately been taken on unlawful grounds and we are now urging the council to once again revisit the issue.
“The closure of this site will have a significant negative impact on a number of people and it is clear that it should not be taken lightly. Users of the centre believe that the Council had failed to consult and so did not know just how seriously this will impact on the local community. We will support our clients every step of the way in this matter.”
Irwin Mitchell’s client in this case – who cannot be named for legal reasons – has a range of conditions including muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and learning disabilities. She uses the centre four days a week.
The closure has raised lots of concerns among the community and also led to the creation of the Save Fairway Centre campaign group, with a petition and a Facebook page to gather support.
The group has this morning launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to help assist the legal challenge.
Wendy Collymore, whose father relies on Fairway Day Centre is chairperson of the campaign group.
She said: “Fairway is an essential part of the care arrangements for so many people, yet the council took the decision on closure without talking to any of us first. It is very hard to take, particularly considering the huge impact that the closure will have on us all. In terms of my father, moving to a new centre would upset him immensely as he has formed vital bonds with his peers and staff at Fairway. Change now would be very difficult for him. We are determined to ensure our voices are heard on this issue and hope that applying for a judicial review will make people recognise the need for a rethink. This issue affects so many people, so it has to be reconsidered urgently.”
A spokesperson for Birmingham City Council today responded, saying: “We are committed to ensuring that all our service users are treated with dignity and respect and have appropriate services in buildings that are fit for purpose.
“Following feedback from service users and carers we entered into additional engagement to ensure the proposals were fully communicated. After approval by cabinet the decision was called in for further scrutiny, and subsequently approved on return to cabinet committee.
“All service users’ needs are being reassessed and options looked at, including use of a direct payment, access to community resources, support at home and access to other council-run centres, ensuring that support and care is provided to meet eligible social care need and that support is provided in local communities close to home.”
This article originally appeared on B31 Voices
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