Government warning- don’t try and push through changes using coronavirus as cover
One of the warnings the Institute gave in our Coronavirus emergency advice, and that has been repeated by our associates, is that public bodies should not attempt to use the cover of coronavirus to push through changes without consultation. It seems we are not the only ones to note this possibility. The recently released Government guidance on Care Act easements for local authorities contains a similar unequivocal warning:
“The Coronavirus Act does not give authority to block, restrict or withdraw whole services. It enables Local Authorities to make and apply person-centred decisions about who is most in need of care, and who might need to have care and support temporarily reduced or withdrawn in order to make sure those with the highest need are prioritised”- Annex A to Care Act easements: guidance for local authorities
Whilst we are sure that none of our members would attempt to do so, it is worth noting why this is important. Not only would attempting to push through changes without consultation fly in the face of good practice, it could also form supplementary evidence of illegality in any subsequent judicial review challenge. Fairness and transparency in decision-making are two of the primary reasons for consultation and attempts to avoid scrutiny are likely to be looked on very sternly by the courts.