Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Barnet Judicial Review - is this justice?

Yesterday, the judgement on the Maria Nash's judicial review was published. I would urge as many people as possible to read this judgement because it illustrates just how unfair the justice system can be at times.

The judge, Lord Justice Underhill is critical of Barnet and is quite clear that they failed to consult with residents. However, the law believes that ordinary residents without a law degree, need to do things like study the Official Journal of the European Union  (OJEU) with great rigour, to read between the lines on council papers, even when they are not explicit and to seek legal redress at the earliest possible opportunity even though they don't know what they are objecting to.

Barnet failed miserably to consult - and in  the judges words;

"Although I have, out of deference to the attention given to it in the evidence, and to some extent also at the hearing, summarised the nature of the consultation about the 2010/11 and 2011/12 budgets, there is no real dispute that it did not constitute consultation about outsourcing as such.  “Alternative service provision” was mentioned in the materials supplied, at least for the latter year; but no relevant information was supplied, and the exercises were plainly not designed to elicit views about it".   He went on to say:

"It is clear that in the present case the Council did not make any attempt to consult on the specific question of whether the functions and services covered by the NSCSO and DRS contracts should be outsourced", and in summary he said:

"It follows that if the application for judicial review had been made in time I would have held that the Council had not complied with its obligations under section 3 (2) of the 1999 Act in respect of the decisions taken in 2010/11 to outsource the performance of its functions and services, covered by the proposed NSCSO and DRS contracts".  

BUT...   the case is out of time so tough luck!

I believe it was Lord Hailsham who coined the phrase "elective dictatorship" and that is exactly what we have in Barnet, a weak group that fails to represent the broad views of the residents but is able to drive through whatever policies it wants aided by the weaknesses of the democratic system we have in place. If this judgement stands it will send a green light to Barnet to be even more secretive about what they are doing, to completely ignore meaningful consultions, to ignore the broad range of views of the 356,000 residents and to go ahead with whatever it wants, because it can. 

I understand that Maria Nash is going to appeal and I hope for everyone's sake she is successful.


  1. As the judge acknowledged that the council did not consult and "no relevant information was supplied", how could any application for judicial review have been "out of time"?
    Even though he stated that "the Council had not complied with its obligations under section 3 (2) of the 1999 Act", the council just gets away with it?

  2. 8% of Barnet's population changes every year so as the Judge felt the claim was 18 months or so late that is 12% of the population of Barnet who probably wouldn't know they should have issued a challenge before they moved here when they probably wouldn't have had any standing?

    1. Forget the 12% who wouldn't know. Based on my discussions with the public about 97% of the residents did not know in December 2012 when the final decision was taken. 18 months ago I would wager that fewer than 0.1% of the borough's population knew anything about this outsourcing programme. In that case 99.9% of the population would have missed the deadline to challenge this decision.