The application for judicial review brought by a resident of Doncaster challenging the Elected Mayor, Peter Davies, for his refusal to implement a decision of Doncaster’s counsellors to save the authorities libraries is to be heard on Tuesday 24 July. The hearing will commence at Leeds Combined Courts Centre at 10.30am and is due to conclude at 4.30pm. At the end of the hearing the judge is expected to reserve judgement for hand-down at a later date.
On 23 February 2012, the Mayor proposed his budget for the forthcoming year to Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council’s councillors sitting together as the ‘full Council.’ The head of the Labour group proposed an amendment to that budget which allocated funds to save two closed libraries and prevent 12 other libraries from being left to be run by volunteers. On 5 March 2012, the full Council voted (by 43 votes to 6 with 3 councillors abstaining) to include the proposed amendment in the budget. The law is clear that the setting of the budget is the responsibility of the full Council and not an elected Mayor.
The following day, the Mayor, an English Democrat, announced that he was not going to implement the budget as set by the Full Council and that the 14 libraries would continue, as he wished, to close or be transferred to community volunteers.
The law requires the Mayor to act “wholly in accordance” with the budget as set by the Council. The claim centres on whether the Mayor’s refusal to implement the budget can be said to be wholly in accordance with the budget.
The claim seeks an order requiring the money allocated in the budget to be spent on saving two libraries and for providing paid staff to support volunteers in 14 libraries.
In granting permission for the claim to proceed, His Honour Judge Gosnell observed that the “claim is clearly arguable.”
Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, said today:
The Mayor’s refusal to implement the decision of a two-thirds majority of all of Doncaster’s councillors is not only disastrous for the future of Doncaster’s libraries, it raises a fundamental question about the elected Mayor system. The claim will provide an important answer about the balance of power between an elected Mayor and all of an authority’s elected councillors.