Public Interest Lawyers is an extraordinary firm of solicitors, who must be – certainly should be – the pride of the legal profession. Through their tenacity, quality and sheer hard work – often from unpromising beginnings and in dark times for public funding – they have single-handedly been responsible for shining the torchlight of legal accountability in a range of new areas. The work continues unabated. No barrister or judge, here or in Strasbourg, could have come to deal with the sorts of human rights issues which PIL continues to raise, but for their principled and brave pursuit of justice.

 

PIL demonstrates three further important things. First, how positive and constructive can be the use of public funding in public law cases, in the public interest. It has been hard. But PIL and the LSC have forged a partnership which is second to none, as to the importance of the cases that are brought, their success and their wider impact. Secondly, PIL demonstrates that London does not always lead, and a London-centric focus is neither helpful nor fair. This firm, from what are still sometimes thought of as “the provinces”, is the nation’s leader for human rights application in challenging cases. That PIL is looking, as a Birmingham-based firm. How refreshing for it to be that way.Thirdly, let it not be forgotten that PIL was set up as a new firm of solicitors. This is not the further and continued work of an established firm, set up long ago when times were different. This was an innovation; a leap of faith in the rule of law. It was a boat launched in a sea of uncertainty, which has turned out to be the flagship for public law accountability under the rule of law.

 

Michael Fordham QC
Michael Fordham QC
 
 

Legal Challenge to Doncaster Mayor's Decision to Reduce Library Funding wins Permission to Appeal

In a hearing in London today, the Court of Appeal granted Doncaster resident Carol Buck the right to appeal a High Court judgment of August 2012 in a case seeking to prevent the Mayor of Doncaster from going ahead with swingeing cuts to library services in the area.  The decision means that a full appeal hearing will now take place in the Court of Appeal before June this year. 

The Claimant will be asking for this hearing to take place as soon as possible, so that the important question of the balance of power between the Mayor and the elected Council in vital areas such as cuts to local libraries can be clarified.

At the hearing, the Court of Appeal agreed that all of the appeal points raised by the Claimant should be considered at a full hearing before a three judge Court of Appeal, including:

-    The powers of a democratically elected Council to propose reasonable binding amendments to the Council’s annual financial strategy;

-     Whether the budget constitutes a Council ‘strategy’ which the Mayor is required to follow.

If the Claimant is successful in her appeal, the Court of Appeal will have the power to quash the Mayor’s decision thus restoring the previous council-funded library services while the Council and Mayor reconsiders the financial strategy.

The Court of Appeal’s decision today comes amid growing uncertainty over the future of publicly funded services in Doncaster and across the UK as a whole. Where local services are being lost, it is vital that voters know the extent of the powers of their elected representatives so that those same representatives can be held accountable for their decisions. 

Speaking today, Carol Buck, said as follows:

“I am very pleased that we have been given permission to appeal by the Court of Appeal. I am only sad that the Mayor has ignored local protests and failed to resource the libraries in the way the Council intended.”

 Daniel Carey of Public Interest Lawyers said as follows:

“I am pleased that the Court of Appeal has recognised the importance of the issues in this case and the validity of our legal arguments. The democratic mandate of the Mayor does not extend to trampling the democratic mandate of the full Council when it has specifically provided for the funding of highly valued services such as Doncaster’s libraries.”


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