Appeal Court to rule on legality of council’s youth cuts

Aaron Hunt with his mum Alice.

Aaron Hunt with his mum Alice. - Credit: Archant

A DISABLED youngster who mounted a legal challenge over funding cuts to North Somerset’s youth services is today (Thursday) presenting his case to London’s Court of Appeal.

Aaron Hunt is asking three senior judges to overrule North Somerset Council’s decision to scale down or axe many of its services for young people.

The authority was forced into drastic action last year as part of its attempts to save £92million by 2018.

But 21-year-old Aaron and his legal representatives say the council did not do enough to consult vulnerable people who rely on the services ahead of making the decision.

As a result, Aaron – who has learning difficulties and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – claims the council’s move was unlawful.

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His initial judicial review challenge was thrown out in the High Court last July, but he has since won the go-ahead to take his case to the appeal court.

The Banwell youngster now hopes judges will rule in favour of protecting services like the Escape Youth Club for disabled young people, which Aaron attends on Weston’s Bournville estate.

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Cianan Good, of Public Interest Lawyers, said: “With uncertainty still surrounding the future of youth services, the Court of Appeal will be asked to consider crucial issues affecting the futures of a great many young people in North Somerset.

“These individuals should have been given the opportunity to consult with North Somerset Council at the time of the original decision to cut this key service.

“Having not been afforded that opportunity, the Court of Appeal will now be asked to quash the decision of the council, requiring it to rethink – this time taking lawful account of the views of its young people – spending cuts to youth clubs while also deciding how they should be run though the coming months and years.”

The council’s original decision, taken early in 2012, saw 72 per cent of funding stripped from the district’s youth services.

The High Court originally supported the decision, after ruling that the authority’s public consultation process prior to the move had complied with its duties under the Education Act 1996 and the Equality Act 2010.

Lord Justice Toulson, granting permission to appeal, said that while the council had ‘engaged in a wide consultation process with the public’ it was ‘arguable’ that process was ‘not good enough because it was not aimed at young people with disabilities’.

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