Council faces huge legal bill after court challenge

Aaron Hunt and his mother Alison Jenkins.

Aaron Hunt and his mother Alison Jenkins. - Credit: Archant

LEGAL fees will cost North Somerset Council tens of thousands of pounds after top UK judges made the final decision in a long-standing court challenge on youth service cuts.

Aaron Hunt launched a legal challenge against the council in 2012 – and the Supreme Court has now ruled the council will have to pay two-thirds of his legal fees.

Mr Hunt petitioned the courts to overrule the council’s decision to scale down or axe services for young people by 72 per cent.

The Court of Appeal ruled the council had failed to meet its legal obligations towards Mr Hunt and other service-users in the way it reached its decision to impose the cuts.

But the court refused to quash the decision on the grounds it was not a case where ‘the clock can now be turned back’.

The court also said Mr Hunt should pay 50 per cent of the council’s legal fees – a decision reversed by the highest court in the UK yesterday (Wednesday).

A spokesman for Public Interest Lawyers, who represented Mr Hunt, said: “Today’s Supreme Court judgment on costs vindicates Aaron’s challenge to the council’s February 2012 decision.

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“It is hoped that in the future, the council will give appropriate consideration to the criticisms made of it by the Court of Appeal and ensure that any future decisions taken, whether in relation to youth services or any other important public service, will respect the views of those within the North Somerset area as well as the law.”

A council spokesman said the original decision was about looking at how services could be delivered in a different way, rather than making cuts.

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He said: “We said after the Court of Appeal ruling in 2013 we would consider the judgement and ensure our approach to equalities impacts and consultations was robust and appropriate when making decisions about future service provision – this is now the case.

“We do believe the services delivered locally for young people, as a result of the changes, are an improvement on previous arrangements, and we will continue to support and work with the networks set up across the district which are delivering sustainable, positive activities for our children and young people now and into the future.”

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