Judge lets Aaron appeal against youth cuts

Aaron Hunt with his mum Alice.

Aaron Hunt with his mum Alice. - Credit: Archant

NORTH Somerset Council is facing a fresh battle over its decision to slash youth services after a judge granted a disabled youngster permission to appeal against the move.

Aaron Hunt, 21, from Banwell, attends Weston’s Escape youth club for disabled young people which is threatened by the council’s budget cuts, and launched a legal bid to have the decision - taken in February last year - reversed.

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

However his judicial review challenge to the decision was thrown out by Mr Justice Wyn Williams in the High Court at Cardiff in July last year.

But on Tuesday, Aaron won permission to appeal against that decision, after his barrister, David Wolfe QC, persuaded Lord Justice Toulson, sitting in London’s Civil Appeal Court, that it is ‘arguable’ the High Court got it wrong.

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The barrister told the court that Mr Hunt used to attend the Escape Club on the Bournville estate, which provides social and educational opportunities for disabled youngsters aged between 11 and 24.

Since the council’s funding decision – which stripped 72 per cent of money from youth services - the club has been moved and ‘remains under threat of closure’, Mr Wolfe said.

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The High Court had given the council the thumbs up to make the cuts, after ruling that its public consultation process prior to the move had complied with their duties under the Education Act 1996 and the Equality Act 2010.

Mr Wolfe today disputed that ruling, saying that, under the Education Act, a general consultation was not enough and that young disabled people ought to have been specifically consulted about the proposed changes, as they were the group affected.

“Young people ought to be involved in this determination. That is absolutely clear, and that is not what happened here,” he told the court.

The barrister also argued that councillors had not been in possession of a full Equality Impact Assessment before making their decision.

Lord Justice Toulson, granting permission to appeal, said that while North Somerset 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’.

The case will now go forward to a full hearing before three Appeal Court judges, at a later date, yet to be set.

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