Law Lords to rule on Aaron's challenge to youth funding cuts

PUBLISHED: 14:00 20 April 2015

Aaron Hunt with mum Alison Jenkins.

Aaron Hunt with mum Alison Jenkins.

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FIVE of the country's top judges will this month rule on a Banwell man's long-running legal challenge against a council decision which he says 'ripped apart' his support system.

The Mercury has previously reported how Aaron Hunt had petitioned the courts to overrule North Somerset Council’s decision to scale down or axe services for young people.

Mr Hunt, who has learning difficulties and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, first launched the action in 2012 in response to a 72 per cent reduction in council funding which affected a Weston youth club which he attended.

He mounted the challenge on the basis the council had failed to properly consult affected people.

Although his case was initially rejected by London’s High Court, he pursued further action through the Appeal Court and won.

At the time, judges agreed 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 although they ruled the council was wrong in the way it handled the decision, it proved a hollow victory for Mr Hunt.

The Appeal Court refused to quash the original decision, with the panel of judges accepting an argument by council lawyers that it was not a case where ‘the clock can now be turned back’.

At the time, Mr Hunt’s mother Alison Jenkins said: “I am over the moon he won the case but now I think they should do something.

“Aaron has waited long enough for something to happen, but because it was so long, they can’t do anything about it – it’s disgusting.

“Aaron didn’t just do it for him, he did it for all disabled children.”

Now, Mr Hunt’s legal team will present a further argument to five of the country’s most senior judges in a last-ditch attempt to get the council cuts overturned.

North Somerset originally reduced its youth funding as part of a wider cost-cutting drive, with overall savings of £92million targeted.

In the wake of the Appeal Court ruling which criticised the council’s process but decided against ordering the decision to be overturned, a spokesman said lessons could be learned for the future.

The council spokesman said: “We are pleased the Court of Appeal does not require us to revisit our original decision to provide services for young people in a different and more positive way.

“However we will consider the judgement and ensure our approach to equalities impacts and consultations is robust and appropriate when making decisions about future service provision.

“We do believe the services delivered locally for young people, as a result of the changes, are an improvement on previous arrangements.”

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