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Friday, October 31, 2014

Council reprimanded for misrepresenting UK Government policy

Mark Pack references an interesting and important legal ruling that may have implications for the Welsh Government and councils in Wales.

He says that the Supreme Court has excoriated Labour-run Haringey Council for running a “misleading” consultation that falsely claimed cuts were being forced on it by the government, ignoring the other policy options open to the council:

The reason? In the consultation, Haringey Council claimed that reductions in their council tax benefits for some people was being forced on them by changes in government policy, but failed to point out that there were in fact alternative policies available to Haringey Council which would have avoided these reductions – and that therefore the cuts flowed from a decision by Haringey Council not to take alternative action.


These were not just theoretical options; the majority of other local councils used such alternatives to reduce or even completely remove the cuts in benefits. The judicial ruling also quoted the example of Birmingham Council’s consultation which set out the alternatives available, unlike Haringey’s.
Indeed Haringey Council so comprehensively buried its reasons for rejecting the alternative courses that in the ruling a judge said:
I speak as one who, even after a survey of the evidence filed by Haringey in these proceedings, remains unclear why it was minded to reject the other options. Perhaps the driver of its approach was political.
The importance of this ruling of course is that public bodies cannot use public money to misrepresent a particular issue or to make a political point. What intrigues me is its implications for the Welsh Government's consultation on the M4 around Newport which specifically excluded questions on a more environmentally acceptable alternative.
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