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Slash and burn

The message from Birmingham is clear – if impoverished local governments continue to rush through cuts without due regard for their public duty, they will simply wind up back at square one with an additional legal bill on their hands, says Sam Karim

31 May 2011

The victory of four disabled residents over Birmingham City Council’s cuts to welfare spending should set alarm bells ringing across the public sector.

The austerity budget has exposed local authorities to the potential for a wave of judicial review applications, and, with Mr Justice Walker’s decision in W & Others and Birmingham City Council [CO/1765/2011], the stage has been set for a string of serious defeats.

Equality has always been high on the public agenda, but, as pressure mounts for local authorities to cut costs, the case is a reminder of how easily it can be sidelined for more demanding priorities – and how troublesome the consequences of this can be.

Handing down his decision at the Royal Courts of Justice on 19 May, Mr Justice Walker declared that both BCC’s budget setting and decision to change its eligibility policy were unlawful on the grounds that they did not promote equality under section 49A of the Disability Discrimination ...

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