Get involved: send your pictures, video, news & views by texting TIMES NEWS to 80360, or email us
Verdict delayed but One Barnet challenger pledges to continue anti-outsourcing fight if judicial review is opposed
A judge will not deliver his verdict on the legality of Barnet Council’s radical outsourcing programme until after Easter.
But the claimant in the case has already pledged to continue her fight if the judgement does not go her way.
Justice Nicholas Underhill, overseeing a judicial review into the controversial One Barnet scheme, finished hearing evidence from the authority’s lawyers at the high court this afternoon.
Disabled campaigner Maria Nash brought the legal challenge in January on the grounds the council failed to consult residents on its decision to outsource millions of pounds worth of public services.
The 67-year-old believes the move will lead to a drop in the quality of services for disabled people and says the lack of consultation breaches her rights under the Equality Act.
Justice Underhill reserved his judgement this afternoon and said no verdict would be delivered until after the Easter break.
Speaking after the hearing today, Ms Nash revealed she is likely to appeal if the judgement does not go her way next month.
The former holistic therapist said: “This is only the first step. There are far too many issues for it to be over.
“I think it is worth an appeal because it is the first case of this magnitude and it could have a national impact. I’m not just going to wash my hands of it.”
Ms Nash’s case rests on two main points of contention – whether the council fulfilled its legal duty to consult and whether the judicial review was brought within the three-month time limit, which begins when a body makes a decision.
Barnet Council’s legal team argued throughout the case that the challenge should have been brought in March 2011, when the decision to go ahead and outsource was first made.
But Ms Nash’s lawyers claim the case could not have been brought before December 2012, when the contract with Capita was signed, as Barnet Council could legitimately have consulted up to that point.
The judge will also consider whether the authority met its duty under the Local Government Act to consult the general public.
Monica Carss-Frisk QC, for the council, claimed the duty had been met through general consultations on the 2011 budget, which mentioned the One Barnet scheme.
She argued that the council was under no instruction under law as to how much it needed to consult.
But Nigel Giffin QC, for Ms Nash, said: “Merely saying at budget time, ‘this are our services and how much we’re going to spend on them’, and giving people free rein to make representations is not consulting.”
Speaking after the hearing today, Ms Nash’s solicitor, Gerald Shamash said: “I think it went well, we’re optimistic that the outcome will be the one we’re seeking.”
A Barnet Council spokesman said the authority is unable to comment on the case until the judgement is made.