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High Court refuses permission for Cumbria County Council challenge to local government restructuring

The High Court has denied permission to Cumbria County Council for a judicial review of the Government's decision to create two unitary authorities in the county.

It has also ordered the local authority to pay more than £30,000 towards the legal costs of the Secretary of State and other councils involved.

Cumbria's cabinet supported the creation of a single unitary authority for the entire county, in opposition to the decision of the then Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government - now titled the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities - to split the county into two unitary authorities covering East and West Cumbria respectively.

The local authority sought to challenge the decision on grounds that alleged illegality, irrationality and procedural impropriety alongside a claim of a breach of legitimate expectation.

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However, permission was refused at the High Court last week (14 January).

The court ordered Cumbria to pay the sum of £15,233 to the Secretary of State for its costs in preparing the summary grounds of defence (SGD).

In addition, the local authority is to pay the SGD costs of the Eastern Councils and Western Councils involved in the litigation, resulting in an extra payment of £15,000.

The cabinet made the decision to pursue the legal challenge in October of last year, with five votes for, zero votes against, and four abstentions.

In a full council meeting called to discuss the move, councillors argued that it would be a "waste of public money and time".

The bid was also momentarily delayed by a call-in of the decision brought by three members of the council.

The Secretary of State's proposed East unitary council will cover the areas of Barrow, Eden and South Lakeland, and the West unitary will cover the areas of Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland.

Cumbria has until 28 March 2022 to contest the High Court's decision.

Cumbria County Council has been approached for a statement.

Adam Carey

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