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Battle over cuts to youth services to reach Supreme Court next week

The Supreme Court will next week hear a challenge to the Court of Appeal’s decision not to give a claimant any relief despite ruling that a 70%-plus cut to youth services was unlawful.

The appellant in Hunt v North Somerset Council, Aaron Hunt, is also challenging an order by the Court of Appeal that he pay 50% of the council’s costs, even though it had held that the High Court judge was wrong.

The background to the case is that Hunt has ADHD, learning difficulties and behavioural problems. He used to attend a weekly youth club provided by North Somerset.

After the Government announced plans to reduce finance allocations for local government, the council decided to cut its Youth Services budget for the year 2012/2013.

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The claimant alleged that, in doing so, North Somerset had failed to discharge its consultation duties under s.507B of the Education Act 1996.

He also alleged that council members, when passing the resolution, failed to have due regard to the public sector equality duty under s.149 of the Equalities Act 2010.

In the High Court Mr Justice Wyn Williams dismissed his challenge. This ruling was overturned in November 2013 in the Court of Appeal, which concluded that the decision to cut youth services by more than 70% had been unlawful.

Lord Justice Rimer, who gave the judgment of the court, said there was insufficient evidence entitling the High Court judge to conclude that North Somerset had taken the steps required by s. 507B(9) of the 1996 Act to ascertain the required views of qualifying young people about the proposal to cut funding.

He also said the Court of Appeal was unable – in relation to the public sector equality duty – to agree with the first instance judge when he concluded that councillors had read the relevant equalities impact assessment.

But the Court of Appeal refused to quash North Somerset’s decision to approve the cuts, with Lord Justice Rimer saying that it was “now too late to unwind what has been done”.

In a subsequent ruling the Court of Appeal ordered that Hunt pay the council’s costs, reduced by 50%.

A five-judge panel – comprising Lady Hale, Lord Wilson, Lord Reed, Lord Hughes and Lord Toulson – will hear the case next Wednesday (29 April).

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