Judge throws out attempt for review of Letchworth Garden City Council affairs

Tuesday, December 22, 2009
4:03 PM

A judge has thrown out an attempt to have a judicial review of the affairs of Letchworth Garden City Council (LGCC). The case was brought by Letchworth Community Democratic Association (LCDA) at London s High Court in an attempt to stop LGCC councillors

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A judge has thrown out an attempt to have a judicial review of the affairs of Letchworth Garden City Council (LGCC).

The case was brought by Letchworth Community Democratic Association (LCDA) at London's High Court in an attempt to stop LGCC councillors from closing its office in Leys Avenue and halting all the council's discretionary activities.

Mr Justice Mitting said there was no justification to the claim for contending that it is unlawful for the defendant (LGCC) to cease to undertake the bulk of its activities, including the spending of money on grants, the employment of staff and the retention and management of offices and "the object of the claim is to frustrate the lawful decisions of a democratically elected council by judicial order".

In his judgement Mr Justice Mitting said: "The fundamental premise of the claimant's (LCDA) argument, that the defendant is conducting an unlawful non-statutory winding-up of the council, is simply wrong. All it is doing is ceasing to conduct all of the activities which it can lawfully resolve to cease to conduct.

"There will remain certain functions, the most important of which is the holding of periodic elections, which it cannot cease to perform until and unless statutory procedures have been followed.

"I am not willing to grant an interim injunction which would or might have the effect of frustrating the lawful acts of the defendant and of imposing upon it, and upon council tax payers within its area, a potentially significant financial burden, which will be irrecoverable from the claimants, because they cannot give an undertaking as to damages."

Mr Justice Mitting added: "I do not regard it as fair and just to impose upon the defendant an irrecoverable cost burden, to resist what appears to be a weak or hopeless claim."

Cllr George Ritchie, chairman of LGCC, said: "Having read the response from the council's lawyers, Mr Justice Mitting threw out the application and days later the Association gave notice that it would not be carrying on with the challenge.

"It is a pity that a small group like this has cost the ratepayers money by mounting what appeared to the High Court judge to be a weak or hopeless case and which he also adjudged to be an attempt to 'frustrate the lawful decisions of a democratically elected council by judicial order'."

The Association secretary Angela Smale said: "The judge refused a temporary stop on HELP (Help Eliminate Letchworth Parish Council that was formed to close down the town council) preventing them wrecking council assets paid for by the public.

"On the advice of an expert in local council law we had asked the court for a delay until a judge could look at the case properly.

"After the judge refused, HELP threatened the Association with outrageous costs of £12,000 just to respond to the first discussion in the High Court.

"The Association had no choice but to give up as it is made up of ordinary people and members of groups who previously received help from the original town council.

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