Birmingham City Council's removal of funding from 13 advice charities is ruled unlawful

But the High Court says only the three that took part in the case should have their funding reinstated

High Court
High Court

Birmingham City Council's decision to cut more than £1m of funding from 13 advice charities in the city was unlawful, but only the three that challenged the decision should have their funding reinstated, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Blake ruled last week that the three charities – the Birmingham Tribunal Unit, the Chinese Community Centre Birmingham and St James Community Support & Advice Centre, Birmingham – should have their funding reinstated.

Five service users had asked the court for a judicial review of the council's decisions on the grounds that it had not carried out either an equalities assessment or a proper consultation.

The decision leaves many of the other ten charities facing the threat of closure, including the country's largest Citizens Advice bureau.

The council announced in December that it would stop the funding with immediate effect and would offer new advice funding only in August. Birmingham Citizens Advice Bureau managed to get its £600,000 core funding extended until February, but is relying on its reserves to keep it going.

Alastair Wallace, a partner at Public Law, the firm that represented the service users, said the decision not to order the reinstatement of the funding of the other 10 organisations appeared to have been made largely because none of them made representations in the case.

But this "did not recognise the reality on the ground", he said, which was that the charities could not afford to take part in the case.

For the case to go ahead, he said, service users had needed legal aid funding, which the Legal Services Commission was unlikely to grant to service users of 13 different charities. The charities themselves could not have afforded to bring an action.

"These other organisations are in a difficult position and I've real sympathy for them," he said. "If I was them, I would write to Birmingham City Council and ask it to reconsider its decision.

"Having made an unlawful decision, the council may do the prudent thing and fund all those charities until its new funding appears in August."

A spokeswoman for Birmingham CAB, which has said it will have to close at the end of this month unless it finds more funding, said it was unclear what options were open to the bureau following the review, and that it was currently considering its options.

Peter Lowen, acting chairman of the Birmingham Advice Network, which represents advice charities in the city, said several organisations were likely to have to close. "Most don't have the time to explore other options," he said.

He added that organisations still had not heard from Birmingham City Council about whether it would now provide funding or continue to fight the judgement.

A spokeswoman for Birmingham City Council said: "We are disappointed by the court's judgement. The council is considering its position, including a potential appeal against the judgement."

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