Council exonerated in Compact court case

The case that could have bolstered the legal status of the Compact has been defeated in the High Court.

Judge David Mackie gave his verdict after the judicial review case brought by a service user of Age Concern South Lakeland against Cumbria County Council came to an end on Wednesday.

The service user claimed that the council’s decision to introduce charges for day care services was unlawful because the authority had failed to carry out a proper consultation with voluntary sector organisations.

But the judge found in favour of the council, saying that although he considered the authority’s initial decision to introduce the charges to be unlawful, a subsequent decision to bring in fees was reasonable because adequate consultation had taken place by that point.

Although the service user lost the case, the judge did not reject the argument that the Compact had been breached.

Speaking about the Compact in delivering his judgement, Judge Mackie said: “It is more than a wish list; it is a commitment of intent.”

Louise Whitfield, project solicitor at the Public Law Project, the charity that brought the case on behalf of the service user, said: “While my client is disappointed at the result because the charges will now go ahead, she is pleased that Cumbria County Council now appears to be taking consultation far more seriously and ensuring that the voluntary sector and users are properly consulted on other major service changes.”

If the judge had found against the council and mentioned the Compact as a decisive factor, it could have paved the way for voluntary sector organisations to take legal action against public bodies that disregarded its content (Third Sector, 12 September).

Jill Stannard, director of adult social care and health at the council, said the authority was pleased with the decision.

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