Solicitors have begun judicial review proceedings in the High Court against the possible closure of London Councils’ £26.4m voluntary sector grants programme.
The law firm Pierce Glynn, acting on behalf of three service users of voluntary organisations that could be affected, has begun proceedings even though a decision on the future of the programme is not due until 14 December.
A statement by Pierce Glynn said: "The process to date has been so unfair and the timetable so tight that the individuals had no choice but to ask the court to consider the claims now and on an urgent basis."
A judge has ordered London Councils to lodge its response within seven days, rather than the usual three weeks.
The service users of the Roma Support Group and the women and children’s safety charity the NIA Project claim that London Councils, an umbrella body for local authorities in the capital, has failed to consider equalities duties properly and will not have time to do so by 25 November, when it makes recommendations on the future of the programme.
Louise Whitfield, who is representing the service users, said: "Despite the threat to the existence of the projects, London Councils has failed to provide any details of how it will decide whether to keep funding these groups or not. Nor has it given us any evidence of how it will assess the impact on race and gender equality of stopping funding for this vital work."
When Pierce Glynn notified London Councils that it intended to pursue a judicial review, Andrew Colvin, the Comptroller and City Solicitor of the City of London, who is advising London Councils, said the proposed grounds for challenge were misconceived and would be more appropriately addressed as part of the consultation process, rather than as a challenge to that process.
A London Councils spokesman said they were aware of the issue and would be responding through the proper channels.