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Posted by: John Brace | 4th August 2014

Wirral Council loses court battles to overturn government’s £177 million allocation to Merseyside of European money

Wirral Council loses court battles to overturn government’s £177 million allocation to Merseyside of European money

                                

Earlier this year, there was a hearing in the High Court where the local councils within the Sheffield City Region (Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Doncaster Borough Council, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Sheffield City Council) and the Liverpool City Region (Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Liverpool City Council, Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council, St Helens Borough Council and Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council) challenged by way of judicial review decisions by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills made last year involving how EU Structural Funds between 2014 to 2020 were divided up to different countries within the UK and for the same period how they were divided within the English regions.

To sum up the case briefly, the nine local councils asked the court to quash both decisions so that they could be reconsidered. The Liverpool City Region had been given €221.9 million (about £177 million) and the Sheffield City Region €203.4 million (about £162.3 million) over the 6 years. Comparing 2014 allocations to 2013 allocations and taking into account a 4.3% reserve of funds by the government, South Yorkshire was getting €23 million in 2014 compared to €20 million in 2013 with the Liverpool City Region getting €26 million in 2014 compared to €23 million in 2013.

Mr Jason Coppel QC for the various councils listed above only managed to convince Mr Justice Stewart (over a two-day hearing in January) that the Defendant had breached the public sector equality duty, specifically s. 149(1)(a) and s.149(1)(b) of the Equality Act 2010 c.15. The decisions weren’t quashed and the various councils appealed this decision to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal heard this case over two days on the 30th June and 1st July. In the appeal decision Dyson, Kay and Floyd LJJ concluded that “we are satisfied that the judge came to the right conclusions on all the main issues and essentially for the right reasons. This appeal is therefore dismissed” and “In our view, the judge was right to reject this domestic law challenge to the decisions”.

At this point you’re probably left wondering, how much did these two legal battles (neither of which resulted in the decisions being overturned) cost Wirral Council? Secondly, should public money be being used to challenge political decisions of ministers when there aren’t enough legal grounds to have those decisions overturned?

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