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Local Authority Lawyers’ Seminar 15 th November 2006 LOCAL POLITICS AND DECISION MAKING James Findlay 2-3 Gray’s Inn Square.

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Presentation on theme: "Local Authority Lawyers’ Seminar 15 th November 2006 LOCAL POLITICS AND DECISION MAKING James Findlay 2-3 Gray’s Inn Square."— Presentation transcript:

1 Local Authority Lawyers’ Seminar 15 th November 2006 LOCAL POLITICS AND DECISION MAKING James Findlay 2-3 Gray’s Inn Square

2 James Findlay, 2-3 Gray's Inn Square, WC1R 5JH2 REFUSAL TO SELL LAND AND CHANGE OF POLITICAL CONTROL R (Island Farm Development Ltd) v Bridgend County Borough Council [2006] EWHC 2189 (Admin) Challenge to refusal of Council to sell land. Council pushing scheme forward, grant of planning permission, local opposition, manifested in change of political control, refusal to sell Council land frustrates scheme.

3 James Findlay, 2-3 Gray's Inn Square, WC1R 5JH3 Grounds of challenge Bias and predetermination Actual bias/predetermination not established, members had asserted that they had open minds. One Cabinet member was, before election, an active member and secretary of an action group set up to oppose the development. He had resigned when he became a council member.

4 James Findlay, 2-3 Gray's Inn Square, WC1R 5JH4 Grounds of challenge Other Councillors had previously voted against planning permission for the proposed development. The majority group, which had elected the cabinet, had formed an alliance (Liberal, Conservative and Independent) arising from their opposition to the development.

5 James Findlay, 2-3 Gray's Inn Square, WC1R 5JH5 Challenge rejected Judge held that whilst Councillors must take all matters into account with no preconceptions they are entitled to have regard to and apply policies in which they believe, particularly if those policies part of their manifesto. Further, he was of a view it was open to members to prevent a development if they lawfully could if they disapproved of it in principle.

6 James Findlay, 2-3 Gray's Inn Square, WC1R 5JH6 Challenge rejected Collins J. unhappy with the strict approach of Richards J. in Georgiou – objective test and no regard to Councillor’s own statements. He suggests need for positive evidence of bias/predetermination, not just prior observations and/or apparent favouring of a particular course.

7 James Findlay, 2-3 Gray's Inn Square, WC1R 5JH7 Trust in Councillors Collins J. suggests one should start from a position of trusting Councillors to take decisions lawfully. Importantly, evidence from minutes, speaking note of lead Councillor and Counsel’s advice all demonstrated a discussion of various options, without one outcome being assumed.

8 James Findlay, 2-3 Gray's Inn Square, WC1R 5JH8 MANAGING DECISION MAKING Cabinet decision under challenge. Quality of reports, speaking notes and minutes of importance. Wording of resolution important. FOI and changes to standards assessment may lead to increasing spotlight upon cabinet decision making.

9 James Findlay, 2-3 Gray's Inn Square, WC1R 5JH9 FREEMASONS & CONFLICT PORT REGIS SCHOOL LTD (R) v. NORTH DORSET DC & Ano [2006] EWHC 742 (Admin) Challenge to grant of planning permission to an agricultural society, which had a financial arrangement with a Masonic Lodge which entailed assistance with funding in return for provision of a room for the Lodge’s use. Date of decision: Date of Judgment:5.4.06

10 James Findlay, 2-3 Gray's Inn Square, WC1R 5JH10 FREEMASONS & CONFLICT Application “firmly” recommended for refusal by officers as a departure. Full Council determined to grant. Having been equally split, Chair cast vote in favour 2 members, including the Chair, who voted were Freemasons, but not of the same Lodge. Each had duly declared their membership in the register, but did not declare an interest at the meeting although attention was drawn to the particular Lodge’s involvement.

11 James Findlay, 2-3 Gray's Inn Square, WC1R 5JH11 FREEMASONS & CONFLICT Agreed that membership of the particular Lodge would have constituted a prejudicial interest. Dispute as to whether membership of other Lodges did or did not. Is a freemason by reason of membership of the Society and no other reason to be regarded as restrained from participating in decision making whenever another freemason or branch has an interest in the outcome?

12 James Findlay, 2-3 Gray's Inn Square, WC1R 5JH12 FREEMASONS & CONFLICT Law as set out in Georgiou – objective test. Secrecy and fraternity – “oath of mutual assistance”. Actual bias not alleged. Challenge rejected on facts of case.

13 James Findlay, 2-3 Gray's Inn Square, WC1R 5JH13 REASONS Freemasons bound to obey the law, which includes duties under Local Gov’t Act. Masons advise members to disclose interests. Councillors governed by both Code and Freemason’s code. Oath of mutual assistance does not equate to partiality. Such an oath not incompatible with the judicial oath.


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