Lambeth’s regeneration cabinet member Councillor Matthew Bennett was given a real grilling by the presenter on BBC London radio yesterday evening, for setting an example of exactly “how not to do a consultation” and pouring tens of thousands of pounds of public money down the drain in the process. Listen here to the interview with him and also hear from Cressingham resident Tom Keene who outlines why the council’s decision was unlawful.
We perhaps don’t need reminding that Cllr Bennett is a politician and politicians are prone to trying to limit damage to their reputations after making mistakes. It may not have been intentional, but the councillor completely misrepresented the judge who quashed the decision and he even seemed to mock her. He said that the judge found it unlawful for the council to have stopped consulting on unaffordable options.
What Mrs Justice Laing actually said in her judgment was the opposite! She said she assumed the council would have been entitled to stop the consultation if it had truly found them to be unaffordable, but that this had not been shown to be the case.
She said: “I do not need to decide whether, as a matter of law, the Council could have stopped the consultation if there had been a sufficiently important change of circumstances. I assume, without deciding, that it could have done so.
“I am not satisfied, on the evidence, however, that enough changed in February 2015 to entitle the Council to stop consulting on options 1,2 and 3, contrary to the terms of section 105 arrangements it had published.
“My conclusion is that by deciding to remove options 1, 2 and 3 from the consultation on 9 March 2015, the Council acted unlawfully.”
She went on to quash the decision and before doing so, said that she was required to decide whether “if the defendant’s unlawful conduct is taken out of the equation, that would make any difference to the outcome for the claimant”.
Judge Laing concluded: “If the section 105 arrangements had not been breached, the financial position would have been much more fully before the Council. In simple terms, it does not appear to me, if that had been the position, that it is highly likely that the decision would have been the same.”