Council youth cuts face fresh legal scrutiny

Aaron Hunt with mum Alison Jenkins.

Aaron Hunt with mum Alison Jenkins. - Credit: Archant

Five of the nation’s leading legal experts will this month rule on whether North Somerset Council must rethink its 2012 decision to radically reduce funding for youth services.

Three years ago, the authority withdrew 72 per cent of its young people’s budget, leading some services to be scaled down and others axed completely.

At the time, one family – Aaron Hunt, then aged 22, and mother Alison Jenkins (pictured) – challenged that decision through the courts.

They said the decision had ‘ripped apart’ the support system used by Aaron, who has learning difficulties and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and argued the authority had failed to properly consult affected people.

Their case was initially rejected by London’s High Court, but they pursued further action through the Appeal Court and won.

At the time, judges agreed the council had failed to meet its legal obligations towards service-users in the way it reached its decision to impose the cuts.

But although they ruled the council was wrong in the way it handled the decision, it proved a hollow victory for Mr Hunt. The Appeal Court refused to quash the original decision, with judges accepting an argument by council lawyers that it was not a case where ‘the clock can now be turned back’.

Most Read

Now though, Mr Hunt’s legal team will present a further argument to five of the country’s most senior judges in a final attempt to get the cuts overturned.

North Somerset – which sanctioned the cuts as part of a £92million cost-cutting drive – said after the Appeal Court ruling that said lessons could be learned for the future.

The council spokesman said: “We are pleased the Court of Appeal does not require us to revisit our original decision to provide services for young people in a different and more positive way.

“However we will consider the judgement and ensure our approach to equalities impacts and consultations is robust and appropriate when making decisions about future service provision.

“We do believe the services delivered locally for young people, as a result of the changes, are an improvement on previous arrangements.”