The Court of Appeal has allowed the appeal of the Boundary Committee and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government against the decision of Foskett J, in which he had upheld a challenge by a group of local authorities in Suffolk to the BC’s publication of its proposals for local government in Suffolk.
The BC, part of the Electoral Commission, has the power to make proposals to the Secretary of State for unitary local government, following consultation with local councils and other affected persons. It is carrying out a wide-ranging review leading to proposals for several counties, which has already led to significant litigation (e.g. the Court of Appeal’s decision in R (Breckland District Council) v. The Boundary Committee  EWCA Civ 239).
The local authorities had argued that the BC should, during the pre-consultation “dialogue” stage which preceded its publication of its proposals for public consultation, have told them the “gist” of the reasons why the Committee was minded not to publish for consultation the councils’ favoured plan. They also argued that the Committee had misdirected itself as to the number of proposals it could put forward. Foskett J at first instance accepted these arguments and quashed the Committee’s publication of its draft proposals.
In an important judgment on consultation duties, the Court of Appeal has reversed Foskett J’s decision, accepting the Committee’s arguments that (a) it made sufficiently clear the considerations it was to take into account when deciding which proposals to put out for consultation, (b) it had conducted a proper dialogue with the councils, and (c) nothing in the statutory framework or the general law required it to go further and disclose the gist of its reasons for not pursuing potential proposals such as the councils’ which it did not favour. The Court refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The judgment is available here: http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2009/1296.html&query=Suffolk&method=boolean.
Tim Buley acted for the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.