Alasdair Palmer: Not understanding the law

The courts were flexing their political muscles again last week – as they seem to every week. First, a High Court judge ruled that Sefton Council could not legally freeze the fees it pays private companies to look after old people needing care. Then, on Friday, the same court ruled that the Isle of Wight could not cut its social care budget for the disabled.

I happen to agree that it is bad that the amount devoted to paying for the elderly, or the disabled, should fall behind demand – but what business is it of the High Court to enforce its view? No doubt those who will benefit, and their relatives, will be delighted. But since the money will have to be saved somewhere, other people will end up having their services cut, and will be very unhappy. What will the High Court do then?

No, not quite understanding what happened there.

Yesterday, Judge Raynor QC ruled that Sefton Council should not have frozen payment levels to almost 1,600 elderly people in care.

He said that care homes in Sefton should have been allowed to voice their concerns over a two-year payment freeze period and that the local authority had a duty to consult with residential providers locally.

Failure to carry out consultation made the payment freeze unlawful.

This duty of consultation is not, at least as far as I\’m aware it\’s not, part of Common Law, or judge made law as we might call it. It\’s statutory. That is, that Parliament has passed a law stating that there must be such consultations.

As per the Isle of Wight:

The judge ruled that the council had failed to comply with its own internal guidance on its new policy for assessing eligibility for adult social care. A consultation document \”provided insufficient information\” to enable those consulted on the criteria changes \”to give intelligent consideration and an intelligent response\”, the judge said.

The judges are not in fact criticising the decisions made. They are ruling that the way in which the decisions were reached is unlawful.

And whatever the law is about how decisions should be reached, we would rather like those who rule over us to have to follow said law, wouldn\’t we? Not be ruled by the caprice of those holding our tax money, but hold them to the rule of law just as we are held by them to the rule of law?

You know, taking another example: we\’d like HMRC to be enforcing the tax law as passed by Parliament, not enforcing some mythical spirit of tax law cooked up in the febrile brain of a retired accountant from Wandsworth, no?

Thisis the same thing. The judges are defending the rule of law for which Praise Be!

2 comments on “Alasdair Palmer: Not understanding the law

  1. Haven’t read this judgement, but I think some of these court-enforced consultations are “part of Common Law, or judge made law”, invented by the judiciary to enforce “due process”, rather than statutory.

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