12 February 2011

Gove's Irrelevance

The Telegraph reports, Michael Gove loses High Court case over scrapping school building projects, explaining that,
"Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, lost a High Court battle to cancel school building projects in a landmark case which threatens to slow the Government’s spending cuts."
But in the scheme of things this is an irrelevance.

Turning to the court decision, Luton Borough Council & Nottingham City Council & Ors, R (on the application of) v Secretary of State for Education [2011] EWHC 217 (Admin), Mr Justice Holman makes a point of saying,
"124 I wish, finally, to make two matters very clear so there is no future misunderstanding.

125 First, other local authorities than these claimants will no doubt read this judgment and may consider that they are in the same or a sufficiently similar factual position to claim the same relief. I have stretched a benevolent discretion to Sandwell, who were shortly out of time, for the reasons I have given. The decision is now, however, over seven months ago, and in my view any other authorities would now be far too late to apply for judicial review. I do not mean to trivialise so important an issue, but it may be said that fortune has favoured the brave.

126 Finally, the extent of my decision is that the Secretary of State must, I stress must, reconsider the position of each of the claimants with an open mind and paying due regard to whatever representations they may respectively make. But provided he discharges that duty and his equality duties, the final decision on any given school or project still rests with him. He may save all, some, a few, or none. No one should gain false hope from this decision."
The Telegraph reports explains that,
"Chris Robbins, the leader of Waltham Forest Council, called the decision “a victory for common sense and fair play”. David Mellen, Nottingham council’s portfolio holder for children’s services, said: “This is a powerful judgment and a vindication of all the determination and hard work that has brought us to this point.”"
It isn't.
The process has wasted more money and the result will be the same.

Yes, there is some incompetence on behalf of Gove for not going through the process properly: if he had bothered to discharge his common law, consultative burden, he would have most probably discharged his statutory equality burdens. However, he will simply go through the process again; properly this time, and stop the building programmes.

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