R (on the application of BHANDARI & ANOR) v CROYDON LONDON BOROUGH COUNCIL (2016)
Keywords: Reasons, Charging, Residential care
The local authority had decided that the claimant had capital in excess of the upper threshold and found her liable to refund the full cost of residential care that had been provided to her. They had done so on the basis of the claimant’s interests in four properties. She had appealed the decision to the council’s independent appeal panel, submitting a solicitor’s letter which set out calculations regarding the value of the claimant’s interests in the properties. The panel had rejected the appeal stating that it had considered the information submitted and that the decision remained the same, but not setting out any further reasons for their decision.
The council continued to fail to set out its reasoning in response to the judicial review proceedings initiated by the claimants and then sought, at the substantive hearing, to admit late evidence explaining their position.
HELD: The council’s last minute evidence was ruled inadmissible. The council had had ample time to set out its reasons and should have done so, at the very latest, by the time of the summary grounds in response to the application for permission to apply for judicial review. Given that it had failed to do so, the proper course for the council would have been avoid litigation costs by conceding the claim and making a fresh decision. The council could not be allowed to admit evidence to make good failings in its original decision-making after permission had been granted.
ANALYSIS: The full judgement is not yet available so it is not possible at present to evaluate the rights and wrongs of the underlying issues around the calculation of capital where it involves partial ownership of properties (a notoriously fruitful area of disputes).
However, whatever the rights or wrongs of the underlying decision, the (presumably) severe financial consequences to the council in this case of the unsuccessful litigation should be a wake-up call to councils about the legal risks they are running if they:
- fail to give proper reasons for their decisions in the first place and
- fail to set out the evidence base for their decision making promptly once permission for judicial review is being sought.