Disabled pensioner to appeal One Barnet judicial review decision

Maria Nash with supporters outside the High Court last month.

Maria Nash with supporters outside the High Court last month. - Credit: Archant

A disabled pensioner has vowed to fight on after losing a High Court battle with Barnet Council to topple its controversial £320million outsourcing plans.

On Monday, judge Lord Justice Underhill rejected New Barnet resident Maria Nash’s claim for a judicial review of the One Barnet outsourcing programme, insisting the court action was launched too late.

But crucially the judge did concede that the council had failed to properly consult residents over One Barnet, prompting 68-year-old Ms Nash to lodge an appeal against the High Court decision.

She said: “I think the judge has actually done me a great favour in giving me the opportunity to go to appeal because we can go further and address the issues properly.

“The more time I have to inform people around the UK that if we privatise things democracy suffers and everything becomes about profit, the better.”

Last month, lawyers instructed by Ms Nash went head-to-head with the council’s legal team in the Royal Courts of Justice during a three-day hearing from March 19 to 21.

Ms Nash called for a judicial review of the plans to outsource a swathe of council services to two private companies on the grounds that the council failed to consult residents and did not meet equality obligations.

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But in his ruling Mr Justice Underhill said that Ms Nash’s claim for a judicial review was “out of time”.

He explained that judicial review claim forms must be submitted “not later than three months after the grounds to make the claim first arose”.

He pointed out that Ms Nash missed this three-month window in November 2010 and again in March 2011 - when the two outsourcing contracts were offered to private companies for procurement.

The judge also concluded that the council did not breach equality obligations.

But he noted that had the paperwork for a judicial review been submitted in time he would have ruled in support of Ms Nash’s claim that Barnet Council did not comply with their legal obligation to consult residents over One Barnet.

Solicitor Gerald Shamash, representing Ms Nash, said: “We have won hands down. The council failed to consult the people of Barnet on these massive contracts and I think it’s wrong.

“As far as I’m concerned we should be challenging the question of delay in the Court of Appeal. The council have agreed not to sign any of the One Barnet contracts until the appeal is finally decided in relation to both contracts.”

Barnet Council leader, Cllr Richard Cornelius, said: “Lord Justice Underhill could not have been clearer in ruling the application for judicial review was out of time and in accepting that the council had met equalities criteria.

“I hope the applicant and her lawyers will carefully consider the wise words of the judge before embarking upon an appeal and incurring even more costs that will have to be met from public funds.”