29 Wednesday Oct 2014
On appeal from:  EWCA Civ 116
Under the Local Government Finance Act 1992, Sch 1A, para 3(1)(c), local authorities were required to consult on their Council Tax Reduction Schemes in draft form. The respondent’s consultation made no reference to other options other than its preferred option (a reduction in council tax relief of between 18% and 22% for all claimants). The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the appeal and declared the consultation exercise unlawful. However, it declined to order a fresh consultation exercise because that would be disproportionate. Fairness required: that consultation must be at a time when proposals were still at a formative stage; that sufficient reasons for any proposal must be given to permit of intelligent consideration and response; adequate time must be given for consideration and response; and the product of consultation must be conscientiously taken into account in finalising any statutory proposals. Fairness demanded that the consultation document should briefly refer to alternatives and to the reasons why the respondent had concluded that they were unacceptable. The purpose of this particular statutory duty was to ensure public participation in the local authority’s decision-making process.