New Judgment: R (KM) (by JM) v Cambridgeshire County Council  UKSC 23
31 Thursday May 2012
On appeal from:  EWCA Civ 682.
The appellant, a profoundly disabled man, challenged the Council’s decision in relation to direct funding supplied in order to meet its duty under the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970, s 2. The appellant contends that the decision is unlawful either because it was not adequately supported by reasons or because it was irrational, and invited the Supreme Court to reconsider the decision in R v Gloucestershire County Council, Ex parte Barry  AC 584 on the extent to which the resources of a local authority may be taken into account in making decisions under s 2 of the Act.
The Court unanimously dismissed the appeal. In meeting its duty under the 1970 Act, the local authority was required to ask itself a number of questions: (i) what are the needs of the disabled person; (ii) in order to meet those needs is it necessary for the authority to make arrangements for the provision of any of the listed services; and (iii) if so, what are the nature and extent of the services for which it is necessary for the local authority to make arrangements? If a local authority was satisfied that a disabled person’s need for the relevant service could be met by the provision of a direct payment then it could do so, and must ask itself a fourth question: (iv) what is the reasonable cost of securing provision of the services for which it is necessary for the authority to make arrangements?
It would be unduly laborious for a local authority at first to cost each service for every disabled person. Local authorities therefore use resource allocation systems to provide a “ball-park” figure of the appropriate payment, subject to adjustment. Once the indicative sum had been identified, the requisite services should be costed in a reasonable degree of detail to permit a judgement on whether the sum was correct. Adequate reasons could be achieved with reasonable brevity and it would often be sufficient for a local authority to list the required services, and the suggested timings and hourly costs.
At the hearing, it had quickly become clear that the issues about what the Barry case had decided in relation to the first stage of the exercise, and about whether the Court should depart from the decision, were irrelevant to the decision.