London councils are facing legal bills of hundreds of thousands of pounds after bringing two ill-fated Judicial Reviews against Mayor Boris Johnson’s rent and fire policies.
Earlier this week the High Court rejected a challenge to the Mayor’s updated planning and housing framework which centralised London’s rent policy and redefined the level at which rent could be deemed “affordable”.
Dismissing the challenge, Mrs Justice Lang said the Mayor’s policy was “plainly within the band of reasonableness” and would not “prevent the Claimants from making appropriate provision for affordable rented housing.”
Losing the case has left the London Borough of Islington and its eight co-complainants facing costs of around £120,000, including City Hall’s legal fees which are understood to be in the region of £60,000.
Islington was also one of the councils behind an unsuccessful challenge to the closure of fire stations and axing of fire engines. Along with Southwark, Camden, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Lewisham and Greenwich councils, it argued that the cuts “would have an impact on public safety” and that a public consultation “was unlawful.”
Mr Justice Foskett dismissed the claims and said it was established legal doctrine that courts could not tell politicians how to divide public money between areas or services.
In his ruling, the judge commented: “At the end of the day, someone or some body has to make a judgment about how best to allocate limited resources”.
He added that the courts could “only direct a reconsideration of such a judgment if it can be shown that the process leading to it was unlawful and/or irrational” and that, in following the professional advice of the fire commissioner, the Mayor had acted correctly.
The cost to the councils in this case could reach as high as £300,000. This sum includes around £100,000 incurred by City Hall and a further £100,000 incurred by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority.
Final costs in both cases have yet to be confirmed by the court.
Speaking on Wednesday Sir Edward Lister, deputy mayor for planning, expressed regret that the councils had “wasted” taxpayer money by trying to overturn the Mayor’s rent and planning policy which City Hall says will make it easier for developers to provide the homes Londoners need.