The deputy leader would not support the appeal if the Cumbria County Council’s judicial review fails again

AN APPEAL from a High Court Judge’s decision not to grant the County Council legal action would not be supported by the Deputy Leader.

Cumbria County Council received a letter from High Court Judge Stephen Davies last week refusing their application for judicial review.

The council has sought the right to take legal action against the UK government over its decision to split the county into two local authority areas.

Council leader Stewart Young believes the decision to reorganize the county, abolishing its existing seven councils and replacing them with two unitary authorities, was “unlawful”.

Cllr Young believes the East-West divide serves the political agenda of the Conservative government and that the local government reorganization process has not involved enough public consultation.

In his denial of the application for judicial review, the judge said it was “not reasonably arguable”.

But the county council has now decided to renew their request, asking that their lawyer be allowed to make verbal representations to the judge.

The Liberal Democrats, who make up half of the ruling coalition, abstained in the vote to launch a judicial review in 2021. Although they did not support the legal action, they did not want to break up their coalition with Labour.

Deputy Chief Peter Thornton said: “It’s not a new process, it’s just an extension of the first one. It’s just the last step in that process if we’re turned down then we’ll have to consider appealing.”

Cllr Thornton and the Liberal Democrats would not favor an appeal.

“We’ve come this far now, I wouldn’t say we support it, but we don’t make a big deal of this next step.

“I think if he doesn’t get over the next hurdle, now would be the time to stop.”

Senior Tories have criticized the county council’s leadership, saying more legal action against the local government reorganization would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Mayor of Copeland, Mike Starkie, said: “Given the categorical nature of the dismissal of the first ill-founded company in court, I am absolutely amazed that they are incurring additional costs for the taxpayer. He should accept when he is beaten.”

But Cllr Thornton said this final stage of the County Council’s application for judicial review would cost less than £400.

Cllr Young said: “I think we have a duty to pursue this, given that councils have been told it will cost £19million just to draw up plans for how this can be done, plans that should have been worked out before the proposal was presented, and it is becoming increasingly clear that the savings that Mike Starkie and Mike Johnson believe would be realized by dividing the county in two will prove illusory.”