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Tower Hamlets to continue 'hopeless' judicial review against Pickles

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Tower Hamlets LBC is to persist with a legal challenge against Eric Pickles despite it being condemned as “hopeless” by a judge.

The communities secretary in April sent in accountancy firm PwC to investigate allegations of impropriety raised in a dossier passed to him.

Tower Hamlets objected to this but did not launch a judicial review seeking to have the inspection annulled until July.

The council argued that Mr Pickles lacked lawful grounds to order the inspection by PwC, which is yet to report.

But Mr Justice Parker ruled in the High Court last month that Tower Hamlets’ application for judicial review was “unmeritorious”.

This judgment stated that to argue that Mr Pickles exceeded his authority was “hopeless” since he was “plainly entitled to ask an expert body to assist him by providing advice”.

Tower Hamlets could not credibly claim that it was not told why PwC had been appointed, he said.

It was also “simply not arguable” that Mr Pickles had gone beyond the intention of legislation since he has a duty to secure continuous improvement in the way a council’s functions are exercised.

The judge also criticised Tower Hamlets for not challenging until July a process that began in April, noting “all the grounds relied on, although unmeritorious, were there to be advanced on 4 April when [Mr Pickles’] decision was taken”.

But the council is to resume its fight despite the judge’s scathing remarks.

In a statement on Friday, the council said: “We note the comments of the deputy High Court judge and will now be proceeding to the next stage of this process, which is to apply for an oral hearing. Our application for this will be lodged today.”

Conservative group leader Peter Golds said in a statement: “Taxpayers’ money has been wasted on an attempt to review a government-ordered inspection that was so frivolous the judge has branded it ‘hopeless’.”

Tower Hamlets is separately embroiled in a legal challenge to elected mayor Lutfur Rahman’s (Tower Hamlets First) election victory last May. Hearings are expected during this autumn.


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