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FORSYTH U-TURN HELD UP BY JUDICIAL REVIEW

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Scottish secretary Michael Forsyth was last week forced by the courts to delay plans to cut short the suspension of...
Scottish secretary Michael Forsyth was last week forced by the courts to delay plans to cut short the suspension of CCT until a judicial review case is heard at the end of this month.

South Lanarkshire Council was given leave in the Court of Session last week to seek a judicial review of the government's decision to reintroduce CCT for services covered by the 1980 Act in January 1997, rather than the previously agreed date of July. The judicial review will take place on 27 and 28 June.

Council leader Tom McCabe said Mr Forsyth had acted unreasonably by 'going back on his word' without any consultation with councils.

'This is only the first hurdle, but it means that the secretary of state's desire to have a January 1997 restart date for CCT has been put on hold,' he said.

Mr Forsyth made his surprise announcement of changes to the CCT timetable last month, accusing councils of using the tendering moratorium to increase the percentage of work going to direct labour organisations. He had been expected to sign new regulations implementing his decision early this week.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities immediately welcomed South Lanarkshire's move and said it would be putting together its own case for the hearing.

All other Scottish councils and Cosla itself are mentioned in the court petition, allowing them either to become parties to the South Lanarkshire action or to add their own arguments to the council's case.

Cosla's head of policy development, Jon Harris, said support for South Lanarkshire was considerable across Scotland.

In addition, COSLA has put its own case for the reintroduction of CCT under the 1980 Act to be delayed further until April 1998. It argues that each new unitary authority will have to bring together specifications from all the former authorities and distil them into a single specification.

Issues such as incompatibility of systems and working practices also have to be resolved, it argues.

In a briefing letter to chief executives, Mr Harris warns of 'a clear danger that, given the lack of time to prepare for competition, services could be seriously damaged'.

-- As LGC went to press, Mr Forsyth had offered to meet COSLA and Scottish local authorities to discuss the CCT timetable and South Lanarkshire's legal action.

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