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Six more councils join legal fight with Pickles

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Six more local authorities have signed up to a judicial review against ministers’ decision to take council cash to fund the academies programme, according to court documents.  

Labour-led Salford City Council, South Tyneside MBC and City of York Council have lined up with Brent, Greenwich and Merton LBCs, taking the total number of claimants to 29 councils as of 13 May (see here for full list of other authorities).

As revealed by LGC, communities secretary Eric Pickles, named as the defendant by the claimants, has until 25 May to respond to claims that ministers’ decision to top-slice £148m from council grant to fund the central functions of the academies’ programme, is “among other things, in breach of new burdens rules”.

Bevan Brittan, the law firm acting on behalf of the group, said the growing number of authorities signing up demonstrated the “strength of feeling” amongst councils.

“Initiating or pursuing court proceedings is not an exercise which authorities undertake lightly, with good reason,” said Bevan Brittan partner Emily Heard, who is leading the team.  

All of the participant authorities have provided evidence on an equal footing and there will be no “lead” authority, Ms Heard added. 

The new claimants is a welcome boost for the local authorities following it emerging earlier this month that two authorities which had previously pledged support for the case withdrew on grounds of compatibility and cost.

The claim is in reference to revenue support grant for local authorities being reduced by £148m in connection with the funding of services for academy schools. 

The initial legal statement said: “The subject of the challenge is reduction of the amount of Revenue Support Grant for 2011-12 contained in the Local Government Finance Report (England) 2011-12. 

“The claimants argue that this reduction is, amongst other things, in breach of the New Burdens Rules.   

“The claimants seek an order that the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government ensures that additional grants are paid, so that any reduction in funding for local authorities does not exceed a proper estimate, made following appropriate consultation, of the amount of savings to local authorities resulting from the conversion of maintained schools to academies.”

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