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London grant changes face judicial review

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Plans to abolish a London-wide grants scheme could be subject to a judicial review over claims that the equalities impact has not been properly assessed.

London Councils faces a challenge to its proposal to scrap a £26.4m grants programme from users of the Roma Support Group and the Network, Information and Advocacy project for abused women and children.

As part of sweeping changes to the way it is run, London Councils had planned to scrap its current arrangements whereby the boroughs pool grant funding to fund programmes across the capital.

Law firm Pierce Glynn, representing the claimants, said they did not believe London Councils could make a proper assessment of feedback in the two weeks between the closure of a consultation on November 10 and a recommendation which is due to be made on the 25th. A final decision on the plans is scheduled for December 14.

Sir Steve Bullock, Lewisham LBC mayor and chair of London Councils’ grants committee, said the review was informed by councils’ belief that they - not London Councils - were best placed to decide how limited resources should be spent.

“Among the things we are looking at is whether a pan-London grants scheme is the best way of spending the money, or whether it would be more beneficial for the money to be spent locally by one or more boroughs in a region,” he said.

Claimant solicitor Louise Whitfield said her clients argued that funding was being withdrawn from services that could be provided locally, but they were not a local service.

Their challenge also argued that a lack of information about decision-making and the criteria for judging a service as local made the process unfair.

The judge has ordered London Councils to respond by November 23. A London Councils spokesman said: “We are aware of the issue and will be responding through the proper channels.”

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