15 July 2007

Council faces legal action on Law Centre cut

Three people who live or work in Hammersmith and Fulham have issued judicial review proceedings in the High Court to stop the Tory council cutting the Law Centre’s grant. The three are challenging the proposed 60% grant cut, and applying for a ‘fast track’ order for the case to be heard urgently. The three individuals are:

* a long leaseholder represented by the Law Centre at Leasehold Valuation Tribunal: ‘the centre provides such an important service, without the help of the Law Centre in King Street, I know I would have lost not only my home but also my sanity’;

* a Fulham mother, a British citizen, whose children were refused British citizenship and won her High Court battle with help from the Law Centre;

* a shop assistant and former volunteer from a refugee community group being represented by the Law Centre at Employment Tribunal in an equal pay claim.

The three argue that the council's decision to cut the Law Centre's grant was unlawful because they failed to carry out any proper consultation and also that the Council's decision-making process in reducing the priority given to immigration advice was in breach of its duties under the Race Relations Act 1976.

Hammersmith and Fulham Community Law Centre has been funded by the council for 28 years. The decision to reduce the Law Centre's annual funding from £261,000 to £102,000 was made with less than two weeks notice and with no opportunity for representations to be made. No reasons were given, despite the fact that council officers recently rated the service ‘best value’ and assessed the current grant application as a 95% fit with the Council’s own funding criteria.

Sue Willman, solicitor for the claimants, said: "This cut will reduce access to justice for local residents, especially those who are disadavantaged and most in need of legal advice at a time when legal aid is already in short supply. The Law Centre's clients are calling on the High Court to intervene because the decision is unlawful and discriminatory."

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