06:13PM, Thursday 18 April 2019
An order to abolish two parish councils has been quashed by the High Court.
Both Wexham Court and Britwell parish councils have been successful in their judicial review bids challenging Slough Borough Council’s (SBC) decision to close them down.
A judgement released on Wednesday found that SBC’s order to abolish the parishes ‘failed to have regard to relevant guidance’ and that there must be ‘clear and sustained local support for abolition of a parish council’.
SBC leader Cllr James Swindlehurst said the borough will now enter discussions with the parish councils on improvements which can be made but may still decide to take further abolition action.
He said: “We will be looking carefully at the judgement to make sure, if we are continuing down the [abolition] path, that we should produce new reports that show reasoning and evidence.”
“There is very little precedent in terms of interpreting the guidance,” he added.
The decision to abolish the two authorities was made at a SBC full council meeting in December following a cross-party governance review.
One aspect of the review included advisory polls, in which residents backed their parishes, with 56 per cent of Wexham Court Parish voters in favour of keeping the council and 52 per cent choosing to keep Britwell.
SBC has maintained that this poll is not legally binding.
However, High Court judge Mr Justice Lewis said in his judgement that ‘there must be clear evidence that the abolition is justified and clear and sustained local support for abolition’.
“In my judgment, therefore, the defendant erred in its approach to the interpretation of paragraph 120 of the guidance. It was influenced by the erroneous view that abolition would be consistent with the guidance,” he added.
“The defendant was not seeking to establish whether local opinion, over a sustained period, broadly supported abolition.”
He added: “In those circumstances, as the decision to make the order was materially influenced by that legal error, the order must be quashed. For that reason, these two claims for judicial review succeed.”
Britwell Parish Council chairman John Finn told the Express:“We are glad we have won the appeal. SBC wasted a lot of taxpayers’ money appealing against this.”
SBC said in a statement: “We note the judgement of the court and we will be considering it in full. In the meanwhile preparations for the parish council elections on May 2 will continue.”
A council spokeswoman added that SBC lawyers will be going through the judgement ‘with a fine toothcomb’ and that the next decision will likely lie with full council who will decide on future steps.
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