High court rules consultation is unlawful
Leader of Derbyshire County Council Councillor Anne Western has welcomed the outcome of a judicial review as "a victory for fairness and common sense."
Derbyshire County Council took Sheffield City Region Combined Authority to the High Court because it believed a public consultation on whether the region should expand to include Chesterfield was unlawful.
The High Court Judge, Mr Justice Ouseley, ruled that the consultation failed to ask local people a direct question about whether or not they believed Chesterfield should become part of Sheffield City Region. The judge said that this made the consultation unlawful and unfair and that "something had gone seriously and significantly wrong".
Sheffield City Region's consultation on whether it should expand its devolution deal to include Chesterfield ran from 1 July to 12 August 2016.
If the expansion went ahead, responsibility would pass to a Sheffield City Region Mayor and combined authority for key services in Chesterfield including major roads, funding for maintenance and road safety on all roads in the borough, public transport, travel concessions (Gold Card and b_line), skills for employment and major planning and investment projects.
The judge also stated that Sheffield City Region had provided no reasonable justification "as to why it had not included such an obvious and fundamental question in the questionnaire."
Councillor Anne Western said:
"The people of Chesterfield knew this consultation was unfair and misleading and this High Court judgment confirms that.
"When the county council asked the question Sheffield City Region failed to ask - whether Chesterfield should join Sheffield - more than 7,500 people responded to our online poll or filled in postcards in libraries and more than 92% opposed the plans.
"Taking action in the High Court was the last thing we wanted to do but unfortunately we were left with no other option to help us defend the right of local people to have their say on something so important.
"This is a victory for fairness and common sense and for the thousands of local people who - despite not being able to answer the question they wanted to in the official consultation - spoke up and made their views known loudly and clearly."
The next step is for Sheffield City Region Combined Authority to decide what action it needs to take to correct the flaws identified by the High Court.