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Budget Cuts and Welfare Reform

Government tuition fees’ raise was not in accordance with equality duties but still lawful

  • Re Hurley and Moore’s Application [2012] EWHC

Judicial review proceedings taken by two A-Level students to the Government’s decision to raise the cap on tuition fees that universities can charge has been unsuccessful.

The court accepted that although some students will be discouraged from applying to university because of the increase in fees it is too soon to tell whether this will disproportionately affect students from poorer backgrounds.  The court ruled that the Secretary of State failed to fully comply with the Public Sector Equality Duties for the whole package of measures on higher education reform.  However, the judge was satisfied that there was adequate analysis of the decision to raise the cap on university fees. The conclusion reached by the court was that the decision should not be quashed given the fact that the rise in tuition fees has already proceeded and it would cause ‘administrative chaos’ and have significant economic implications to interfere with the decision.

Read the judgment here, a press release by Public Interest Lawyers, which represented the students, here, a summary on the Guardian here and an analysis of the case on the Human Rights in Ireland blog here.

More on budget cuts and welfare reform

  • More successes and failures in challenges to library closures and reforms

The Supreme Court has refused campaigners from Brent permission to appeal a December 2011 judgment which ruled that the local council’s plan to cut provision for their libraries was unlawful.

In the same week permission was granted in the High Court to campaigners in Surrey to judicially review the decision of the local County Council to reform the operation of its libraries, in particular the decision to have 10 of its 52 libraries run by volunteers.

Read the news article covering both cases here.

  • EU Social Protection Committee report on the social impact of the economic crisis

In February 2012, the Social Protection Committee of the Council of the European Union published ‘The social impact of the economic crisis and ongoing fiscal consolidation: Third Report of the Social Protection Committee (2011)’.

The report maps the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the EU and shows that the depth of poverty and social exclusion has worsened.  Click here to read the report.

  • “More cuts mean more riots”

Research at the University of Kent suggests that the cuts enforced by the UK government will generate social disorder.  The research found that across 26 developed welfare states between 1980 and 2005 greater poverty, privatisation of public services and job insecurity led to increased social disorder.  Read more here.

  •  Welfare reform and financial privilege in parliament

A House of Commons Committee has decided that the Welfare Reform Bill engages ‘financial privilege’, which means the Commons has sole power to pass legislation on financial matters.  This follows amendments proposed by the House of Lords on housing benefit, benefits for cancer patients and for children in the Welfare Reform Bill.  The result is that the House of Commons may pass the Bill without any of the Lords amendments.

Read a House of Lords briefing paper on ‘financial privilege’ here and an analysis of the issue by Jeff King, writing on the Constitutional Law Blog, here.

  • PSED and cuts training papers

Louise Whitfield, Solicitor with Pierce Glynn Solicitors (who is speaking at the PILS Project/Equality Coalition seminar on 2nd March 2012) and Helen Mountfield QC have prepared a number of presentations for training on the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) in Great Britain in the context of the cuts, including case studies.  Click here to view the presentation.

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Budget Cuts & Welfare Reform