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FoI request highlights the millions spent by councils on legal battles

Barnet Council has lost more than £3m in High Court battles with its own residents in just three years, according to data obtained under Freedom of Information by the Ham & High newspaper.

The council incurred legal costs of £700,000 defending judicial reviews of its decision, spent £433,000 settling High Court challenge, and also had to refund £2m in parking charges after it was found to have unlawfully hiked the charges to pay for other transport projects.

The newspaper reported that among the 37 judicial reviews the London borough has faced in the High Court since January 2011 was a challenge by NHS Brent. The primary care trust said it was providing service to about 40 people who it argued were Barnet residents, and the case was settled when the council paid it £275,000.

The single biggest legal bill settled by the council was a result of its controversial One Barnet scheme to outsource large parts of its work. It spent more than £470,000 on a case brought by a disabled resident who said the council failed to consult properly.

It eventually won the case.

Barnet Council leader Cllr Richard Cornelius told the newspaper: “One of the cruel ironies for local government is that the very actions required by councils to make the sorts of savings that we need to make will attract greater legal challenge than in the past, and the costs to the public purse that brings.”

He said: “The purpose of judicial review is to make sure that appropriate processes are followed when a decision is reached. I am concerned that too many people are using this because they simply don’t like the decision.”

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