In a ruling which delineates the division of powers between directly-elected mayors and full councils, a High Court judge has given the green light to the replacement of full time staff at a Doncaster library by volunteers and self-service facilities.
A disabled library user had sought judicial review of the cost-cutting measure decided upon by the mayor and executive cabinet of Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council. In a budget amendment, the full council had allocated £400,000 to maintain a full time library staff but the mayor and cabinet had elected not to spend that money for that purpose.
In dismissing the challenge, Mr Justice Hickinbottom said that the mode of delivery of library services was properly a decision for the mayor and cabinet. If and in so far as the full council purported by the budget amendment to direct the mayor and cabinet to spend the money in a specific way, that amounted to an unlawful interference by the full council in the proper role and executive functions of the mayor and cabinet.
Had the mayor and cabinet merely followed the direction of the full council, treating it as binding upon them, that would itself have been an unlawful and improper fetter on the decision-making discretion of the mayor and cabinet, the judge ruled.
The judge said that the case had ‘raised the important wider issue of the division of powers between a directly-elected mayor and a local authority’s full council.’
He observed: ‘That issue is of considerable importance to all authorities which have a directly-elected mayor and may be of particular importance where, as in Doncaster, the mayor is not from the same political party as the majority of the full council.’