Birmingham City Council is under growing pressure to stop targeting spending cuts on front-line social care and voluntary groups after being heavily criticised in two High Court decisions.
The local authority’s Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition is facing a £19 million hole in its budget this year following judicial reviews which have halted plans to reduce social services provision and grants to voluntary organisations.
Mr Justice Blake ruled in the High Court that a decision to axe a £1.4 million funding scheme for 13 third sector groups, including the Citizens Advice Bureau, was unlawful.
Neither the cabinet nor the full council paid due regard to their responsibilities to promote equality under the Disability Discrimination Act and failed to consult properly with people who would be hit by the cuts.
Last week, Mr Justice Walker came to the same conclusion when allowing a judicial review into a cabinet decision to save £17.5 million by restricting social services care to adults whose needs are critical – the highest category of disability indicating an inability to perform the simplest tasks without help.
More than 11,000 people currently receiving help will be re-assessed and about 4,000 with substantial needs stand to lose council-funded care as a result. They will be directed to voluntary or private sector providers instead.
The financial implications from the latest court case could be serious. The council expects to save about £53 million by 2014 from limiting social services provision to adults with critical needs and may now have to find the money from elsewhere.
The cabinet is biding its time before deciding how to react to the latest setback.
The re-assessment programme has been halted and all adults with substantial needs will continue to receive care pending a full judgment to be handed down by Mr Justice Walker towards the end of May, but the council has indicated it may appeal.
A council spokeswoman said: “Like all councils, Birmingham faces a huge financial challenge, with adults and communities having to make a share of the savings and we need to assess the impact of this decision.
“It is also important to point out that this judgement is about the process we went through with regard to the Disability Discrimination Act, not the actual decision about where savings should be made.