Birmingham City Council is facing a legal bill of at least £600,000 after its proposals to cut services for disabled adults were declared unlawful.
The figure represents the cost of losing two High Court cases where the council was found to have breached the Disability Discrimination Act.
An estimate was contained in an answer to a Freedom of Information Act question submitted by the Labour MP for Erdington, Jack Dromey.
The MP asked about the second judicial review, which ended last week when High Court judge Mr Justice Walker ruled the cabinet broke the law when deciding to remove care packages from more than 4,500 severely disabled adults.
Mr Dromey described the bill as a “grotesque” waste of money” and accused the council of attempting to defend the indefensible by failing to abandon the cuts before the matter went to court.
Council chief executive Stephen Hughes told the MP the bill for settling the city’s costs for the second case was estimated at £250,000.
But the council is yet to receive a bill from the claimants’ side, which is expected to be more than £250,000.
The second case followed a similar judicial review at the end of March, which resulted in the council’s decision to terminate £1.4 million funding for voluntary organisations being declared unlawful and contrary to equalities legislation. Costs were awarded against the council in both instances.
The council has estimated its costs at £50,000 and is waiting to receive the final bill from the claimants, which is expected to be more than £50,000. The minimum cost to the council of defending the two cases, therefore, is £600,000 – although the figure could rise substantially.
Cabinet Adults and Communities member Sue Anderson (Lib Dem Sheldon) said the legal costs would have to be met from the council’s reserve fund.
Mr Dromey said: “Birmingham citizens will be rightly concerned the council is spending their money in this way.”
Council leaders are preparing for the possibility of a lengthy legal battle in an attempt to salvage a £53 million social services cuts plan. Strategic Director for Adults and Communities, Peter Hay refused to rule out the possibility that the council may try again to stop providing care for disabled adults with substantial needs – a move condemned as “potentially devastating” by Mr Justice Walker, who urged the council to consider “less draconian” ways of saving money.
Mr Hay warned there would be “very uncomfortable consequences” for disabled people however the council decided to reduce its social services budget.
The second judicial review dealt with a proposal that council-funded social services would only be provided in future to adults at the very highest level of disability with ‘critical’ needs.
The court case, brought by four disabled residents, resulted in Birmingham being ordered to halt the cuts and undertake proper public consultation before reaching a fresh decision.