Judge rules Norwich home rule decision was unlawful

Shaun LowthorpeA decision to grant home rule to Norwich was today ruled unlawful by a high court judge.Shaun Lowthorpe

A decision to grant home rule to Norwich was today ruled unlawful by a high court judge.

Norfolk County Council and Devon County Council joined forces to challenge former communities secretary John Denham's decision to grant unitary status to both Norwich and Exeter on their existing city boundaries.

The two councils accused the Labour government of rewriting the rules when granting the unitary decisions to help its own supporters despite advice from the independent Boundary Committee which said both failed to meet affordability tests and Norwich also failed a value for money test.

And high court judge Mr Justice Ouseley concluded the decision was unlawful and it was 'very unfair' that Mr Dehnam had a late change of heart about what weight to place on the five criteria used by the Boundary Committee to reach its conclusions without telling any of the councils involved and giving them an opportunity to respond.

All parties were given a short time to consider the effects of his ruling and a further hearing would follow to decide the best way to proceed over local elections deferred until next year.

Daniel Cox, leader of Norfolk County Council said he was pleased with 'clear and decisive nature' of the judgment.

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Steve Morphew, leader of Norwich City Council, said he was 'disappointed' by the ruling which was a 'real missed opportunity for the city'.

A Department of Communities and Local Government spokesman said: 'That the department now has to pick up substantial legal costs is a further demonstration of the reckless spending habits of the previous government.''