- Local authority referendums and the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic (Democracy Newham Ltd v LB Newham)
- What are the practical implications of this case?
- What was the background?
- What did the court decide?
- Case details
Local Government analysis: In September 2020, Democracy Newham Ltd (DNL) submitted a petition calling on Newham Council (the Council) to hold a referendum on changing its model of governance from an elected mayor model to a council leader model. The Council declared the petition invalid on the basis that regulations introduced in 2020 in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic rendered invalid any petition introduced within the period of 16 March 2020 to 5 May 2021. DNL disputed that interpretation, arguing that the regulations only invalidated a petition which required a referendum to take place between those dates. The High Court dismissed the claim, deciding that on a proper construction, the regulations rendered invalid any petition submitted between the dates. The court rejected the idea that the Council had to make a hypothetical decision about when a referendum would be held since that could require the Council decisionmaker to have to reach a political judgment on that issue. Written by Alexander Campbell, barrister, at Field Court Chambers.
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