07 April 2014
Link to judgment
Age, disability and race
Summary of case
This was a judicial review to challenge the council’s decision to revoke a London soup kitchen’s licence to operate in an authority-owned car park. Christian Kitchen is a registered charity whose trustees organise a soup kitchen which has provided meals and hot drinks to homeless, vulnerable people in Walthamstow for more than 25 years. The facility opens for one hour, seven nights a week all year round. Although the council had not funded the kitchen for many years, it nevertheless supported the project by allowing the charity to use its Mission Grove car park for over 20 years.
However, alleged anti-social behaviour associated with the soup kitchen users (contested as to its extent), together with substantial regeneration works in the area, led the council to conclude that the licence should be terminated.
The High Court concluded that the Council’s decision to revoke a licence for a soup kitchen was unlawful as it was taken without due regard to the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED). Simler J stressed the ‘need for clear well-informed decision-making when assessing potentially grave adverse impacts on some of the most vulnerable members of society… in the current economic climate’.
The court noted that while, in relation to each protected characteristic, the Equality Analysis identifies the proposed change of location as having a potential adverse impact on the particular group, it was silent on closure of the soup kitchen altogether. Similarly, although the mitigating measures proposed in each case are all to do with accessing the proposed new location for the soup kitchen; there was ‘no consideration whatever of mitigation measures addressed at reducing or avoiding the impact of closure altogether’.
In the court’s view, the council ‘should have considered the likely impact… on the vulnerable users of the soup kitchen on the basis that the soup kitchen would close rather than on the wholly unrealistic basis that they would suffer little or no detriment because the kitchen could relocate’.
In the circumstances, Simler J found that the PSED had not been complied with. The risk of closure was not considered and weighed in the balance. So, although an impact assessment was carried out, it did not in the circumstances provide the analysis and information necessary to discharge the duty to have focused due regard.