Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED February 10, 2003

The claimant council was not entitled to judicial review of the decision of the joint committee, which appointed council representatives to the Thames Valley Police Authority, to require the claimant Conservative council to nominate a Liberal Democrat in order to achieve the necessary political balance on the authority.Application by a unitary authority ('W&M') for judicial review of the decision of the defendant committee ('the joint committee') not to appoint a Conservative councillor as W&M's nominee to the Thames Valley Police Authority ('the police authority'). The police authority had 19 members, ten of whom were representatives of nine local authorities. They were appointed by the joint committee, which consisted of persons appointed by the relevant councils from among their own members and which had an agreed membership of 12. Under sch.2 para 4(1)(b) Police Act 1996 the joint committee had to appoint members to the police authority so far as possible to reflect the balance of the political parties prevailing among the members of the relevant councils taken as a whole. At all material times the ten council members of the police authority comprised four Conservative, three Labour and three Liberal Democrat councillors. Prior to the local elections of May 2000 the representative of W&M on the police authority was a Liberal Democrat. He lost his seat in those elections and automatically ceased to be a member of the police authority. At the same time the Conservatives gained control of W&M and nominated a Conservative to the police authority. The joint committee refused to make that appointment and W&M nominated a Liberal Democrat who was duly appointed. In June 2000 the chairman of the joint committee wrote to W&M saying that when the allocation of seats on the police authority fell to be reconsidered in 2002 he would do all he could to persuade his colleagues to recognise W&M's action on this occasion and that, should the committee not be able to accommodate all authorities' preferences within the political balance constraints, an authority other than W&M would be invited to nominate a member who was not from the majority party. After the local elections in May 2002 the joint committee decided not to change the allocation of places between the relevant councils, which required W&M to appoint a Liberal Democrat. W&M sought judicial review of the refusal of the joint committee to appoint its Conservative nominee arguing that the refusal was a breach of its legitimate expectations, based on the letter of June 2000, or irrational.HELD: (1) The case based on legitimate expectation failed. The letter of June 2000 from the chairman of the joint committee did not contain a clear and unambiguous representation to the effect that if W&M were to nominate a Liberal Democrat in 2000 the joint committee would appoint its Conservative nominee in 2002. There was only a personal commitment from the chairman to do all he could. There was no evidence that the chairman had authority to bind the committee and it was not reasonable for W&M to rely on the letter as a source of legal entitlement. Assuming that, in principle, one public authority could raise legitimate expectation against another, W&M could not refute the contention that it ought to have known that the person making the representation had no power to bind his principal. (2) If the system operated unfairly to W&M, that was not the consequence of irrationality. There was no change to the proportional distribution of seats between the political parties as a consequence of the 2002 elections. The joint committee considered W&M's case for change and the 2000 letter but resolved that there should be no change for reasons of continuity since a redistribution to accommodate W&M's wishes would affect two other councils.Application dismissed.