Fountain Court Chambers

London & Singapore

Local government

Fountain Court has a long tradition of expertise in Local Government Law, and in recent years has been called upon to apply the principles of public law, and latterly of human rights law, in a tremendous variety of different statutory contexts and in front of all manner of tribunals.

The set has advised on issues relating to social care, (in a test case concerning the human rights of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children), R (M) v London Borough of Lambeth, Supreme Court [2009] 1 WLR 2557, as well as other cases involving numerous challenges to the validity of age assessments of asylum-seekers.

In addition, recent social care work has focused on the highly contentious issue of fees for care homes for the elderly, with members of the set persuading the High Court to overturn a local authority’s standard fee rate, in R (Forest Care Homes) v Pembrokeshire County Council [2010] EWHC 3514, described by the BBC as a landmark decision.

It has also acted on the successful judicial review of a local authority decision to set rates for care home provision at a level, which did not allow private sector providers a reasonable return on capital on what was a politically sensitive topic. (Mavalon Care Ltd & Others-v Pembrokeshire County Council), along with separate follow-on litigation on broader issues as to whether it is irrational to set rates insufficient to cover costs, in circumstances where the projected need for care home places will increase.

It has also advised on the management of key property assets by local authorities, and on challenges to the budget setting process.  It has advised local authorities on their legal responsibilities under major PFI-type transactions, often involving exceptionally complex elements of local authority vires, financial restrictions on local authorities, and common law issues arising under contract terms.

It has also advised on the financial implications of the credit crunch including the impact of the Icelandic banking crisis on local authority depositors, where the crisis had resulted in the potential loss of significant sums deposited with those Icelandic banks affected.

The set has advised a number of local education authorities in challenging OFSTED draft determinations (which generate performance ratings for the local authority in the areas concerned) as well as on their public law duties in respect of education generally.

The set is also familiar dealing with contractual and public law issues arising out of local government educational matters, something increasingly common as greater autonomy is ceded to schools both within, and outside, local authority control, or with those schools taking academy status.

Members of the set have advised on the vires (powers) of schools to enter into contracts, as well as the capacity of schools under the Education Act 2002 to have properly entered into contracts, along with as other issues such as the authority of the signatories, misrepresentation, penalty clauses and various purely contractual issues.