CITY leaders are to spend more taxpayers' cash on a legal challenge already kicked out by some of the UK's most senior legal minds.
Newcastle Council is seeking a last legal appeal in its plans to fight the amount it must pay elderly care providers.
When the council lost the original case, with a judge effectively ruling firms cannot be blacklisted for wanting to make a small profit, it started a lengthy battle.
Just before Christmas, the council made a written submission to the Appeal Court which was rejected by the Lord Justice Richard.
He said: “The judge’s reasoning is very fact specific. There is no real prospect of establishing that he misdirected himself in law or that he reached a conclusion not reasonably open to him on the facts.
“Nor am I persuaded that in these circumstances the case is appropriate for the giving of more general guidance , so as to provide a compelling reason why an appeal should be heard.”
Despite this, an oral appeal will be held later this month. That is expected to add to legal costs for the council which is already obliged to pay a bill of more than £350,000 for the case so far.
Last night, former council leader David Faulkner called on city spending chiefs to detail the costs so far.
The Liberal Democrat said: “This looks like the council throwing good money after bad. It may be a matter of principle to them, but when the High Court and the Lord Chief Justice have refused right of appeal then why take it further and risk additional costs?
“I understand that Care North East proposed mediation rather than court in the first instance. That would have been a better option in retrospect.
“I call on the council to come clean on how much this has cost the council tax payers of Newcastle in legal fees so far and what their legal adviser estimates this further step may cost.” However, Rachel Baillie, Newcastle Council’s director of commissioning, defended the move.
“The council believes that it must exhaust all options in this case so we can get some clarity about the rates we should pay care home providers and the process we use,” she argued.
“Without doing so, we believe we could end up in a legal quagmire that benefits no one, including the most important people of all, the care home residents, every time we come to negotiate.
“We also believe there is an important point of principle. It is not our duty as a public body, particularly in financially strained times, to guarantee a certain amount of profit to private operators.
“It was Care North East that originally instigated this judicial review and although it will cost public money, we believe we are serving the best interests of the Newcastle public by following it a conclusion.”