Local authority legal disputes set to rise: research
A significant majority of local authorities expect litigation to rise in the foreseeable future with adult social care disputes leading the way, research conducted by Local Government Lawyer in association with Thomson Reuters has found.
The survey of 62 local authority legal departmentsfound that two thirds of heads of legal and senior dispute resolution lawyers (64%) expect the number of cases involving their local authority to rise in the foreseeable future. One in five predicted that this rise in disputes will be ‘significant’. None predicted an overall fall in the level of litigation.
Litigation in almost all categories of dispute was expected to grow, with the exception of regulatory services such as trading standards and environmental health where cuts are having the effect of reducing the number of prosecutions. As well as social care, strong growth in disputes is anticipated in the education/SEN and child protection fields.
Recent reforms aimed at reducing the number of judicial reviews are unlikely to reduce the number of JR claims against councils, the survey found, although many respondents said that they may have the effect of limiting future rises.
Respondents to the survey also noted the increasing problems caused to local authorities by the rise in litigants-in-person (LiPs). More than three quarters of legal teams (78%) had experienced an increase in LiPS.
A substantial majority of local authorities (79%) meanwhile expected that the ‘crowdfunding’ of legal actions against councils is likely to have an impact on the number of claims they are subjected to.
The survey also examined the use of ADR by local authorities, the scope for increasing the amount of in-house advocacy and attitudes to online dispute resolution (ODR). The publication, which includes a report on a roundtable of senior lawyers, can be viewed (and downloaded) at www.localgovernmentlawyer/resolution