At the beginning of August, Salford Council cut funding to Lancaster House which provides support for homeless people in the city. This, added together to cuts to other hostels, will result in a net loss of 56 beds for homeless people in Salford - for the background click here and click here.
Since the decision was made, campaigners to save Lancaster House have tried to get it `called-in' so they can challenge but say they have been met by complete "misinformation and misdirection" from Salford Council officials.
Now the Lancaster House Peer Group says it will take the case to the High Court which will cost Salford tax payers in excess of £50,000.
"Save Lancaster House Campaign's efforts to bring the decision to close homeless services in Salford to Scrutiny has failed" reads a statement from David Allum, Chairman of the Lancaster House Peer Group "We have tried to hold government to account with their own internal processes but this has failed at this stage.
"We have no choice but to take this matter to the High Court and to seek the judiciary to force the Council to make public this decision making process which we believe has been illegal and undemocratic" he adds.
The statement continues… "I have had many discussions with Salford Council's Scrutiny Department, Democratic Services and Councillors themselves in which people have misled, misinformed and generally been as unhelpful as possible in our seeking for a full enquiry to take place.
"It has become blatantly apparent that the Labour Party hierarchy has leaned on members to support their Lead Member. Our call to them today is that it is now time to stand up and be recognized rather than being whipped into obedience. Lancaster House is willing to work with members from all parties to bring this decision into the public domain.
"Every step of the way, Salford Council has tied both our hands behind our backs and continually moved the goalposts. This decision making process was never fair and it was blatantly clear that this decision was made long before the `process' had begun."
The statement goes on to thank councillors who have supported the cause, including Councillors Jillian Collinson, Martin O'Neill, Norman Owen, Judith Tope, Lynn Drake and Lisa Stone… "These Councillors are a shining example to Public Servants across the country. They have been supportive in helping Lancaster House and the people of Salford seek the truth."
Now, the service users of Lancaster House have got Stephenson's solicitors to seek redress in the High Court.
"We would like to make clear that if the council had scrutinized the decision themselves rather than forcing this to the courts, they would have saved the taxpayer £50,000+ in legal fees, as we are confident will be the case at the end of the campaign" the statement explains "For a council that is so concerned with saving money in this climate this does not make sense."
The statement adds that Salford Council has "something to hide" and that "Lancaster House has proof of this and it will become fully clear in the courts".
The statement concludes "Lancaster House and its supporters will continue to fight this closure and will make sure that a vital service for Salford remains open and also that the era of closed doors politics ends and proper transparency and full accountability of decision making begins…"
Update: 4:30pm 11th August
Salford Council Leader, John Merry has just issued the following statement in response..
"There's no question of illegality. The process in the Constitution was followed correctly and the reason this was heard as a part two item was because of commercial sensitivity around the contracts being discussed for many projects, not just Lancaster House. The decision was not called-in during the five day call-in process."
For further details see www.savelancasterhouse.co.uk