In the Vale of Glamorgan Council v The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (2011), the High Court considered the duty to consult in the context of the council's challenge to the Lord Chancellor's decision to close a magistrates' court in Barry.

The case focused on the Lord Chancellor's decision making which, the council alleged was Wednesdbury unreasonable. However, the Court rejected the council's submissions. Giving the judgment of the Court, Lord Justice Elias said there was no general principle that a minister entering into a consultation must consult on all the possible ways in which a specific objective might arguably be capable of being achieved. Generally speaking, there is a definite limit on the number of options about which an authority has to consult.

Lord Justice Elias said "we have come to the clear conclusion that there was no error of law in the approach of the Lord Chancellor and therefore this application fails."

The case does not affect the Sedley principles, which state that:  

  • consultation must be made at a time when the proposals are at a formative stage;
  • sufficient reasons for the proposal must be given to allow intelligent consideration and response; and
  • adequate time must be given for a response.  

The product of the consultation must be conscientiously taken into account in finalising proposals.

To read the judgements click here