A controversial consultation designed by Sheffield City Region Combined Authority had been “seriously and significantly wrong” according to the High Court Judge who heard the case.
The consultation, which ran from July to August, was supposed to ask Chesterfield people whether they wanted to become members of Sheffield City Region. Mr Justice Ouseley ruled that the consultation failed to ask local people a direct question about whether or not they believed Chesterfield should become part of Sheffield City Region. The judge said that this made the consultation unlawful and unfair. He also stated that Sheffield City Region had provided no reasonable justification “as to why it had not included such an obvious and fundamental question in the questionnaire.”
Derbyshire Labour had long argued that the consultation was not transparent and failed to directly ask the people of Chesterfield their views on the move. Derbyshire County Council leader Anne Western said: “This is a victory for fairness and common sense. It affirms the view that the consultation was unfair and the people of Chesterfield deserve better.”
Cllr Anne Western added: “When the county council asked the question Sheffield City Region failed to ask – whether Chesterfield should join Sheffield – more than 7,500 people responded to our online poll or filled in postcards in libraries and more than 92% opposed the plans.
“Taking action in the High Court was the last thing we wanted to do but unfortunately we were left with no other option to help us defend the right of local people to have their say on something so important.
“This is a victory for fairness and common sense and for the thousands of local people who – despite not being able to answer the question they wanted to in the official consultation – spoke up and made their views known loudly and clearly.”
Sheffield City region will now be forced to decide what steps it needs to take to correct the flaws identified by the High Court.