R v Greenwich London Borough Council, ex parte Lovelace

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal (Civil Division)
Judgment Date12 December 1990
Judgment citation (vLex)[1990] EWCA Civ J1212-6
Docket Number90/1174

[1990] EWCA Civ J1212-6





(Glidewell LJ and Tucker J)

Royal Courts of Justice,


Lord Justice Neill

Lord Justice Stocker


Lord Justice Staughton



The London Borough Of Greenwich
Serena Marilyn Violetta Lovelace

MR A LESTER QC and MISS M CARSS-FRISK (instructed by Sheelagh Robinson of London, NW10BQ) appeared on behalf of the Appellant/Applicant.

MR S SEDLEY QC and MR A WHITE (instructed by The Borough Secretary and Solicitor, London, SE18) appeared on behalf of the Respondent/Respondent.



This is an appeal by Miss Serena Lovelace from the order dated 22nd June 1989 of the Divisional Court (Glidewell LJ and Tucker J) dismissing her application for judicial review. The decision of the Divisional Court is now reported: [1990] 1 WLR 18; [1990] 1 All ER 353.


The appeal raises important questions relating to the conduct of local government. It is therefore necessary to set out the facts in some detail.


Miss Lovelace was elected a councillor of the London Borough of Greenwich (the Council) in May 1984. She was and is a member of the Labour Party. On her election she joined the Labour Group, which is an organized group of councillors who accept the Labour whip. At all material times the Labour Group was in a substantial majority on the Council.


The Council is empowered by the Local Government Act 1972 to carry out its functions by means of committees and sub-committees. The rules relating to the appointment of committees and of members of such committees are set out in the Standing Orders of the Council.


Standing Order A.31 provides, so far as is material:

"Subject to Standing Order A.33 the Council shall at the annual meeting appoint such Committee(s) as it is required to appoint by or under any statute or as it may think desirable, and may at any time appoint such other Committee(s) as are necessary to carry out the work of the Council, but subject as aforesaid and subject to any statutory provision in that behalf:

  • (i) the Standing Committees of the Council, the number of members thereof and their functions shall be as set out in Appendix 'A' hereto.

  • (ii) the Council shall not appoint any member of a Committee so as to hold office later than the next annual meeting of the Council.

  • (iii) the Council may at any time dissolve a Committee or alter its membership."


Standing Order A.32 is concerned with the appointment of sub-committees.


Standing Order A.33 is concerned with the declaration of pecuniary and personal interests by members. Neither of these Standing Orders is relevant in the present case.


Appendix A to the Standing Orders is headed "Committee Constitution and Duties". So far as is material the Appendix is in these terms:

"A. Standing Committees

The following are Standing Committees of the Council and consist of the number of members (exclusive of the Mayor and except in the case of the Policy & Resources Committee the Leaders of the Council and Opposition) specified opposite each Committee:

Name of Committee

Number of Members

Housing Committee


Policy & Resources Committee

20 *

B. Terms of Reference and Delegation

The powers, functions and duties of each committee are as determined by the Council from time to time on the recommendation of the appropriate committee. The current list of duties is set out in Para, (c) following. So far as may legally be possible and subject as provided below each committee is authorised to exercise for and on behalf of the Council all such powers, functions and duties: provided that:—

  • (a) the Council may, either upon the request of the committee concerned or otherwise, itself exercise any power so delegated which shall not already have been exercised by such committee and, may at any time withdraw, extend, or modify any such delegation, or transfer any delegation from one committee or another;….."


I turn next to the functions of the Policy and Resources Committee. These functions are expressed in the Standing Orders to include the following:

  • "1. to guide the Council's overall policy planning, to be responsible for the integration of other planning procedures and to issue statements of objectives and policies;

  • 6. to have the power to call in and deal with any major matter within the terms of reference of any other Committee and to make recommendations thereon to the Council as appropriate;….."


Finally I should refer to some of the functions of the Housing Committee as set out in the Standing Orders. These functions are expressed as being "subject to the overall direction and guidance of the Policy & Resources Committee" and include the following:

  • "1. the continuous review of the overall housing needs of the Borough and the formulation of proposals to secure appropriate improvements in housing conditions within the Borough;

  • 2. the implementation of the housing policy of the Council;

  • 3. the management of all land and properties within the control of the committee;

  • 4. the exercise of the powers and duties of the Council in connection with housing under the Housing Act including;—

    (a) unfit houses and houses in multiple occupation;

  • 9. the management of the Thistlebrook Caravan Site;….."


The annual meeting of the Council takes place each year in May. In May 1987 the appellant was appointed as a member of the Housing Committee. It is common ground that in the ordinary way she would have held office until, but not later, than the next annual meeting of the Council in May 1988.


In December 1987 the appellant and another councillor (Councillor Fay) had a disagreement with the Labour Group about the performance of the Social Services Department. On 17th December the appellant and Councillor Fay issued a press statement on the matter. The issue of this statement was regarded by the other members of the Labour Group as a serious breach of group discipline. As a result the Labour whip was withdrawn from the appellant and Councillor Fay on 21st December 1987.


At the same time as these difficulties arose between the appellant and the Labour Group, the Council was being faced with the problem of achieving a legal budget for the year 1988/89. At all material times the Council had been ratecapped under the provisions of the Rates Act 1984. Towards the end of 1987 it became clear that in order to achieve a legal budget for the following year a net reduction in expenditure of £19.3 million would have to be made. The matter was considered at a meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee on 22nd December 1987. It was then decided that reduction targets should be set for each of the Service Committees. The reduction target for the Housing Committee was 10 to 15 per cent. It was recognized however at this meeting that these proposed reductions would still not be sufficient to achieve a total reduction of £19.3 million and that at the next meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee on 9th February 1988 further measures would have to be considered.


The Housing Committee met on 26th January 1988. The Committee had before them proposals to reduce expenditure and to increase income to enable the Committee to comply with the targets which had been set by the Policy and Resources Committee in December. The proposals which were put forward for the purpose of yielding additional income included:

  • (a) an increase in rent levels for the caravan sites at Thistlebrook; and

  • (b) a new rent structure for homeless persons unit accommodation.


After discussion, the proposals to increase the rents at Thistlebrook to £20 per week on average per site and to introduce a new rent structure for homeless persons unit accommodation were put to the vote but the motion was lost. As a result it was resolved by the Committee:

"That the proposals to increase income by raising the rent levels at Thistlebrook and introducing a new rent structure for homeless persons unit accommodation…..be not approved."


The appellant was one of the eight councilors (including Councillor Fay) who voted against these proposals. She took the view that it had been the consistent policy of the Council not to raise rents for disadvantaged sections of society and she was unwilling to see a change of this policy. Her views on the matter however were strongly opposed by the Chairman of the Housing Committee and by a number of other members (including members of the Labour Group), who regarded the proposals as essential if the Housing Committee were to participate in the Council's efforts to set a legal budget.


On 1st February 1988 a meeting took place of the group officers of the Labour Group. It seems that it was the usual practice to hold such a meeting before the Labour Group itself met a little later. The minutes, so far as material contain the following record of what happened:

" Group Discipline

Vic Farlie reported on the meeting of Housing Committee held [26] January 1988 where Housing Majority Group decisions had been lost in committee.

It was proposed by Vic Farlie and seconded by Bill Murphy that:

  • (a) Councillors….., Fay and Lovelace be removed from the Housing Committee forthwith.

  • (b) The Housing Committee be reduced in size from 24 members to 18 members.

  • (c) If (a) and (b) are agreed this will result in the Housing Committee comprising 12 Labour, 4 Tory and 2 SDP/Liberal Members requiring the Labour Group to make four new nominations. It was agreed to recommend this motion to Group.

If accepted, it would be necessary to hold a Council...

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2 cases
  • R v Greenwich London Borough Council, ex parte Lovelace (No 2)
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 31 July 1991
    ...was heard by the Court of Appeal in October 1990. By a judgment dated 12th December 1990 the appeal was dismissed with costs ( [1991] 1 W.L.R. 506). It was further ordered that the order for costs against Mrs. Lovelace should not be enforced without the leave of the court. 8 It is in these......
  • R v Greenwich London Borough Council, ex parte Lovelace and Another
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 31 July 1991
    ...respect of those costs. Mrs Lovelace's subsequent appeal was dismissed with costs by the Court of Appeal (The Times December 17, 1990; [1991] 1 WLR 506). The order for costs against Mrs Lovelace was ordered not to be enforced without the leave of the court. Mr Antony White for Greenwich; Mr......

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