Law student fights council over grant

Roger Pearson looks ahead

A County Council faces High Court test case action soon over its refusal to make a discretionary grant to a law student. The challenge, which is likely to have significant bearing on the discretionary grant policies of many local authorities, has been mounted against Warwickshire County Council.

Law student Simon Williams is to ask for a judicial review of the council's decision to refuse him a grant for his course. As a result of the refusal Williams, who wishes to become a solicitor, says he was left with no alternative but to take out a professional education loan for u10,000 from Lloyds Bank.

In the application, which follows grant of leave by Mr Justice Popplewell who decided there was an arguable case, Williams will challenge the policy which is used by the council to allocate discretionary grants.

He says the council has received 600 applications for grants for the current academic year. He also argues that because of council policies over the grants, those who have been refused grants and seek to use the appeals procedure to challenge such refusals stand little chance of success.

He believes that, far from furthering the purposes of the Education Act, the council's policy frustrates it. His case is that the council failed to set aside any contingency fund for discretionary grants and that by adopting a rigid policy it effectively restricted itself by its own discretion.

However, the council, at the recent application for leave to challenge its stance, made it clear through its counsel, James Goudie QC, that it stands by its policy.

Goudie said the challenge to the council's policies was "doomed to failure" and that the council had a broad discretion to make awards in individual cases.

Defending its grant system appeals procedure, the council says that out of 600 students who were refused grants, 121 have lodged appeals, three of these have so far been successful and others are in the pipeline.