At its final 2016/17 working session (and AGM) the APPG (chaired by John Howell MP) heard evidence from a number of specialists providing an overview of the ways in which ADR methods are being used within the public sector.
Speakers covered a diverse range of subjects including local government administration and functions (including planning), NHS and tax disputes, and traffic penalties.
A copy of John’s speaking notes can be found here and an audio recording here (John’s contribution is at 54:38 to 1:03:54). It follows previous sessions that have explored commercial, community, family and workplace ADR.
John Pugh-Smith addressed the rise of mediation in public law. He referred, among others, to the Wolf Reforms and the Dispute Resolution Commitment from 2011, noting that £360 million of Government money has been saved just in terms of Government disputes. He explained that current research shows that whilst there is a high success rate in terms of settlement, in terms of matters that come to court, judges seem to be reluctant to stay proceedings in favour of mediation or other facilitative proceedings.
He continued by highlighting the high costs associated with court proceedings, which have led to an increase in promotion of mediation.
John further made note of mediation in planning, referring to the Guide endorsed by Bob Neill MP. He stressed that if successful, mediation delivers greatest benefits the earlier it is used. However, he added that a failed mediation rarely leads to a second attempt. Looking at the future, John noted the following:
a) The disparity of practices, provisions and their use;
b) Moving mediation up-stream? (use of mediation techniques in the decision-making process);
c) Public law mediation moves easily between the administrative and judicial spheres.
Finally, John drew the following conclusions:
a) Mediation has now been tried and tested in many spheres;
b) There are opportunities to apply it to most parts of current land-use system as well as related areas;
c) There is a growing interest, but still relatively little experience throughout UK;
d) Some good experiences to learn from with more in the pipeline;
e) Encouragement to the Governmental legal departments to use mediation more actively;
f) Need to make people aware of the costs savings and restauration of relationships when it comes to ADR.