Communities secretary Ruth Kelly suffered a setback to her plan to merge more than 50 smaller councils into unitary authorities yesterday after a High Court ruling that has national significance. The Times

Kelly is facing a High Court challenge by three councils threatened with the axe: Congleton, Shrewsbury and Atcham, and Harrogate. All three claim she does not have the power to consult on her plans before the local government bill becomes law. Yesterday Mr Justice King ruled that the councils had an 'arguable' case.