A local authority looks set to abandon its lengthy fight over the loss of hospital maternity services after a barrister warned it had little chance of successful legal action.

Richmondshire District Council has fought a long campaign against a plan by Hambleton, Whitby and Richmondshire Clinical Commissioning Group to downgrade consultant led maternity services at Friarage Hospital to a maternity led unit.

In June, health secretary Jeremy Hunt backed the CCG’s plan to move the services to hospitals in Darlington and Middlesbrough.

The council had been prepared to take Mr Hunt’s decision to judicial review.

But a report to the council from its corporate director for strategy and governance Callum McKeon said advice from Philip Havers QC indicated “on the balance of probabilities there is a realistic chance that the legal action would be unsuccessful”.

The report said: “Generally, officers do not advise the expenditure of public funds in promoting or defending legal actions unless there is a probability of success.”

The report is due to be discussed at a full council meeting tomorrow night at which councillors will decide whether to abandon their proposed judicial review.

Last year council leader John Blackie embarked on a national tour of similar small hospitals with maternity services in a search for a way to retain the consultant led service.

He also engaged in a dispute with then chair of the CCG, Henry Cronin, whom he accused of seeking to gag councillors over the issue.