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Authority Update

13/08/10

Legal intelligence for professionals in local government.

This update contains brief details of recent Government publications, legislation, cases and other developments relevant to those involved in local government work, which have been published in the previous two weeks. Items are set out by subject, with a link to where the full document can be found on the internet.

If you have been forwarded this update by a colleague and would like to receive it direct please email Claire Booth.

All links are correct at the date of publication. The following topics are covered in this update:

   Access to Information    Powers and Duties
   Economic Development    Publicity
   Education    Regulatory Services
   Efficiency    Social Enterprise
   Employment    Standards 
   Bevan Brittan's Local Government Training Programme

 

Access to Information

DCLG: Public sector mapping agreement for England and Wales - transition plan: the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) will provide public bodies in England and Wales to access national OS mapping data for free, thus enabling them to collaborate with other bodies to deliver better, more innovative and more efficient local services. The data will be available on consistent licence terms, and will be centrally-funded by DCLG on behalf of the rest of the public sector. This paper sets out the scope of the PSMA and explains plans to implement the agreement by 1 April 2011. (5 August 2010)

DWP: Data sharing - guidance for local authorities on the use of social security data: this guidance aims to help local authorities decide whether they can use customer data, obtained for the purpose of administering social security benefits, to help improve delivery of other locally managed services and benefits. The guide is intended to help local authorities to better understand some of the key considerations and constraints that frame how social security data can be used. It is primarily aimed at Housing and Council Tax Benefit teams, but other local authority teams may also find it useful. (6 August 2010) 

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Caraline Johnson.

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Economic Development

DCLG: Extra funding for councils who go for growth now: announces that a New Homes Bonus will be introduced early in the Spending Review period. The scheme is an incentive for councils to take action now to give planning consent and support the construction of new homes, in return for which they will receive direct and substantial extra funding to spend as they wish. A consultation paper on the final scheme will be published following the Spending Review. The Government is also working on business rate reforms to encourage economic development, as well as reforming the Community Infrastructure Levy to provide an even clearer incentive to develop. (9 August 2010)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Penny Rinta-Suksi.

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Education

Academy Conversions (Transfer of School Surpluses) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/1938): these regulations, which come into force on 1 September 2010, set out the framework within which a local authority Academy  must transfer the financial surplus of a predecessor school to an Academy, where the school has had its application to convert to Academy status approved. Specific deadlines are set out relating to the timing of the determination of the amount by the local authority, the right of the Academy to apply to the Secretary of State for a review, the conclusion of the review, and the payment by the local authority to the Academy. (4 August 2010)
Bevan Brittan LLP is holding a seminar on New academies and the Academies Act 2010 on 9 September in our London office.

Education (Individual Pupil Information) (Prescribed Persons) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/1940): these regulations, which come into force on 1 September 2010,  amend SI 2009/1563 so as to enable information about individual pupils to be disclosed to the proprietor of an Academy where the pupil to whom the information relates is registered at a school that is converted into an Academy. (4 August 2010)

DfE: BSF sample projects get go-ahead and further confirmation given to academies: announces the 33 local authority ‘sample’ school projects in 14 council areas plus the 119 academies that have had capital allocated. It states that the 44 academies at the most advanced stage in their capital planning with PfS will receive capital now, while capital allocations for the remaining 75 will be decided in the October Spending Review. For details, see the list of schools. (6 August 2010)
DfE has issued a call for evidence regarding its capital spending review, which is looking at ways of changing how schools building is done so that waste (of both time and money) is eliminated as far as possible. Submissions must be made by 17 September 2010. (9 August 2010)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Caraline Johnson.

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Efficiency

DCLG: Grant Shapps calls time on the town hall pollsters: announces that the Government is cancelling the 2010 Place Survey postal survey as it considers it to be wasteful municipal spending that changes nothing.  Introduced in 2008, the Survey involves over half a million residents and is estimated to cost more than £5m to run. Results have been fed back to central Government and used to measure councils' performance on a range of centrally-imposed targets. (10 August 2010)  

DCLG: Eric Pickles to disband Audit Commission in new era of town hall transparency: announces plans to disband the Audit Commission and refocus audit on helping local people hold councils and local public bodies to account for local spending decisions.  The Audit Commission's in-house audit practice, which is the fifth largest audit practice in the country, will be transferred out of public ownership. A range of options will be developed for converting the audit practice into a business independent of Government which could be sold or otherwise transferred into the private sector. The proposals are that:

  • the Commission's responsibilities for overseeing and delivering local audit and inspections will stop;
  • the Commission's research activities will end;
  • audit functions will be moved to the private sector;
  • councils will be free to appoint their own independent external auditors from a more competitive and open market; and
  • there will be a new audit framework for local health bodies. 

The aim is for such a system to be in place from the 2012/13 financial year, with the necessary legislation being introduced in this Parliamentary session.
The Audit Commission has issued a statement on its future on light of the Government's announcement. (13 August 2010)

Cabinet Office: Sir Philip Green to lead Government Efficiency Review: announces that the head of the Arcadia Group has been asked to scrutinise government spending in the last three years to identify inefficiencies and potential savings, and to look at where lessons can be learned for the future. He will then report back before the end of the Spending Review. His remit will include: 

  • reviewing the progress with the recommendations of the Operational Efficiency Programme (OEP); and
  • assessing whether government leases and contracts entered into since 2007 offer value for money.

(13 August 2010)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Bethan Evans.

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Employment

DBIS: Consultation on the future of the right to request time to train policy: seeks views on the future of the ‘right to request time to train’ legislation and whether the right should be repealed, retained for large organisations or extended to small and medium sized organisations as planned. The legal right for workers in businesses with more than 250 employees to request time to take up relevant training came into effect from 6 April 2010. This consultation is part of the Govenrment's review of all regulations in a bid to reduce burdens on business. The consultation closes on 15 September 2010. (11 August 2010)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Sarah Lamont.

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Powers and Duties

Sale of Electricity by Local Authorities (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/1910): s.11(3) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 prevents local authorities from selling electricity which is produced otherwise than in association with heat, unless regulations provide otherwise. These regulations, which come into force on 18 August 2010, prescribe a power to allow local authorities in England and Wales to sell electricity generated from renewable as well as combined heat and power sources. It is explained in more detail in the DECC press release. (27 July 2010)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Peter Keith-Lucas.

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Publicity

DCLG: New measures to stop 'lobbying on the rates': announces that the Government is to consult on revising the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity so as to include stronger guidance to stop local authorities paying for private lobbying contractors to persuade the public or Government to take a particular view on specific policies. (5 August 2010)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Peter Keith-Lucas.

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Regulatory Services

DCLG: Cutting red tape for summer fetes: announces that the Government is working on agreeing a consistent approach for councils to follow when assessing applications for community events such as street parties and fetes. This will result in good practice guidance being set out for councils and more upfront transparency on what organisers need regarding public liability insurance, road closure notices and health and safety assessments. The press release includes a summary of the main barriers to holding community events. (1 August 2010)

DBIS: New rules to hand over powers to individuals and companies by cutting red tape and bureaucracy: announces a comprehensive package of measures to support the Government’s drive to tackle unnecessary government interference and red tape. The measures will help transform the relationship between people and government by changing how regulations are drawn up, introduced and implemented. From 1 September 2010, a new One-in, One-out system will begin: when Ministers seek to introduce new regulations which impose costs on business or the third sector, they will have to identify current regulations with an equivalent value that can be removed. (5 August 2010)

DCLG: Help us cut red tape: this website invites councils and public sector experts to suggest what DCLG-sponsored statutory guidance, secondary legislation or regulations they think should be removed. (6 August 2010)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Adam Kendall.

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Social Enterprise

Cabinet Office: Francis Maude launches pathfinder mutuals: announces the 12 public service spin-offs that have been chosen to be pathfinders for the mutuals initiative. These pathfinders will be trailblazers for the rest of the public sector, helping the Government establish what type of support and structures will best enable the development of employee-led mutuals on an ongoing basis. The pathfinders are exploring a variety of legal forms and methods of employee leadership. The focus of this project is on embedding the principles of cooperation, rather than the particular legal form used to achieve this, which will be decided by each pathfinder. (12 August 2010)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Matthew Waters.

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Standards

Standards for England: Protocol for partnership working: this template protocol sets down a shared set of values and behaviours that partners think should underpin their partnership work.  SfE suggests that the protocol will help demonstrate the values of good governance through upholding high standards of conduct and behaviour and could be used when forming or managing partnerships between local authorities and other bodies that do not have to sign up to the Code of Conduct. Although the protocol does not have a statutory basis or have sanctions attached to it, authorities may wish to consider the role of their standards committee in maintaining and overseeing adherence to the partnership behaviour protocol. (11 August 2010)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Peter Keith-Lucas.

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Bevan Brittan's Local Government Training Programme

Bevan Brittan has developed a well-recognised programme of training designed to assist local authorities in successfully implementing legal change. Led by key members of our local authority team, each session will clearly explain the key aspects of the law and the implications for local government. Using case studies and carefully selected complementary speakers, they will assist attendees in realising the full benefits of implementation and the dangerous pitfalls in failure to act.

The full Local Government Training Programme is available on our website. If you wish to attend any sessions please contact our Events team.

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Disclaimer

This update is intended to give general information about legal topics and is not intended to apply to specific circumstances. Its contents should not, therefore, be regarded as constituting legal advice and should not be relied on as such. In relation to any particular problem that you may have you are advised to seek specific legal advice.

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