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Authority Update

07/10/11

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    Delivery of Services
   Accountability    Education
   Adult Social Services    Employment
   Children's Services    Housing
   Community Rights    Police Authorities
   Council Tax
   Bevan Brittan's Local Government Training Programme 

 

Access to Information

DCLG: The Code of Recommended Practice for local authorities on data transparency: this Code asks local authorities to follow the three principles of transparency when publishing data - Demand-led, Open and Timely. The Code also proposes the minimum datasets that should be released for reuse. It applies to England only. Local authorities, including councils and fire and rescue services, will be expected to comply with data protection law and to take a risk management approach to payment fraud. Authorities will now be expected to have regard to the Code in all their data publications. Subject to consultation, the Government is minded to make the Code a legally binding requirement. (29 September 2011)
Details of local authorities' publishing spend data can be found via the Local Directgov council expenditure over £500 search tool.

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

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Accountability

DCLG: Accountability - Adapting to decentralisation: this report examines how accounting officers will drive the Government's localism agenda and continue to account to Parliament for the use of public money. Where decentralised delivery arrangements are used, the report recommends that accounting officers should be responsible for ensuring that there is a robust local accountability system in place and that accounting officers should publish statements setting out the accountability systems for the major decentralised funding streams that they responsible for. It includes example accountability system statements for local government and the police. (26 September 2011)

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

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Adult Social Services

Short-notice care home closures: a guide for local authority commissioners: this guide from the Social Care Institute for Excellence aims to help commissioners, particularly local authority staff, to manage care home closures at short notice in situations that may be unexpected. It should also be useful to care home staff, residents and relatives. It covers implications for practice, examples of what others are doing and a summary of what policy and research tells us. It also includes examples of procedures, checklists and templates from various organisations around the UK. (8 September 2011)

DH:  Patients to have a greater say and choice over their care: announces that people receiving continuing healthcare support from the NHS will have the right to ask for a personal health budget by April 2014, giving them more choice and control over their care.

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

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Children's Services

DfE: Parents to be given new freedoms to run their local children's centres: announces that the Government will be consulting on changes to Sure Start statutory guidance and changes to governance arrangements for children's centres later in the year, including proposals that will enable parents and community groups to apply to their local authority to run a children's centre in their local area. Under the plans, local authorities will have the final say on whether projects go ahead. The Government has also confirmed that a further 18 local authorities will trial payment by results for children's centres. Together with the first wave announced in July, 27 local authorities will test rewards for reaching the most vulnerable families, improving family health and wellbeing and raising attainment of children at age five. (19 September 2011)

Ofsted: Raising standards, improving lives - The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills Strategic Plan 2011-2015: sets out what Ofsted aims to achieve, how its progress will be tracked and how it will help improve outcomes for children and learners. It builds on Ofsted's work to deliver the 2007-10 Strategic Plan. (27 September 2011)

Ofsted: Framework for children's centre inspection: shows how the general principles and processes are applied to inspections of children's centres in England. It sets out the statutory basis for inspection and summarises the main features of such inspections from September 2011. (27 September 2011)

DfE: Revised statutory guidance on the roles and responsibilities of the Director of Children's Services and the Lead Member for Children's Services: the Children Act 2004 requires local authorities to appoint a Director of Children's Services (DCS) and Lead Member for Children's Services (LMCS) for the purposes of discharging the education and children's social services functions of the local authority.  This consultation seeks views on revised statutory guidance for local authorities on the roles and responsibilities of the DCS and LMCS that will replace the version issued in 2009. The consultation closes on 6 January 2012. (30 September 2011)

Ofsted: Q&A - The use of holiday accommodation for looked after children: sets out questions with answers on the need for registration of premises used for holiday accommodation for looked after children. (4 October 2011)

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

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Community Rights

DCLG: Community Right to Reclaim Land: information on the new Community Right that aims to help communities improve their local area by making information about land owned by public bodies more easily available, and help to ensure that underused or unused land owned by public bodies and some other organisations is brought back into beneficial use. The right is exercised through the revised Public Request to Order Disposal process under Part X of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980. (5 October 2011).

DCLG: The Public Request to Order Disposal process - A simple explanation: Part X of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 gives members of the public the power to request that empty public sector land owned by local authorities and a limited number of other public bodies is sold off. The Secretary of State has powers to direct bodies listed in Sch.16 to the Act to dispose of land or property (“Statutory Request”); where bodies not listed in Sch.16 have signed a voluntary memorandum of understanding with the DCLG (“Non-Statutory Requests”), the SoS can treat these in a similar manner to Statutory Requests, but can only recommend, not insist, that they dispose of land or property. This note provides a basic description of the request process that applies to both Statutory and Non-Statutory Requests. (5 October 2011)
DCLG has also published: 

DCLG: Accelerating the release of public sector land – update, overview and next steps: this summary report provides an update following the announcement by the Housing Minister in June of Government plans to accelerate the release of public sector land to deliver up to 100,000 homes within the Comprehensive Spending Review period, and support economic growth. It gives an overview of the work that has already been done, and outlines how the Government is and will continue to support and facilitate the accelerated release of surplus formerly used public land. It also sets out proposals for taking the next phase of work forward to further increase land supply and support the delivery of homes. (5 October 2011)

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

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Council Tax

HM Treasury: Council tax freeze: announces an extra £805m new support for local authorities to help them freeze council tax next year. A new grant scheme will be open to all billing and major precepting authorities, including police and fire authorities, which decide to freeze or reduce their council tax next year. An authority which sets its Band D council tax in 2012-13 at a level which is no more than the 2011-12 amount, will receive a one-off grant equivalent to a 2.5% increase, while police and fire authorities will receive a grant equivalent to 3% of their 2011-12 basic amount of council tax.  An unringfenced grant in support of the scheme will be paid to each eligible billing and major precepting authority based on the formula, through the grant-making powers in s.31 LGA 2003.
See also DCLG's Questions and answers on the council tax freeze, which gives more details on the Chancellor's announcement. (3 October 2011)

LGO: Can’t pay? Won’t pay? Using bankruptcy for council tax debts: the Local Government and Finance Act 1992 and the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 set out councils’ powers to collect and recover council tax. This focus report summarises the LGO's experience of complaints so that councils can avoid maladministration and advice agencies can identify suitable cases to refer on to the Ombudsmen. It highlights the devastating consequences that bankruptcy can have for a debtor, along with the imperatives for councils to use their lawful powers to collect council tax which funds almost a quarter of the costs of local services. The report also sets out the circumstances in which the LGO is likely to find maladministration when taking enforcement action. (6 October 2011)

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

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Delivery of Services

DCLG: £250m for councils to support weekly bin collections: announces a new Weekly Collections Support Scheme that will both support weekly waste collections and enable councils to invest in schemes and projects that will benefit the environment through raising recycling rates. Councils will be invited to submit innovative bids for funding, either individually or in consortia, and with the private sector. In order to encourage the most innovative and locally tailored solutions, authorities will be able to bid for a mix of revenue and capital funding. DCLG will issue further details in due course of how the Support Scheme will operate and how councils can bid. (30 September 2011)
The LG Group has issued a Briefing on proposals for new financial incentives for weekly bin collections that details their position on the fund, sets out key messages for authorities and also outlines some of the areas on which the LG Group are seeking additional clarification.

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

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Education

LGO: Out of school ... out of mind? How councils can do more to give children out of school a good education: this focus report sets out lessons learned from recurring themes in complaints received from parents about children not in school. Looking across recent cases, the LGO concludes that some local authorities misunderstand their duties or pay them less attention than they should. As a result, some children are missing out on crucial years of education, which could disadvantage them for the rest of their lives. It identifies mistakes that councils often make and makes a number of recommendations. (29 September 2011)

Ofsted: The draft framework for school inspection from January 2012: this revised framework for school inspection shows how the general principles and processes are applied to inspections of maintained schools and several other types of school in England. It sets out the statutory basis for inspection and summarises the main features of school inspections carried out under s.5 of the Education Act 2005 from January 2012, subject to Parliamentary approval when the Education Bill receives Royal Assent. (30 September 2011)

DfE: Review of best practice in parental engagement: this report presents a review of studies of interventions aimed at supporting and improving parental engagement in the education of children aged 5-19, which also offer evidence on educational outcomes. "Parental engagement" includes learning at home, school-home and home-school communication, in-school activities, decision-making (e.g. being a parent governor) and collaborating with the community. The overall aim of the review is to highlight findings and conclusions from the evidence reviewed and to identify key themes and messages for practitioners and school leaders. (30 September 2011)

Ofsted: Inspection of residential provision for students under eighteen years of age in further education colleges: seeks views on proposals to revise and streamline arrangements for the inspection of residential provision in further education colleges for students under the age of 18. From September 2012, Ofsted proposes to concentrate on five key judgements for colleges: overall effectiveness, outcomes for young people, quality of service, safeguarding and leadership and management. The consultation closes on 27 December 2011. (4 October 2011)

DfE: 16-19 formula funding review: seeks views on proposals to reform the 16-19 funding formula by moving away from the current complex system of funding on the basis of ‘payment per qualification' to introduce a much simpler system of funding at the level of the learner. The reforms follow recommendations made by Professor Alison Wolf in her review of vocational education. The consultation closes on 4 January 2012. (6 October 2011)

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

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Employment

DBIS: Unfair dismissal rule changes could save british Business £6 million: announces that the qualification period for the right to claim unfair dismissal is to be extended from one to two years from 6 April 2012. The changes result from the ‘Resolving Workplace Disputes’ consultation published in January which also proposed measures to encourage early resolution of disputes, the speeding up of the tribunal process and measures to tackle weak and vexatious claims. The Government estimates that these combined proposals should see the number of unfair dismissal claims drop by around 2,000 p.a. (3 October 2011)

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

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Housing

DCLG: Questions and answers on proposed changes to the Right to Buy: the Chancellor announced at the Conservative Party conference that the Government is to  increase the discounts available to council housing tenants in England who want to buy their own homes, as an extension of the "right-to-buy" policy first introduced by the Thatcher Government. Cash raised by the sale of council housing will be spent on buying further homes, which will then be rented out at a reduced rate, under the plans to be outlined fully in a housing strategy later this year. This document gives more details. (2 October 2011)

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

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Police Authorities

Home Office: Consultation on the draft Elected Local Policing Body (Complaints and Misconduct) Regulations: seeks views on draft regulations which focus on how criminal and non-criminal allegations against Police and Crime Commissioners will be handled. The consultation closes on 21 October 2011. (23 September 2011)

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.

Forthcoming seminars in 2011 include:

For a list of all seminars see our new Events Programme for 2011/12. Full details, along with information on how to book a place, will be posted on our website about 6-8 weeks ahead of the scheduled date.

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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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