Authority Update

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 two weeks up to 12 February 2010. Items are set out by subject, with a link to where the full document can be found on the internet.

12/02/2010

Claire Booth

Claire Booth

Professional Support Lawyer

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    Governance
   Adult Social Services    Health and Safety
   Anti Social Behaviour    Highways
   Audit and Inspection    Overview and Scrutiny
   Children's Services    Powers and Duties
   Democracy    Rating
   Economic Development    Social Enterprises
   Education    Structural Change
   Efficiency    Transport
   Environmental Health    Vetting and Barring
   Equality
   Bevan Brittan's Local Government Training Programme

 

Access to Information

LGA: Briefing note – INSPIRE Directive: outlines the key provisions of the INSPIRE Directive that requires that member states provide public access to location based data related to the environment according to specific technical standards, and sets out what action the LGA is taking to help local authorities with its implementation. (29 January 2010)

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

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Adult Social Services

LGA: Briefing - Personal Care at Home Bill: Lords Second Reading: the Personal Care at Home Bill that is currently going through Parliament would enable regulations to be made requiring personal care to be provided free to persons with the highest needs in their own homes. This briefing critically examines the Bill's key messages and its implications for local authorities. The Bill has completed the Commons stages and received its 2nd Reading in the Lords on 1 February 2010. Its progress can be tracked on the Parliament Bills web page. (2 February 2010)

CQC: State of care report: this is the Commission's first annual report to Parliament on the state of health care and adult social care in England. It applauds overall improvements over recent years but cautions that some services are lagging behind the pack and that there are areas of common concern across health and social care, notably keeping people safe and staff training. The report argues that joining up health and social care can deliver both better care and greater efficiency, and it calls for investment in services that maintain people's independence, by reducing the need for expensive hospital and residential care. (10 February 2010)

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

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Anti Social Behaviour

DCMS: Councils to be able to impose blanket bans on 24 hour licences in problem areas: announces that local authorities are to get new powers under the Crime and Security Bill, currently before Parliament, to enable them to impose blanket bans on the sale of alcohol after 3 a.m. in entire streets or city centres affected by alcohol-related anti-social behaviour and disorder. (4 February 2010)

DCLG: John Denham calls for community champions to tackle anti-social behaviour: the Communities Secretary is calling for an "army of community champions", with a new programme of Government training to anyone suffering from anti-social behaviour in their neighbourhood. In addition, DCLG has published a short booklet setting out the role of the police and councils in tackling anti-social behaviour which also contains advice on how to go about contacting them. This will be distributed to people in 130 areas that have made tackling anti-social behaviour a priority and/or face a degree of challenge on anti-social behaviour in their area, building on work led by the Home Office, especially their Justice Seen Justice Done campaign. (9 February 2010)

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

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Audit and Inspection

LGA: Freedom to lead - trust to deliver: sets out proposals for what a new accountability framework for localities might look like. It covers the role of national targets, the case for stability and certainty about resources, the agreement of priorities for place, the nature and role of inspection and arrangements for supporting improvement. At its heart theproposition is that local public service providers need to be liberated from unnecessary controls so that they can develop tailored responses appropriate to the challenges of their communities in a way that is co-ordinated, efficient and cost-effective. The consultation closes on 10 March 2010. A final proposition will be published in April 2010 based on the responses to these proposals and in the light of the lessons from the Total Place pilots. (29 January 2010)

DBIS: Guidance for regulatory and prosecuting authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland - offences in connection with auditors' reports: guidance for prosecutors and regulators in cases where it appears that an offence under s.507 of the Companies Act 2006 (offences in connection with auditors' report) may have taken place and where the same behaviour could come within the scope of the investigation powers (under para.15 or 24 of Sch.10 to the Act) of the authorities that supervise or regulate auditors. (8 February 2010)

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

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Children's Services

DCSF: Consultation on draft regulations, and associated statutory guidance, for local authorities to provide short breaks for carers of disabled children and young people: seeks views on draft Regulations and statutory guidance that would require local authorities to provide respite care services for parents and carers of disabled children and young people, as part of the Government's Aiming High for Disabled Children programme for improving outcomes for disabled children through radical changes in the services made available to them. The consultation closes on 26 April 2010. (1 February 2010)

DCSF: Leaving care consultation: seeks views on draft Planning Transition to Adulthood for Looked After Children guidance and draft Children Leaving Care Regulations 2010 that revise the entire suite of Children Act 1989 Regulations and guidance to meet the new requirements on local authorities introduced by the Children and Young Persons Act 2008 to plan for looked after children so that they have the support they need to succeed as they make their transition to the responsibilities of adulthood. The proposals also respond to the commitments to transform outcomes for looked after children and care leavers set out in the White Paper “Care Matters”. The consultation closes on 19 March 2010. (3 February 2010)

Audit Commission: Giving children a healthy start - A review of health improvements in children from birth to five years: this report assesses the local implementation of national policy from 1999 to 2009 on the health of children from birth to five years of age in England. It examines local service planning and delivery, including priority setting, and how local bodies can improve service delivery and access for vulnerable groups such as black and minority ethnic communities, lone and teenage parents. The report discusses: the impact of government funding on health outcomes for the under-fives; how effectively local bodies manage their resources; and the extent to which they are providing good value for money. It provides recommendations for national and local bodies, as well as examples of good practice. (3 February 2010)

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

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Democracy

DCLG: Strengthening local democracy - summary of responses: summarises the responses received to the July 2009 consultation that discussed a range of proposals to promote democratic renewal and strengthen the power and responsibility of local government. This paper sets out the Government's plans for taking forward the proposals, including: 

  • putting relationship between central and local government on a firmer footing;
  • strengthening the scrutiny role;
  • powers and barriers to using powers effectively;
  • strengthening accountability to citizens; and 
  • trigger points for accountability to citizens.

It also sets out the formal responses to six recommendations raised by the CLG Select Committee in its May 2009 report The balance of power: Central and  local government.
DCLG has also published the findings of the Strengthening Local Democracy Focus Group study that explored public views on proposals stated in the Strengthening Local Democracy consultation. (5 February 2010)

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

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Economic Development

DCLG: John Denham urges councils to create 3000 more apprenticeships: announces £700,000 funding for local authorities to create 175 new horticulture apprenticeships, to help young people develop new green-fingered skills and get public parks and gardens growing in some of the country's most deprived areas. This press release lists the authorities that have been awarded funding, and gives details of other Government action to increase public sector apprenticeships. (2 February 2010)

DWP: Work and skills plans - next steps: policy statement: work and skills plans are one of the recommendations of the Houghton Review of Tackling Worklessness. The plans set out how local authorities, working within their partnerships, can help deliver a reduction in worklessness and promote economic inclusion. They are intended as the framework through which local authorities, working with their partnerships, will develop and agree their response to the local needs identified through their Local Economic Assessment and Worklessness Assessment. They will be the delivery plans that underpin the relevant strategic priorities identified in the Sustainable Community Strategy, Local Area Agreements, Multi-Area Agreements and the Regional Strategy. (3 February 2010)

DCLG: Economic prosperity boards and combined authorities - consultation on draft statutory guidance: the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 provides for the establishment of economic prosperity boards (EPBs) and combined authorities. This draft guidance seeks views on the main purposes of EPBs and combined authorities and the process for establishing such a body. The consultation closes on 29 April 2010. (4 February 2010)

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

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Education

DCSF: Religious education in English schools - non-statutory guidance 2010: this guidance supports the provision of high-quality RE in maintained schools in England. It provides clear non-statutory guidance about RE in the curriculum and the roles of those who have a responsibility for, involvement in or interest in the subject. The new non-statutory programme of learning and RE guidance will give local authorities and schools more ideas and support on how to develop their local RE curriculum. (29 January 2010)

DCSF: Consultation on the draft new School Governance (Transition from an Interim Executive Board) (England) Regulations 2010: seeks views on proposed legislative amendments that aim to take full account of new models of school governance and to replace the duty on local authorities to appoint a shadow governing body as part of the transitional arrangements from an interim executive board to a normally constituted governing body.The consultation closes on 17 March 2010. (3 February 2010)

Training and Development Agency: £167m funding boost for extra school activities: announces that additional funding for out-of-hours school activities is to be rolled out nationally from April this year. The subsidy is designed to improve equal opportunities in schools by enabling pupils, who would not otherwise have been able to participate for financial reasons, to take part. All pupils will have the chance to take advantage of the extended services provided by their school, such as after-school clubs and holiday activities. The TDA has created a new resource pack that includes guiding principles based on learning experiences from pathfinder schools. (8 February 2010)

DCSF: New "stepping stones" learning to help thousands of pupils: announces that Foundation Learning, with £20m funding, is to be rolled out to every English local education authority from September 2010 after successful pilot schemes in 22 areas. Foundation Learning is the Government’s latest move towards raising the participation age. It  supports giving young people by giving them tailored learning programmes that will lead them towards a specific goal, such as GCSEs, Diplomas or Apprenticeships. (9 February 2010)

DCSF: Accreditation of school providers and schools groups, and academy sponsor selection: invites successful schools and education institutions, business, faith and charity groups to apply to become Accredited Schools Groups and Accredited School Providers, giving them a ‘chartermark’ to support or take over under-performing schools and turn them round. There are two levels of accreditation: Accredited School Providers (ASPs) will be eligible to take over up to two underperforming schools in need of rapid, sustainable school improvement, while Accredited Schools Groups (ASGs) will lead three or more schools. There is also guidance on the accreditation system and the criteria for accreditation. (10 February 2010)

Draft School Admissions (Co-ordination of Admission Arrangements) (England) Regulations 2010: seeks views on draft Regulations which amend SI 2008/3090  so as to require each local authority's common application form to include a statement signalling that the parent accepts the policies (including the behaviour policies) of the schools they are applying for.  The aim of the amendment is to ensure that parents understand and will abide by schools' key policies, including their behaviour policy. The consultation closes on 25 March 2010. (11 February 2010)

Draft Local Education Authorities and Children’s Services Authorities (Integration of Functions) Order 2010: this draft Order, once in force, removes the terms ‘local education authority’ and ‘children’s services authority’ from primary legislation and replaces them with the single term ‘local authority’. Sch.1 to the draft Order inserts a new Schedule 36A into the Education Act 1996, with a list of education functions. If this draft order is approved a further order, making similar changes to local and secondary legislation will be made, subject to negative resolution. (12 February 2010)

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

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Efficiency

IDeA: Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships Efficiency Casebook: outlines the RIEPs’ efficiency and procurement support and details a wide range of practical advice, guidance and best practice on efficiency. It includes sections on procurement, promoting shared services, making better use of assets, transforming services, and benchmarking efficiency. (8 February 2010)

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

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Environmental Health

Ghai v Newcastle City Council; Secretary of State for Justice (Interested Party);Ramgharia Gurdwara, Hitchin and Alice Barker Welfare & Wildlife Trust (Interveners)  [2010] EWCA Civ 59 (CA): G appealed against the dismissal of his application for judicial review of the local authority's refusal to provide land for open air funeral pyres. G was an orthodox Hindu who wished his body to be cremated on an open air pyre following his death; he also wanted similar open air funerals for other Hindus. G claimed that the authority's decision not to provide land was an interference with his religious beliefs contrary to Art.9 ECHR and contrary to his right to privacy under Art.8. The High Court held that the requirement under the Cremation Act 1902 and the Cremation (England and Wales) Regulations 2008 that the cremation of human remains took place in a building, and the corresponding prohibition on open air pyres, did not amount to an interference with G's human rights. On appeal, there was fresh evidence which showed that G's religious belief would be satisfied if the cremation took place within a structure, provided that the cremation was by traditional fire and that sunlight could shine directly on his body while it was being cremated. The issue was therefore whether a cremation that would accord with G's beliefs could reasonably be achieved in a structure that was a "building" within the meaning in s.2 of the 1902 Act.
The court held that "building" in s.2 should be given its natural and relatively wide meaning and so could include a structure that G found acceptable. Therefore G's wishes as to how his remains were to be cremated could be accommodated under the 1902 Act and the 2008 Regulations. (10 February 2010)

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

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Equality

Equality and Human Rights Commission: Consultation on non-statutory guidance: employment, services and public functions, and education: seeks views on draft guidance to cover all aspects of the Equality Bill once it becomes law. The main purpose of the guidance is to help people understand the Equality Act and how it will affect them. The consultation closes on 16 April 2010. (2 February 2010)
 
Equality and Human Rights Commission: Consultation on the draft Codes of Practice: employment, equal pay and services, public functions and associations: seeks views on three separate draft Codes of Practice that explain the new statutory provisions in the Equality Bill so as to ensure that the law is applied consistently by lower courts and tribunals. This will also help make the law accessible to a wider audience, such as those who have obligations and those who have rights. The consultation closes on 2 April 2010. (2 February 2010)

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

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Governance

Draft Commons Councils (Standard Constitution) (England) Regulations 2010: these regulations prescribe a standard constitution that is to apply to all commons councils established under Part 2 of the Commons Act 2006, containing terms as to their constitution and administration. (10 February 2010)

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

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Health and Safety

HSE: HSE calls for careful driving in depots after council worker is killed: Dudley MBC has been fined £30,000 with £20,000 costs by Wolverhampton Crown Court after pleading guilty to breaching s.2 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974. The prosecution arose after a council employee was struck and killed by a wheeled shovel loader being driven by another council employee. Following the incident, the HSE has issued a warning about the dangers of depots and loading yards. They advise that employers provide set routes to keep pedestrians and vehicles safely apart.  They should also check that their site rules and systems of work are both appropriate and adequately enforced. (8 February 2010)

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

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Highways

West Sussex CC v Russell [2010] EWCA Civ 71 (CA): the highways authority appealed against an order for damages in favour of R, subject to a 50 per cent reduction for contributory negligence. R had been seriously injured after losing control of her car when she drove onto the grass verge, which was several inches lower than the level of the carriageway. It was accepted that R was driving too fast for the conditions although she was not exceeding the speed limit. R sued the authority for a failure to maintain the highway under s.41(1) of the Highways Act 1980. The judge held that the authority had failed to establish a defence under s.58(1) of the Act that it has taken all such care as was reasonably required to secure that the relevant part of the highway was not dangerous for traffic.
The Court of Appeal held, dismissing the appeal, that the judge had addressed at length the relevant jurisprudence and he had been entitled to find that the highway authority was in breach of its obligation under s.41(1). The authority could reasonably have been expected to know that the difference in levels of the verge and the carriageway was likely to cause danger to road users. Fixed with that constructive knowledge, it had failed to prove for the purposes of s.58(1) that it had taken such care as was reasonably required to secure that the road was not dangerous for traffic. The 50 per cent reduction of the award of damages on the basis of R's contributory negligence for driving at excessive speed in difficult weather conditions could also not be faulted. (12 February 2010)

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

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Overview and Scrutiny

Local Authorities (Overview and Scrutiny) Bill: this Private Member's Bill, introduced into the Commons by David Chaytor MP, aims to strengthen and broaden the powers of local government overview and scrutiny committees. It takes forward some of the proposals set out in the Government’s 2009 consultation Strengthening Local Democracy to facilitate the scrutiny of local public services by local authority overview and scrutiny committees. The effect of the Bill is that authorities would be able to compel local service providers to attend public scrutiny hearings to justify their actions and respond to recommendations to resolve residents' concerns.The Bill also enables executive council members to sit on scrutiny committees when they are concerned with scrutiny of external bodies.
The Government has announced that it is supporting the Bill. The progress of the Bill can ber tracked on the Parliament Bills web page. (1 February 2010)

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

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Powers and Duties

DEFRA: Draft guidance on the duties on public authorities in relation to Marine Conservation Zones: Part 5 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 places a number of duties on local authorities and other public bodies regarding Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs). This draft guidance covers both the general duty on public authorities, the parallel duty on consenting authorities and the role of the statutory nature conservation bodies in giving advice. The duties (together with the duty placed on Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities in England) will play an important role in protecting MCZs from harmful activities and developments, in order to help further the conservation objectives for each site. The draft guidance includes decision-making flow charts. (28 January 2010)

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

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Rating

Business Rate Supplements (Collection and Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/187): these regulations, which come into force on 4 March 2010, amend the Non-Domestic Rating (Collection and Enforcement) (Local Lists) Regulations 1989 (SI 1989/1058) and the Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rating (Demand Notices) (England) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/2613) to enable billing authorities to collect and enforce the Business Rate Supplement as part of the collection and enforcement process for non domestic rates. (8 February 2010)

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

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Regulatory Services

Home Office: Regulation of lap dancing clubs - Consultation on transitional arrangements: Government response: sets out the Government's response to the September 2009 consultation on the regulation of lap-dancing clubs. Where the new provisions are adopted, local people will be able to oppose an application for a lap dancing club on the basis that it would be inappropriate given the character of their local neighbourhood. From 6 April 2010, local authorities will be able to require all lap dancing clubs in their area, including existing venues, to apply for a sex establishment licence under Sch.3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 if they want to continue to operate lawfully. (12 February 2010)

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

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Social Enterprises

DCLG: Community enterprise strategic framework: sets out how the Government will help put community enterprises onto a stronger footing with more support, skills training and advice, such as how to set up consortiums or franchises to increase their competitive clout when bidding for council contracts. The Government is also proposing piloting Social Impact Bonds as a new way of funding the third sector to provide services. The pilot is likely to focus on the savings made to health and social care sectors by adapting private housing to prevent falls or cold-related illnesses. The bond would provide funding, growth capital and support to pay for the new intervention service. After a specified time the public bodies involved would pay investors back from savings made from this early intervention. (10 February 2010)

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

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Structural Change

DCLG: Unitary authorities: announces the Secretary of State's decisions on unitary proposals for Exeter, Ipswich, Devon, Norwich, Norfolk and Suffolk. Exeter and Norwich are to become unitary authorities but Norfolk and Devon will remain as two tier authorities. The Suffolk councils are asked to decide locally on the best unitary solution for the county. (10 February 2010)
The decision letters on unitary proposals for Devon, Norfolk and Suffolk are on the DCLG website.

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

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Transport

DfT: Providing transport in partnership: gives advice to local authorities and NHS agencies on the benefits of integrating the organisation and procurement of transport provided for patients and clients across various sectors, including community transport. (1 February 2010)

DfT: Community transport - LTP best practice: highlights the benefits of community transport and explain how local authorities can engage with the sector, focusing on partnership working. The DfT is strongly encouraging local authorities to approach and work more closely with community transport providers. (1 February 2010)

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

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Vetting and Barring

DCSF: Vetting and barring myth buster: clarifies when a person  does not have to register with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) regarding personal and family arrangements, and also sets out other exemptions from the new Vetting and Barring Scheme. (8 February 2010)

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

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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 2010 include:

 If you wish to attend any of these sessions please contact our Events team.

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