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:  

   Anti-Social Behaviour    Health and Safety
   Audit    Health and Social Care
   Bribery and Corruption    Housing
   Children's Services    Members
   Community Engagement    Publicity
   Education    Regulatory Services
   Equality    Wales
   Finance  

 

Anti-Social Behaviour

Home Office: Our vision for safe and active communities: Baroness Newlove, the Champion for Active Safer Communities, has detailed what residents, businesses, local agencies and central government can do to begin a generational shift in the country’s approach to activism and tackling neighbourhood crime. The report calls for a change of culture so neighbourhoods no longer see crime, anti-social behaviour (ASB) and disorder as ‘someone else’s problem’. She also says that services should go beyond simply asking communities what their problems are and see them as equal partners in resolving those issues. Her recommendations include:

  • Community Reward: the community is given a reward to spend on crime prevention work if information it provides leads to a conviction;
  • Bling Back: money made from selling local drug dealers’ assets is handed back to the neighbourhood they blighted;
  • letting communities set their own local speed limits;
  • providing council tax rebates, or vouchers for local businesses and services, for people who take part in 'community activism'; and
  • Community Reinvestment: if the community and partners succeed in reducing crime and ASB, they can retain the savings made for reinvestment in the community.

 (29 March 2011)

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

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Audit

DCLG: Future of local public audit: seeks views on detailed proposals to establish a new decentralised, local audit regime that will replace the Audit Commission. The new framework aims to support local democratic accountability and cut bureaucracy and costs, while ensuring that there continues to be robust local public audit. The Government has stated that it is committed to disbanding the Audit Commission after 2012. This consultation builds on a programme of work already undertaken to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of auditing arrangements including the abolition of the Comprehensive Area Assessments and the stopping of the Commission's research and inspection activities. The consultation closes on 30 June 2011. (30 March 2011)

Accounts and Audit (England) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/817): these regulations, which came into force on 31 March 2011, revise and consolidate a number of regulations that provide for the financial management, annual accounts and audit procedures applying to local authorities and other public bodies who must be audited in accordance with the Audit Commission Act 1998. They incorporate a number of amendments to the previous regulations designed to take account of new developments and to apply the Government policies of lifting burdens and increasing transparency to the subjects covered by the regulations. (21 March 2011) 
DCLG has written to all English local authorities notifying them local of the new regulations, explaining the changes made to the consultation draft and drawing attention to matters requiring urgent action.

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

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Bribery and Corruption

MoJ: Bribery Act 2010 - guidance about procedures which relevant commercial organisations can put into place to prevent persons associated with them from bribing: the MoJ has announced that the Bribery Act 2010 will come into force on 1 July 2011. The Act includes a new offence which can be committed by commercial organisations which fail to prevent persons associated with them from bribing another person on their behalf. An organisation that can prove it has adequate procedures in place to prevent persons associated with it from bribing will have a defence to the offence. This statutory guidance exlains the policy behind the new offence and aims to help commercial organisations understand what sorts of procedures they can put in place to prevent bribery. The MoJ has also published a quick start guide that sets out the key points. (30 March 2011)

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

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Children's Services

DfE: £4 million to fund free nursery places in 15 areas: announces funding for 15 local authorities to provide free early learning and childcare to the most disadvantaged two-year-olds in their communities. In addition, the Early Years Single Funding Formula is being implemented in all local authorities, requiring local authorities to fund nurseries and other early years providers by the number of children rather than places. This will help ensure that nurseries are making the best effort to fill their places by attracting and encouraging more families to take up free nursery education for their children. (1 April 2011)

DfE: A new approach to child poverty - Tackling the causes of disadvantage and transforming families' lives: sets out the Government's national Child Poverty Strategy for 2011-14. At its heart are strengthening families, encouraging responsibility, promoting work, guaranteeing fairness and providing support to the most vulnerable. The Child Poverty Act 2010 established income targets for 2020 and a duty to minimise socio-economic disadvantage. This strategy meets the requirement to set out the proposed measures to make progress between 2011 and 2014. Chapter 4 discusses the role of place and transforming lives, and how local authorities and their key partners will have a role to play in tackling child poverty and improving life chances. (5 April 2011)

Commissioning Support Programme: National contracts for schools, fostercare and residential care: the National Contracts Steering Group (NCSG), a cross sector group set up to support the development of contracts in children’s services, has launched new versions of the three National Contracts for Schools, Fostercare and Residential Care, together with a summary and explanation of the key changes. The NCSG says that it intends to further review the contracts, once they are in widespread use (in 2012). The steering group will also consider opportunities for further standardised approaches to commissioning. (5 April 2011)

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

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Community Engagement

DCLG: Sustainable Communities Act 2007: Inspiring the Big Society - a consultation on regulations under the Sustainable Communities Act: seeks views on proposals for new regulations to govern the arrangements following the second invitation under the Sustainable Communities Act 2007, that was issued on 15 December 2010. The Act was amended in April 2010 to allow the procedures for receiving, considering and deciding proposals under the Act to be improved. It now allows the arrangements for the consideration of proposals submitted in response to the invitation to be set out in regulations. The changes now proposed mean that the Local Government Association (LGA) will have the power to challenge a decision if a particular council isn't happy with an outcome. Where there is a challenge, the Government will have to consult the LGA before issuing the final decision. The consultation closes on 20 June 2011. (29 March 2011)

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

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Education

DfE: Financial support for 16 to 19 year olds in education or training: seeks views on a proposed package of financial support for 16-19 year olds in education or training in England. The new £180m bursary scheme  is made up of two parts: a guaranteed payment to a small group of the most vulnerable, and a discretionary fund for schools and colleges to distribute. There are also transitional arrangements for 16-19 year olds currently receiving Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA). The consultation closes on 20 May 2011. (29 March 2011)

DfE: Ensuring good behaviour in schools - Guidance for governing bodies, head teachers, school staff and employers: seeks views on six revised guidance documents on the powers and duties that apply to behaviour and attendance in schools, together with one new summary document. The consultation closes on 30 May 2011. (4 April 2011)

Audit Commission: Better value for money in schools: the Commission has published four briefings that examine patterns in spending in maintained schools in England. They aim to help school heads, governing bodies and councils control costs without compromising educational attainment. They look at four areas where schools have scope to improve efficiency:

It has also published a summary paper, An overview of school workforce spending, that is targeted at chairs of governing bodies and lead members on children's services. (31 March 2011)

Ofsted: Inspection of residential provision in boarding and residential special schools: seeks views on proposals for a revised framework for the inspection of residential provision in boarding and residential special schools. The proposed changes reflect new national minimum standards being introduced in September 2011 and are intended to benefit schools, teachers and proprietors by providing them with better information on how inspectors make their judgements. They are intended to promote improvement with clearer reports for parents, carers and placing authorities and to help ensure better residential conditions for children. The consultation closes on 25 May 2011. (30 March 2011)

Education (School Performance Targets) (England) (Revocation) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/937): these regulations, which come into force on 1 September 2011, revoke the Education (School Performance Targets) (England) Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/2858), so removing the requirement for schools to set education performance targets and to submit these targets to the local authority. (31 March 2011)

DfE: Review of education capital - the James Review: this report sets out the findings of Sebastian James' comprehensive review of all capital investment funded by the DfE. The Review finds that the system of capital allocation and spending which has developed over at least the last decade has frequently resulted in poor use of resources, a bureaucratic system for providers and local authorities and a mixed (and at times poor) outcome for both parents and children. It recommends reforming the capital allocation system so that investment is focused on the condition of buildings and the provision of high quality school places, with a more standardised approach to design and an expert, centralised approach to the procurement and delivery of major projects. There should be a new Central Body that would have responsibility for procuring all major capital projects, while Local Responsible Bodies decide on the type of investment needed locally, and on how that investment should be prioritised. (8 April 2011)
Bevan Brittan are preparing a more detailed briefing on the James Review and what it means for local authorities. If you would like to receive a copy, please email Claire Booth.

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

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Equality

Equality Act 2010 (Public Authorities and Consequential and Supplementary Amendments) Order 2011 (SI 2011/1060): this Order, which came into force on 4 April 2011, amends the Equality Act 2010 by adding additional bodies to the list in Schedule 19 of public authorities which are subject to the public sector equality duty under s.149 of the Act. The additional bodies include the Standards Board, the Local Government Ombudsman, the Audit Commission and local authority Pupil Referral Units. The Order also adds a Part 4 to Schedule 19, listing crossborder Welsh authorities.

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

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Finance

DCLG: Eric Pickles predicts public service shake up - as Community Budgets begin: the Communities Secretary has confirmed that the first 16 Community Budgets pioneers will be up and running from 1 April 2011. They will pool and align various funding strands into a single local funding pot for tackling social problems around families with complex needs.(29 March 2011)

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

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Health and Safety

HSE: Council fined after man with learning difficulties dies from drinking dishwasher fluid: reports that Lewes Crown Court has fined East Sussex CC £50,000 and ordered it to pay £27,670 costs after the Council pleaded guilty to breaching s.3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The prosecution arose following an incident in 2004 when a man with learning difficulties drank dishwasher fluid containing sodium hydroxide on a council-organised trip after confusing it with orange squash. The man later died and five others also suffered painful and permanent internal injuries after drinking the poisonous liquid. (4 April 2011)

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

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Health and Social Care

DH: Working together for a stronger NHS: the Government has launched a "listening exercise" on NHS modernisation, with an opportunity to "pause, listen, reflect on and improve" its plans to reform the NHS as set out in the Health and Social Care Bill. This document describes why the provision of health and care needs to change and the Government's plans to modernise the NHS. It invites reader to get involved in the process. There will be events running in every part of the country over the next two months which will give people a chance to get involved – from specific events for NHS staff, to others involved with the NHS, and those already involved in making change. More information is on the Modernisation website. (6 April 2011)

DH: Radical approach to drugs recovery piloted: the Home Office's Drugs Strategy, published in December 2010, included a new approach to the local delivery of drug interventions that would incentivise the system to deliver on recovery outcomes. The DH has now announced that eight areas will pilot a Payment by Results (PBR) scheme for drugs recovery for adults that rewards providers who support individuals to recover from their dependence by using clear outcomes for the individual, their families and communities. (8 April 2011)

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

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Housing

DCLG: Tenant cashback set to reward house proud council tenants: announces a new cashback scheme that  will allow social housing tenants to take more control of their repairs budgets for their homes, e.g. carry out their own DIY, or commission it locally and retain any savings made. Community groups will also be able to take on the repairs on a particular street or neighbourhood, helping out those who cannot take on the responsibility themselves. Tenants will be able to pool their resources, creating a Community Cashback account that could be used to fund improvements to the local area for the benefit of all residents. (7 April 2011)

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

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Members

Local Government Group: Councillor's guide 2011/12: this guide explores the things that new councillors need to know at the start of their careers in public life, with information on being a councillor, civic life, community leadership and useful contacts. It has been revised and updated to reflect the latest legislation and thinking concerning local government in England, and includes the implications of the Localism Bill and how the sector is facing its toughest financial settlement in living memory. (5 April 2011)

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

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Publicity

DCLG: Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity (Circular 01/2011): this revised Code gives recommended practice on a number of aspects of publicity, based on seven principles. It contains guidance on subject matter, costs, content, dissemination, advertising, recruitment advertising, publicity about individual members of an authority, timing of publicity, elections, referendums and petitions, and assistance to others for publicity. The Publicity Code is issued under s.4(1) LGA 1986 and local authorities are required to have regard it in coming to any decision on any communication, in whatever form, addressed to the public at large or a section of the public. (31 March 2011)

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

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Regulatory Services

Croydon LBC v Hogarth (Unreported, QBD):  the local authority  applied under reg.15 of the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 for an injunction against H, the director and company secretary of a business equipment company, to restrain alleged misleading advertising after the authority had received numerous complaints that the company had misled businesses into believing that they already had a contract with H, and into paying invoices for the maintenance of equipment. The ASA and OFT had previously upheld compaints about the company's practices but H refused to give an undertaking not to carry out further similar conduct.
The court held, granting the application, that H had failed to have regard to the ASA adjudication and the OFT's warning. The company's document plainly made representations in connection with a trade or business and was an advertisement within reg.3, and was plainly misleading within reg.3(2)(a). There was no evidence that H would desist from their course of conduct unless compelled to do so. Scams of such a nature had a chilling effect on the economy because they meant that business people had to spend more time being watchful about routine matters, and eroded standards of decent business behaviour. It was harmful and should be stopped. The court noted that local authorities should consider bringing such claims in the Mercantile Court as it was likely to be quicker and cheaper, and there was no need for them to be considered by anyone higher than a senior circuit judge. (5 April 2011)
The judgment is available from Lawtel (password required).

DH: Guidance on the implementation of the Sunbeds (Regulation) Act 2010: the Sunbeds (Regulation) Act 2010, which came into force on 8 April 2011, imposes a duty on anyone involved in carrying on a sunbed businesses to ensure that no person under the age of 18 years uses, or is offered the use of, a sunbed, or is present in a restricted zone. This guidance supports local authority authorised officers in their enforcement of the legislation. (8 April 2011)

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

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Wales

National Assembly for Wales: Explanatory Memorandum to Government of Wales Act 2006 (Commencement of Assembly Act Provisions, Transitional and Saving Provisions and Modifications) Order 2011: the draft Order provides for the coming into force of provisions in Part 4 GOWA 2006 following the Yes vote in the referendum on the law-making powers of the National Assembly for Wales. The provisions give the Assembly new powers to pass Assembly Acts instead of Measures. The intention is that the order will come into force on 5 May 2011. The Order sets out the coming into force date, saving provisions for any remaining Assembly Measures passed by the Assembly and makes modifications to existing legislation appropriate with the coming into force of Assembly Act provisions. (29 March 2011)

Welsh Assembly Government: Local, regional, national - What services are best delivered where?: this review of local authority service delivery, undertaken by Joe Simpson from the Local Government Leadership Centre, examines how local government might perform better if it were to review and realign the commissioning and delivery of some of its functions. It advocates that change should be through collaboration rather than reorganisation because of the need to ensure that core services continue to be organised locally. It outline ten principles that should underpin and inform the thinking of Ministers and local government behind collaboration. (29 March 2011)

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

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