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 thetwo weeks up to 21 March 2014. Items are set out by subject, with a link to where the full document can be found on the internet.

21/03/2014

Claire Booth

Claire Booth

Professional Support Lawyer

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:

   Adult Social Services    Housing
   Audit    Licensing
   Business Improvement Districts    Maladministration
   Children's Services    Neighbourhood Planning
   Coastal Protection and Flooding    Officers
   Delivery of Services    Parish Councils
   Democracy    Pensions
   Development Control    Procurement
   Economic Development    Public Health
   Education    Rating
   Energy    Registration Services
   Equality and Discrimination    Social Enterprises
   Finance    State Aid
   Governance    Traffic and Transport
   Highways    Wales

 

Adult Social Services

London Councils: Care Bill – Report stage: this briefing covers new clauses on: Duty to identify carers; Independent review of future demand for social care and healthcare; and Reporting on the funding for new costs arising from the Care Act. London Councils is particularly concerned about the levels of resourcing for local authorities to im­plement the proposals set out in the Bill. Some of the key proposals for reform set out in the Bill will require high levels of resourcing to be appropriately delivered and it is difficult to assess now what the full cost implications of the Bill will be in the future. It supports the amendment providing for a statutory annual review which can address any shortfall in funding. (11 March 2014) 

National Audit Office: Adult social care in England – Overview: in the first of a series of reports on the adult care system, the NAO warns about the difficulty of measuring capacity in the care system. Although the report acknowledges that the Government has done a good job of involving the relevant stakeholders in the preparation of the Care Bill, it notes a number of risks including rising demand, increasing life expectancy of people with multiple and long-term conditions and the continuing problem of unmet care needs. (13 March 2014)

House of Lords Mental Capacity Act 2005 Committee: Mental Capacity Act 2005 – Post-legislative scrutiny: the Committee was established to scrutinise how the 2005 Act is working in practice. This latest report concludes that vulnerable adults are being failed by the Act designed to protect and empower them. Social workers, healthcare professionals and others involved in the care of vulnerable adults are not aware of the Act, and are failing to implement it. The Committee finds that while the Act, in the main, continues to be held in high regard, its implementation has not met the expectations that it rightly raised. The Act has suffered from a lack of awareness and a lack of understanding. It recommends that an independent body is given responsibility for oversight of the Act in order to drive forward vital changes in practice. It also found that the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS), inserted into the Mental Capacity Act by the Mental Health Act 2007, are not fit for purpose. The Committee recommends that the DoLS be replaced with legislation that is in keeping with the language and ethos of the Mental Capacity Act as a whole. (13 March 2014)

P (by his litigation friend the Official Solicitor) v Cheshire West & Chester Council; P & Q (by their litigation friend the Official Solicitor)  v Surrey CC [2014] UKSC 19 (Sup Ct): the Supreme Court has considered whether and when the circumstances of a person who cannot make a decision about his care and residence amount to a deprivation of liberty so that the person requires a protective regime to uphold his human rights in accordance with Art.5(4) ECHR.  
In the first case, P required continuous and intensive support in a staffed bungalow where he had been placed in 2009, pursuant to a court order. A court declaration confirmed that the arrangements were a deprivation of liberty but in his best interests.  In the second case, X and Y were sisters and both had learning disabilities. X was placed with a foster mother and would have been prevented from leaving had she tried; Y was in a residential home and sometimes required physical and chemical restraint. By contrast with P, the first instance judge found that no deprivation of liberty arose. The Court of Appeal held that neither set of circumstances amounted to a deprivation of liberty on the grounds of the relative normality of the lives of P, X and Y.
The Supreme Court allowed the appeals, but the decision was not unanimous. The key findings were that all three appellants were all deprived of their liberty. In considering the concrete situation of a person who may be deprived of his liberty, attention should focus in particular on whether the person concerned was under continuous supervision and control and was free to leave. The court rejected the concept of relative normality that had been introduced by the Court of Appeal - this meant that deciding whether an incapable person was deprived of his liberty depended on a consideration of what the circumstances of someone of a similar disability might be subjected to. The Supreme Court held that "it is axiomatic that people with disabilities, both mental and physical, have the same human rights as the rest of the human race".  To establish whether someone was deprived of their liberty, the relevant test has been slightly modified. The well-known principles developed by the European Court still applied; however, the key question to ask was whether the person was under continuous supervision and was not free to leave; irrelevant factors included an incapable person's compliance or lack of objection, the relative normality of the placement and the purpose it was created for. In essence, the rationale behind this decision is that the right to physical freedom is a right which should not be tailored according to a person's mental or physical disability. The court sympathised with the intention of the Court of Appeal, which was to try and limit the scope for uncertainty about whether someone was being looked after lawfully. The point was, however, that in order to secure a person's human rights they must be applied universally. (19 March 2014)
See our Alert: Deprivation of liberty – What does the landmark judgment in Cheshire West mean? 

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

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Audit

DCLG: Future of local audit – Consultation on secondary legislation: Summary of responses: sets out how the Government intends to proceed following the May 2013 consultation on draft secondary legislation and policy statements uder the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. The finalised regulations on: the appointment of auditors and auditor resignation/removal; eligibility and regulation of auditors; and the conduct of local audit (consideration of report and recommendations of public interest reports) should be laid before Parliament this Summer. The Government also plans to issue a further consultation on other draft regulations in May, covering: further regulations associated with smaller authorities; regulations to allow for the establishment of a sector-led body to procure/appoint local auditors; and Accounts and Audit Regulations. (10 March 2014)

Institute for Government: Dying to improve: this report examines the demise of improvement agencies and identifies important lessons for those responsible for quangos. It provides three short studies of the fate of three very different improvement agencies – the Audit Commission, the National Policing Improvement Agency and the NHS Modernisation Agency. The report examines the more general background against which the lessons from their arrival and disappearance might be debated. It considers how far inspection should be used to drive policy rather than reflect it, and examines important distinctions between standard-setting, inspection, regulation and improvement. It also reflects on the complexity of the relationship between these organisations and government, particularly when ministers are directly responsible for a service that is being regulated. The report concludes with some lessons for creating, maintaining and changing improvement bodies. (10 March 2014)

DCLG: New local audit steps move £1.2 billion savings closer: announces that the LGA has been appointed to create a new independent company to act as a transitional body when the Audit Commission closes. It will be responsible for managing the Audit Commission's £85m audit contracts as well as the Value for Money profiles when it shuts at the end of March 2015. It will also have responsibility for working with the DWP to enable the continued delivery of the Housing Benefit Count. The LGA will set up the new company to take on responsibility for management of the Audit Commission’s contracts until the legal introduction of local appointment in 2017. (21 March 2014)

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

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Business Improvement Districts

DCLG: Property owners & Business Improvement Districts – Summary of consultation responses and Government response: sets out the Government's response to the July 2013 consultation on proposals to formalise the role of property owners who are not ratepayers in Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). The purpose of the proposals was to help property owners, the business community and local authorities work together to improve the local trading environment. This response announces that the Government intends to proceed with implementing property owner BIDs in London using the existing powers. It will review how they are working before deciding whether they should be rolled out more widely. (14 March 2014)

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

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Children's Services

Children and Families Act 2014: this Act has received Royal Assent. Its provisions include:

  • implentation of proposals in the Adoption White Paper to speed up the adoption process and enable more children to be placed in stable, loving homes with less delay and disruption;
  • changes to improve the operation of the family justice system, including a maximum 26 week time limit for completing care and supervision proceedings, and removal of the eight week time limit on the duration of initial interim care orders and interim supervision orders, and the four week time limit on subsequent orders;
  • reform of the statutory framework for identifying children and young people with special educational needs, assessing their needs and making provision for them, with new Education, Health and Care Plans for both children and young people that replace SEN Statements. Local authorities will be required to keep local provision under review, to co-operate with their partners to plan and commission provision, and publish clear information on services available;
  • changes to childcare, including repeal of the duty in s.11 of the Childcare Act 2006 on English local authorities to prepare, at least every three years, an assessment of the sufficiency of the provision of childcare in their area;
  • changes relating to children's welfare, including: giving children in care the choice to stay with their foster families until they turn 21; making young carers’ and parent carers’ rights to support from councils much clearer; reforming children’s residential care to make sure homes are safe and secure; a duty on schools to support pupils with medical conditions; and a requirement on all state-funded schools to provide free school lunches on request for all pupils in reception, Years 1 and 2;
  • reinforcement of the Children’s Commissioner's role, with a remit to ‘protect and promote children’s rights’; and
  • new employment rights – shared parental leave and statutory shared parental pay, unpaid time off for employees to attend ante-natal appointments with their pregnant spouse or partner, time off work for adopters to attend meetings in advance of a child being placed with them for adoption, and the right to request flexible working is expanded to all employees.

For a summary of the Act's provisions, see the DfE press release. (13 March 2014)

DfE: Child Poverty Strategy 2014-17 – Consultation: seeks views on the Government's draft child poverty strategy, which sets out what action it plans to take over the next three years to reduce child poverty. The consultation closes on 22 May 2014. (27 February 2014) 

Recovery of Costs (Remand to Youth Detention Accommodation) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/562): these regulations, which come into force on 1 April 2014, amend the amount in SI 2013/507 that the local authority for the child (designated by the court) is liable to pay the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, where the child is detained on remand in a secure children’s home, secure training centre or young offender institution. (11 March 2014)

Welsh Government: Consultation on the statutory guidance on securing sufficient play opportunities: s.11 of the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 places a duty on Welsh local authorities to secure sufficient play opportunities for children in their areas, so far as reasonably practicable, having regard to their Play Sufficiency Assessments, and to publish information about play opportunities in the authority’s areas for children and keep the information published up to date. This paper seeks views on draft statutory guidance that supports local authorities to fulfil the duties placed upon them by s.11. It also provides information in respect of Welsh Government policy agendas, legislation and funding programmes that support play opportunities and sets out examples of good practice by local authorities in providing for play. The examples illustrate other forms of support, information and advice that are and can be made available to all stakeholders who value play and wish to increase children’s opportunities to play. The consultation closes on 30 May 2014. (10 March 2014)

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

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Coastal Protection and Flooding

DCLG: Flood support schemes – Funding available from central government: this guide outlines what support is available to eligible local authorities, households and businesses since the beginning of December 2013, and how to apply. (12 March 2014)

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

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Delivery of Services

Cabinet Office: Open Public Services 2014: update on how public service reform has progressed since the 2013 report, and the Government's priorities for the next stage of its transformational vision of Open Public Services for all. The Open Public Services White Paper, published in 2011, set out the Government’s approach to reforming public services, based on the principles of choice, diversity, accountability, decentralisation and fair access. This progress report shows how far Government has come in reforming public services in line with these principles. (14 March 2014)

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

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Democracy

Council of Europe: Local and regional democracy in the United Kingdom: this is the second report of the CoE on the state of local and regional democracy in the UK. The rapporteurs are satisfied that the UK is, in general, in compliance with the obligations taken under the European Charter of Local Self-Government and that, compared to 1998, the situation has improved, notably through the devolution process. As regards consultation procedures, the report welcomes the successful partnership approach adopted in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Particular areas of concern are the financial resources of local authorities, their limited taxing powers and their dependence on government grants. It also underlines that there are ambiguities that need to be addressed in areas such as the lack of recognition of the right to local self-government in the law beyond the general powers granted by the Localism Act 2011, and the limitation of local authorities’ discretion to manage local affairs through the intervention by various ministries of the central government.
The report makes a number of recommendations, including that the UK Government considers the various existing codification proposals for local government in England in order to strengthen the position of local authorities, and that it takes measures to reduce the financial burden on local authorities arising from budget cuts and indebtedness, and reinforce the role of elected office holders by improving their status. (7 March 2014)

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

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Development Control

DCLG: Building regulations: this Written Ministerial Statement by the Communities Minister Stephen Williams sets out the Government’s response to its housing standards review. The Minister announces plans to consolidate housing standards, reducing 100 standards to fewer than 10 and bringing down the numbers of remaining pages of guidance from 1,000 to fewer than 100. It will also abolish rules that require housebuilders to get the same work checked by a range of different organisations. The new system will include "optional building regulations", which will only apply where it is right to do so, with councils deciding whether they apply to developments being built in their areas. The Government will also develop a national space standard, a new standard for security in new homes and national energy efficiency standards. These changes will be taken forward as part of the Deregulation Bill that is currently going through Parliament. (13 March 2014)

DCLG: Greater flexibilities for change of use –  Report on responses to the consultation: sets out the response to the August 2013 consultation that sought views on five proposals for permitted development rights to support government priorities for: making better use of existing buildings; supporting the high street and rural communities; providing new housing; developing more free schools; and contributing to the provision of child care for working families. The report reflects the main points made in the responses and the Government response to each. (14 March 2014)
See also the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment and Consequential Provisions) (England) Order 2014 (SI 2014/564) and the Town and Country Planning (Compensation) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/565), in force 6 April 2014, that implement some of these proposals. 

Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act regulations to accompany the Heritage Provisions: the Government has made three SIs to support the implementation of s.26A – s.26K, and s.28A of, and Sch.2A to, the T&CPA 1990 that were inserted by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. These heritage measures enable owners and local planning authorities to make heritage partnership agreements concerning the management of listed buildings, give local planning authorities the ability to grant a general listed building consent order for certain works for the alteration or extension (but not demolition) of certain listed buildings in their area, and enable owners and developers to obtain formal confirmation from the local planning authority that the works for the alteration or extension (but not demolition) they are proposing do not require listed building consent because they do not affect the special architectural and historic interest of the building. The regulations set out the procedures to be followed when making a listed building heritage partnership agreement, local listed building consent order and an application for a certificate of lawfulness of proposed works under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990:

  • Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Heritage Partnership Agreements) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/550)
  • Planning (Local Listed Building Consent Orders) (Procedure) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/551)
    • Planning (Listed Buildings) (Certificates of Lawfulness of Proposed Works) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/552)
    • (13 March 2014)
    Town and Country Planning (Revocations) Order 2014 2014 (SI 2014/683) and Town and Country Planning (Revocations) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/692): these two SIs, which come into force on 14 April 2014, revoke a number of Orders and Regulations relating to planning that were identified in the Government’s Red Tape Challenge as redundant. (20 March 2014) 

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

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    Economic Development

    Draft Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle Upon Tyne, North Tyneside, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Sunderland Combined Authority Order 2014: this draft Order is made under Part 6 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009. It establishes a Combined Authority to exercise transport, economic development and regeneration functions across the Durham, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear area. (12 March 2014)

    Localis: Making the most of public land: this research looks at how public land of all sorts could best be developed in order to meet immediate local needs and support a long-term vision for sustainable communities. (12 March 2014)

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

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    Education

    DfE: Maths hubs – Expression of interest form: guidance and application form for schools wishing to take the lead in supporting schools and colleges to achieve excellence in maths education. The guidance document outlines the application process and timetable, and a list of eligibility criteria that schools must meet to register an expression of interest. The closing date for registration of expressions of interest is 9 April 2104. (12 March 2014)

    DfE: Free schools – How to apply:  Mainstream, 16 to 19, alternative provision and special free schools: updated schools application guide for mainstream, 16 to 19, alternative provision and special free schools, explaining the law and information on how to apply to open a free school. Applicants should also complete the suitability and declarations form. There are three waves for applications each year – this gives details about how to apply for May 2014 (wave 7); there will also be an application window in Autumn 2014 (wave 8). (11 March 2014)

    DfE: Preventing and tackling bullying: updated advice for school leaders and school staff on preventing and responding to bullying as part of their overall behaviour policy. The revised version has expanded the definition of bullying to include the 'imbalance of power'. There is also a new factsheet offering advice to schools on supporting children and young people who are bullied. (11 March 2014)

    DfE: Letter to local authorities about long-term strategy for NMSS: this letter from the DfE to local authorities gives details of the decision to keep the non-maintained special schools (NMSS) sector, the need for updates to NMSS regulation and guidance, and the development of NMSS management with Ofsted. (10 March 2014)

    Education Funding Agency: School building design and maintenance: the EFA has published a collection of documents with Information about school building design and maintenance. It includes baseline designs, together with associated drawings and technical analyses. (11 March 2014)

    DfE: Fairer schools funding 2015 to 2016: seeks views on a proposal to allocate an additional £350m in 2015/16, to increase the per-pupil funding for the least fairly funded local areas. The proposal will mean that in the 2015/16 financial year, every local area will attract a minimum level of funding for each of its pupils and schools, making the distribution of funding to local areas fairer while ensuring that no area receives a cut to its per-pupil funding. it also proposes to continue the same local funding arrangements for 2015/16 as are currently in place for 2014/15. The consultation closes on 30 April 2014. (13 March 2014)

    DfE: More volunteers to be recruited for the School Games: a £490,000 grant extension to help recruit and train volunteers for the Sainsbury’s School Games programme, which aims to motivate and inspire millions of young people across the country to take part in more competitive sport. (18 March 2014)

    Education Funding Agency: Funding for academic year 2014 to 2015 for students aged 16 to 19 and high needs students aged 16 to 25: this letter from Peter Mucklow, National Director of Young People at EFA, explains funding for the academic year 2014/15 for students aged 16 to 19 and high needs students aged 16 to 25. The letter announces the national funding rates for post-16 institutions. It also confirms the mitigation of the reduction of 18 year old funding and touches upon the recent publication of the 16 to 19 Bursary Fund consultation report. (18 March 2014)

    Education Funding Agency: Business cycle wall planner 2014: this chart shows the timetable for the EFA's activities for 2014. It will be of interest to general further education colleges (GFE), sixth form colleges (SFC), independent specialist providers (ISP), commercial and charitable providers (CCP), local authorities (LA), maintained schools (MS), maintained special schools (MSS), non-maintained special schools (NMSS), and dance and drama schools (DaDS). There is a separate wall planner for academies. (11 March 2014)

    DfE: Academies – A myth buster: these FAQs respond to some common misconceptions about academies. They aim to clear up some false impressions that people may have. (19 March 2014)

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

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    Energy

    Cabinet Office: New £500,000 government fund to help community groups reduce energy bills and manage energy: announces the award of between £10,000 and £50,000 to 12 community energy projects so they can form consortia. (12 March 2014)

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

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    Equality and Discrimination

    National Social Inclusion Network: Birmingham Declaration 2014: 15 local authorities have signed the Birmingham Declaration on Social Inclusion to show their commitment to working together to tackle inequality. The Declaration states that, against a backdrop of public sector cuts, the task of creating more inclusive cities has moved beyond what local or national government can do on their own and that there is an urgent need to rally resources and expertise. The network’s activities will be focused on eight themes that were developed at the National Social Inclusion Symposium in September 2013, with each being coordinated by a local authority member of the network. (17 March 2014)

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

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    Finance

    HM Treasury: Budget 2014: the Chancellor has delivered his Budget for 2014, which is set out under the themes of economy, growth and fairness. Key points of interest for local authorities are:

    • Government departments will underspend by £7bn in 2013-14, and will continue to underspend until the end of this Parliament 
    • Further efficiency savings will be required to support the Government’s commitment to put the public finances on a sustainable path; the Cabinet Office will set out an ambitious new efficiency programme to deliver savings from 2016-17 and across the next Parliament in the Autumn Statement 2014 
    • The Government is looking now to further reduce the waste and complexity of public services - including reshaping public services to better support the unemployed into work, vulnerable children and young people, people experiencing mental health problems, and in the criminal justice system. New seminar series led by HM Treasury will engage with key stakeholders to consider opportunities for further reform, and to develop ideas to support further fiscal consolidation in the next Parliament
    • Business rate discounts and Enhanced Capital Allowances will each be extended by 3 years as an incentive for new and expanding businesses to locate in Enterprise Zones 
    • A new Wales Bill will devolve new tax and borrowing powers to Wales, enabling the Welsh Government to raise more of the money it spends and providing it with further tools to support growth in the Welsh economy; in advance of implementing these new powers, the Government has also agreed that the Welsh Government can use existing borrowing powers to begin investing in improvements to the M4 [see below]
    • Social Investment Tax Relief set at 30%, allowing eligible social enterprises to receive a maximum of around £290,000 investment over 3 years
    • £50m for an early years pupil premium, to help improve outcomes for the most disadvantaged three- and four-year-olds in government-funded early education 
    • £350m increase for the per-pupil school budgets of the least fairly funded local areas in 2015-16 
    • Roll-out of Phase 2 of the Troubled Families programme in 2014-15, providing support for up to 40,000 families with multiple and costly problems
    • Pay awards for most public sector workers covered by the recent Pay Review Body recommendations will be limited to 1% in 2014-15; the intention is to limit awards to 1% in 2015-16 
    • An extra £85m for the Apprenticeship Grants for Employers (AGE) scheme in both 2014-15 and 2015-16 for over 100,000 grants to employers 
    • £150 million fund to kick start regeneration of social housing estates
    • New Urban Development Corporation to deliver a new garden city at Ebbsfleet; in addition, the Government will publish a prospectus by Easter 2014 setting out how interested local authorities could develop their own, locally-led proposals for bringing forward new garden cities
    • Consultation on a new ‘Right to Build’, giving custom builders a right to a plot from councils, and a £150m repayable fund to help provide up to 10,000 serviced plots for custom build
    • Consultation on the design of a priority ‘Right to Move’ for social tenants to increase their mobility for work-related reasons; options will include giving such tenants priority when a new social home becomes available, and setting aside a pool of vacant lets to enable them to move across local authority boundaries
    • The Government Property Unit will increase its work with local areas on better use of public sector assets, linking in with Growth Deals and building on the Strategic Land and Property Review
    • Legislation to include Combined Authorities established under existing legislation within the Section 33 VAT Refund Scheme and commitment to include the London Legacy Development Corporation from 2015-16
    • Increase in the current PWLB lending limit of £70bn to up to £95bn in future to enable local authorities to continue to borrow from the PWLB
    • The Government will consult on further changes to the General Permitted Development Order to allow more commercial uses, such as warehouses, light industrial or certain sui generis buildings, to become homes
    • Launch of a new Planning Court on 6 April 2014 to fast-track disputes, including big construction projects
    • £140m new funding to repair and restore the condition of vital flood defences 
    • £200m to set up a potholes challenge fund [see below]
    • £100m to Greater Cambridge until 2019-20 to support their ambitious transport and infrastructure proposals through a Gain Share mechanism 
    • Guarantee of up to £270m to support the Mersey Gateway Bridge 
    • £20m grant scheme for repairs to cathedrals.

    A number of documents have been published alongside the Budget Report, including the National Infrastructure Plan finance update, with information on how the economic infrastructure investment planned over the coming years is expected to be financed – defining the nature and extent of the potential investment opportunity to 2020. (19 March 2014)
    See also the LGA's On the Day briefing.

    Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/481 (W. 58)): these regulations, which come into force on 31 March 2014, make changes to the legal framework within which local government in Wales may undertake capital expenditure, that is set out in SI 2003/3239. The changes include power to local authorities to use capital receipts received on or after 1 April 2013 to make back payments in respect of equal pay. (5 March 2014)

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

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    Governance

    National Park Authorities (England) (Amendment) Order 2014 (SI 2014/571): this Order, which comes into force on 5 May 2014, implement recommendations from the 2010 review of National Park governance by amending the membership of the National Park authorities for Dartmoor, Exmoor, Lake District, Northumberland and North York Moors National Parks. The revised structures are set out in the Schedule to the Order. (13 March 2014)

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

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    Highways

    DfT: Funding boost for roads hit by bad weather: announces that the Government is making an extra £140m available to help local authorities repair roads hit by weather damage. This includes an additional £103.5m that will be allocated on a formula basis, to be distributed to the majority of councils in England by the end of this week. In order to qualify for this extra funding, local authorities will be required to publish information on their websites by the end of August 2014 showing where this money has been spent. (9 March 2014)
    See also: Councils receive share of roads repair funding: sets out councils' allocations from the £183.5m emergency payment to help repair local roads damaged by severe weather. (20 March 2014)

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

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    Housing

    Welsh Government: Consultation on eligibility regulations regarding allocation of housing and homelessness assistance: seeks views on changes to the Welsh Government's policy position on eligibility regulations as they relate to allocation of housing and homelessness and who is eligible for housing and the homelessness duty. The preferred option is to reflect the policy position in England under the Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) Regulations 2006 as amended by SI 2013/1467. The consultation closes on 9 May 2014. (14 March 2014)

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

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    Licensing

    Home Office: The relaxation of licensing hours during the FIFA World Cup, 2014: seeks views on whether to relax licensing hours nationally to mark England’s participation in the FIFA World Cup 2014 in June and July 2014, or whether to rely on the existing system of Temporary Event Notices (TENs). it also asks for the impact of any relaxation and the geographical extent to which any licensing hours order for the World Cup should relate, were this to be the Government’s decision. The consultation closes on 26 March 2014. (13 March 2014)

    Welsh Government: Holiday Caravan Sites (Wales) Bill: this Bill has been introduced in the National Assembly. It modernise the licensing regime for holiday caravan sites, giving local authorities new duties and enforcement powers so they can ensure that holiday caravan sites are safe and well managed, and to robustly tackle breaches of licence conditions by a combination of statutory enforcement action and financial penalties to provide an effective deterrent. The Bill also ends the permanent residential use of holiday caravans by requiring caravan owners and long-term occupiers to demonstrate that their main residence is elsewhere, and by giving local authorities powers to deal with caravan occupiers who fail this test. (17 March 2014)

    Keep Streets Live Campaign v Camden LBC [2014] EWHC 607 (Admin) (Admin Ct): KSL was a not for profit advocacy organisation which campaigned for policies that supported the use of shared public spaces for informal performances of music and other forms of art. It applied for judicial review of the Council's decision to approve a street entertainment licensing scheme under Part V of the London Local Authorities Act 2000, that licensed busking in Camden. KSL argued that: the definition of busking in the policy was too wide so that it was impossible to know with sufficient clarity and certainty whether a street entertainment licence was needed; the policy had been adopted unlawfully; and it breached the Human Rights Act as it sought to introduce a scheme which was disproportionate. It submitted that the definition of what was a regulated activity needed to be clear, precise, adequate and based upon a rational and discernible principle as the scheme created new criminal offences of being in breach of a licensing condition or failing to hold a licence.
    The court held, dismissing the application, that (1) street entertainment was a performance art that would evolve so any definition needed to have sufficient flexibility to cover that development. There would be occasional cases that fell on the wrong side of the line; however, absolute certainty was not the test. There was sufficient clarity in the drafting of the policy for a concerned person to know when there was likely to be a breach of licence conditions or a requirement to obtain a licence. The requirement to obtain a licence in other areas of local administration was not unknown nor was an offence of failing to hold a licence or to adhere to its conditions. The constituent elements of the criminal offence were easily discernible; (2) before adopting a licensing scheme for street entertainment, the Council had to be satisfied that the conditions in s.33 of the 2000 Act were met, namely that busking was likely to result in a statutory nuisance or an undue interference with or inconvenience to or risk to the safety of persons using a street. The totality of the evidence before the Council entitled it to conclude that the requirements of s.33(2) of the 2000 Act were complied with and the report directly addressed s.33's requirements by finding that there had been nuisance and a risk to the safety of people using the street; and (3) busking was a form of artistic expression within the ambit of Art.10 ECHR and so any interference had to be prescribed by law, pursue a legitimate aim, and be necessary and proportionate. Here, the Council had striven to introduce a policy which held the ring between promoting economic growth through fostering dynamic busking activity across the Borough but balancing that with the requirements of its residents and other economic activity which contributed to the wellbeing of Camden. It had adopted a policy which was both necessary and a proportionate response to the issue of busking and had done so in a way which was lawful. (11 March 2014)

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

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    Maladministration

    Healthwatch England: Health and care complaints system is 'utterly bewildering' for people: a YouGov survey commissioned by Healthwatch England, the independent consumer champion for health and social care in England, shows that the concerns of people looking to complain about the service they have received from their local hospital, GP or care home, are going unheard because the current system is simply too complex. Its work to map the complaints landscape has shown that 75 types of organisations in England have a role in complaints handling and support, from councils and CCGs locally to national regulators. Healthwatch England states that If the health and care system is to learn from its mistakes, then the complaints system needs to be simplified. It also needs to be more joined up to ensure there is ‘no wrong door’ for those looking to raise a complaint, and the right information and support needs to be made available for those who want to complain. (20 March 2014)

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

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    Neighbourhood Planning

    Daws Hill Neighbourhood Forum v Wycombe DC [2014] EWCA Civ 228 (CA): the Neighbourhood Forum (NF) appealed against the dismissal of its claim for judicial review of the Council's refusal to designate a neighbourhood area under s.61G(5) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as requested by the Daws Hill Residents' Association (RA). The Council had concluded that the area specified in the application was not an appropriate area to be designated as a neighbourhood area; instead, it designated a smaller neighbourhood area excluding two strategic sites which had been included in the area in the RA's application, namely a former RAF site and a Sports Centre site. The High Court found that s.61G(5) conferred a wide discretion to be exercised having regard to the factual and policy matrix that existed at the time the decision was taken, and that the factors taken into account by the Council fell within the ambit of that broad discretion. On appeal, the NF contended that the discretion under s.61G(5) - to decide what was an appropriate area to be designated as a neighbourhood area – was not a discretion to decide whether a given area should or should not be designated as a neighbourhood area, but was confined to a discretion to decide within which neighbourhood area any given site was to be included.
    The court held, dismissing the appeal, that the power given to a local planning authority (LPA) to decide whether a specified area was "an appropriate area" to be designated as a neighbourhood area, necessarily conferred a broad discretion. The purpose of designating an area as a neighbourhood area was to define the area within which a neighbourhood forum was authorised to exercise certain planning powers, so when determining the issue of appropriateness, it might be necessary to have regard to a wide range of planning considerations. When imposing the duty on the manner in which the designation power must be exercised under s.61G(5), Parliament clearly envisaged that an LPA might exercise the power so as to designate a smaller area as a neighbourhood area, leaving part or parts of the specified area outwith any neighbourhood area. As the only purpose of a designated neighbourhood area was to define the area within which a designated neighbourhood forum was authorised to act, the NF's submission that, provided an organisation or body which meets the capability threshold had made an application for designation of a specified area as a neighbourhood area, that application had a continuing life of its own, and must be determined under s.61G(5) even if the LPA had refused the application for designation as a neighbourhood forum, made no sense. The LPA could exercise the s.61G(5) power of designation where it did consider it appropriate to designate a neighbourhood forum, but did not think that the specified area was appropriate for designation as the neighbourhood area. In such a case, as here, the LPA would be able to exercise its power of designation so as to ensure that some of the specified area was designated as a neighbourhood area. (6 March 2014)

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

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    Officers

    Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013 (Commencement No. 1) Order 2014 (SI 2014/380 (W.45) (C.15)): this Order appoints 1 April 2014 as the day on which s.63 of the Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013 comes into force. Section 63 inserts a new s.143A into the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011, giving the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales powers relating to the salaries of the heads of paid service in county, county borough councils and fire and rescue authorities. Under s.143A, the Panel may make recommendations about any policy in the authority's pay policy statement which relates to the salary of the authority's head of paid service, and any change in salary of the authority’s head of paid service. Where an authority is proposing a change of salary of its head of paid service that is not commensurate with a change to the salaries of its other staff, that authority must consult the Panel about the proposals before making the change. The Panel must have regard to any guidance issued by the Welsh Ministers when exercising these functions. (20 February 2014)

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

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    Parish Councils

    DCLG: Consultation on a draft transparency code for parish councils with a turnover not exceeding £25,000: seeks views on the content and application of a draft audit-substitute transparency code for parish councils under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. Under the Act's new audit framework, smaller authorities with an annual turnover not exceeding £25,000, including parish councils, will be exempt from routine external audit. Instead, these parish councils will be subject to the new transparency requirements laid out in the draft Code. This paper sets out the proposed information that parish councils should publish and gives details about each of these items. The Code will complement existing provisions relating to public access to the decision-making process of parish councils, for instance Part 11 and Sch.12 LGA 1972 and the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960. The consultation closes on 6 May 2014. (10 March 2014)

    Legislative Reform (Payments by Parish Councils, Community Councils and Charter Trustees) Order 2014 (SI 2014/580): this Order, which comes into force on 12 March 2014, removes a burden on parish and community councils and charter trustees and facilitates the use of electronic means of payment. It removes the requirement for every cheque or other order for the payment of money to be signed by two members of the council or by two charter trustees. (11 March 2014)

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

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    Pensions

    Local Government Pension Scheme (Transitional Provisions, Savings and Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/525): these regulations, which come into force on 1 April 2014, set out the transitional and savings provisions relating to members of the Local Government Pension Scheme 2008 which is to be replaced by a new Local Government Pension Scheme by SI 2013/2356 with effect from 1 April 2014. Their effect is to protect the benefits accrued by members of the 2008 Scheme before 1 April 2014. (10 March 2014)

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

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    Procurement

    HC  Communities and Local Government Committee Committee: Local government procurement: this report critically examines how local authorities are working to improve their procurement operations in order to cut council costs and reduce the burdens on those doing business with them, strengthen links with delivery of  community objectives, improve risk management and reduce fraud. It finds that opportunities to collaborate are not being fully taken and additional savings of around £1.8bn could be achieved if all councils were to use collaboration as a default option. The Committee concludes that achieving change requires procurement to be seen not as a niche activity for specialists, but rather as the essential activity under-pinning service delivery. To ensure that all council procurement is raised to the level of the best, there needs to be sector-led work to improve collaboration, spread best practice, develop streamlined processes, and to reduce fraud and poor risk management. This must be spearheaded by council cabinet members and frontline councillors, with close involvement of senior officers. Even at a time of financial constraint, investment in procurement skills is essential to enable effective management of the multi-billion procurement spend, and should be seen as a wise investment now to save costs in future. (13 March 2014)

    Cabinet Office: Procurement Policy Note 05/14 – Fair Deal for staff pensions: staff transfers from Central Government: the Fair Deal policy allows newly transferring staff continued access to a public service pension scheme. It replaces the previous policy which required employers to provide transferring staff access to a broadly comparable pension scheme and the option of a transfer of their accrued pension rights. This PPN explains how the policy affects pensions when staff transfer from Central Government to independent contractors delivering public services. It is directly applicable to Central Government Departments, Executive Agencies, the NHS, maintained schools (including academies but excluding those covered by other arrangements for local government) and any other parts of the public sector under the control of Government ministers where staff are eligible to be members of a public service pension scheme. (11 March 2014)

    DCLG: Fire and rescue procurement aggregation and collaboration: this joint report analyses and evaluates existing procurement for a sample group of fire and rescue authorities in England. It identifies obstacles to collaborative procurement and sets out a high level plan of where the fire sector could make future savings and efficiencies. (13 March 2014)

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

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    Public Health

    House of Commons Library: Local authorities' public health responsibilities (England): sets out the main statutory duties for public health that were conferred on local authorities by the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The note includes information on public health funding, how local authorities have been spending their ring-fenced public health grants, and accountability arrangements. (13 March 2014) 

    LGA: In good shape - learning and good practice from the early health and wellbeing peer challenges: the last year has seen many councils taking the opportunity to test how effectively they are integrating public health and how their planning for the future is gearing up, particularly in terms of tackling major challenges, such as integrating public health and leading a whole systems approach. Peer-based challenge and support helps councils and their health partners to reflect on their current approach, drawing on political and officer expertise from across local government and the health sector. As part of the LGA’s offer to the sector, local authorities and their health partners can commission a health and wellbeing peer challenge. This publication contains a number of case studies outlining how peer challenge is playing a strong role supporting and improving public health and also points to some of the good practice that the LGA has already identified in the first phase of the health peer challenge programme. (17 March 2014)

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

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    Rating

    Non-Domestic Rating (Collection and Enforcement) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/479):  these regulations, which come into force on 1 April 2014, amend SI 1989/2260 and SI 1989/1058 so as to enable non-domestic rates to be paid by 12 monthly instalments rather than 10, if requested by the ratepayer. (10 March 2014)

    DCLG: Business rates information letter 6/2014 – Amendments to regulations: provides information on the Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rating (Demand Notices) (England) (Amendment) Regulations and the Non-Domestic Rating (Collection and Enforcement) (Amendment) (England) Regulations. (13 March 2014)

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

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    Registration Services

    Marriage of Same Sex Couples (Registration of Shared Buildings) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/544): these regulations, which come into force on 13 March 2014, set out the procedure for the registration under s.43A of the Marriage Act 1949 as amended by the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 and cancellation of the registration of buildings which are shared by more than one religious organisation for the solemnization of marriages of same sex couples. (6 March 2014)

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

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    Social Enterprises

    Cabinet Office: Making it easier for civil society to work with the State – Progress update: this report provides an update on the Government's work to meet the commitment made in the Coalition Government agreement to "support the creation and expansion of mutuals, co-operatives, charities and social enterprises, and enable these groups to have much greater involvement in the running of public services".  It sets out what has been achieved so far with case studies, including the work of the Mutuals Support Programme and Transforming Rehabilitation. (10 March 2014)

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

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    State Aid

    European Commission: Commission adopts new guidelines for state aid to airports and airlines: announces that the EC had adopted new guidelines for State aid to airports and airlines that promote sound use of public resources for growth-oriented initiatives while limiting distortions of competition that would undermine a level playing field in the Single Market, in particular by avoiding overcapacity and the duplication of unprofitable airports. The new guidelines include a more flexible regime for airports with fewer than 700,000 passengers p.a, with higher aid intensities and a reassessment of the situation after 5 years. (20 February 2014)

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

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    Traffic and Transport

    DfT: Report by the Secretary of State for Transport on the use of his powers under section 70 of the Charities Act 2006 – Linking Communities Fund and Cycle Safety Fund: progress report on the use of funding provided to Sustrans to deliver the Linking Communities and Cycle Safety programmes. The Linking Communities programme is creating and upgrading road-calmed and traffic-free routes linking residential sites to local facilities, while the Cycle Safety programme is delivering schemes that will eliminate the risk to the cyclist at junction hotspots outside England. (11 March 2014) 

    DfT: Consultation on implementation of the Competition Commission remedies on bus registration: seeks views on the Government’s preferred approach to implementing the Competition Commission’s recommendations on a series of remedies to help open up the market for commercial bus services, mainly focusing on multi-operator ticketing and operator behaviour. The remedies aim to improve competition in the bus market. it also seeks views on how to make the electronic bus service registration system more easily accessible to small and medium operators. The consultation closes on 6 May 2014. (11 March 2014)

    London Councils: Suburbs transformed for cyclists in £100m 'mini-Holland' revolution: announces that eight outer London boroughs shortlisted for the "mini-Hollands" programme will all win funding for substantial and transformative change. Three boroughs have been selected for full mini-Holland status, receiving up to £30m each for improving cycling in residential areas and high quality cycle routes, while TfL will work with fiveother boroughs to take forward substantial parts of their bids to improve cycle routes and facilities. (10 March 2014)

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

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    Wales

    Wales Bill: this Bill has been introduced into the House of Commons and received its 1st Reading. The Bill devolves a significant package of tax and borrowing powers to Wales, giving the National Assembly of Wales and the Welsh Government more levers and incentives to boost economic growth. It provides the legislative framework to implement the new financial powers recommended by the Silk Commission; it also includes changes to the electoral arrangements for the National Assembly, following a Government consultation in 2012. (20 March 2014)
    See also: Wales Office: Wales Bill – Financial empowerment and accountability, which gives more details of the new funding arrangements for Wales, incuding those changes that do not require legislation, such as the full devolution of business rates.

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

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