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    Health and Social Care
   Charging    Housing
   Children's Services    Local Government Reform
   Community Infrastructure Levy    Pensions
   Community Rights    Noise and Nuisance
   Competition    Procurement
   Delivery of Services    Publicity
   Economic Development    Rating
   Education    Registration Services
   Elections    Scrutiny
   Finance    Transport
   Governance    Welfare and Benefits

 

Adult Social Services

DH: Winterbourne View – Transforming care two years on: the 2012 report "Transforming Care: A national response to Winterbourne View Hospital" looked at why the scandal happened and set out a programme of work to ensure that this did not happen again. This new report is a collective account from partners across the health and care system to reflect the cross-system effort that has continued over the past year to tackle the root causes of the abuse and treatment of people at Winterbourne View. It sets out what has been done and recognises there is still much more to do. It also shows that not as much progress has been made as was intended. To achieve faster and more sustainable progress, a better co-ordinated approach will be put in place that takes into consideration Sir Stephen Bubb's recommendations in "Winterbourne View – a time for change" (2014). (29 January 2015)

DH: New funds to kickstart joint working with NHS and councils this winter: announces that DCLG and DH have released extra funds for councils to get people home from hospital more quickly and stop them from being admitted in the first place. The new £12m funding is from DCLG underspends in 2014 to 2015 and will be allocated to 87 councils through ring-fenced grants for social services immediately, weighted towards areas with significant demand for home care packages who have not previously received additional funding this winter. (29 January 2015)

CQC: Market oversight  – Draft guidance for providers: seeks views on draft guidance about the Market Oversight scheme and CQC's approach to operating it. Under the scheme, CQC will monitor the performance and finances of the most significant social care providers in England and will give local authorities an early warning where it thinks one of these is at risk of failure and the delivery of services is going to be affected. The scheme will identify where failure is likely, allowing the right people to take the right action to potentially avoid failure and to support local authorities to plan in case failure does happen. The closing date for comments is 20 February 2015. (29 January 2015) 

Welsh Government: Implementation of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 – Consultation on the code of practice in relation to measuring the performance of social services: the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 forms the basis for a new statutory framework for social care in Wales. This paper seeks views on a new Code of Practice that sets out how the Welsh Government will measure the progress that local authorities make against the duties under the Act. The consultation closes on 24 April 2015. (2 February 2015)

Walford v Worcestershire CC [2015] EWCA Civ 22 (CA): the Council appealed against the quashing of its decision concerning its assessment of W's ability to pay for residential care. W had moved into residential care as she was unable to look after herself. Her daughter, D, contended that W's house was D's home and so the Council should disregard the value of W's house when determining W's ability to pay for her care, under the National Assistance (Assessment of Resources) Regulations 1992. D lived elsewhere but claimed that she regarded W's house as her home. The court quashed the Council's decision to take the house into account, ruling that the Council had wrongly believed that D could not claim the house was her main home unless she established that she was in "actual occupation" of it and/or that it was her "permanent residence". The judge also held that the Council had erred in interpreting the Regulations as requiring it only to review the position that pertained at the time W went into long term care. A decision as to whether or not to grant a disregard could be reviewed whenever there was a change of circumstances.
The Court of Appeal held, allowing the appeal, that the purpose of the disregard had to be to protect family members from the risk of losing their homes as a result of the value of the property being brought into account. Therefore the disregard could only apply to persons who occupied the property in question at the time that the resident went into care, being the point at which the liability that threatened their occupation arose. Para.2 (1) of Sch.4 to the Regulations should be read so that the scope of the disregard extended only to properties occupied by specified family members at the time that the resident first went into care. When the Council re-determined whether the disregard applied in relation to W's house, it should consider D's claim to be occupying it as her home only as at the date when W first went into care; the judge was wrong to hold otherwise. (27 January 2015)

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

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Charging

DCLG: Preventing 'backdoor' charging at household waste recycing centres: seeks views on how household waste recycling centres at risk of closure can stay open, without local authorities resorting to charging their residents to dispose of household waste and recycling. The Government is aware that some local authorities have introduced, or plan to introduce, a charge to anybody accessing certain household waste recycling centres to dispose of household waste and/or recycling by classifying these centres as ‘discretionary’ so they fall outside requirements of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. This paper sets out proposals to use:

  • s.94(1) LGA 2003 to disapply s.93 of that Act, which enables local authorities to charge for discretionary services, so they cannot use this as the legislation permitting them to charge for use of ‘discretionary’ household waste recycling centres; and
  • the power under s.5(3) of the Localism Act 2011 to prevent English local authorities from exercising the General Power of Competence as the legal basis for charging at ‘discretionary’ household waste recycling centres.

The consultation closes on 18 February 2015. (22 January 2015)

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

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Children's Services

Home Office: Child sexual abuse Inquiry – Bidding opens for victims fund: announces that all non-statutory organisations which have seen a surge in demand from child sexual abuse survivors for their services, as a direct result of the announcement of the Inquiry, can apply for a share of a new £2m Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry Fund. A further £2.85m Child and Adult Victims of Sexual Abuse Support Fund is available to non-statutory organisations that provide support to all victims of sexual abuse, and are currently experiencing increased demand. Both funds are administered by Norfolk's PCC. The bidding process closes on 2 March 2015. (2 February 2015)

Ofsted: Safeguarding children and young people and young vulnerable adults policy: guidance for all staff outlining Ofsted’s policy on identifying and responding to concerns regarding the safeguarding and protection of children and young people, with a specific section on protection of vulnerable adults. The policy seeks to promote effective multi-agency working in light of the Children Act 2004 and DfE's Working Together to Safeguard Children (2013). (5 February 2015)

Northamptonshire CC v AS (Rev 1) [2015] EWHC 199 (Fam) (Fam D): this case concerned the Council's conduct of care proceedings in relation to a two year old child (D) who had been in foster care from 15 days after his birth. Care proceedings were eventually issued nine months after D was taken in to care, and the judge found that the case was further delayed by the egregious failures of the Council. The case was transferred to the High Court because of the Council's failures to issue care proceedings timeously and thereafter to comply with court orders. The final hearing was held in December 2014 when the judge was able to make final orders to secure DS's placement with his maternal grandparents in Latvia. D's guardian then issued proceedings in respect of the local authority's multiple breaches of DS's human rights contrary to Art.6 and Art.8 ECHR.
The court held that the catalogue of errors, omissions, delays and serial breaches of court orders in this matter was truly lamentable and were appalling in respect of a 15 day old baby. Where so young a child was removed from the care of his mother or father his case must be afforded the highest priority by the local authority. There were no circumstances where it would be appropriate to use s.20 of the Children Act 1989 to remove a very young baby from the care of its mother, save in the most exceptional of circumstances and where the removal was intended to be only for a few days. D's accommodation under a s.20 agreement deprived him of the benefit of having an independent children's guardian to represent and safeguard his interests. Further, it deprived the court of the ability to control the planning for D and to prevent or reduce unnecessary and avoidable delay in securing a permanent placement for the child at the earliest possible time. 
The Council accepted that it had acted in violation of D's and the mother's Art.6 and Art.8 rights The court noted that the Council had agreed to pay damages: to D in the sum of £12,000; to the mother in the sum of £4,000; and to pay a sum of £1,000 to the maternal grandparents to assist them in their care of D. Having reviewed the case law, the judge was satisfied that the damages offered by Council were entirely appropriate. (30 January 2015)

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

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Community Infrastructure Levy

Draft Community Infrastructure Levy (Amendment) Regulations 2015: these draft regulations, which are scheduled to come into force on 1 April 2015, amend SI 2010/948 so as to extend the existing social housing relief from the Community Infrastructure Levy to cover a wider range of dwellings that are rented below market rate. They also update a reference to Rent Standard Guidance published by the Regulator of Social Housing. (30 January 2015)

Oxfordshire CC v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2015] EWHC 186 (Admin) (Admin Ct): OCC applied under s.288 TCPA 1990 to quash the inspector's decision that the administration fees claimed by OCC did not comply with reg.122 of the Community Infrastructure Levy Regulations 2010.
CM, a developer, had appealed against CDC's refusal of planning permission for 26 residential units. The grounds for the refusal were that CDC could not be satisfied that necessary infrastructure would be provided. During the course of the appeal, a Section 106 Agreement was agreed between OCC, CDC and the owners of the site, which included contributions towards a number of services and infrastructure, and also towards administration/monitoring required by the Council. The Agreement also included a "blue pencil clause" which enabled the Inspector to strike out contributions that did not meet the tests for planning obligations set out at reg.122. The inspector found that some of the contributions were necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms, but that certain contributions, including the monitoring and administration fees, did not meet the required tests. OCC was therefore unable to enforce payment of the monitoring/administration fee. OCC contended that the inspector had erred in his approach to reg.122 by misinterpreting the necessity test, his decision was irrational, and he had taken into account an immaterial consideration, namely, whether the administration and monitoring of the planning obligations was one of OCC's normal functions.
The court held, refusing the application, that there was nothing in the wording of the legislation or the guidance which suggested that authorities could or should claim administration and monitoring fees as part of planning obligations. Significantly, reg.61 of the 2010 Regulations expressly provided that an authority might apply CIL payments levied for infrastructure purposes, to defray the administrative expenses it had incurred, but no such express provision was made under reg.122 in respect of planning obligations. It was part of OCC's functions as a local planning authority to administer, monitor and enforce planning obligations in Section 106 Agreements and OCC was exercising its planning functions when addressing the impact of the proposed development on the need for public services in the local community. The inspector was entitled to conclude that the costs of administration and monitoring would be included in OCC's resources and budget for the discharge of its functions under s.106 TCPA 1990. How those costs would be met was plainly a relevant consideration in deciding whether or not a contribution to those costs was needed, in order to make the development acceptable. This was a routine planning application for a relatively small development in which OCC was seeking a fee based on its standardised table of fees rather than any individualised assessment of special costs liable to be incurred for this particular development. The only allowable contributions (education and library services) did not require ongoing management or maintenance; they were single payments, to be made prior to the commencement of development. The Inspector was entitled to conclude that a contribution to the administration and monitoring costs was not "necessary" to make the development acceptable in planning terms. The inspector's decision did not disclose any error of law: he did not misinterpret the legal test, nor did he act irrationally. (3 February 2015)

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

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Community Rights

HC Communities and Local Government Committee: Community rights: this report states that Government should give people greater opportunities to save local pubs and other assets, build community housing, shape local services and bring public land back into use. The Committee calls on the Government to strengthen four of its Community Rights and give people a greater say in what happens to the buildings, services and land in their area. In particular, the Government should enhance the Community Right to Bid by increasing from six to nine months the time people have to bid to buy a local asset, and the Community Right to Build procedure should be folded into the larger Neighbourhood Planning process, removing the need for a separate referendum. The Community Right to Challenge should be reformed as part of a wider approach to involving communities in commissioning as well as running local services and allowing local groups to take advantage of the limitations from full tendering exercises. (2 February 2015)

DCLG: Community pubs: statement to Parliament by the Community Pubs Minister Kris Hopkins, announcing plans to bring forward secondary legislation at the earliest opportunity so that in England the listing of a pub as an asset of community value will trigger a removal of the national permitted development rights for the change of use or demolition of those pubs that communities have identified as providing the most community benefit. This will mean that in future, where a pub is listed as an asset of community value, a planning application will be required for the change of use or demolition of a pub. (26 January 2015)

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

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Competition

CMA: Unfair contract terms – Draft guidance on consumer protection law: seeks views on draft guidance on the new unfair contract terms provisions in the Consumer Rights Bill. The Bill, once enacted, will consolidate and replace the provisions of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 and of the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977. In doing so it will continue to give effect in the UK to the Unfair Contract Terms Directive. In certain respects the new provisions will introduce some changes to the previously existing law on unfair terms, necessitating new guidance. What’s new? An overview of changes to unfair contract terms law in the Consumer Rights Bill summarises the key changes. The consultation closes on 30 March 2015. (26 January 2015)

DBIS: Late payment – Challenging 'grossly unfair' terms and practices: seeks views on how to provide business representative bodies with wider powers to challenge ‘grossly unfair’ contractual terms and practices, as set out in the 2011 EU Late Payment Directive. It also asks for views on how, or whether, to better define ‘grossly unfair’ in relation to late payments. The closing date for comments is 9 March 2015. (3 February 2015)

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

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Delivery of Services

LGO: Local accountability in a multi-agency environment: this discussion document sets out the findings from a roundtable event in 2014 that considered how local services can remain accountable to the people who use them, within the context of increasingly complex models of public service delivery. The report outlines how learning from complaints, the role of local scrutiny and the relationship with the regulatory landscape are key to ensuring effective local accountability as reforms and innovation continue to drive local public service delivery. (30 January 2015)

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

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Economic Development

Prime Minister's Office: Growth Deals gain momentum – Firing up local economies: announces a further £1bn investment in local economies across England by expanding the successful Growth Deals. This page includes an interactive map showing highlights of each region’s Growth Deal. It includes summaries of some of the major projects that are being taken forward as part of the expansion of Growth Deals, and links to details of the Growth Deal fund allocations. (29 January 2015)

DCLG: Record funding for 36 seaside towns that will kick-start jobs and apprenticeships: announces funding from the Coastal Communities Fund to enable seaside towns to unlock their enormous potential, boost local economies and contribute to the wider area. (26 January 2015)

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

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Education

DfE: Timelines for schools – Mandatory and useful information: DfE has published updated timelines of forthcoming mandatory legal requirements to be implemented, in order to help headteachers, principals and governors plan for the forthcoming academic year and beyond. Other useful dates are included in separate information timelines. (3 February 2015)

DfE: Special educational needs and disability Code of Practice – 0 to 25 years: updated statutory guidance for organisations that work with and support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). It explains the duties of schools and colleges to provide: reasonable adjustments for disabled children and young people; and extra aids and services for disabled children and young people. The revised Code comes into force from 1 April 2015. (29 January 2015) 

Ofsted: What the provider needs to prepare for inspection – Further education and skills inspections: updated guidance for FE colleges about the information that inspectors require from them for an inspection. This document is sent to the provider immediately after the initial inspection notification. The provider must return it to the lead inspector before the inspection, for the subject areas to be inspected. (28 January 2015)

DfE: Schools given £5 million to work with local nurseries: announces £5m funding for more than 60 teaching schools across the country who will partner up with local nurseries to drive up standards and share best practice. All partners will be able to learn from each other in order to provide better early education and care for children and families, and support effective transitions from nursery into primary school. This press release lists the first group of successful schools. A second group of schools will be confirmed in mid-February 2015. (29 January 2015)

DfE: School exclusion: announces that the School Reform Minister Nick Gibb has removed the current statutory guidance on 'Exclusion from maintained schools, academies and pupil referral units in England', in order to address some issues with process. DfE will be issuing updated guidance in due course. (2 February 2015)

Ofsted: Better inspection for all – A report of the responses to the consultation: summarises the responses to Ofsted's October consultation that set out proposals for a new framework for the inspection of schools, further education and skills providers and registered early years settings. it states that it will introduce from September 2015: a new Common Inspection Framework for all early years settings on the Early Years Register, maintained schools and academies, non-association independent schools and further education and skills providers; and short inspections for maintained schools, academies and further education and skills providers that were judged good at their last full inspection. (3 February 2015)

Welsh Government: Raising the ambitions and educational attainment of children who are looked after in Wales: seeks views on proposed arrangements to further support the educational attainment of children who are looked after. It primarily covers those of compulsory school age but also includes transition to further and higher education. It also sets out the Welsh Government’s intention to change the arrangements to support children who are looked after through the Pupil Deprivation Grant. From April 2015 regional education consortia, working with schools and authorities, will be responsible for the delivery of effective support and outcomes for looked after children. Consortia will also have flexibility to support the education of former looked after children who have been adopted. The consultation closes on 4 May 2015. (29 January 2015)

LGO: Pitfalls of the schools admissions appeals process highlighted in two LGO reports out this week: the LGO has published reports on problems with two different school admissions appeals processes that highlight examples of some of the errors that can be made by English schools admissions panels. (5 February 2015)

Special Educational Needs and Disability (Detained Persons) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/62): these regulations, which come into force on 1 April 2015, build on the structure and principles in ss.70-75 of the Children and Families Act 2014 regarding detained children and young people under age 19 who have special educational needs (SEN). The regulations require local authorities to have regard to facilitating these children and young people’s development, helping them to achieve their best educational and other outcomes. They require local authorities to work together with other bodies to assess the education, health and care needs of children and young people with SEN, whether they are in or have been released from custody, and to develop Education, Health and Care Plans (EHC Plans) where necessary, specifically relating to post-detention needs and provision. The regulations set out the roles and responsibilities and required timeframes for local authorities and other responsible bodies; they also set out the mediation and appeals procedures for when a parent or young person disagrees with certain types of decision. (26 January 2015)

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

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Elections

Local Elections (Principal Areas) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Rules 2015 (SI 2015/103): these regulations, which come into force on 2 March 2015, make changes to the form of the ballot paper used at local governmentelections in England and Wales, and also correct some minor issues. They apply to all elections falling on or after 7 May 2015.
The Local Elections (Parishes and Communities) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Rules 2015 (SI 2015/104) make equivalent changes for parish and community council elections. (30 January 2015)

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

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Finance

DCLG: Final local government finance settlement: England, 2015 to 2016: DCLG has published the Secretary of State's finalised determination for the financial year 2015/16, with details of  the total amount of the Revenue Support Grant for that year, the amount of the grant he proposes to pay to receiving authorities, and the amount of the grant he proposes to pay to the specified body, plus business rates tariffs and top-ups and the basis of their distributions. The Council Tax referendum principle for 2015/16 is set at 2%. In addition, there is a further £74m for upper-tier authorities to assist them in dealing with pressures on local welfare and health and social care. This page links to all the documents relating to the LGFS 2015/16. (4 February 2015)

HC Public Accounts Committee: Financial sustainability of local authorities: this report examines the Government's reduction in funding for local government in England as part of its plan to reduce the fiscal deficit, in light of concerns from external auditors over whether some authorities will continue, over the medium term, to be financially sustainable and be able to make further savings. In real terms, the Government will reduce its funding to local authorities by an estimated 37% over the period 2010–11 to 2015–16. It finds that DCLG does not have a good enough understanding of the impact of funding cuts, either on local authorities’ finances or on services. It relies on data on spending and has little information on service levels, service quality, and financial sustainability. HM Treasury should better support the Department by ensuring compliance with its requests for information at future spending reviews. While DCLG has identified that local authorities will need to change the way they deliver services to remain financially sustainable, it is unclear if it is providing sufficient leadership to ensure they can implement service transformation programmes successfully. Furthermore, if funding reductions were to continue following the next spending review, the Committee is concerned that DCLG would not be in a position to provide assurance that all local authorities could maintain the full range of their statutory services. Overall, as pressure from cuts grows, so do the risks to local authorities’ finances and their provision of services. The depth and quality of DCLG’s insight into these issues needs to keep pace with these changes, something it has struggled to achieve so far. (28 January 2015)

Council Tax Reduction Schemes (Prescribed Requirements and Default Scheme) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/44 (W.3)): these regulations, which come into force on 21 January 2015, amend the Prescribed Requirements Regulations (SI 2013/3029 (W.301)) and the Default Scheme Regulations (SI 2013/3035 (W.303)) regarding Welsh authorities' duty to set up a scheme specifying the reductions which are to apply to amounts of council tax payable by persons, or classes of persons, whom the authority considers are in financial need. (20 January 2015)

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

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Governance

DCLG: Draft Local Authorities (Functions and Responsibilities) (England) Regulations 2015 – Draft regulations and explanatory note of proposed changes: seeks views on draft regulations which consolidate SI 2000/2853 and its amending regulations containing the rules for decision making in local authorities and where functions and responsibilities are to be exercised within authorities. The proposed regulations also update existing provisions to reflect legislative changes and give effect to certain policy developments. They include potentially significant changes which extend the powers of directly elected mayors, but which do not apply to Leader and Cabinet authorities. The consultation also asks for views on the principle of giving full Council a veto over executive proposals in respect of two current politically sensitive issues, namely car parking and the frequency of domestic bin collections. The consultation closes on 6 March 2015. (29 January 2015)
For details of and commentary on the key proposed policy amendments, see our briefing DCLG consults on changes to the Functions and Responsibilities Regulations.

DCLG: Report of inspection of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council: Louise Casey's report of her inspection of the compliance of Rotherham MBC with the requirements of Part 1 of the Local Government Act 1999, in relation to the council’s exercise of its functions on governance, children and young people, and taxi and private hire licensing. The report found past and present failures to accept, understand and combat the issue of Child Sexual Exploitation, resulting in a lack of support for victims and insufficient action against known perpetrators. It states that the Council’s culture is unhealthy: bullying, sexism, suppression and misplaced political correctness have cemented its failures. Louise Casey concludes that Rotherham MBC is not fit for purpose – it is failing in its legal obligation to secure continuous improvement in the way in which it exercises its functions; in particular, it is failing in its duties to protect vulnerable children and young people from harm.
The Secretary of State has announced that, in light of this report, he intends to make an order under the Local Government Act 2000 to move the Council to holding all-out elections in 2016. He also intends to appoint commissioners who will take over the roles of the current wholly dysfunctional cabinet. The commissioners will initially exercise all the Council’s executive functions and will have the functions of appointing the chief executive, chief finance officer and monitoring officer, and of nominating members to other bodies. He has written to the Council giving them 14 days to make representations on the report and on the proposed intervention package. (4 February 2015)

NAO: Conflicts of interest: this report highlights the importance of recognising conflicts of interest in the public sector and managing them effectively. In the last year, the NAO has had a significant number of potential conflicts referred to it, through whistleblowing and otherwise, particularly in areas of government where services are increasingly commissioned and delivered by parties at arm’s length from departments. According to the report, conflicts of interest can bring decision-making into disrepute, if not well-managed. Often the perception of conflict is alone enough to cause concern. This can lead to reputational damage and undermine public confidence in the integrity of institutions. The report gives examples of conflicts that have arisen in the delivery of public services, drawing on existing work and other intelligence. (29 January 2015)

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

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Health and Social Care

DH: Care Act 2014 – Consultation on draft regulations and guidance to implement the cap on care costs and policy proposals for a new appeals system for care and support: seeks views provisions in the Care Act 2014 relating to the cap on care costs system, which are set to come into force in April 2016. Under the new system people who develop eligible care and support needs below the age of 25 will have a zero cap for life. For those who develop a care and support need from the age of 25, the cap will be set at £72,000. The paper sets out draft Care and Support (Cap on Care Costs, etc) Draft Regulations 2015 and draft statutory guidance on how the proposed cap will work. It also discusses the need for a new appeals system that would sit alongside the current means of redress. The consultation closes on 30 March 2015. (4 February 2015)
DH has published two new factsheets that explain the consultation proposals:

DH: NHS Bodies and Local Authorities Partnership Arrangements (Amendment) Regulations 2015: seeks views on draft regulations that amend the Partnership Arrangements Regulations 2000 to provide more flexibility around pooled budgets by bringing NHS England’s primary medical care functions into local authorities and health bodies partnership arrangements. It states that the proposed change will widen the potential scope of pooled budgets by making it possible for them to include funding for primary medical care, paving the way for greater integration across community health, social care and primary care. The proposed change provides greater flexibility and local powers around the use of pooled budget arrangements, and removes a potential legislative barrier to continued efforts to increase integration. The consultation closes on 8 March 2015. (6 February 2015)

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

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Housing

DCLG: Building more homes on brownfield land: seeks views on proposals for identifying suitable brownfield land and sharing data openly and transparently, and measuring progress towards the Government’s goal for local development orders granting permission for housing on brownfield land. It also considers options to support authorities where additional action is needed in getting these permissions in place. The consultation closes on 11 March 2015. 
DCLG has launched an invitation to bid for funding to support local planning authorities who consult on and make local development orders on brownfield land. it invites bids from local planning authorities who can identify brownfield sites that are suitable for housing and capable of accommodating in the region of 100 units or more. Successful bidders will receive £50,000 per bid towards the costs incurred in delivering the local development order. This document sets out the criteria for site eligibility and describes the process for assessing bids. The closing date for submission of bids is 11 March 2015. (28 January 2015) 

DCLG: From statutory provider to Housing Delivery Enabler – Review into the local authority role in housing supply: this review by Natalie Elphicke and Keith House considers how councils can help to increase housing supply for their communities across all tenures. The report proposes that councils become “housing delivery enablers” – assessing the housing need of their area, working with businesses, housing associations and others to provide the homes their residents want and need to build strong and sustainable communities. In particular, the report urges councils to consider how they can actively support smaller and start-up housing businesses locally, whether with land, finance or training. (27 January 2015) 

DCLG: £250,000 funding announced for more than 1,500 new training opportunities: announces new funding to the Tenant Participation Advisory Service and Trafford Hall, extending the successful training provided under the tenant empowerment programme. The money will provide more than 1,500 new training opportunities for social housing tenants to engage in, manage or control local services by working together. (27 January 2015)

DCLG: Social housing mobility funding scheme – Bidding prospectus: DCLG is inviting local authorities to bid for a share of £500,000 to help them fund approaches for increasing mobility of existing social tenants within their district. The funding, which will be available in 2015 to 2016, will support local authorities and their partner Registered Providers to test out approaches that make use of the new transferring tenant flexibilities in the Localism Act 2011, as well as existing allocation flexibilities, to increase mobility for existing social tenants within the local authority district, in order to reward positive behaviour, and to make best use of the social housing stock. The closing date for applications is 5 March 2015. (5 February 2015)

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

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Local Government Pension Scheme

Local Government Pension Scheme (Amendment) (Governance) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/57): these regulations, which mainly come into force on 1 April 2015, establish a national scheme advisory board to advise the Secretary of State on the desirability of changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). Provision is also made for administering authorities to establish local pension boards to assist them with the effective and efficient management and administration of the LGPS. The regulations provide for two separate sets of cost control mechanisms for the LGPS. (26 January 2015)

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

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Local Government Reform

National Assembly for Wales: Local Government (Wales) Bill: this Bill has been introduced into the Welsh Assembly and is at Stage 1. The Bill allows for certain preparatory work to enable a programme of local government mergers and reform and include provisions to facilitate the voluntary early merger of two or more principal local authorities by April 2018. The Bill also amends existing legislative provision in the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 (relating to the Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales and the survey of councillors and unsuccessful candidates) and the Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013 (relating to electoral reviews). (26 January 2015)

Welsh Government: Devolution, Democracy and Delivery White Paper – Reforming local government: Power to local people: this White Paper sets out proposals for the major reform of Welsh local government. It covers the following fields: local democracy; the roles and remuneration of elected members and senior officers; community governance and community councils; community rights; corporate improvement; service performance; scrutiny; audit; inspection and regulation; and local government finance. The proposals are based on the principle that there will be much greater diversity in delivery of services through mutuals, in-sourcing, joint commissioning and community ownership. The consultation closes on 28 April 2015. (4 February 2015)

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

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Noise and Nuisance

DCLG: Response to recent media reports about noise complaints: announces updated planning guidance to local authorities that the local character of a place should be taken into account during noise disputes. The guidance states that when assessing whether a statutory nuisance exists, local authorities must consider a number of relevant factors, including the ‘character of the locality’ – this may include long-established sources of noise in the vicinity, e.g. church bells, industrial premises, music venues or public houses. (5 February 2015)

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

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Procurement

Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/102): these regulations, which mainly come into force on 26 February 2015, implement the Public Procurement Directive 2014/24 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which provides modernised rules for the procurement of goods, services and works above certain thresholds by public authorities. The regulations also re-enact the relevant provisions of the Remedies Directives 89/665 (as amended) on remedies and review procedures for public procurement. They revoke and replace SI 2006/5.  (5 February 2015)
For a detailed summary of the regulations see Bevan Brittan's Byte size procurement update 15: Public Contracts Regulations 2015 published.

DCLG: Fire Procurement Pipelines – Fire and Rescue monthly bulletin 54/2015: highlights the information on Cabinet Office free portal Contracts Finder and the European Union procurement regulation. It recommends that every Fire and Rescue Authority publishes its current Contracts Register on its external website and publishes all Invitation to Tenders with a value of greater than £10,000 on Contracts Finder. (3 February 2015)

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

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Publicity

DCLG: Notice of a direction to the Royal Borough of Greenwich Council: Paul Rowsell, Deputy Director of Democracy DCLG, has written to Greenwich RLBC, together with notice of direction he proposes to give to the authority under s.4A of the Local Government Act 1986. The council are directed to comply as soon as practicable and in any event by 31 March 2015 with the provision in the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity (March 2011). (29 January 2015)

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

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Rating

DCLG: Business rates information letter 2/2015: this letter provides information on the Government’s response to the technical consultation on business rates retention and shale gas, and amendments to the Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rating Demand Notice (England) Regulations 2003. (4 February 2015)

Non-Domestic Rating (Small Business Rate Relief) (England) (Amendment) Order 2015 (SI 2015/106): this Order, which comes into force on 2 March 2015, amends SI 2012/148 to provide for a further temporary extension to the increase in small business rate relief in England until 31 March 2016. (4 February 2015)

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

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Registration Services

Referral of Proposed Marriages and Civil Partnerships Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/123): Part 4 of the Immigration Act 2014 establishes a scheme for the referral of certain proposed marriages and civil partnerships in England and Wales to the Secretary of State for investigation into whether the proposed marriage or civil partnership is a sham. Registration officials must refer a proposed marriage or civil partnership to the Secretary of State where one or both of the parties are not an exempt person within the meaning of s.49 of the 2014 Act. These regulations, which come into force on 2 March 2015, set out: the type of evidence that a person who is not a relevant national will be required to provide when giving notice of marriage or civil partnership to show that they are an exempt person; the requirement to notify the Secretary of State of changes of addresses; and the information to be given by registration officials to the parties about the effects of referral. They also set out the timing and manner of referrals to the Secretary of State by registration officials and the information that they must include. 
See also the Proposed Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Meaning of Exempt Persons and Notice) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/122) that prescribe the persons who are exempt from immigration control and the types of relevant visa for the purpose of determining whether a person is an exempt person under the scheme. They also provide for the giving of notices by the Secretary of State to the parties to a proposed marriage or civil partnership which has been referred under the scheme and to registration officials. (5 February 2015)

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

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Scrutiny

Centre for Public Scrutiny: Hiding in plain sight – Barriers to effective local scrutiny: sets out the results of a survey into the effectiveness of local scrutiny following the findings of the Jay report into governance weaknesses at Rotherham MBC, and in anticipation of the Casey Review into the same issue. The survey found that in a small but worrying minority of councils, local leaders and senior officers appeared to be seeking to control and limit the effectiveness of local overview and scrutiny inquiries. On the positive side, there was also evidence that Monitoring Officers are valued as providing support for effective scrutiny and that in the vast majority of councils information is provided as requested and as required by law and councillors are providing robust, effective challenge. The report includes seven recommendations for local leaders and others to improve local scrutiny and accountability. (3  February 2015)

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

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Transport

DfT: Response to the consultation on implementation of the Competition Commission remedies on bus registration: in March 2014, DfT consulted on  implementation of the Competition Commission's recommendations for local bus service registration. Ths response announces that the Government has decided to proceed with only one of the four recommendations, namely the 14-day pre-notification period for local authorities. It considers that this should make a material contribution towards meeting the Commission’s concerns in a way that supports Government policy in this area. DfT intends to bring this measure into force at the earliest possible opportunity. it also states that the Government will pursue the full roll out of digital service registration by all bus operators. The DfT will engage further with key players to discuss the barriers identified and how these might be resolved. (5 February 2015)

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

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Welfare and Benefits

MR v North Tyneside Council and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Housing and council tax benefits : other) [2015] UKUT 34 (AAC): in this case, the Upper Tribunal considered the application of the so-called bedroom tax for social housing to the shared residence of a child. MR lived in a two-bedroomed council property. She was awarded housing benefit and council tax benefit from 2008, at which time her son (S) was living as part of her household and she was receiving child benefit for him. In January 2012, the local authority superseded the decision awarding benefit to take account of the fact that S was now living with his father. From 1 April 2013, the local authority further reduced the award by 14% on the ground that MR needed only one bedroom under reg.B13 of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006. By that date, S was the subject of a shared residence order under which he spent alternate weeks with MR and his father. His father was receiving child benefit and tax credit in respect of him, although by agreement these were shared between the parents. The judge allowed MR's appeal, finding that S occupied her dwelling on a continuing basis with temporary weekly absences, and that S occupied his father’s home on the same basis. The judge treated ‘dwelling’ and ‘home’ in reg.B13 as undefined ordinary words that he had to apply to the facts of the case. S was able to have more than one home, to live in more than one household and to occupy more than one property on a normal basis.
The Upper Tribunal held, allowing the Council's appeal, that the tribunal’s approach was flawed as it treated the meaning of the words used in reg.B13(5) as freestanding, when they had to be read in the context of other provisions. S would be entitled to a second bedroom for himself under reg.B13(5)(e), if he were occupying the dwelling as part of MR's family: that depended on whether MR was responsible for him (s.137). That depended on how much time S spent with each parent and who received child benefit in respect of him. As he divided his time equally between his parents and as his father received child benefit in respect of him, MR was not responsible for him by virtue of reg.20(2)(a), so S did not qualify for a second bedroom under reg.B13. (22 January 2015)

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

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