This update contains brief details of recent Government publications, legislation, cases and other developments relevant to those involved in local government work, which have been published in the previous two weeks. Items are set out by subject, with a link to where the full document can be found on the internet.

If you have been forwarded this update by a colleague and would like to receive it direct please email Claire Booth.

All links are correct at the date of publication. The following topics are covered in this update:  

 

 Access to Information  Finance
 Adult Social Services  Fire & Rescue Authorities
 Asset Management  Governance
 Children's Services  Health and Social Care
 Communities  Highways
 Economic Development  Housing
 Education  Licensing
 Elections  Police
 Emergency Planning  Procurement
 Environmental Services  Standards

Access to Information

ICO: How to disclose information safely – Removing personal data from information  requests and datasets: guidance for organisations disclosing information which has been derived from personal data and requires further processing to ensure that individuals cannot be identified from that information. It explains some of the most common types of inappropriate disclosures that the ICO has seen in recent years. It also includes other types that data controllers and public authorities should be aware of. (13 November 2015)

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

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Adult Social Services

Welsh Government: Information and guidance on domestic abuse and sexual violence – Safeguarding older people (60+) in Wales: seeks views on draft good practice guidance that raises awareness of older people's experience of domestic abuse and sexual violence and offers practical advice on how to provide effective services to this client group. The consultation closes on 29 February 2016. (7 December 2015)

DCLG: £3.5 million awarded to make sure domestic abuse victims get help: announces the 46 local authorities that have been awarded a share of £3.5m to support domestic abuse victims. (11 December 2015)

Care and Support (Business Failure) (Wales) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/1920 (W.286)): these regulations, which come into force in Wales on 6 April 2016, set out the events which constitute "business failure" for the purposes of the temporary duties on Welsh local authorities under ss.189 - 191 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. (20 November 2015)

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

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Asset Management

Cabinet Office: More local authorities set to sell government assets: announces that >100 councils have been selected to join phase 3 of the One Public Estate programme to release excess government land and property. The One Public Estate programme, which is jointly run by Cabinet Office and the LGA, brings together all public sector bodies within a locality to pool data on their asset holdings and develop joint plans to share property and release surplus land and buildings for other uses. The local authorities will have support to take a radically new approach to managing land and property that will deliver significant savings, as well as providing better, more integrated local services in places which are more convenient for users. (11 December 2015)

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

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Children's Services

LGA: A brave new world – Is inspection improving children's services?: the LGA commissioned iMPOWER Consulting to look at the evidence to see how far the current Ofsted Single Inspection Framework is helping to drive improvement in council children’s services. The analysis suggests that the regulator is falling significantly short of achieving its stated purpose and is, inadvertently, creating an environment in which it is becoming increasingly difficult for authorities to make the necessary improvements to deliver better services. (15 October 2015)

DfE: We will not stand by – Failing children's services will be taken over: the Prime Minister is set to announce that poorly performing children’s services must improve or be taken over by high-performing authorities, experts and charities. Children’s services in local authorities that have persistently failed in the past, will be taken over immediately – Sunderland children’s services will become a voluntary trust and new service leaders will be appointed to step in and tackle failings in Norfolk and Sandwell children’s services. There will be a formalised academy style system so that any local authority judged as inadequate by Ofsted has to show significant improvement within six months or be taken over. If a local authority’s children’s services fails to improve within six months of their Ofsted inspection, a new service leader (Commissioner) will be put in place and high-performing local authorities, experts in child protection and charities will be brought in. (14 December 2015)

Ofsted: Fostering in England 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015: Ofsted has published annual statistics that take a broad look at fostering provision across the country. They include data on: children, their characteristics, experiences and safeguarding; capacity, including types of places and occupancy rates; foster carers, including ethnicity and training; recruitment and retention of foster carers; as well as complaints and allegations of misconduct. (10 December 2015)

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

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Communities

DCLG: New funding for Community Organisers announced: the Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson MP, has announced the launch of a new £500,000 Community Organisers Mobilisation Fund to support Community Organisers to use the powers available to them under the Localism Act 2011. Community Organisers will actively support their communities to make the most of community rights, neighbourhood planning and other neighbourhood approaches to create positive change in their local area. The initiative is managed by the Company of Community Organisers. (1 December 2015)

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

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Economic Development

DCLG: Iconic coastal heritage sites set for £3 million makeover: announces the 77 projects that will each receive grants of up to £50,000 from the Coastal Revival Fund to kick-start restoration work. They are also set to attract £30m in private and public investment and could support up to 1,500 jobs. (11 December 2015)

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

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Education

LGO: Councils must meet their duties to home-schooled children, Ombudsman says: the LGO has reminded councils of their duty to satisfy themselves that children who are not in the school system are receiving a suitable education. In a report into a London borough, the LGO found that the council did not act on a mother’s request that her home-educated son return to school. This meant the teenager missed out on two terms of schooling, was unable to take his GCSE exams, and lost an opportunity to go to college. The LGO ordered the council to pay the mother £2,400 in recognition of the loss of education for her son for two terms, plus £1,000 to recognise her son’s lost opportunity to go to college in September 2014 and a further £250 to recognise her time and trouble in pursuing the complaint. (3 December 2015)

DfE: Wraparound and holiday childcare – Parents and childcare provider ‘rights to request’: seeks views on draft departmental advice on how local authority maintained schools, academies and free schools should respond to parents who ask their child’s school to establish wraparound and/or holiday childcare, and to childcare providers who ask to use school facilities for wraparound and/or holiday childcare at times when the school isn’t using them. The consultation closes on 29 February 2016. (7 December 2015) 

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

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Elections

Baxter v Fear [2015] EWHC 3136 (QB) (QBD): B petitioned the court seeking a declaration that a local government election was invalid, on the basis of alleged acts and omissions perpetrated by the Returning Officer. Because of a printing error, some of the ballot paper books contained the wrong ballot papers, resulting in 115 electors being effectively disenfranchised and denied a vote. The issues before the court were: whether, for the purposes of s.48 of the Representation of the People Act 1983, it was permissible for the court to undertake an inferential analysis of how disenfranchised electors would or might have voted, and whether the ballots of returning electors, who voted a second time after the mistake was discovered, should have been included.
The court held that there were many situations where courts were prepared to draw inferences from evidence of a statistical nature, such as the field of personal injuries litigation. However, in those domains the policy considerations were rather different, not least because no quasi-constitutional issues arose.  In the present context, the practical and policy arguments militating against the use of this type of evidence appeared overwhelming. Voting behaviour could be extremely unpredictable across a Ward, and might depend on factors about which it was difficult to be precise. The policy of s.48(1) of the 1983 Act was that an investigation of likely voting behaviour was tantamount to an exercise in pure speculation, and must be avoided. It appeared to the Court that the acts and omissions for which the Returning Officer was responsible, effectively disenfranchising 115 electors, affected the result of the election. The Local Elections (Principal Areas) (England and Wales) Rules 2006 (SI 2006/3304) contained no mechanism for correcting errors once the ballot paper had been folded and placed into the ballot box. This was treated by the Rules as a legally irrevocable act, at least until the poll closed and the ballots were scrutinised. There was no provision in the Rules for errors of any sort to be corrected by the delivery of a second ballot paper to the voter. The election was invalid. (30 October 2015)

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

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Emergency Planning

DCLG: North west England floods 2015 – Government response: summarises government support to areas in northern England affected by flooding. This includes: an additional £51m to support households and businesses affected by the floods, taking the total support pledged by the Government to over £60m; opening the Bellwin scheme for councils affected by floods, with 100% of eligible costs met by the Government; and  business rates and council tax relief for the affected communities. (8 December 2015)

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Environmental Services

DCLG: Government response to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s Seventh Report of Session 2014-15 on litter and fly-tipping in England: sets out the Government’s response to the issues raised by the CLG Select Committee in its report on litter and fly-tipping. It comments on each of the Committee's 21 recommendations regarding the problems that litter and fly-tipping create for local communities, the effectiveness of councils' actions for managing waste in the local environment, and whether any changes are needed to the regulatory framework. (4 December 2015) 

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

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Finance

DCLG: The draft Housing Revenue Account (Accounting Practices) Directions 2015: seeks views on amendments to the Accounting Practices Directions so that local authorities prepare their HRAs in line with international accounting standards. The changes are essentially technical and bring accounting requirements into line with proper practices. The consultation closes on 27 January 2015. (11 December 2015) 

DCLG: Launch of review into Council Tax support: announces that former council leader and Member of Parliament, Eric Ollerenshaw OBE is to lead a review into how local council tax support (LCTS) schemes are working across the country. The review will focus on the effectiveness, efficiency, fairness and transparency of the different LCTS schemes. It will also consider their impact on the localism agenda, and will make recommendations as to whether or not the schemes should be brought within Universal Credit. The review team has issued a call for evidence - the closing date for submissions is 12 January 2016. The review will report to the Secretary of State by the end of March 2016. (2 December 2015)

Welsh Government: Minister announces “better than expected” settlement for local government: the Welsh Public Services Minister, Leighton Andrews, has announced that local government revenue funding has been set at £4.099bn, a decrease of 1.4% or £57m compared to 2015/16. (9 December 2015)

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

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Fire and Rescue Authorities

Fire and Rescue Services (National Framework) (Wales) (Revision) Order 2015 (SI 2015/1931 (W.289)): s.21 of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 (“the Act”) requires the Welsh Ministers to prepare a Fire and Rescue National Framework, which must set out priorities and objectives for fire and rescue authorities in Wales and which may provide guidance to fire and rescue authorities in connection with the discharge of any of their functions. Fire and rescue authorities must have regard to the framework in carrying out their functions. This Order, which comes into force on 1 January 2016, substitutes the Fire and Rescue National Framework for Wales 2016 for the Fire and Rescue National Framework for Wales 2012. The principal differences are that the 2016 Framework sets revised priorities for fire and rescue authorities under six key objectives. (24 November 2015)

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

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Governance

Welsh Government: Minister established Group to promote the use of Welsh in local government: announces that a Working Group has been set up to advise on the best use of the Welsh language in local government administration and economic development. The remit of the Working Group is to recognise good practice in the areas identified and to make practical recommendations which can be taken forward through the programme of local government reform. The recommendations of the Group will inform the drafting of statutory guidance for Transition Committees. (10 December 2015)

Bristol Civic Leadership Project: Impacts of mayoral governance in Bristol: this report provides an in-depth assessment of the mayoral model of governance. It compares attitudes before Bristol’s mayor was elected in 2012 and two years on in 2014 by analysing the views of citizens and civic leaders through a combination of on-line surveys, focus groups and individual interviews. The results revealed a significant increase in the visibility of city leadership. The report will be of interest to other UK cities contemplating whether or not to introduce a directly elected mayor. (10 September 2015) 

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

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Health and Social Care

HC Public Accounts Committee: Care Act first-phase reforms and local government new burdens: reports on the Committee's inquiry into the costs of the Care Act reforms and the demands they place on local authorities, and how the Government is assessing new requirements which increase local government spending. The Committee believes that carers and the people they care for may not get the services they need because of continuing reductions to local authority budgets and demand for care being so uncertain. It is concerned that the New Burdens Doctrine does not guarantee funding for significant new costs. The Committee’s recommendations to Government include measures to ensure effective implementation of the Act and, more broadly, to ensure councils have sufficient resources to meet their statutory duties. (2 December 2015)

DH: Department of Health response to the Law Commission's consultation on mental capacity and deprivation of liberty: sets out the Government's response to the Law Commission’s consultation on how the law should regulate deprivations of liberty (DoLS) for people who lack capacity to consent to their care and treatment arrangements. The consultation proposes that DoLS should be replaced by a new system called ‘protective care’; it also proposes that there should be a new code of practice. The Law Commission will publish its final recommendations by the end of 2016. (11 December 2015)

Welsh Government: New deal to help people facing a mental health crisis: announces that the Welsh Government, local authorities, police forces, the NHS and other agencies have signed an agreement to improve the system of care and support for people in a mental health crisis. The Crisis Care Concordat commits the organisations to work together to intervene early and, if possible, to reduce the likelihood of people posing a risk to themselves or others as a result of a mental health condition. (10 December 2015)

Care and Support (Provision of Health Services) (Wales) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/1919 (W.285)): these regulations, which come into force in Wales on 6 April 2016, make further provision about Welsh local authorities' power under s.47(6) of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 to arrange for the provision of accommodation together with nursing care by a registered nurse if the local authority obtains consent from the relevant Local Health Board or CCG. They also provide for the resolution of disputes between a local authority and a health body about whether or not a service or facility is required to be provided under a health enactment. (20 November 2015)

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

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Highways

Welsh Government: Road and street works strategy for Wales: seeks views on a draft new strategy that sets out an approach to improve the management of road and street works. The proposed strategy aims to ensure that during these works, there is less impact on services and the infrastructure on which they rely. The consultation closes on 28 February 2016. (7 December 2015)

Southwark LBC v Transport for London [2015] EWHC 3448 (Ch) (ChD): the Council appealed against the arbitrator's award on preliminary questions raised in two similar arbitrations under the GLA Roads and Side Roads (Transfer of Property etc) Order 2000 (SI 2000/1152) which provided for the vesting of certain highway property in TfL. The issue concerned the extent of the vesting by virtue of the expression "the highway" in the vesting order and in s.263 of the Highways Act 1980. The arbitrator found that the vesting order vested the whole of the freehold in TfL (if the local authority had had it before the vesting date) unless something had happened to divorce the surface from the subsoil and airspace in terms of the purpose for which the land was held. The Council argued that only a limited freehold of the surface of the highway vested in TfL under the vesting order, even if the highway authority in question happened to own the whole freehold. 
The court held, dismissing the appeal, that the arbitrator had not erred in law in proceeding on the footing that the vesting order carried with it the freehold, or other estate, vested in the local authorities as highway authorities, and, in the vertical plane, that it was not confined to the surface. (1 December 2015)

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

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Housing

LGA: Housing Commission: the LGA has launched a Housing Commission to explore new routes to housebuilding so that councils can enable the building of more desperately-needed homes. The Housing Commission will also explore the importance of effective housing in boosting jobs and growth, helping meeting needs of an ageing population, saving social care and the NHS money, and helping people into work. It will focus on four themes: Housebuilding; Place making, community and infrastructure; Employment, welfare reform and social mobility; and Health and quality of life for an ageing population. It has issued a call for evidence on the key issues for communities, partners and councils, on good practice that has successfully addressed those issues, and what is needed to build on those successes. The closing date for submissions is 26 February 2016. Findings will be brought together in a report in Spring 2016 and presented at the LGA Annual Conference in June 2016. (3 December 2015)

SOLACE: Addressing the national housing challenge: this policy paper sets out an invitation to Government and partners to work with Solace to help transform the landscape of housing nationally. It outlines a set of mutually supportive proposals that would help provide local solutions and support Government’s commitment to deliver one million new homes within this Parliament, whilst also helping to establish a sustainable, affordable housing sector. (7 December 2015)

DCLG: First wave of Starter Homes to begin with £8 million government funding: announces funding to support councils in enabling starter homes on local brownfield sites that are currently underused or vacant, through measures such as clearance, remediation, demolition and site investigations. (7 December 2015)

DCLG: New garden towns to create thousands of new homes: announces £1.1m funding to support plans for an additional 15,000 homes by 2031 in Greater Didcot Garden Town and new Garden Communities in North Essex with up to 35,000 new homes. (7 December 2015)

DCLG: National Planning Policy – Consultation on proposed changes: seeks views on specific changes to national planning policy to support delivery of new homes, including low cost homes for first time buyers. The changes include:

  • broadening the definition of affordable housing, to expand the range of low cost housing opportunities for those aspiring to own their new home;
  • increasing residential density around commuter hubs, to make more efficient use of land in suitable locations;
  • supporting sustainable new settlements, development on brownfield land and small sites, and delivery of housing allocated in plans; and
  • supporting delivery of starter homes.

The consultation closes on 25 January 2015. (7 December 2015)

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

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Licensing

Gambling Commission: Controlling where gaming machines may be played – Consultation: seeks views on proposals to revise the current Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice and the accompanying guidance for category B gaming machines in order to ensure that the underlying policy objectives which seek to minimise gambling related harm are achieved. The Commission has concluded that ‘primary gambling activity’ as a concept is open to misunderstanding and is insufficiently robust to enable effective enforcement both legally and operationally. The consultation closes on 22 February 2016. (30 November 2015)

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

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Police

Home Office: The use of targets in policing: this independent review into the use of targets in policing finds that the police need to go further in order to tackle a culture of narrow target-chasing and box-ticking which has got in the way of officers doing their jobs. It makes a number of recommendations, including that PCCs should develop a more sophisticated dialogue with the public on what they consider “success” to look like, and to consider the potential negative impact of setting numerical targets in their police and crime plans. (8 December 2015)

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

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Procurement

CCS: Public Contracts Regulations – New subcontracting provisions: the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 provide some additional obligations and flexibilities to enable further transparency and oversight of the working practices of the subcontracting chain, which implement the subcontracting provisions in the new Procurement Directive. There are also new obligations to meet the Government’s policy on prompt payment of invoices. This  guidance explains the new rules on implementing the subcontracting provisions. (9 December 2015)

CCS: Procurement Policy Note 17/15 – Standard EU forms and notices for public procurement: announces that the new standard forms and notices for procurements under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 have been published in the Official Journal of the EU. Contracting authorities should use the new standard forms and notices for procurements under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. They should stop using the current forms and notices as soon as the new ones become available on Tenders Electronic Daily (TED) eNotices or via TED e-Senders system. Note that the commencement date of 3 December in the PPN is incorrect - the Commission Implementing Regulation 2015/1986 actually comes into force on 2 December 2015. (2 December 2015)
See our Procurement Alert: New standard form OJEU notices published.

CCS Procurement Policy Note 18/15 – New threshold levels 2016: sets out the new threshold levels to apply for the purposes of the Public Contracts Regulations. They come into force from 1 January 2016. (9 December 2015)
See also our Revised EU public procurement thresholds summary that sets out the key thresholds for public sector purchasers.

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

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Standards

Committee on Standards in Public Life: Ethical standards for providers of public services – Guidance: practical guidance for both providers of public services (whether outsourced or in-house) on building and embedding high ethical standards in an organisation, and commissioners on setting ethical expectations for the delivery of public services. The guide follows up on the Committee’s 2014 report which established the importance of common standards for all those delivering public services. The guidance includes good practice examples of mechanisms used by providers and commissioners to build high ethical standards. (2 December 2015)

Welsh Government: Local Government Act 2000 Part III, Conduct of local government members – Amendments to subordinate legislation: seeks views on two draft SIs that amend existing subordinate legislation made under the 2000 Act, consequential upon provisions in the Local Government (Democracy) (Wales) Act 2013. The amendments take forward recommendations in the 2012 Promoting Local Democracy White Paper to improve the operation of the local government ethical standards framework in Wales. The consultation closes on 10 January 2016. (30 November 2015)

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

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