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 29 January 2010. Items are set out by subject, with a link to where the full document can be found on the internet.

29/01/2010

Legal intelligence for professionals in local government.

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

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

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

   Access to Information    Highways
   Adult Social Services    Licensing
   Asset Management    Litigation
   Bribery and Corruption    Maladministration
   Children's Services    Partnerships
   Efficiency    Powers and Duties
   Employment    Procurement
   Equality    Rating
   Finance    Regulatory Services
   Health and Social Care    Standards
   Bevan Brittan's Local Government Training Programme   

 

Access to Information

Cabinet Office: Government launches one-stop shop for data: announces the launch of the data.gov.uk website that contains more than 2500 sets of data from across government with a new, open licence, which allows the data to be freely reused by anybody. All of the data is non-personal and in a format that can be reused by any individual or business to create innovative new software tools, such as applications about house prices, local amenities and services, or access to local hospitals. (21 January 2010)
The Government has set up a Local Public Data Panel that will champion the release of local public data and information sharing, accelerate progress in agreeing common standards for data released into the public sphere, and for making local public services better understood and more accessible.

Office of Communications v Information Commissioner [2010] UKSC 3 (Sup Ct): this appeal concerned the correct approach in law to a request for environmental information when the public authority holding the information relied upon more than one of the exceptions to the duty to disclose such information. The court held that the question was one of general principle, on which the courts below had expressed, and different members of the Supreme Court held, different views. It has therefore referred to the ECJ the question: Under the Access to Environmental Information Directive 2003/4, where a public authority holds environmental information, disclosure of which would have some adverse effects on the separate interests served by more than one exception (in this case, the interests of public security served by art.4(2(b) and those of intellectual property rights served by art.4(2)(e)), but it would not do so, in the case of either exception viewed separately, to any extent sufficient to outweigh the public interest in disclosure, does the Directive require a further exercise involving the cumulation of the separate interests served by the two exceptions and their weighing together against the public interest in disclosure? (27 January 2010)

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

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Adult Social Services

Cabinet Office: Supporting People - case studies in effective partnership: the Supporting People programme brings together the third sector, local authorities, health bodies and the Probation Service to deliver effective and innovative ways of helping vulnerable people get a home and a job. This report from the Office of the Third Sector and the Social Exclusion Task Force looks at four examples of effective partnership working to see what worked best, what has been learned so far, and where the opportunities are now that there is greater flexibility on how the money can be spent. (25 January 2010)

DH: Healthcare for people with learning disabilities: recommendations of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman: these letters from David Behan and Anne Williams to Directors of Adult Social Services (DASS) and SHA chief executives set out the action needed to respond to the recommendations of the Six Lives report, which highlighted failings in health and social care services that led to premature and avoidable deaths of people with learning disabilities. DASS are reminded of the need to work in partnership with NHS colleagues when reviewing and reporting progress on implementation of the Ombudsmen's recommendations. (27 January 2010)

DH: Charging arrangements for residential social care - consultation on issues concerning the current charging arrangements for residential social care: seeks views on four issues raised by a stakeholder group: 

  • the treatment of personal injury compensation;
  • the treatment of single premium investment bonds;
  • the introduction of a new disregard for pre-paid funeral plans; and 
  • deferred self top-ups during the 12-week property disregard.

The consultation closes on 23 April 2010. (29 January 2010)

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

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Asset Management

DfT: Secretary of State's guidance note concerning procedure for sale of trust ports: the Government’s Operational Efficiency Programme sets out a policy framework to guide decisions on how activities using public assets will be delivered. It recognises that in seeking to deliver services more effectively with limited resources, there may be advantages in some cases to adopting alternative forms of ownership. The DfT has issued a Ministerial Statement setting out the factors that are likely to be particularly relevant to consideration of the appropriateness of sale of a major trust port. This guidance looks at the procedure for the voluntary sale of trust ports. It covers: liaising with the Department; scheme of transfer; publicising of sale and access to information; and arrangements for inviting and considering bids for trust ports. (25 January 2010)

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

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Bribery and Corruption

MoJ: Foreign bribery strategy: this strategy sets out a range of government work to reduce the involvement of UK nationals and companies in foreign bribery. It builds on the Government's anti-corruption work, complements existing international corruption strategies on anti-money laundering and asset-recovery, and aims to help the UK strengthen its reputation as one of the least corrupt countries in the world. It aims to: strengthen the law through the new Bribery Bill, which is currently progressing through Parliament; encourage and support ethical business; enforce the law against foreign bribery; and reduce the demand for bribery through international cooperation and capacity building. (19 January 2010)

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

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Children's Services

Draft Children Act 2004 Information Database (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2010: these draft regulations amend the ContactPoint Regulations (SI 2007/2182) . The ContactPoint database was set up under s.12 of the Children Act 2004 to support practitioners, local authorities and other organisations in fulfilling their duties under s.10 (co-operation to improve well-being) and s.11of the 2004 Act (arrangements to safeguard and promote welfare) and s.175 Education Act 2002 (duties of LEAs and governing bodies in relation to welfare of children). The amendments do not affect the fundamental principles and design of ContactPoint but make practical adjustments in the light of users' experience. In particular, they will allow the database to hold information on all children “in the area of a local authority” in England, rather than only those who are “ordinarily resident in England”. (28 January 2010)

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

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Efficiency

Cabinet Office: UK Government ICT strategy: this strategy document sets out a plan for a smarter, cheaper and greener public sector ICT infrastructure, building on the Smarter Government programme. It aims to support existing core public sector goals, to improve public service delivery, to increase access to public services and to increase the efficiency of public service delivery through the use of ICT. It applies to all of the UK public sector and provides a common approach to ICT that maintains local accountability and control over implementation to meet unique delivery and business requirements. (27 January 2010)

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

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Employment

Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/93): these regulations, which come into force on 1 October 2011, implement the Agency Workers Directive 2008/104 that establishes a general framework for protection of temporary agency workers by providing that the basic working and employment conditions (duration of working time, overtime, breaks, rest periods, night work, holidays, public holidays and pay) of temporary agency workers should be, for the duration of their assignment at a hirer, at least those that would apply if they had been recruited directly by that hirer to occupy the same job. The regulations' provisions are based on the agreement reached on 20 May 2008 between the CBI and the TUC that agency workers should receive equal treatment on basic working and employment conditions after 12 weeks in a given job. (21 January 2010)

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

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Equality

Government Equalities Office: The Equality Bill: Duty to reduce socio-economic inequalities - a guide: Clause 1 of the Equality Bill requires key public bodies (including local authorities), when taking strategic decisions, to have due regard to the need to reduce the inequalities of outcome that result from socio-economic disadvantage. This document is designed to form a bridge between the wording of the duty and the draft statutory guidance to go with it, on which the Government will be consulting in Summer 2010. It explains the background to the duty, the need for it, and how it will operate for each of the different types of public body that are covered by it. It also explains how compliance with the duty will be monitored, and answers the questions that have been put to the government in its discussions with stakeholders. (19 January 2010)

Government Equalities Office: Equality Bill: Making it work - Ending age discrimination in services and public functions: Policy Statement: sets out the Government's policy on ending age discrimination in services and public functions, in light of responses to the consultation on how best to achieve the aim of prohibiting unjustified age discrimination while allowing justified or beneficial practices to continue. It confirms that beneficial age-based treatment such as free bus passes, discounts for pensioners and students, and age-related group holidays will still be allowed; and the new law will ban harmful discrimination in health and social care, but allow a person’s age to be taken into account where it is right to do so. (26 January 2010)

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

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Finance

DCLG: Local government finance settlement 2010/11: the Secretary of State has anounced the finance settlement for the financial year 2010-11, which confirms the proposals set out in November for the distribution of formula grant for 2010-11. Local authorities will receive £76.2bn in 2010-11, a 4 per cent cash increase. No council will receive less formula grant than last year as the Government's damping mechanism that creates fixed 'grant floors' has been retained. The Government expects councils to play their part in delivering a low average level of increase and the Local Government Minister Barbara Follett has putting all authorities on notice that the Government will not hesitate to cap excessive council tax increases where necessary. This web page links to the report and to supporting information. (20 January 2010)

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

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Health and Social Care

DH: Engaging and responding to your community - a brief guide to Local Involvement Networks: Local Involvement Networks (LINks) exist in every local authority area of England to give people more influence over how their local health and social care services are planned and delivered. This guide for health and social care managers explains more about LINks. It outlines how, through proactive engagement they can better understand the needs of their community. It highlights how working with the LINk should be a key part of commissioning, running and reviewing health and social care services. (22 January 2010)

IDeA: Reducing health inequalities - Beacon and beyond: sets out the experience of six Beacon authorities on reducing health inequalities, with case studies and 10 top tips for reducing health inequalities. It also looks at those strategic levers that are needed to succeed, and how these have been woven into the work of the Beacon authorities. (26 January 2010)

Conservative Party: A healthier nation - policy green paper no.12: sets out the Conservatives' manifesto on public health, in which they state that they will devolve much greater responsibility for tackling problems like obesity, drug use and teenage pregnancy to communities . It includes proposals for localised funding that will separate the public health budget from the budget for NHS services and devolve much more of the public health budget to local authorities and their health service partners. They will be paid a public health success payment for tackling problems like infant mortality, childhood obesity and sexually transmitted infections, and given financial rewards for reducing the future burden of disease and cost. Also, local directors of public health will manage budgets and will be obliged to commission local bodies, like schools, businesses, councils and GPs, to promote healthy living. With money behind them, they will have the power to recruit and pay innovative local organisations, whether businesses or charities, to start to implement new ways of promoting healthy choices and behaviour. (13 January 2010)

DH: Help shape your local health and social care - your guide to Local Involvement Networks (LINks): this leaflet advises members of the public on their right to be involved in discussions and decisions about health and social care services, and how they can influence the way services are run by sharing experiences and ideas with their LINk. (28 January 2010)

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

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Highways

DfT: Permit scheme - decision making and development: road works permit schemes were introduced under the Traffic Management Act 2004 to give local highway authorities more power to coordinate road works and to take tough action when they overrun. Once a scheme is in place, companies must apply for a permit before they start road works and abide by conditions on timing, coordination or the amount of road space to be left available to road users during the works.  Anyone who breaks the terms of their permit or works without a permit could be prosecuted and face a fine of up to £5,000. This guidance contains tips and suggestions on scheme development and application practicalities. It reflects experience and lessons learned during the development and approval of the first schemes. (25 January 2010)

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

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Licensing

DCMS: Consultation on proposal to clarify the definition of 'entertainment facilities' in the Licensing Act 2003: seeks views on a proposal to exclude the provision of musical instruments from the definition of entertainment facilities in the Licensing Act 2003, and clarify that entertainment facilities are not separately licensable if they are used solely for the provision of incidental music. Comments are required by 26 February 2010. (15 January 2010)

DCMS: Revised guidance under s.182 of the Licensing Act 2003: updates the guidance to take account of the new provisions under s.33 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 (in force 29 January 2010) that enable councillors, in their capacity as elected members of the relevant licensing authority, to act as "interested parties" so that they can make representations to object to licence applications or call for a licensing review.  (29 January 2010)

Draft Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Licensing Conditions) Order 2010: these draft regulations set out the five mandatory conditions which will apply to relevant premises licences and club premises certificates from 1 October 2010. The conditions apply to all relevant premises licences authorising consumption of alcohol on the premises, and to all relevant club premises certificates, with the exception of the condition in para.4 of the Schedule, requiring an age verification policy to be adopted, which applies in addition to licences for the supply of alcohol for consumption away from the premises. (29 January 2010)

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

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Litigation

MoJ: Review of civil litigation costs - final report: this is the final report of Lord Justice Jackson's comprehensive review of civil litigation costs. His proposals include a wide-ranging package of reforms designed to bring costs under control and make them fairer, and cover a number of key areas, including qualified ‘one way costs shifting’ (whereby claimants will only make a small contribution to defendant costs if a claim is unsuccessful as long as they have behaved reasonably), defamation and judicial review. The report sets out a coherent package of interlocking reforms, which are designed to reduce litigation costs and to promote access to justice. (14 January 2010)
Bevan Brittan has published an Alert that discusses the implications of the report for public bodies: The Jackson Report on costs - implications for public bodies.

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

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Maladministration

LGO / PHSO: Environmentally unfriendly - a report of a joint investigation by the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Local Government Ombudsman:  the two Ombudsmen have recommended that the Environment Agency, Lancashire CC and Rossendale BC pay £95,000 in compensation to Mrs D and her son for the years of extreme distress, aggravation and financial loss suffered after the three public bodies failed to stop a neighbour from using his land as an illegal landfill site. Mrs D and her son lived in a green belt area noted for its biological and archaeological heritage. From 2000-2007 thousands of tonnes of rubbish were illegally dumped, burned and processed on farmland a few metres from Mrs D’s home, enough to fill three Olympic-sized swimming pools. Their complaints about the damage the waste was causing to the environment and their property went unchecked for seven years. The Ombudsmen found that the three public bodies failed to work together despite the existence of a national protocol which clearly required a coordinated joint approach on waste enforcement. (20 January 2010)

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

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Partnerships

DCLG: Research into multi-area agreements - long-term evaluation of LAAs and LSPs: this report looks at the negotiation and implementation of the first round of MAAs, focusing on why localities decided to create a partnership, what they hoped to achieve, and the implementation challenges for local partners, Government Offices and central government. There is also a summary of the key findings. (22 January 2010)

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

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Powers and Duties

Commission for Rural Communities: Economic well-being –guidance for local authorities: provides guidance to local authorities interested in promoting economic well-being under the power in s.2 LGA 2000. It explains the relevance of economic well-being to their work, including links to their statutory roles. (18 January 2010)

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

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Procurement

B2net Ltd v HM Treasury (sued as Buying Solutions) [2010] EWHC 51 (QBD): B2net, an information technology storage company, applied for an interim order preventing BS from continuing with its competitive public procurement to establish a framework agreement for the provision of IT goods and services to government. B2net submitted its completed PQQ but failed to be shortlisted by a small margin as it had failed to score maximum points in respect of a question about breadth of experience. B2net contended that the selection process was unfair. The court held, refusing to grant an injunction, that damages would provide B2net with an adequate remedy, and they would be more readily capable of calculation than many claims for damages for loss of business. If an injunction was granted but B2net failed to establish its case at trial, the disruption caused to the extensive range of public purchasers that were expected to use the framework, and to the other bidders, would inevitably be damaging, whereas the remedy under a cross-undertaking in damages would not prevent injustice to those parties. (20 January 2010)

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

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Rating

HM Treasury: Business rates supplements - guidance for local authorities: the Business Rate Supplements Act 2009 gives county councils, unitary authorities and the GLA a discretionary power to levy a supplement on the national business rate. Levying authorities will be able to retain the revenue raised from the supplement and use it to invest in additional projects aimed at promoting the economic development of their local area. This publication gives guidance to those English local authorities that are considering the use of such supplements to fund projects. (8 January 2010)

DCLG: Business rates information letter (1/2010) - The council tax and non-domestic rating (demand notices) regulations 2010: gives information on draft amendments to the Council Tax and Non-domestic Rating (Demand Notices) (England) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/2613) that will alter the explanatory notes accompanying the Non-domestic Rate Demand Notices as a result of the revaluation 2010 and other changes to rating policy, as from 1 April 2010. (28 January 2010)

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

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Regulatory Services

Draft Health Protection (Local Authority Powers) Regulations 2010: these draft regulations, which are due to come into force on 6 April 2010, give local authorities discretionary powers to take action to protect public health, by allowing them to impose restrictions or requirements in certain limited circumstances, and through formal powers to request cooperation for health protection purposes and to disinfect or decontaminate things or premises on request. The Regulations also place an obligation on third parties to co-operate in a particular circumstance. (19 January 2010)

Draft Health Protection (Part 2A Orders) Regulations 2010: these draft regulations, which are due to come into force on 6 April 2010, supplement the provisions in Part 2A of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 by which Justices of the Peace (JPs) may by order impose restrictions and requirements on people, or in relation to premises or things, for health protection purposes. The regulations set out requirements as to the evidence a JP must have before making an order, provide safeguards for people who might be affected by an order, and make provision for monitoring of orders and some procedural matters. (19 January 2010) 

DBIS: Implementing the EU Services Directive - January update: sets out the next steps that local authorities should take to meet their legal obligations under the EU Services Directive, and gives details of ongoing support. (21 January 2010)

DCLG: Houses in multiple occupation and possible planning responses: summary of responses to the recent Government consultation on three options for addressing the impact of high concentrations of houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). It announces new local powers to control the spread of high concentrations of shared rented homes and to tackle pockets of unsafe and substandard accommodation run by bad landlords. The changes mean that landlords will need to apply for planning permission in order to establish a new HMO with a change of use. (27 January 2010)
DCLG has also publshed a consultation on general consents for licensing schemes under Parts 2 and 3 of the Housing Act 2004 that seeks views on proposals for a general consent to enable local authorities to introduce additional HMO licensing and selective licensing schemes for privately rented properties without seeking the SoS's approval. Comments are required by 12 March 2010. (27 January 2010)

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

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Standards

Tribunals Service: Transfer of work from the Adjudication Panel for England into the unified tribunal system: the Adjudication Tribunal's work was transferred into the General Regulatory Chamber within the new First-tier Tribunal on 18 January 2010 under the Transfer of Tribunal Functions Order 2010 (SI 2010/22). As from that date the Panel is now known as the First–tier Tribunal (Local Government Standards in England). This letter gives details of the procedure rules that will now apply, and assesses the impact of hte transfer on users. (13 January 2010)

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

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Bevan Brittan's Local Government Training Programme

Bevan Brittan has developed a well-recognised programme of training designed to assist local authorities in successfully implementing legal change. Led by key members of our local authority team, each session will clearly explain the key aspects of the law and the implications for local government. Using case studies and carefully selected complementary speakers, they will assist attendees in realising the full benefits of implementation and the dangerous pitfalls in failure to act.

Forthcoming seminars in 2010 include:

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

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