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||Governance|
|Adult Social Services||Maladministration|
|Comprehensive Area Assessment||Structural Change|
|Bevan Brittan's Local Government Training Programme|
DCLG: New era of transparency will bring about a revolution in town hall openness and accountability: the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has written to all councils urging them to publish details of all spending over £500 in full and online as part of wider action to bring about a revolution in town hall openness and accountability. He has said that transparency and openness must be the default setting for the way councils do their business and he will call on local government to move at speed to adopt this new approach. By September 2010, councils will be expected to make details of spending on all goods and services that fall above the £500 threshold available for the public to see and scrutinise. All councils should be doing this as a matter of course by the start of next year, as well as publishing invitations to tender and final contracts on projects over £500. There will be inital guidelines on how to publish this information. In September draft Codes of Practice on payments over £500 and contracts/invitations to tender over £500 will be published for formal consultation; the final Codes of Practice will be published in November, so all authorities are able to publish in January 2011. (4 June 2010)
IDeA: Adult safeguarding scrutiny guide: this guide is written for local authority officers and members involved in the overview and scrutiny process, and also for independent chairs of Safeguarding Adults Boards who may be requested to participate in the work of overview and scrutiny committees (OSCs). It considers how local arrangements work to safeguard adults in the local authority area and how OSCs can contribute to better safeguarding in this complex and sensitive area of public service. It is designed to assist officers and members (and independent chairs) in shaping and developing the best way to exercise their responsibilities locally. The guide includes a set of key references and advice on further reading and websites that will be helpful when scrutinising safeguarding arrangements. (27 May 2010)
ContractsWestminster City Council v Urban Wimax Ltd  EWHC 1166 (Ch) (Ch D): this case concerned the construction of a contract between the local authority and UW for the provision of a broadband network. The contract included a pilot stage under which UW would deliver a pilot network to the local authority's area for six months and the local authority would provide up to eight rooftops as host sites for that period. UW claimed that the local authority was obliged to use those rooftops for 15 years for its network deployment, irrespective of whether the pilot was successful. It contended that the words "on completion of this agreement" in para.1 of the schedule meant on the execution of the agreement. It also claimed that there was an implied term that if the pilot was successful, the parties would implement and comply with their obligations under later paragraphs in the agreement. The judge dismissed UW's claim and gave summary judgment to the local authority.
The court held, dismissing UW's appeal, that it was clear that "on completion of this agreement" could not sensibly mean on execution or signing of the agreement, but rather meant on completing what was envisaged to be done in accordance with the agreement. If UW's construction were correct, it would mean that if the pilot stage was a failure, so that the local authority decided not to proceed with the network rollout, UW would nonetheless be free to use all the local authority's rooftops for its own commercial purposes without any collaboration or cooperation with the local authority. That was not consistent with the "objectives" of the agreement which provided for a "working partnership" whereby the parties cooperated. No pilot was ever conducted in accordance with the agreement as interpreted by the court, and therefore there was no breach of any implied term. Since that conclusion flowed from the proper construction of the contracts there was no obstacle in deciding the issue summarily. (25 May 2010)
Audit Commission: Comprehensive Area Assessments to end: following the coalition Government's announcement that it intends to abolish CAA, the Audit Commission has written to local strategic partnerships and other local bodies to let them know how it proposes to bring work on CAA to a conclusion. In his letter, Gareth Davies states that all work on updating the area assessment and organisational assessments will cease with immediate effect, and these assessments on the Oneplace website will not now be updated. (2 June 2010)
Academies Bill: this Bill has been introduced
into the House of Lords and received its 1st Reading. It enables
all maintained schools to apply to the Secretary of State to become
an Academy. It is the Secretary of State’s current intention to
approve all schools which have been judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted
unless there are good reasons not to. The
Bill aims to make the process of applying to become an
Academy as simple as possible and without a requirement for local
authorities to be consulted. Academy proprietors are to be
charities. (26 May 2010)
The DfE is encouraging all schools that wish to become an academy to register their interest - see the Academies education web page.
DfE: General Teaching Council for England (GTC) to be scrapped: announces that the Government is to abolish the GTC on the grounds that it does little to raise teaching standards or professionalism but instead simply acts as a further layer of bureaucracy while taking money away from teachers. (2 June 2010)
DCLG: Government sets out proposals to turn around failing Doncaster Council: announces a package of measures to turn around Doncaster Council, following an Audit Commission report that the Council is not properly run, is failing, and lacks the capacity to improve. (2 June 2010)
Law Commission: Administrative redress - public bodies and the citizen: sets out the Law Commission's conclusions following its consultation in 2008 that discussed when and how individuals should be able to obtain redress against public bodies that have acted in a substandard way. This report discusses individuals’ access to remedies through the courts, as well as through avenues outside the court system, such as the public sector ombudsmen. In examining court-based remedies, the Commission concludes that there are good arguments for reform but, given the level of opposition to its earlier proposals and the absence of available data on the costs of compensation paid by public bodies, work will not be taken forward on reviewing this area of the law. The report does, however, recommend that Government should establish a process for collecting and publishing information on the cost of public compensation. The Commission is taking forward its review of the public sector ombudsmen, following a favourable response to its proposals, and the scope of the review will be extended. The Commission will consult on its proposals for reform of public sector ombudsmen later in 2010 and should issue its final report in 2011. (26 May 2010)
DCLG: Eric Pickles calls time on unitary Norfolk, Suffolk and Devon: announces that a Bill has been introduced into Parliament that will stop the plan to create unitary councils in Exeter, Norwich and Suffolk. The Local Government Bill revokes the Exeter and Devon (Structural Changes) Order 2010 and the Norwich and Norfolk (Structural Changes) Order 2010. (26 May 2010)
Education (Amendments Relating to the Intervals for the Inspection of Education and Training) (Wales) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/1436 (W.127)): these regulations, which come into force in Wales on 1 September 2010, amend four sets of regulations so as to require Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales to secure that inspections take place within six years of the date of the last inspection. (19 May 2010)
Wales Audit Office: Buildings management national briefing: this breifing summarises the findings from detailed work reported locally to 30 of the larger Welsh public sector bodies including local government, police, fire and most central government bodies, and drawing also on existing information about buildings management in the NHS. It states that the Welsh public sector spends over £500m each year running land and buildings worth some £12bn. But most organisations’ land and buildings are not keeping pace with changing demands or delivering the best possible value for money. The condition of public sector land and buildings is generally poor and many organisations are breaching statutory health and safety requirements. (3 June 2010)
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.
The full Local Government Training Programme is available on our website. Forthcoming seminars in 2010 include:
- 8 June (London) and 10 June (Bristol): Procurement update
- 10 June (London): Outside bodies - governance and liabilities of members and officers on outside bodies (organised by Local Government Group)
- 22 June (Bristol), 24 June (Birmingham) and 29 June (London): Employment update
- 24 June (London): Renewing local democracy - Update on current legislation (organised by Local Government Group)
- 7 July (London): Renegotiating contracts (organised by Local Government Group)
- 21 July (London): Structures for shared services (organised by Local Government Group)
- 26 July (London): Post election - the local government
If you wish to attend any of these sessions please contact our Events team.