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:

   Children's Services    Parish Councils
   Delivery of Services    Procurement
   Duty of Care    Regulatory Services
   Education    Trusts
   Efficiency    Wales
   Bevan Brittan's Local Government Training Programme


Children's Services

DfE: Review of child protection - better frontline services to protect children: announces that the Secretary of State for Education has invited Professor Eileen Munro to conduct an independent review of children’s social work and frontline child protection practice, that will look at how to remove the barriers and bureaucracy which prevent social workers spending valuable time with vulnerable children. Professor Munro has been asked to report back with final recommendations in April 2011.
Also, Tim Loughton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families, has written to all Chief Executives, Directors of Children's Services, and Lead Members for Children's Services about a change to the statutory guidance set out in Chapter 8 or Working Together to Safeguard Children (2010) relating to the publication of serious case reviews (SCRs) . He confirmed that the overview report and the executive summary of all new SCRs initiated from 10 June should be published. The presumption is that all SCRs will be appropriately redacted, anonymised and published in full except where it would affect the welfare of any surviving children and their siblings. (10 June 2010)

DfE: Cross-Government savings - letter to local authorities: sets out the details of the Department's contribution to the £6.2bn of cross-government savings announced on Monday 24 May 2010, including reductions to specific budget lines and reduction in area based grants.  (16 June 2010)

DfE: ContactPoint - next steps and interim operations: this letter to Directors of Children's Services sets out the next steps for ContactPoint in light of the Government's commitment to end the system as soon as is practicable.  It also gives guidance for local authorities and others on interim operations, and outlines the new direction that Ministers have asked the Department to consider, and the likely timing of further developments. (16 June 2010)

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

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Delivery of Services

Office for National Statistics: Measuring outcomes for public service users - final report: the MOPSU, previously the QMF project, was a three year research project to develop new, and examine existing, measures of the outcomes of particular public services. In particular, it sought to estimate the extent of the third sector's role in service delivery and highlight relative performance. This report sets out the aims, methodology and findings of the three MOPSU work-strands (adult social care, early years education and the third sector) and sets out the benefits that have been realised through the completion of the project. The project concludes that the quality and outcomes for users of adult social care and early years education services offered by the voluntary, public and private sectors were on a par. The project's key findings are summarised in four documents:

(10 June 2010)

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

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Duty of Care

Lambert v Barratt Homes Ltd and Rochdale MBC [2010] EWCA Civ 681 (CA): the local authority appealed against the High Court's decision that it was liable in relation to flood damage to L's property. L's house was on land that the local authority had sold to BH for development. When developing the site, BH had blocked a drainage ditch and culvert, resulting in surface water from the authority's adjacent land occasionally flooding into L's property. The High Court found that BH was primarily responsible for the damage but that the local authority had breached its measured duty of care in failing to abate the nuisance, failing actively to cooperate in solving the problem and failing to construct the necessary relief works.
The court held, allowing the authority's appeal, that a measured duty of care in nuisance or negligence was a duty which was owed by one occupier of land to another. It was therefore necessary to consider what steps it was reasonable to expect the person on whose land the hazard had arisen to take to prevent damage to other land liable to be affected by it. By inference, the scope of the local authority's duty extended to carrying out and paying for the relief scheme, or substantial parts of it. While the nuisance continued the authority was under a continuing duty of care. The fact that L had a right to recover from BH the whole of the cost of the work was a powerful factor to take into account when determining the current scope of the local authority's duty of care. It was therefore not fair, just or reasonable to impose on the local authority a duty to carry out and pay for any part of the necessary relief works. It was under a duty to cooperate in a solution which involved the construction of suitable drainage and a catch pit on its retained land but that did not extend to obliging it to meet the whole cost of the relief works. (16 June 2010)

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

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DfE: Government announces changes to qualifications and the curriculum: announces that the Government has lifted restrictions that stopped state schools offering iGCSE qualifications in key subjects. It has also announced its intention to include iGCSE results in school performance tables as soon as possible. Also, development of the new Diplomas in science, humanities and languages, due to be introduced from September 2011, will cease immediately. This means instant savings of around £1.77m, plus further savings in future years. Nor will the Government proceed with the last Government’s proposed new primary curriculum, which was based on a review led by Sir Jim Rose; the existing primary curriculum will continue to be in force in 2011/12 and primary schools should plan on that basis. (7 June 2010)

DfE: Free school meals continue; costly expansion plans shelved: clarifies the Government's announcement that it will not proceed with the additional free school meals pilots nor the extension of free school meals to some primary school children. All pupils who are currently eligible to receive free school meals will continue to receive them. (9 June 2010)
See also the DfE's FAQs and answers regarding free school meals. (16 June 2010)

Ofsted: Local authorities and home education: this report evaluates how well a sample of local authorities discharged their duties towards children and young people who are educated at home. It considers the views of parents and their children, the reasons why some families chose home education, and the implications for the welfare and education of children and young people. it concludes that local authorities need more information and understanding about home education to provide effective support for children educated at home.
The DfE has issued a statement that clarifies the existing funding arrangements for home educated children. The Department has not yet been able to consider in detail the policy for home education and the provision of additional support. (17 June 2010)

DfE: Free Schools: the Secretary of State has unveiled the major first step towards the first Free Schools by inviting groups interested in setting up a new school to come forward and start developing their proposals. Free Schools are independent all-ability state-funded schools set up in response to parental demand; they will enjoy the same freedoms as academies, free from local authority control. Other freedoms include setting their own pay and conditions for staff, freedom from following the National Curriculum, and the ability to change the lengths of their terms and school days. All Free Schools will be accountable like other state schools via inspections and tests. The DfE and the New Schools Network will work with the different groups who want to join this first wave of Free Schools to help them to iron out any difficulties they face, and develop the models for the development of future free schools. It expects the first Free Schools to be able to open in September 2011. The Secretary of State has also written to local authorities setting out the DfE's new policy on Free Schools . More information on the criteria and process for setting up a Free School is on the DfE website. (18 June 2010)

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

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HM Treasury: The Spending Review framework: sets out details of the process and principles that will underpin the Spending Review, which will report in the autumn. The Spending Review will set spending limits for every Government department for the period 2011-12 to 2014-15. For a summary of the Framework, see the press release. In the June Budget, to be delivered on 22 June, the Government will set the overall path for the public finances, including expenditure, over the rest of the Parliament. (8 June 2010)

DCLG: Government sets out further detail on local government savings: gives details of the £1.166bn Local Government contribution to the £6.2bn cross-government savings in 2010/11. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has confirmed that no local authority will face reductions in their revenue grant of more than 2 per cent. The press release includes a table showing where the savings will be made, including £61.4m from unspecified major projects. There is also a spreadsheet giving details of grant reductions to individual local authorities and a document listing Ring-fences removed from local government funding streams. (10 June 2010)

Cabinet Office: Whitehall shake-up in drive for efficiency: announces that the Cabinet Office is setting up an Efficiency and Reform Group that will have a strong mandate at the centre of government to ensure departments work together to quickly tackle waste and improve accountability. Responsibility for the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) and Buying Solutions will move to the Cabinet Office where they will form part of the new group, thus bringing together in one place all the cross-government operational functions, including procurement, project management, IT and Civil Service workforce and reform. (15 June 2010)

HM Treasury: Action to tackle poor value for money and unfunded spending commitments: announces which projects re-submitted to the Treasury will be suspended and cancelled as part of a review of all spending decisions taken since 1 January. Projects have been cancelled where they were not affordable, did not represent good value for money, or where they did not reflect the Government's priorities. The Chief Secretary has also announced an urgent review of inherited spending commitments for 2010-11, where funding was reliant on underspending through the End Year Flexibility system, or additional funding from the Reserve. The projects include the Local Authority Business Growth Initiative (LABGI), the Library Modernisation programme and the Free Swimming progamme. The press release has a link to the full list of projects affected. (17 June 2010)

DCLG: Scrapping regional bureaucracies will save millions: announces that the Government is abolishing regional Leaders Boards, which were established by the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 to take over most of the functions and staff of the old regional assemblies, in particular the spatial planning functions. Following the abolition of the regional spatial strategies, responsibility for strategic planning will lie with local authorities who will decide how they will work together on planning issues that cross administrative boundaries (17 June 2010)

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

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Parish Councils

NALC: Manifesto for the future of local councils: sets out NALC's vision for a vibrant, dynamic and effective local council sector that makes a positive difference to communities and local people. It sets out a number of key issues for the future of local councils, which it believes will help create the environment to unlock the potential of local councils to play a greater role at local level and improve their productivity and effectiveness. (14 June 2010)

NALC: Power to the people – Your guide to creating a local council for your community: this toolkit is aimed at helping more people and communities set up a parish, town, community or other local council in their area. It explains what local councils are, what benefits they can bring to a community, provides ideas on how to promote local councils to residents, and suggests how to generate local support. It sets out the steps which need to be taken to trigger a community governance review and what steps a new local council can take once it has been established. (14 June 2010)

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

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DCLG: More councils must be savvy shoppers: reports that the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is calling on councils to make every pound go further in the face of the nation's £156bn deficit. Ministers want to see councils working together to use their collective buying power and innovative technology like e-auctions to get better deals from their suppliers. The Secretary of State says that a renewed and concerted focus on better procurement, greater transparency and shared services that puts the emphasis on productivity above processes will end duplication, wasteful spending and wasteful working. (16 June 2010)

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

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Regulatory Services

LBRO: Primary Authority scheme in line for expansion: the Primary Authority scheme provides reliable and consistent advice from a single source for companies that operate under two or more local councils, when dealing with environmental health, trading standards, health and safety, and licensing services. This press release announces that Ministers have asked the Better Regulation Executive to work with LBRO to prepare options for extending the scheme into areas such as fire safety, alcohol sales and gambling. (15 June 2010)

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

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Dore (suing on behalf of Breedon on the Hill Community Association (BOTHCA)) v Leicestershire CC and Governors of St Hardulph's Church of England Primary School [2010] EWHC 1387 (Ch) (Ch D): BOTHCA, a charitable unincorporated association, brought a number of claims against the local authority under both private law (based on contract, proprietary estoppel and/or constructive trust) and public law in relation to the management of premises comprising a school and community centre. The funds for building the premises had mainly been provided by the local authority, but one sixth had been raised by the parish council during the 1940s and 1950s. BOTHCA had been formed under a 1958 scheme and the money was transferred to it; it then paid the money to the local authority after the premises had been built. Disputes arose as to whether the local authority was entitled to charge BOTHCA for use of the premises, and whether it could restrict BOTHCA's use of the premises. There was community support for BOTHCA's proposal for an amendment to the arrangements for using the premises, but the local authority considered the proposal to be unworkable, and it gave notice for the arrangements to be terminated. BOTHCA argued that (1) the local authority was contractually bound to provide facilities at the premises at its own expense; (2) either a constructive trust or proprietary estoppel had arisen because of the money it had contributed, meaning that the local authority held one sixth of the beneficial interest for BOTHCA; and (3) the local authority's decision to end the arrangement was flawed on public law grounds.
The court held that (1) on a reasonable and objective reading of the 1958 scheme, the local authority was entitled to treat the needs of the school as having priority over the requirements of BOTHCA, and it was entitled to levy charges in respect of the use of the premises; (2) the parish committee had raised money for charitable purposes and it had held the money on trust. Under the agreement to develop the premises, the local authority had become bound to hold them as property impressed with a trust to be used in part for the charitable purpose of providing premises for the benefit of the community and also for educational charitable trust purposes. Such obligation as the local authority had to fund the premises was governed by usual public law principles and not by any private law obligation. It was entitled to withdraw funding support for community activities over time, and as it did so it was entitled to impose charges; and (3)  it had been rational for the local authority to accept advice that B's proposal would make the school unviable. Nor did B have a legitimate expectation that it could use the premises on terms that the local authority would pay all expenses. Further, the local authority's reasons for rejecting the proposal were genuine, legitimate, and in line with local and national policy. (11 June 2010)

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

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SOLACE Wales: Challenging times - an opportunity for change: this report by Deloitte for SOLACE Wales examines the financial position of local authorities in Wales. It finds that Welsh councils are facing a £989m funding gap over the next four years and concludes that only major transformational change across the whole Welsh public sector will deliver services which meet the expectations of citizens within the resources available. (17 June 2010)

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

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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.

The full Local Government Training Programme is available on our website. Forthcoming seminars in 2010 include:

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

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