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    Education
   Byelaws    Efficiency
   Charging and Trading    Equality 
   Children's Services    Health and Social Care
   Contracts     Maladministration
   Economic Development    Powers and Duties
   Bevan Brittan's Local Government Training Programme


Access to Information

MoJ: Plans to extend freedom of information: announces that the Government is considering extending the scope of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to additional bodies, in order to increase transparency. Any such extension will take account of the burdens that this would place on bodies to be covered. (7 September 2010)

Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill 2010-11: this Private Member's Bill, introduced into the House of Commons by Tom Brake MP, amends the Freedom of Information Act 2000: to remove provisions permitting Ministers to overrule decisions of the Information Commissioner and Information Tribunal; to limit the time allowed for public authorities to respond to requests involving consideration of the public interest; and to amend the definition of public authorities. The 2nd Reading is scheduled for 12 November 2010. (7 September 2010)

DEFRA: Getting started guidance - the UK implementation of INSPIRE: the European INSPIRE Directive 2007/2 requires that member states provide public access to location based data related to the environment according to specific technical standards. It is implemented in the UK by the INSPIRE Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/3157) that came into force on 31 December 2009. The legislation is relevant to local authorities both as producers, sharers and users of spatial data. This guidance explains how the INSPIRE Directive and UK regulations are being implemented in the UK through the design of the UK Location Information Infrastructure (UKLII). (6 September 2010)
See also the LGA's research on The Value of Geospatial Information that looks at excellent and innovative examples showing the benefits of geospatial information in local service delivery and citizen and business engagement.

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

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DCLG: Bypass Whitehall and scrap outdated byelaws: the Local Government Minister has outlined plans to give councils a new power to review and revoke outdated byelaws. Under the planned reforms, councils will be able to create new byelaws or get rid of old ones without seeking permission from Whitehall; instead, they will be required to consult with local residents based on an assessment of why a law should be created or cancelled. it is hoped that  the new powers will come in early next year. (31 August 2010)

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

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Charging and Trading

LG Improvement & Development: Tougher times - enterprising councils: this is the first in a series of online guides for councillors, to help them lead local communities through the much tougher times ahead when central funding for council services will reduce significantly. It focuses on opportunities to generate income from trading and charging. (2 September 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

Children's Trust Board (Children and Young People's Plan) (England) (Revocation) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/2129): these regulations, which come into force on 31 Octobe r2010, revoke SI  2010/591 which set out the essential steps that every Children’s Trust Board must take to prepare and publish a Children and Young People’s Plan by 1 April 2011. (2 September 2010)

Children's Workforce Development Council: Funding of £1.5m to increase skills in social care: announces funding to help children's social care employers in England with funding staff to take specified Children and Young People qualifications. The fund is also available to all foster care providers (including local authorities) registering foster carers to undertake Level 3 qualifications. The training must start between 20 September and 19 November 2010. (6 September 2010)

LGA: Parents and teachers the source of most career guidance, LGA research shows: reports the findings of two pieces of research commissioned by the LGA on careers guidance and advisory services for young people. A new study carried out by NFER  highlights the significant contribution that Connexions staff have been able to make to a small number of young people in very specific circumstances, but complementary work by the NYA suggests that the vast majority do not benefit to the same extent. The LGA believes that such support can still be provided if resources are targeted more effectively. (8 September 2010)

Ofsted: Guidance on regulating childcare in women's refuges: this guidance assists the National Business Unit, inspectors and the Compliance, Investigation and Enforcement Team in carrying out registrations, inspections and compliance investigations of childcare provided in women’s refuges, in line with the protocol with the Women’s Aid Federation. (8 September 2010)

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

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Connaught Plc enters administration: as has been widely reported, Connaught Plc, the parent company of the building services group Connaught, has been placed into administration along with its subsidiary Connaught Partnerships Ltd. The majority of Connaught’s social housing business has been sold to Morgan Sindall. This briefing note considers how this will affect those local authorities that have existing contracts with Connaught, and the options available. (10 September 2010)

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

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Economic Development

DCLG: Economy needs local remedies not regional prescription: this article by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and Business Secretary Vince Cable discusses the Government's proposals for improving local economies. It focuses on Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) which will replace the RDAs. The article first appeared in the Financial Times. (6 September 2010)

DBIS: New Local Enterprise Partnerships criss-cross the country: gives details of the 56 proposals for new LEPs. Ministers will now consider the proposals in detail, looking at how they will support economic growth, before providing feedback to partnerships ahead of the publication of the White Paper on sub-national economic growth and the introduction of the Localism Bill. (7 September 2010)

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

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DfE: Applying for Criminal Records Bureau check on staff and governors: all academies are registered as independent schools and as such the governors and staff must have received an enhanced CRB check. This guidance advises academies on changes introduced by the Education (Independent School Standards) (England) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/1997) that apply from 1 September 2010. The changes affect both the timing of the checks and, in the case of a maintained school converting to an academy, the circumstances whereby the chair of the academy trust or any of the governors may no longer need to have a further check undertaken. (31 August 2010)

DfE: 142 schools to convert to academy status weeks after Academies Act passed: gives details of the first wave of schools that are converting to academies in a rolling process that allows schools to convert at any stage. So far, 216 schools will become academies this academic year - 32 opened at the beginning of September and a further 110 schools have had Academy Orders signed so should convert to academies over the coming months. The 142 schools that have successsfully applied to become academies include seven primary schools which become the first ever primary academies to open. The DfE has published a list of all schools becoming academies this September term and also a list of applications for academy status and Academy Orders. (1 September 2010)

DfE: Innovation in pupil place planning: this Written Ministerial Statement informs Parliament about porgress with the Free Schools programme. It lists the 16 proposals that have been approved to go forward to business case and plan stage in full. The statement also outlines the next steps in the process for the proposers. (6 September 2010)

DfE: Written Ministerial Statement - Wolf Review of Vocational Education: announces that the Secretary of State for Education has asked Professor Alison Wolf to carry out an independent review of vocational education. Professor Wolf will look at the organisation of vocational education and its responsiveness to a changing labour market, and will consider ways to increase incentives for young people to participate. The review will also take explicit account of good practice in a selection of developed economies. Professor Wolf is due to submit a final report in Spring 2011, which will include recommendations on how vocational education can be improved. (9 September 2010)

National Audit Office: The Academies Programme: this report examines how academies have performed in delivering the Programme's intended improvements. It finds that most are achieving greater rates of improvement in academic attainment than their predecessor schools. However, it warns that it cannot be assumed that academies' performance to date is an accurate predictor of how the model will perform when generalised more widely under the 2010 Act. Existing academies have been primarily about school improvement in deprived areas, while new academies will often be operating in very different educational and social settings. The expansion of the Programme increases the scale of risks to value for money, particularly in the areas of financial sustainability, governance and management capacity. (10 September 2010)

DfE: Green Paper - children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities: call for views: the Government is planning to issue a Green Paper this Autumn that will look at radically improving the entire special educational needs (SEN) system. It will cover issues including school choice, early identification and assessment, funding and family support. This document invites views from everyone with an interest in services for children and young people with SEN or disabilities in England, to inform the development of the Green Paper's proposals. Comments must be submitted by 15 October 2010. (10 September 2010)

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

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Audit Commission: Strategic financial management in councils - delivering services with a reduced income: this report  looks at how organisations that manage their finances strategically are more adaptable and resilient when money is tight, and how other councils can learn from them. It points out potential financial pitfalls, highlights successes, and features a value for money self-assessment questionnaire that can be used locally. The findings in the report are supported by a good-practice checklist that describes the key issues for improving financial management. Councillors and managers can use the checklist to evaluate their current approach to financial management. (8 September 2010)

DCLG: Time to get innovative Bob Neill urges councils: reports on a speech given by Local Government Minister Bob Neill at a CIPFA conference. He stated that frontline services could be protected as finances get tighter if local authorities start to rethink procurement, sharing services and being more transparent to get value for money. He also hlighted examples of innovative councils. (8 September 2010)

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

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Equality Act 2010 (Obtaining Information) Order 2010 (SI 2010/2194): this Order, which comes into force on 1 October 2010, prescribes forms which may be used by a person who thinks that they have been treated unlawfully under the Equality Act 2010, to obtain information from the person they think is responsible for the unlawful treatment, either before or after commencing proceedings in a court or tribunal. It also: prescribes the period in which questions must be served to be admissible as evidence in proceedings; prescribes the manner in which any questions and answers may be served; and specifies circumstances in which a court or tribunal must not draw an inference from a failure to answer questions or an evasive or equivocal answer. (7 September 2010)

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

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Health and Social Care

Care Standards Act 2000 (Registration) (England) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/2130): these regulations, which come into force on 1 October 2010, set out revised registration requirements for children's homes, residential family centres, fostering agencies, voluntary adoption agencies and adoption support services that are registrable under the Care Standards Act 2000. (2 September 2010)

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

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Law Commission: Public Services Ombudsmen: seeks views on detailed provisional proposals for reform of the five statutory ombudsmen, i.e. the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, the Health Services Ombudsman, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, the Local Government Ombudsman and the Housing Ombudsman. The Law Commission is suggesting a shake-up of procedures to bring consistency to the way these public services ombudsmen do business and to make it easier for the public to seek redress. The consultation closes on 3 December 2010. (2 September 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

New Local Government Network: Going nuclear? A general power of competence and what it could mean for local communities: this think tank report discusses the proposed new general power of competence for local authorities. It concludes that the new power will only work if the ultra vires principle is abolished. The think-tank urges the Government to abolish the ultra vires principle and allow councils to implement actions unless they are expressly forbidden by law. The report calls for ministers to hand councils power to develop new revenue streams and income, and allowed to work more innovatively in partnership with the private sector, local community groups and other public bodies to drive out savings and re-design services. It analyses possible new ventures and activities for local authorities to consider. (31 August 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.

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

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

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