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:  

   Adult Social Services    Libraries 
   Bribery and Corruption    Nuisance
   Children's Services    Procurement
   Delivery of Services    Public Health
   Education    Social Enterprises
   Finance    Standards
   Bevan Brittan's Local Government Training Programme


Adult Social Services

DH: Progress report: evaluation of the national integrated care pilots: this report looks at Ernst & Young's and RAND Europe's independent evaluation of the 16 integrated care pilots in the NHS. It sets out the process in detail and highlights some emergent findings. (22 November 2010)

DH: Experiences of implementing personal health budgets - 2nd interim report: this report focuses on the personal health budget implementation process. It covers the views of a number of organisational representatives around the implementation of personal health budgets within 20 in-depth sites. (23 November 2010)

DWP: Local delivery of joined-up services for older people: this research report presents findings from qualitative research into local areas that have joined-up the delivery of services for older people. It addresses why and how local areas have joined-up these services, discussing how barriers can be overcome and provides examples of good practice to be shared across the local authority community. (23 November 2010)

DH: Expressions of interest to run social work practice (SWP) pilots: this letter to Directors of Adult Social Services calls expressions of interest from local authorities to be pilot sites for social work practices for the adult sector, following the successful introduction of practice pilots for looked after children. SWPs will be organisations that are led by social workers but are independent of the local authority and will provide social work services for adults. They should give more discretion to social work professionals to work closely with the people who use services. They will discharge statutory duties and responsibilities of the local authority in relation to these people. SWPs will be funded by local authorities using resources currently spent on those adults that will be transferred to the SWP. Submissions must be made by 24 December 2010. (24 November 2010)

DH: Recognised, valued and supported - next steps for the Carers Strategy: this strategy identifies the actions that the Government will take over the next four years to support its priorities to ensure the best possible outcomes for carers and those they support. It covers supporting those with caring responsibilities to identify themselves as carers at an early stage, enabling them to fulfil their educational and employment potential and supporting their own mental and physical well-being. (25 November 2010)

Commission on Funding of Care and Support: Call for evidence: the Dilnot Commission has issued a call for evidence on what a future funding system for care and support should look like. The document sets out its role and remit, its analysis of the current system and where it thinks reform is needed. It also explains how the Commission plans to assess possible options. Submissions must be made by 28 January 2011. (1 December 2010)

R (KM by his mother and litigation friend JM) v Cambridgeshire CC [2010] EWHC 3065 (Admin) (Admin Ct): K, who suffered from physical and mental disabilities and required significant support in his everyday life, applied for judicial review of the local authority's decision to award him £84,678 as a direct payment to meet his assessed care needs. The authority determined the level of funding required by using a resource allocation tool for determining an indicative level of funding. That figure was then checked against K's care assessment to ensure that the funding level would reasonably meet his assessed needs. The social worker later reassessed K's needs and also produced an addendum report setting out services which he assessed as necessary to meet K's needs and their cost. The local authority accepted the later needs assessment but it stated that the services assessment suggested unnecessary services. K submitted that the local authority failed to provide an explanation setting out the services required to meet his needs, the decision-making process was opaque and lacked the necessary transparency and there was no intelligible explanation for the figures provided.
The court held, refusing the application, that the criticisms of the local authority wholly failed to recognise how the self-directed support system worked. The system was designed to provide a sufficient sum to meet K's needs but it was up to K to determine how to spend that sum. The services proposed by the social worker were unnecessary to meet K's needs and the cost of providing services which were necessary to meet K's needs, as assessed by the social worker, were unnecessarily high. Further, it was a misunderstanding of the system to approach the funding from the service provision end rather than working from needs. The calculations and explanation of them were compliant with the relevant guidance and, whether or not K agreed with the local authority's approach to the assessment of his needs, proper reasons had been given. (26 November 2010)

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

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Bribery and Corruption

R v Webster [2010] EWCA Crim 2819 (CA): W appealed against his conviction under s.1(2) of the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889 for corruptly giving a gift to a local authority employee. W had conducted a business which supplied educational aids to schools, and about 50 per cent of his business came from the local authority. W gave £100 cash as a Christmas gift to the employee who processed many of the orders placed by schools for the supply of educational aids. The issue was whether the reversal of the legal burden of proof under s.2 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1916 was an unnecessary, unreasonable or disproportionate interference with the presumption of innocence under Art.6 ECHR, and whether s.3 of the Human Rights Act 1998 permitted the court to read down s.2 so as require the appellant to discharge an evidential burden rather than the legal burden of proving that the gift was not made “corruptly”. W argued that he did not receive a fair trial because s.2 of the 1916 Act required him to “prove” that the gift admittedly made was not “given corruptly as an inducement or reward” and violated the presumption of innocence.
The court held, allowing the appeal, that s.2 did not have a life of its own and the underlying thrust of the legislation was that revealed by the offences created by s.1 of the 1889 Act. Parliament intended that s.3 of the Human Rights Act 1998 should be used in circumstances such as in this case to render the legislation compliant with Art.6(2). Reading down section 2 would place a burden upon the defendant to raise in the evidence an issue whether a gift was corruptly made within the meaning of s.1 of the 1889 Act. The ultimate legal burden of proving to the criminal standard that the gift was corruptly made would rest upon the prosecution. Section 2 of the 1916 Act as applied to s.1(2) of the 1889 Act unjustifiably interfered with the presumption of innocence in Art.6(2). If s.2 had been read down and the jury had been appropriately directed, there was a real possibility that the verdict would have been not guilty. The verdict of guilty was therefore unsafe. (1 December 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

Visits to Former Looked After Children in Detention (England) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/2797): these regulations, which come into force on 1 April 2011, provide for visiting requirements for children and young people who were looked after by a local authority but have ceased to be so as a result of being detained in an institution, either having been remanded to prison custody or following conviction and sentencing by a court. They set out the duties of the local authority towards such children in detention and also the functions and duties of the local authority’s representative who has been appointed to visit the child. The provisions ensure that the child is provided with appropriate support during their time in custody and that suitable arrangements can be made to provide support to them on their release, where appropriate. (25 November 2010)

Commission for Rural Communities: Commissioning children’s centres - a rural perspective: this short guide focuses on families with young children in rural areas and the implications for children's centres commissioning and delivery at a time of change and new directions. It considers the challenges for commissioners and providers on how best to adapt the children’s centre model to meet the needs of rural communities and to support those families most in need. (25 November 2010)

National Assembly for Wales Health, Wellbeing and Local Government Committee: Inquiry into Local Safeguarding Children Boards in Wales: this report considered  whether LSCBs are performing effectively and consistently across Wales in strengthening arrangements for protecting and promoting the welfare of children. It found that there is too much confusion and a lack of information surrounding the role bodies set up to help protect children in Wales. The Committee makes a number of recommendations regarding role requirements, responsibility and accountability. (30 November 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

HM Treasury: Call for evidence on public service reform: the Spending Review set out the Government's ambitions for the future of public services, focusing on shifting power away from central government to citizens, communities and independent providers, so they can play a greater role in shaping services. Building on major reforms in schools, the NHS, welfare and justice, the Spending Review announced that the Government will develop further policies that shift power to the users of public services and support the judgement of public sector professionals. These plans will also allow greater diversity of service provision and introduce new forms of accountability so that underperformance is no longer tolerated. This paper seeks the views of frontline staff, managers and independent providers of public services, think tanks and users of services on how these reforms could be successfully implemented. Comments are required by 5 January 2011. (26 November 2010)

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

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Freedom of Information (Time for Compliance with Request) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/2768): these regulations, which came into force on 18 November 2010, modify the period within which proprietors of Academies must respond to requests for information under the FOIA 2000. The proprietor of an Academy must comply with the request within 20 working days of the date of receipt, disregarding any working day which, in relation to the Academy, is not a school day, or within 60 working days following the date of receipt, whichever is the sooner. (17 November 2010)

DfE: The importance of teaching - the Schools White Paper 2010: this White Paper  sets out the Government's plans for continuing to take the action that is urgently needed to improve the schools system, with a radical reform programme that puts teachers at the heart of school improvement and frees schools from central government direction. It outlines the steps necessary to enact education reform, to allow every child the chance to take their full and equal share in citizenship and shape their own destiny. It encompasses both profound structural change and rigorous attention to standards, and includes a plan for attracting and training even better teachers. (24 November 2010)

National Assembly for Wales Public Accounts Committee: Capital investment in schools: this report examines the processes used by the Welsh Government to decide and implement capital investment in schools. It concludes that while the recently established 21st Century Schools programme has gone some way toward addressing weaknesses in past strategies, there are still gaps which need filling. It makes a number of recommendations regarding the true cost and timescale for bringing schools in each local authority area up to the agreed ‘fit for purpose’ standard. (3 December 2010)

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

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Audit Commission: Claims and returns - good practice for authorities: this briefing sets out what the Commssion considers to be good practice for authorities in administering grant schemes. It poins out  that all parties to a scheme will benefit where authorities take care to ensure that their claims and returns are completed accurately, submitted promptly and are supported by comprehensive documentation. (25 November 2010)

DCLG: Rainy day reserves could help councils invest to save: the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is exhorting councils to consider the merits of temporarily dipping into the money they have set aside as part of their plans to address immediate financial challenges, with a view to building up their reserves again in the sunnier days to come. The press release includes a link to a spreadsheet giving levels of reserves by authority for 2010/11. (30 November 2010)

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

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DCLG: Local decisions - a fairer future for social housing: seeks views on the Government's plans for radical reform to the social housing system. The proposals aim to make the system fairer, giving councils the option to offer flexible tenancies and greater local discretion to decide allocations, so better use is made of this national resource, and also to ensure that social landlords can make better use of social housing and target support where it is needed most. The proposed rules strike a balance between the needs of new and existing tenants, and ensure that social housing support is focused on the most vulnerable and those who need it most, for as long as they need it. The paper also covers the introduction of a new 'affordable rent' tenancy and changes to the system of council housing finance. It includes measures to improve mobility, tackle overcrowding and under-occupation. The consultation closes on 17 January 2011. (22 November 2010)

The LGA has issued a briefing on the Government's plans to reform social housing, and is seeking members' views on the proposals.

HCA: Support confirmed for Housing PFI schemes: announces that 13 housing schemes currently in procurement and worth over £1.2bn will continue to be supported through the Private Finance Initiative during the next spending review period. Also, 25 housing schemes under contract will continue to be supported; however funding support will be withdrawn for a further 13 pipeline schemes that would have cost an additional £1.9bn. A full list of Housing PFI schemes in procurement and in the pipeline can be downloaded from the HCA website. (22 November 2010)

DCLG: Estimating housing need: this research by Heriot-Watt University assesses and forecasts housing need in England, in terms of a range of housing outcomes including overcrowding, homelessness and unsuitable accommodation. (22 November 2010)

National Assembly for Wales: Consultation on proposed Housing (Wales) Measure: the National Assembly's Legislation Committee No.2 is seeking views on a proposed Measure which would give Welsh Ministers the power to temporarily suspend the Right-to-Buy and the right-to-acquire held by tenants of social housing providers in Wales in areas of housing pressure. The Measure would also provide Welsh Ministers with a range of intervention powers that would strengthen the regulation of Registered Social Landlords, matching those powers already available to the regulator in England. The text of the Measure and the Explanatory Memorandum are on the NAW's website. The consultation closes on 5 January 2011. (23 November 2010)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Penny Rinta-Suksi.

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MLA: What do the public want from libraries?: this research by Shared Intelligence and Ipsos MORI provides an up to date picture of what the public wants from library services. It provides a timely pointer to how councils, faced with difficult financial choices, should shape the service for the future. it shows that while books remain at the core of the public's expectation for the service, there is clear demand for customer-friendly features such as online book lending, children's facilities, adult classes, helpful staff, convenient opening hours and a good cup of coffee. (22 November 2010)

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Penny Rinta-Suksi.

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DEFRA: Responses to the consultation on dangerous dogs: this consultation sought views on whether current legislation relating to dangerous dogs adequately protects the public and encourages responsible dog ownership. The summary shows that responses to many of the 40 proposals were strongly divided, with primary concerns being whether the bans on specific dog breeds were the best approach to reduce dog attacks, and how to deal promptly and effectively with those that allow their dogs to be a nuisance to others. The Animal Welfare Minister Lord Henley has said that he will announce the Government’s approach to dangerous dogs early in the New Year. (25 November 2010)

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

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HM Treasury: Review of competitive dialogue: the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group are currently undertaking a Lean Procurement Review to uncover the causes of delay in the procurement process and to suggest actions to rectify them. This report  considers the impact of the Competitive Dialogue process on public sector procurements in the UK, and contains a number of  recommendations to improve the procurement process, achieve better value for money and shorten delivery times. It has been submitted by HMT as evidence to the ERG Review for their consideration. (30 November 2010)

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

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Public Health

LGI&D: The role of local government in promoting wellbeing: this report, jointly commissioned by LG Improvement & Development and the National Mental Health Development Unit , examines how local government can support a better life for its citizens to help build resilient communities, both now and in the long term. It finds that while local government has begun to engage with the evidence base on wellbeing, much more needs to be done. In becoming ‘wellbeing aware’ at every level, local government has the opportunity to think and act differently in order to realise cost savings, and at the same time build healthier, more equal and more capable communities. It will also help to enhance communities’ abilities to participate in the ‘big society’ and in local decision making. (26 November 2010)

DH: Healthy lives, healthy people White Paper - Our strategy for public health in England: this White Paper sets out details of the Government’s long-term vision for the future of public health in England, as outlined in the Health White Paper "Equity and excellence - liberating the NHS". The aim is to create a ‘wellness’ service, Public Health England (PHE), and to strengthen both national and local leadership. PHE will be created as a service that gives more power to local people over their health, whilst keeping a firm national grip on crucial population-wide issues such as flu pandemics. The White Paper also sets out how funding from the overall NHS budget will be ring-fenced for spending on public health. Early estimates suggest that current spend on areas that are likely to be the responsibility of PHE could be in the range of £4bn. The majority of public health services will be commissioned by local authorities from their ring-fenced budget or by the NHS, all funded from PHE's new public health budget. In addition:

  • Directors of Public Health will be employed by the relevant upper-tier or unitary local authority and be the ambassadors of health issues for the local population; they will lead discussion about how the ring-fenced money is spent and also influence investment decisions right across the local authority.
  • The Government will take forward detailed proposals for the establishment of health and wellbeing boards in every upper-tier local authority.

  • The core elements of the new system will be set out in the forthcoming Health and Social Care Bill that is due to be published early in the New Year. The consultation closes on 8 March 2011. 
    The Secretary of State for Health has written to local authority Chief Executives summarising the main proposals in the White Paper. (30 November 2010)
DH: Review of the regulation of public health professionals: this report looks at the issue of professional regulation within public health on behalf of the Chief Medical Officers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Public Health White Paper invites views on the report, and asks a specific consultation question on this report. (30 November 2011)

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

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Social Enterprises

Public Services (Social Enterprise and Social Value) Bill: this Private Member's Bill, introduced into the House of Commons by Chris White MP, has received its 2nd Reading. The Bill aims to strengthen the social enterprise business sector and make the concept of 'social value' more relevant and important in the placement and provision of public services. It places new duties on central and local government authorities to publish explicit strategies for supporting these values and the public procurement process will need to reflect and measure them. The House of Commons Library has published a research paper that sets out the background to the Bill and discusses its provisions. (19 November 2010)

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

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DCLG: Abolition of the Standards Board regime: outlines details of the abolition of the Standards Board regime that will be effected through the Localism Bill, anticipated to be laid before Parliament on 9 December 2010 and to receive Royal Assent in late 2011. The requirement for local authorities to adopt a model code of conduct and to maintain standards committees will be abolished. However, local authorities will be free to adopt their own, voluntary code of conduct should they so wish, and to establish voluntary standards committees to consider complaints about the conduct of elected and co-opted members. Such committees will be able to censure but will not be able to suspend or disqualify members from council membership. The present conduct regime will continue to function in a normal manner until a fixed date, probably two months after the Bill receives Royal Assent. There will be transitional provisions covering allegations in the process of investigation and pending appeals at that date. (1 December 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: 

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

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