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 thefour weeksup to14 January 2011. Items are set out by subject, with a link to where the full document can be found on the internet.

14/01/2011

Claire Booth

Claire Booth

Professional Support Lawyer

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 four 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    Human Rights
   Adult Social Services    Licensing
   Anti Social Behaviour    Performance
   Children's Services    Procurement
   Education    Public Bodies
   Equality    Regulatory Services
   Finance     Traffic and Transport
   Fire and Rescue Authorities    Wales
   Health and Social Care

 

Access to Information

MoJ: Opening up public bodies to public scrutiny: gives details of plans to extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 so as to open up government and other bodies to public scrutiny. A Freedom Bill will be introduced into Parliament shortly that will amend s.6 of the FOI Act to extend it to companies wholly owned by more than one public authority, and to a range of other bodies performing functions of a public nature. The Bill will also amend the FOI Act to ensure that public authorities proactively release data in a way that allows businesses, non-profit organisations and others to re-use the information for social and commercial purposes. (7 January 2011)

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

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Adult Social Services

DH: Extra money to help people leaving hospital: announces an extra £162m available to local health and care services to spend this financial year on helping people to leave hospital more quickly, get settled back at home with the support they need, and to prevent unnecessary admissions to hospital. The funding will bring forward the plans being put in place by health and local authorities to work together using NHS funding to support social care, as announced in the Spending Review. It will also enable local services to respond to pressures this winter. The extra funding is in addition to the previously announced £70m that the NHS will spend this year on reablement services, and there will be a further provision of £300m by 2014-15 for continued investment in these front line services. (4 January 2011)

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

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Anti Social Behaviour

Home Office: New help for victims of antisocial behaviour: announces a six month trial in eight police authorities of a new approach for handling complaints of anti social behaviour that aims to help to identify and protect vulnerable victims quickly. The new approach includes installing IT systems to share information on cases between agencies, agreeing a protocol across all local agencies setting out how they will manage cases, and engaging with the community to set out clearly the issues which are causing the most harm to individuals and neighbourhoods, and how the police, other local agencies and the public can work together to address them. (4 January 2011)

DCLG: Pickles acts to protect rights of homeowners: announces changes to Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) that enable councils to take over properties that have been empty for as little as six months. Under the changes, EDMOs will be limited to properties that have been empty for at least two years and that have become magnets for vandalism, squatters and other forms of anti-social behaviour, and property owners will have to be given at least three months' notice before the order can be issued. The Government is proposing a New Homes Bonus as an incentive to bring empty properties back into use - under the scheme, the Government will match the council tax raised from any council tax collected from a property that previously stood empty. (7 January 2011)

DCLG: Neighbours from hell face swifter evictionannounces a package of measures, backed by £300,000 Government funding, towards tackling anti-social behaviour. These include a new additional mandatory ground for possession, so those tenants with a track record of anti-social behaviour can be evicted from their council or housing association property much more quickly. The Government is also reviewing the anti-social behaviour powers available to the police, councils and social landlords, and will publish a consultation on proposed changes shortly. (11 January 2011)

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

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Children's Services

Children and Young Persons Act 2008 (Commencement No.3, Saving and Transitional Provisions) Order 2010 (SI 2010/2981 (C.131)): this order brings s.17 and s.18 of the 2008 Act (children in long-term care) into force on 1 April 2011. It also brings s.1 of the Act into force on 16 December 2010 in relation to 10 specified authorities, enabling those authorities to enter into arrangements with a provider of social work services for the discharge by that provider of some or all of the authority's care functions. (15 December 2010)

DfE: Tackling child poverty and improving life chances - Consulting on a new approach: seeks views on a new approach to tackling poverty, building on Frank Field’s Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances and Graham Allen’s work on Early Intervention. The Child Poverty Act 2010 requires the Secretary of State to prepare a child poverty strategy that outlines the steps the Government plans to take to end child poverty by 2020. The new approach includes reforming Sure Start services to target the most needy, and handing back power to local communities, providing them with the powers, tools and information to determine and address local priorities and drive regeneration and growth, with support to help local authorities and their partners develop strategies to tackle both the causes of child poverty in their local areas and reduce and mitigate the effects. The consultation closes on 15 February 2011. (21 December 2010)

DfE: Research governance in Children's Services - the scope for new advice: the ethics and governance of research in Children’s Services raise particular issues, such as the governance of access to children and consent. In addition, since 2003, there have been major reforms in the way that children’s services are planned and delivered in central and local government. This project was commissioned by the former DCSF to inform the development of guidance on research governance and ethics review arrangements in Children's Services in England, with the overall goal of ensuring a more coherent and transparent system. (23 December 2010)

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

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Education

Young People's Learning Agency: Statutory Guidance: Arrangements for 16-19 funding of education and training: describes how a simplified allocations and funding system for education and training for 16-19 years olds will be put into practice for the 2011/12 academic year. It sets out the leadership role of local authorities, including their key statutory duty to secure suitable education and training for young people, and the role of autonomous schools, colleges and other providers of education and training working in partnership with each other and with local authorities to meet the needs of all young people. (21 December 2010)

Education (Local Authority and School Performance Targets) (Revocation and Amendment) (England) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/3014): these regulations, which come into force on 30 January 2011, revoke the Education (Local Authority Targets (England) Regulations 2005 (SI 2005/2450), so removing the requirement for local authorities to set education performance targets and to submit these targets to the Secretary of State for approval. They also amend the Education (School Performance Targets) (England) Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/2858), which require the governing bodies of maintained schools to set targets and submit details of these targets to local authorities by 15 January in the relevant school year, so that local authorities will be required to provide information about school targets to the Secretary of State by 31 January each year. (29 December 2010)

DfE: Letter from Michael Gove on music teaching:  the Secretary of State for Education has written to the NSPCC, the Musicians Union, Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and Youth Music in response to their advice to music teachers to avoid any physical contact with children.  He states that this advice sends out the completely wrong message, and that there are many occasions when it will be appropriate for techers to be in physical contact with a pupil. The Government is publishing new guidance on physical contact between staff and pupils, and will be amending the law to give teachers more protection against false allegations of abuse. (6 January 2011)

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

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Equality

Equalities and Human Rights Commission: The essential guide to the Public Sector Equality Duty: explains what public authorities in England and non-devolved bodies in Scotland and Wales have to do to comply with the new Public Sector Equality Duty that comes into force on 6 April 2011. This guide provides the main overview of the duty requirements. Four documents provide additional practical advice and advice on best practice regarding equaity analysis, engagement, equality objectives and equality information. The genenral duty requires public authorities to have due regard to what they are doing to tackle discrimination, harassment or victimisation. There are also additional specific duties on specified bodies regarding publication of information and equality objectives. (12 January 2011)

Draft Equality Act 2010 (Statutory Duties) Regulations 2011: these draft regulations, which are due to come into force on 6 April 2011, impose certain duties on the listed public authorities, in order to ensure better performance by the public authorities concerned of their duty to have due regard to the aims set out in paras.(a) - (c) of s.149(1) of the Equality Act 2010 (13 January 2011)

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

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Finance

DCLG: 2011/12 formula grant per head: this spreadsheet gives the results of a ready reckoner on local government finance that shows how the £21.5b of central taxpayer funding for local government is distributed around the country. There is also a map showing formula grant funding per head for 2011/12. (21 December 2010)

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

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Fire and Rescue Authorities

DCLG: Fire Futures - a fire sector led review: four reports have been published following an independent review into the role, efficiency and accountability of the fire and rescue service in England and its work with other emergency services. The reports put forward a range of ideas on how the fire and rescue sector can work together to address current and future challenges, and present new models and wide-ranging options for delivering fire and rescue services. The options include: a power of general competence for fire and resue authorities; a less prescriptive National Framework; and closer working between fire and ambulance services. (20 December 2010)

DCLG: The future of fire and rescue control services in England - Consultation: seeks views on on the future arrangements of fire and rescue control services in England following the decision to close down the FiReControl project. It discusses whether the original aims of the project (improving efficiency, national resilience and the technology available to fire and rescue services) are still valid and, if so, how they might be achieved now. It also considers the principles on which available funding should be distributed. The role of central government, if any, is also considered. The consultation closes on 8 April 2011. (13 January 2011)

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: Healthy lives, healthy people: consultation on the funding and commissioning routes for public health: explores the proposed funding and commissioning routes for public health, including the ring-fenced budget provided to local authorities. The consultation closes on 31 March 2011. (20 December 2010)

DH: Healthy lives, healthy people: transparency in outcomes - proposals for a public health outcomes framework: explores the proposed public health outcomes framework under the Public Health White Paper at national and local level. The consultation closes on 31 March 2011 (20 December 2010) 

DH: Local Involvement Networks (LINks) Annual Reports 2009/10: collates information on resources, activity and outcomes from the LINks annual reports of 2009/10, including comparisons to 2008/09. It includes case studies highlighting activity of some LINks during 2009/10 and a quantification of the value of LINks. The report shows that LINks have shown some improvements in productivity and effectiveness in their second year but more work is needed to make them effective and good value for taxpayers’ money. LINks are to be replaced by a new system of Local Healthwatch organisations that will harness local involvement so that everyone can benefit from health and social care services that are fit for the purposes of the local community. They will continue to be funded by local authorities but will be more accountable for operating effectively and providing value for money. They will also have a fundamental new role in designing and developing health and social care services through new Health and Wellbeing Boards. (29 December 2010)

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

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Human Rights

Clift v Slough BC [2010] EWCA Civ 1484 (CA): the issue in this case was whether the Human Rights Act 1998 has affected a local authority's defence of qualified privilege in defamation cases.
C had been placed on the Council's Violent Persons Register as a person who posed a medium risk of violence following an incident described as "Threatening behaviour on several occasions". A copy of the register was emailed to about 150 people who were council officers, community wardens or partner organisations that provided services on behalf of the Council. C claimed damages for defamation; the Council pleaded justification and qualified privilege. The judge held that publication to those departments which were not likely to be approached by C directly was disproportionate because they were not at risk of harm from her, and so breached C's rights under Art.8 ECHR. The Council submitted that the judge had erred in his balancing exercise by failing to have any sufficient regard to the difficulties which confronted a local authority in knowing which information could or could not be published.
The court held, dismissing the Council's appeal, that the protection of the safety of all local authority employees was a legitimate aim sufficiently important to justify an interference with C's Art.8 rights and the inclusion of her name on the register was rationally connected to the legitimate aim. The question for the court was whether the publication of the words to other supernumerary employees was proportionate. Ill-considered and indiscriminate disclosure was bound to be disproportionate and no plea of administrative difficulty in verifying the information and limiting publication to those who truly had the need to know, or those reasonably thought to be at risk, could outweigh the substantial interference with the right to protect reputations.No new defence was being created: the defence was the common law defence of qualified privilege and to support that defence the Council had to first establish that it was under a duty to communicate the information to those who had a corresponding duty to receive it. Any duty to warn supernumerary employees of the risks posed by C did not justify the Council's communicating it because any such duty to those employees was outweighed by its duty to C not to communicate information damaging her reputation. (21 December 2010)

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

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Licensing

Home Office: Relaxation of licensing hours for the Royal Wedding: seeks views on a proposal to make a licensing hours order under s.172 of the Licensing Act 2003 to mark the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on 29 April 2011. The order will extend opening hours to 1am on Friday 29 April and Saturday 30 April for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises and the provision of regulated entertainment in licensed premises in England and Wales. The consultation closes on 26 January 2011. (11 January 2011)

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

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Performance

Audit Commission: Deletion of NI 167, NI 175, NI 177 and NI 187: advises that, due to the end of the underlying data returns to central government, local authorities will no longer be required to report on four National Indicators relating to traffic and transport, and fuel poverty. (6 January 2011)

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

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Procurement

LGA: The impact of EU procurement legislation on councils: sets out the results of an online survey of procurement officers which gathered information on councils' experiences of and opinions on EU procurement legislation. The survey was carried out in order to inform the LGA's view ahead of European Commission proposals to modernise EU procurement legislation on 2011. The overarching aim was to ensure that LGA work on this issue helps to create more favourable EU procurement rules for councils in the future. The survey found that:

  • just over a third of respondents felt that the Procurement Directive 2004/18 had led to more efficient and effective procurement practice; but 
  • 2/3rds of respondents stated that procurement costs and administrative burdens had worsened as a result of the Directive; and
  • the Remedies Directive was a key issue - although only 17% of respondents had been legally challenged under the Remedies Directive in the last 12 months, 69% identified dealing with challenges from unsuccessful bidders as an issue which presents a difficulty to their council’s procurement activities.

  • The LGA will issue a position paper shortly. (6 January 2011)

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

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Public Bodies

Public Administration Select Committee: Smaller government - Shrinking the quango state: this report scrutinises the Government's policy to axe a large number of NDPBs through the Public Bodies Bill. It finds that the so-called Bonfire of the Quangos has been poorly managed, resulting in badly drafted legislation that will not deliver significant cost savings or improved accountability. The review highlights the complex and confusing landscape of UK public bodies: it states that the current system is chaotic, making it difficult to understand why different arm's length bodies exist and what these variations mean in practice. The Committee calls on the Government to re-examine the proper governance arrangements for each public body, commenting that if the Government wishes to make meaningful savings in public body expenditure, it needs to examine not just how these organisations operate, but what they exist to do. In many cases these functions should have been transferred to charities and mutuals. The Committee is also unconvinced that bringing functions back into central departments will create a more accountable system. (7 January 2011)

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

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Regulatory Services

OFT / LBRO: Civil sanctions pilot - A joint consultation by the OFT and LBRO on the operation of the BIS Civil Sanctions Pilot: seeks views on a proposed new approach that will allow enforcement bodies to impose fines and other sanctions directly on traders for breaches of consumer law. DBIS is to launch a new pilot project early in 2011 that will enable the OFT and a number of participating local authority Trading Standards Services to trial a range of new civil sanctions as an alternative to criminal prosecution. The powers are likely to include fixed penalties of up to £3,000 for minor breaches, variable penalties of up to £500,000 or 1% of turnover for more serious offences, enforcement undertakings, stop notices and other discretionary requirements. The objective of the trial is to test the effectiveness of the powers to secure compliance with consumer law and to encourage traders voluntarily to offer redress to consumers who suffer detriment as a result of unsafe products, or unfair and misleading business practices. The consultation closes on 14 February 2011. (20 December 2010) 

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

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Traffic and Transport

DfT: Guidance for Travel Concession Authorities on the England National Concessionary Travel Scheme:  the Concessionary Bus Travel Act 2007 shifts responsibility for administering concessionary travel schemes from lower tier local authorities to upper tier local authorities from 1 April 2011. This guidance assists the new Travel Concession Authorities (i.e. county councils, unitary authorities, Passenger Transport Executives and London Boroughs) in administering the England National Concessionary Travel Scheme following this change of concessionary travel administration. (21 December 2010) 

DfT: Public consultation on Senior Traffic Commissioner's statutory guidance and statutory directions: seeks views on revised guidance and directions under the Local Transport Act 2008 as to the way in which the Traffic Commissioners will approach the exercise of their statutory functions. It is relevant for local authority representatives involved with the provision of bus services in England and Wales. The consultation closes on 25 February 2011. (10 January 2011)

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

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Wales

Education (Reintegration Interview) (Wales) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/2953 (W.245)): these regulations, which came into force on 5 January 2011, prescribe the circumstances in which a head teacher must request the parents of an excluded pupil of compulsory school age to attend a reintegration interview under s.102 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, and the procedure by which the interview must be arranged. (14 December 2010)

Education (Parenting Contracts and Parenting Orders) (Wales) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/2954 (W.246)): these regulations, which came into force on 5 January 2011, provide for parenting orders and parenting contracts under Part 2 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 as amended by Part 7 Chapter 2 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006. They revoke and replace SI 2006/1277 (W.122). (14 December 2010) 

Playing Fields (Community Involvement in Disposal Decisions) (Wales) Measure 2010: this Measure has received Royal Approval and came into force on 15 December 2010. It  places a duty on Welsh local authorities (including National Parks and community councils) to consider the impact that selling off local authority owned playing fields would have on local communities, in terms of health, well-being and social inclusion, before proceeding with the sale or disposal, and to prepare and consult on impact statements. (15 December 2010)

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

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