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    Health and Social Care
   Contingency Planning    Localism Bill
   Council Tax    Parish Councils
   Education    Regulatory Services
   Executive Arrangements
   Bevan Brittan's Local Government Training Programme 


Children's Services

DfE: Local authorities challenged to do better on adoption: gives details of how the Government wants to overhaul the care and adoption system to improve chances for vulnerable children, following the publication of Children in Care and Adoption Performance Tables that rank every local authority in England on key issues, including how quickly they place children for adoption. Martin Narey, the Government’s adoption adviser, is working with local authorities to help them improve their adoption services. The Government is also backing a recruitment drive to get more people to adopt and foster children. 
DfE has also published an Adopters’ Charter which sets out what adopters and prospective adopters can expect from adoption agencies.  It tackles the persistent myths that people who smoke, are single, or are overweight cannot foster and adopt children. Local authorities must not automatically exclude people on these grounds. (31 October 2011)

DfE: Savings accounts for all children in long term care: announces that the Government is to open a Junior ISA for every young person who has been in care for more than a year. The first accounts will be opened on behalf of looked after children in 2012. The scheme, worth a total of £16.7m until 2015, will offer tax-efficient savings accounts that can be held in cash or shares and will mature and be accessible on the account holder’s 18th birthday. Payments under the scheme are intended as a long-term asset that the child can draw on later in life. The DfE will be launching a competition to select the best partners to operate the scheme before the end of this year.  Potential partners will need to demonstrate they have the skills and experience to understand the financial needs of looked after children so they make the right investment choices for them. (1 November 2011)

MoJ: Family Justice Review - final report: the review panel, chaired by David Norgrove, was set up in 2010 to look at all aspects of the family justice system from court decisions on taking children into care to disputes over contact with children when parents divorce. The panel's final report sets out a number of recommendations aimed at tackling delays in the family justice system and to make sure that children and families are given the service they deserve. The key recommendations on the public law system are:

  • a new six month time limit in care and supervision cases, save in exceptional circumstances, so delays are significantly reduced; 
  • less reliance should be placed on unnecessary expert witnesses and reports; and
  • the courts should refocus on the core or essential components of a child’s plan as to whether a child should go into care.

 (3 November 2011)

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

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Contingency Planning

DH:  Cold Weather Plan for England: this Plan provides advice for individuals, communities and agencies on how to prepare for and respond to severe cold weather as part of wider winter planning. The DH has also announced the Warm Homes, Healthy People fund for local authorities and charities to address cold housing. Bids will be invited for innovative new ways to help vulnerable older people, people with disabilities or families with young children – reaching those falling through the gaps of existing schemes. (1 November 2011)

Cabinet Office: CCAEP Phase 2 final consultation on revised chapters of Emergency Preparedness: seeks views on revised chapters to the statutory guidance that accompanies the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. It contains amendments to Chapter 1 (Introduction), Chapter 13 (Performance Development) and Chapter 16 (Collaboration and Co-operation between Local Resilience Forums in England). The consultation closes on 23 December 2011. (1 November 2011)

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

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Council Tax

DCLG: Technical reforms of council tax: seeks views on a series of proposed practical measures that give councils extra flexibility to help families with their council tax bills. It follows on from the Local Government Resource Review's commitment to consider what flexibilities local authorities should have to help keep overall council tax levels down. It discusses: options in relation to the council tax liabilities of second home owners, and of the owners of empty properties, in England; potential reforms of several details of the council tax system including modernising arrangements for payment of council tax by instalments, for delivering the information to be supplied with demand notices, and the treatment of annexes to dwellings; and some broadly administrative matters. The consultation closes on 29 December 2011. (31 October 2011)

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

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DfE: Draft revised School Admissions Code: this revised Code, along with a revised Appeals Code and draft regulations, will be laid before Parliament in December, in order to come into force in February 2012. They will affect the allocation of places for children starting school in September 2013. The Code includes two new proposals:
  • a new “national offer day” for primary school places, mirroring that for secondary offers. The primary school day is set to be on April 16 each year, starting in 2014; and
  • giving adopted children who were previously looked after (and children who leave care under a special guardianship or residence order) the same, highest priority for places as they had as looked-after children.

(2 November 2011)

DfE: Consultation on revised school premises regulations: seeks views on proposals to simplify and reduce the regulations governing school premises, and on a reduction in the amount of guidance. The changes result from the independent Capital Review recommendations, which proposed how to build and maintain school buildings better and more cost effectively. The new proposals provide strong safeguards, especially for vulnerable pupils, but free up schools to take a more common sense approach. The consultation closes on 26 January 2012. (3 November 2011)

DfE: Allocation of extra £500 million to address the shortage in pupil places: announces details of the additional £500m made available this year to local authorities experiencing the greatest need in managing shortfalls in pupil places. (3 November 2011) 

DfE: Written Ministerial Statement - BSF: the Education Secretary's statement on the extra funding (see above) also announces his decision on the schools that are subject to the BSF Judicial Review proceedings, brought by Luton BC, Nottingham City Council, Waltham Forest LBC, Newham LBC, Kent CC and Sandwell MBC. After careful consideration of further representations from each of the claimant authorities, he is not persuaded that he should depart from the decision which he announced he was minded to take. His final decision is, therefore, not to fund the schools in the claim but instead to fund, in capital grant, the value of the claimant authorities' proven contractual liabilities. (3 November 2011)

DfE: Voluntary and community organisations to play a key role in helping children with special educational needs and disabilities: the Children's Minister Sarah Teather has announced contracts involving voluntary and community organisations which will deliver key reforms to support children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities, and their parents, backed by £6m funding for two years from the DfE. (4 November 2011)

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

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Executive Arrangements

DCLG: What can a mayor do for your city?: seeks views on the Government's proposed approach for giving powers to mayors elected in the 12 largest English cities, following referendums to be held in May 2012 under provisions in the Localism Bill. If a city votes in favour of having a mayor at its referendum, that that city will then rapidly hold an election for its first mayor. Mayors would be elected for four year terms. DCLG is also inviting comments on the powers that should be transferred to elected mayors, and on how mayors can best be subject to local scrutiny. The 12 cities are Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nottingham, Sheffield and Wakefield. The consultation closes on 3 January 2012. (1 November 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

NHS Confederation: Operating principles for health and wellbeing boards: the Health and Social Care Bill currently establishes health and wellbeing boards as committees in upper-tier local authorities, responsible for encouraging integrated working and developing Joint Strategic Needs Assessments and joint health and wellbeing strategies. National organisations representing the membership of health and wellbeing boards have developed a set of principles for establishing the boards. These operating principles and accompanying narrative have been designed to support the effective establishment and functioning of health and wellbeing boards. They are intended to help board members consider how to create really effective partnerships across local government and the NHS. (18 October 2011)

LGA: Health and Social Care Bill - Committee Stage briefing: the Health and Social Care Bill is currently in Committee in the Lords. The LGA believes that many of the revisions made to the Bill, recommended by the NHS Future Forum and agreed in principle by the Government, have the potential to strengthen the role of local authorities and place greater focus on local health. Yet the LGA remains concerned that not all the changes highlighted in the Government's response to the Future Forum have found their way into the revised Bill. This briefing lists amendments which the LGA considers necessary so that the Bill reflects the Government's initial commitment to a place-based approach and democratic accountability of health planning and provision. (25 October 2011)

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

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Localism Bill

Localism Bill: the Bill has now received its 3rd Reading in the House of Lords and has returned to the Commons. The Bill was substantially amended in the Lords - see the Parliamentary website for full details of the amendments and revised explanatory notes. The Lords' amendments will now be considered by the Commons before the Bill gets Royal Assent. (31 October 2011)
Peter Keith-Lucas has drafted a commentary What have the Lords bequeathed us on Standards? in which he considers the Standards provisions in the Localism Bill following the House of Commons’ approval of the amendments made in the House of Lords. These show evidence of rapid and under-considered drafting, and leave very considerable  problems of interpretation and implementation. The paper includes key issues for authorities to consider.

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Bethan EvansPeter Keith-Lucas or Olwen Dutton.

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Parish Councils

DCLG: Parish power can save struggling village shops and pubs: reports that the Local Government Minister is calling on parish councils to safeguard struggling village shops and pubs for the benefit of local people by using their powers to keep them open, for example by giving grants or investing in property. He also highlights new powers under the Localism Bill that will enable parish councils to offer business rates discounts for local businesses, and to protect local shops and pubs through their neighbourhood plan. The press release gives examples of where parish councils have been successful in helping local shops and services. (3 November 2011)

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

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Regulatory Services

LBRO: Priority regulatory outcomes - A new approach to refreshing the National Enforcement Priorities for local authority regulatory services: Final report: this report sets out a refreshed set of priorities for local authority regulatory services in accordance with LBRO’s duties regarding national enforcement priorities. The new approach a move away from national enforcement priorities towards priority regulatory outcomes and provide clarity about what the public and business want regulation to achieve. They ensure that regulatory activity is focused on delivering outcomes rather than ‘ticking boxes' or meeting centrally driven targets. (31 October 2011)

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

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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 2011 include:

For a list of all seminars see our new Events Programme for 2011/12. Full details, along with information on how to book a place, will be posted on our website about 6-8 weeks ahead of the scheduled date.

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