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    Finance
   Children's Services    Performance
   Community Rights    Procurement
   Competition    Public Health
   Economic Development    Rating
   Education    Regulatory Services
   Elections    Transport
   Localism Act 2011 Commencement Table 
   Bevan Brittan's Local Government Training Programme

 

Adult Social Services

Welsh Government: Together for health – Delivering end of life care: A delivery plan up to 2016 for NHS Wales and its partners: seeks views and comments on the Welsh Government’s draft strategy for a National End of Life Care Delivery Plan. It highlights the important role for local authorities in working collaboratively with NHS Wales and Third Sector providers to deliver integrated and supportive family centred care. The strategy provides a framework for action by Local Health Boards and NHS Trusts and sets out the Welsh Government’s expectations of how the NHS in Wales, working with its partners, will improve inequalities in end of life care up to 2016. There is also a public consultation document that seeks the views of the general public on the draft strategy. The consultation closes on 5 December 2012. (13 September 2012)

National Assistance (Assessment of Resources) Amendment (England) Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/2336): these regulations, which come into force on 29 October 2012, amend SI 1992/2977 regarding the assessment of the ability of a person to pay for accommodation arranged by local authorities under Part 3 of the National Assistance Act 1948.  The effect of the amendments is that payments made under the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme to members of the armed forces injured on active service are to be ignored when assessing veterans' resources for charging for supported residential care. (17 September 2012)

In-Control: Supporting the North West on personal budgets: This report summarises work done by national charity In-Control with ADASS and the North West Transition Alliance to support North West councils in the implementation of personal budgets. It focuses on three linked areas of difficulty: Minimum Process – moving to a new operating system that is simple, effective and efficient; Managed Personal Budgets – delivering personal budgets that are not direct payments, which deliver genuine choice and control; and Workforce – equipping the social care workforce to deliver personal budgets in tough times. For each, it summarises survey results, describes the issues faced by councils, identifies good practice, and provides a series of recommendations, both for individual councils and for ADASS and TLAP in the region. (17 September 2012)

DH: New programme to ensure greater local choice of care services: announces the launch of the Developing Care Markets for Quality and Choice (DCMQC) programme that will help local authorities build their capacity to shape a diverse, vibrant and high quality market for social care services. The draft Care and Support Bill proposes that local councils will have a legal responsibility to promote a range of high quality services that meet the needs of the community. The DCMQC programme will support local authorities to carry out this duty. (18 September 2012)

DCLG: Eric Pickles and Louise Casey address troubled families co-ordinators: reports on speeches by the Communities Secretary  Eric Pickles and the head of the Troubled Families Programme Louise Casey to a national conference of local authority co-ordinators that looked at ways of working with some of the hardest to reach families in the country in order to reduce youth crime and anti-social behaviour, get children off the streets and into school; and put adults on a path back to work. The co-ordinators will oversee each upper tier authority's Troubled Families Programme and targets, bringing local agencies such as health, housing, social services, education and the police together on the ground in order to tackle problems in a joined-up way. (18 September 2012) 

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

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Children's Services

DfE: Adoption and fostering – Tackling the delay: seeks views on a range of adoption and fostering proposals: 
  • adoption: new, shorter two-stage approval process for prospective adopters and fast-track procedure for approved foster carers and previous adopters; also changes to regulations to make it easier for prospective adopters to be approved as temporary foster carers; 
  • fostering: a package of changes to the foster carer assessment and approval process to make the process clearer, more proportionate and responsive to the needs of children coming into the care system, and to ensure foster carers are able to take everyday decisions about the children in their care; and 
  • adoption and fostering: proposals on sharing case records between fostering services and adoption agencies and on whether the size of adoption and fostering panels should be restricted.

The consultation closes on 7 December 2012. (18 September 2012)

Welsh Government: Consultation on proposals to improve services in Wales to better meet the needs of children and young people who are at risk of entering, or are already in, the Youth Justice System: this Green Paper sets out the current landscape of youth justice provision in Wales, and seeks views on proposals to improve youth justice services in Wales and to identify if there is a need for a Prevention of Youth Offending (Wales) Bill to implement these changes. The consultation closes on 11 December 2012. (18 September 2012)

MoJ: The new remand framework for children – Allocation of new burdens funding to local authorities: the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 enables the devolution of under-18 secure remand budgets to local authorities. Currently, central government funds the vast majority of the cost when children are remanded securely; if a child is remanded into the community (e.g. into remand foster care) the local authority has to fund the cost. From April 2013, the Youth Justice Board will continue to commission custodial places, and will decide where to place those whom the court remands securely, but it will invoice local authorities for the cost. This consultation paper seeks views on the preferred option for distributing this funding and how the MoJ proposes to recover costs; it also sets out proposals in relation to spike events and the costs of remand journeys to and from secure accommodation. Where children are remanded securely they will become looked after, which is a new burden for local authorities, so the paper also sets out proposals for allocating new burdens funding to local authorities in relation to the treatment of all children remanded to youth detention accommodation as looked after children. The consultation closes on 16 November 2012. (21 September 2012)

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

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Community Rights

Assets of Community Value (England) Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/2421): these regulations, which come into force on 21 September 2012, provide for the Assets of Community Value scheme under Part 5 Chapter 3 of the Localism Act 2011. The Scheme requires a local authority to maintain a list of buildings and other land in its area which are of community value, and ensures that when such land is to be sold local community groups will have the opportunity to delay the sale to enable them to prepare a bid to buy it. The regulations set out the detailed requirements for both local authorities and owners of listed land, including exemptions, rights to appeal and compensation, safeguards against non-compliance and the penalty for non-compliance. (20 September 2012)
DCLG has stated that it will not be issuing statutory guidance on the Scheme, but it will be sending local authorities a detailed advice letter explaining the requirements of the legislation in the Act and the Regulations.
Bevan Brittan has published an Alert on the practical implications for local authorities of the coming into force of the Assets of Community Value scheme: Community value – It's our asset and we'll bid if we want to

Localism Act 2011 (Commencement No. 1) (England) Order 2012 (SI 2012/2420 (C.95)): this Order brings Part 5 Chapter 3 of the Localism Act 2011 (ss.87 -108) (Assets of Community Value) fully into force in England on 21 September 2012. (20 September 2012)
For full details of when all sections of the Act came into force, see our Localism Act 2011 Commencement Table (as at 21 September 2012).

ESRC: Nudge or think – What works best for our society?: summarises the findings of a project by Manchester and Southampton Universities that experimented with different intervention techniques which encourage citizen participation and explored people’s motivations for community involvement. The researchers focused on comparing the effectiveness of 'nudge' techniques, where people are offered incentives to change their behaviour, and 'think' techniques, which takes a planned approach where people are given information, the opportunity to discuss and debate a subject, and then opportunity to act. Overall, they found that while the nudge interventions yielded better results, these were not always sustained in the long term. (21 September 2012)

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

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Competition

OFT: Guidance as to the appropriate amount of a penalty: statutory guidance on  how the OFT will set penalties for breaches of competition law. This will allow the OFT to continue to set substantial penalties to deter anti-competitive activity while ensuring that penalties are proportionate in the specific circumstances of individual cases. The new guidance increases the maximum starting point for penalty calculations from 10% to 30% of relevant turnover, giving the OFT the ability to set penalties which better reflect the gravity of different types of infringements, in particular for the most serious breaches of competition law, such as hardcore cartel activity and serious abuses of a dominant position. It also introduces a new step in the calculation of penalties: the OFT will consider specifically whether a penalty is proportionate 'in the round'.  This change is intended to ensure that, overall, penalties are not disproportionate or excessive in the particular circumstances of the case. (10 September 2012)

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

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Economic Development

HM Treasury: Government formalises the first wave of City Deals: announces that the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Greg Clark, and the leaders of the eight Core Cities have signed Wave 1 agreements confirming their joint commitment to the full implementation of the City Deals. This press release links to the text of each city's Deal that provides a suite of new freedoms, powers and tools to help cities embark on new and innovate ways to drive local economic growth. (18 September 2012)

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

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Education

Schools Forums (England) Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/2261): these regulations, which come into force on 1 October 2012,  set out how the membership of schools forums should be constituted, requirements relating to meetings of forums and their proceedings and financial issues on which forums must be consulted. They revoke and mainly re-enact SI 2010/344, with some substantive changes relating to the proceedings of the forum. There is also guidance on the regulations. (7 September 2012)

Ofsted: Ofsted's complaint handling functions – proposed improvements to policies: seeks views on proposed changes to arrangements for the handling and investigation of concerns about Ofsted's work and about the conduct of its staff, as well as complaints received about schools. The consultation closes on 29 October 2012. (17 September 2012)

Ofsted: The pupil premium: this report sets out the findings of a survey of how schools were using the £1.25bn Pupil Premium funding to raise achievement and improve outcomes for pupils from low-income families who were eligible for free school meals, looked after children and those from families with parents in the Armed Forces. (20 September 2012)

Ofsted: Getting to good – How headteachers achieve success: this report examines the key steps taken by headteachers in schools that have improved from satisfactory to good or better. It draws on evidence from good practice case study visits, headteacher focus group meetings and previous Ofsted survey reports, and offers guidance for headteachers and governing bodies in schools aiming for improvement. (20 September 2012)

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

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Elections

Local Government Boundary Commission for England: Guidance for current electoral reviews: the LGBCE has published three new guides that explain the electoral review process and advise on public consultation. Electoral reviews are initiated primarily to improve electoral equality but can also be carried out by request, e.g. to address council size or provide for single-member wards or divisions:

(10 September 2012)

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

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Finance

DCLG: Technical reforms to council tax – Empty homes premium: Calculation of council tax base: the Local Government Finance Bill, which is currently before Parliament, includes provisions that will allow a billing authority to charge an empty homes premium of up to 50% of the council tax on property left unoccupied and unfurnished for two years or more. This paper seeks views on how the council tax empty homes premium is to be included in the calculation of the council tax base. The consultation closes on 22 October 2012. (11 September 2012) 

DCLG: Local authority capital expenditure and receipts, England – 2011-12 2nd provisional outturn: this statistical release includes data from 2007-08 to 2011-12 and updates those statistics previously released on 28 June 2012. It shows that:

  • capital expenditure by local authorities in England has fallen to £20bn in 2011-12, a year-on-year decrease of 13%, due mainly to a fall in new construction and conversion, and lower grants, loans and other financial assistance;
  • capital expenditure rose steadily from £19.8bn in 2008-09 to £23.1bn in 2010-11, but has fallen back in 2011-12 to about 1% more than the figure three years earlier in 2008-09;
  • capital receipts, excluding HRA self-financing determination and premium, rose to £2bn in 2011-12, a year-on-year increase of nearly 34%. Market conditions are still proving slow, though have seen an increase in the number of properties sold when compared to 2010-11.

 (11 September 2012)

DCLG: Local authority borrowing and investments, UK 2011-12: the latest statistics show that:

  • total gross borrowing of the local government sector rose 16% in the past year from £70.6bn to £81.8bn at the end of 2011-12 (a 33% increase over five years);
  • excluding the one-off HRA settlement of a net £8.1bn, total borrowing would have been £73.7bn at the end of 2011-12, a 5% increase from 2010-11 and 20% since 2006-07;
  • 99% of borrowing is longer-term, of which 75% was with the Public Works Loan Board;
  • total investments rose from £25.1bn at the end of 2010-11 to £26.1bn at the end of 2011-12, an increase of 4%.
  • As at 31 March 2012, 62% of all investments were with banks and building societies, a decrease from 69% at 31 March 2011.

 (13 September 2012)

DBIS: Enhancing consumer confidence by modernising consumer law – Consultation on the implementation of the Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU: seeks views on the UK’s implementation of the Late Payment Directive 2011/83 that covers all debts incurred in commercial transactions. It applies to businesses and public authorities, whether the transactions are within the UK or effected across EU borders. The Directive includes a requirement that public authorities pay suppliers within 30 calendar days of receipt of an undisputed invoice. It copies current UK practice of a default payment period of 30 days, where terms have not been agreed and provides for a minimum €40 (approximately £31) for compensation. The consultation closes on 19 October 2012. (19 September 2012)

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

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Fire and Rescue Authorities

DCLG: Guidance on statements of assurance for fire and rescue authorities in England: the Fire and Rescue National Framework for England requires fire and rescue authorities (FRAs) to publish statements of assurance that will provide appropriate assurance to communities and Government on a range of matters (financial, governance, operational) and demonstrate how authorities have met their Framework commitments. This paper seeks views on draft light touch guidance on statements of assurance that indicates what should be incorporated within authorities’ assurance statements. FRAs will have flexibility over format and presentation in order to best suit their own individual circumstances. The consultation closes on 15 November 2012. (20 September 2012) 

Cabinet Office: £95,000 boost for Cleveland fire service’s bid to mutualise: announces funding from the £10m Mutual Support Programme for Cleveland Fire Brigade to provide specialist business expertise to help the fire brigade become a mutual, owned by its employees and providing fire and rescue services under contract to the local fire authority. (20 September 2012)

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

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Performance

LGA: Are you being served? Benchmarking resident satisfaction data: the LGA has published a set of resident satisfaction, crime and cohesion questions that councils can choose to use in their local surveys of residents' views, along with guidance on the conditions that must be met to enable the results to be benchmarked against other authorities who follow the same approach. Understanding resident satisfaction and being able to make informed comparisons can strengthen local accountability and be a key part of the sector's approach to managing its own performance. (19 September 2012) 

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

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Procurement

Welsh Government: Maximising the impact of Welsh procurement policy: sets out the findings of John McClelland's review that was commissioned by the Welsh Government to consider the overall effectiveness of Welsh public sector procurement and how the impact of procurement could be maximised. It looked at: whether Welsh Government had the right operating model and resources in place; if the central resource was being effectively deployed; if the wider public sector resource was adequate; if other Welsh Government policies were appropriately aligned; and whether Welsh public sector procurement was delivering value for money and having an optimal impact on economic growth. (19 September 2012)

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

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Public Health

DH: Warm Homes Healthy People Fund 2012/ 2013: the Director General of Public Health, Dr Felicity Harvey, has written to upper tier and unitary authorities inviting them to bid for funds to support the most vulnerable in their communities during the winter. The Warm Homes Healthy People Fund aims to protect individuals and communities from the effects of severe winter weather due to cold housing. The funds are for local initiatives that demonstrate how local authorities will reduce deaths over the winter months. The details and criteria are set out in Local Authority Circular LAC(DH)(2012)2. Bids must be submitted by 5 October 2012. (11 September 2012) 

DH: Public health transitional support funds available for local authorities: the DH has published details of the allocations to each unitary and upper tier local authority of public health transitional support funding to strengthen capacity to manage the change, and to address the costs that local authorities will incur arising from taking on new public health functions. (20 September 2012)

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

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Rating

DCLG: Business Rates Information Letter (8/2012): New Burden – Business Rates Deferral Scheme 2012/13: this letter to Chief Finance Officers sets out how DCLG is funding the additional net costs of the scheme to local government as a whole under the new burdens policy. (12 September 2012)

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

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Regulatory Services

DEFRA: Zoo Licensing Act 1981 – Guide to the Act’s provisions: guidance for local authorities on their duties regarding the licensing and inspection of zoos under the 1981 Act, which aims to ensure that, where animals are kept in enclosures, they are provided with a suitable environment to provide an opportunity to express most normal behaviour. It brings together guidance and advice which had previously been published by the Zoos Forum; it also updates and replaces other parts of Circular 02/2003 which had become out-of-date. (11 September 2012)

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

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Transport

HC Transport Committee: Competition in the bus market: sets out the findings of the Committee’s inquiry into competition in the local bus market, building on the Competition Commission’s investigation which found that a lack of competition was imposing up to £305m of detriment on passengers and local authorities. The Committee also considered whether factors other than competition were relevant to providing the bus services that were needed, at acceptable cost to the passenger and the taxpayer. The Committee finds that bus passengers are treated less favourably than rail passengers despite the fact that more than three times as many people travel by bus than go by rail. It argues that partnerships between local authorities and bus operators are the way forward in most areas, and calls on the Government to establish a framework that will encourage and enable local authorities and bus operators to work towards providing better bus services. The Committee urges local authorities and the bus industry to show leadership in developing partnerships, the best of which are based on shared interests and long-term-relationships and cannot easily be imposed, while the Government should ensure that partnerships, including measures such as joint ticketing and co-ordinated timetabling, can proceed without undue constraint from the competition authorities, where partnerships are in the interests of passengers. (13 September 2012)

DfT: Consultation on Bus Subsidy Reform: seeks views on how the subsidy proposals set out in Green Light for Better Buses are to be implemented, focusing on changes to the payment of Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG). The proposals include:

  • devolution of BSOG to local authorities in October 2013, to allow decisions to be taken locally on how it should be spent; 
  • creation of a new Better Bus Areas fund to encourage local transport authorities and bus companies to work closely together to improve services and boost passenger numbers; 
  • devolution to TfL or the GLA of BSOG paid to London bus operators who operate services on contract to TfL; and 
  • tightening the existing rules defining which bus services can claim BSOG, so that the funding is put to the best possible use.

The consultation closes on 12 November 2012. (13 September 2012)

DfT: Devolving local major transport schemes – Next steps: confirms how the Government intends to proceed with devolving funding for local major transport schemes in light of the January 2012 consultation. From 2015, the primary decision making bodies on the use of the devolved funding will be Local Transport Bodies (LTBs) – voluntary partnerships of local transport authorities, LEPs and others. The Transport Minister Norman Baker has asked local areas to confirm the geographical basis for their LTBs by 28 September. Funding will be distributed on a simple per capita basis and indicative figures for planning assumptions will be provided for each LTB in October 2012. LTBs will need to operate within assurance frameworks that meet minimum standards and the Government will issue guidance with the detailed requirements shortly. (18 September 2012)

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

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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 include:

For more details on our training programme or information on tailored training to meet your authority's requirements, please contact our Events team.

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