Legal intelligence for professionals in local government.

This update contains brief details of recent Government publications, legislation, cases and other developments relevant to those involved in local government work, which have been published in the previous two weeks. Items are set out by subject, with a link to where the full document can be found on the internet.

If you have been forwarded this update by a colleague and would like to receive it direct please email Claire Booth.

All links are correct at the date of publication. The following topics are covered in this update:

   Access to Information    Finance
   Adult Social Services    Governance
   Anti Social Behaviour    Maladministration
   Children's Services    Public Health
   Education    Regulatory Services


Access to Information

DCLG: Your council's cabinet – Going to its meetings, seeing how it works: this non-statutory guidance provides the public with practical information about attending meetings of a council’s executive and obtaining council documents. It is designed to help the public know when they can attend such meetings and what documents and information are available to them, under the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Meetings and Access to Information) (England) Regulations 2012. It should also help councillors and officers to comply with these rules which are based on a presumption in favour of openness. It states explicitly that councils should allow the public to film council meetings. It also outlines the assorted rights that taxpayers have to access council papers and documents. (14 June 2013)

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

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Adult Social Services

DH: Partners issue joint statement 2 years after Winterbourne View: the DH, NHS England, LGA, ADASS, CQC and the National Forum of People with Learning Disabilities have issued a statement that emphasises these organisations’ commitment to making the lives of people with learning disabilities better and safer, and improving their health and care. It states that the safety and wellbeing of former Winterbourne View patients is a prime concern and gives details of funding provided by the DH during 2013 to 2014, to support former Winterbourne View patients and their families. (5 June 2013)

Revolving Doors Agency: Making the difference: this joint briefing paper by Revolving Doors Agency, the Prison Reform Trust, the Centre for Mental Health and ADASS outlines how Directors of Adult Social Services and lead members can develop co-ordinated, effective support for people with multiple needs in, or on the edge of, the criminal justice system. It outlines the opportunities for social care to make a difference through influencing local strategies, forming partnerships and offering personalised support. (17 April 2013)

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

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Anti Social Behaviour

House of Commons Library: Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill: this research paper outlines the key provisions in the Bill, which received its 2nd Reading in the Commons on 10 June 2013. Amongst other changes, it: reforms the 'tool kit' of remedies for anti-social behaviour; amends the law on dangerous dogs; introduces new firearms offences; criminalises forced marriage; gives powers to the new College of Policing; implements some of the Winsor report’s recommendations on police remuneration; provides new powers for the Independent Police Complaints Commission; and makes changes to compensation for miscarriage of justice. (4 June 2013)

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

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Children's Services

National Children's Bureau: Putting corporate parenting into practice: this guidance shows how elected members and senior officers in local authorities can fulfil their duties as corporate parents to vulnerable children growing up in the care of local authorities.It starts with the premise that local councils should care about children in their care, not just for them, and goes on to explain how through good practice they can offer the same standards of support as would any reasonable parent. The guidance, produced with support from DfE, is designed to help members and senior officers take full responsibility for improving outcomes for children in care. Two copies will be sent to every local authority in June 2013; further copies are available to purchase. (5 June 2013)

DfE: Serious Case Review Panel established: announces that DfE has established a new independent panel to help ensure that lessons are learned when a child dies or is seriously harmed and there are signs of abuse or neglect. The four independent panel members will advise and challenge Local Safeguarding Children Boards to initiate and publish high-quality serious case reviews in order that, nationally, lessons can be learned to drive up the quality of child protection services and avoid mistakes being repeated. (6 June 2013)

Ofsted: Independent reviewing officers: taking up the challenge?: this report evaluates the effectiveness of independent reviewing officers (IROs) in discharging their responsibilities towards looked after children. The purpose of an IRO is to ensure that the care plan for a looked after child clearly sets out the help, care and support that they need and takes full account of their wishes and feelings. Local authorities are required by law to appoint an IRO for each looked after child. The report finds that IROs are not making enough positive impact on the quality of care planning and outcomes for looked after children and have been too slow in taking on their enhanced responsibilities. Inspectors found that IROs did not always sufficiently challenge drift and delay in plans for individual children and children’s views were not always taken into full account. The IRO role in assessing the effectiveness of local authority support and plans for looked after children was underdeveloped. (7 June 2013)

LGA/SOLACE: The council role in school improvement: this report contains a number of case studies that demonstrate the work being done by councils to support school improvement, to coincide with the new Ofsted inspection regime for council school improvement support. The case studies show how local authorities are adapting to the changing educational context of increasing school autonomy by strengthening and deepening their relationships with local schools. They demonstrate that a wide variety of models are developing, ranging from ‘stand-alone' improvement services jointly owned with schools; to councils that continue to provide a comprehensive range of traded services by making sure that they more closely meet the needs of local schools.
It is published alongside a briefing on Ofsted inspection of the school improvement function of local authorities that summarises and comments on the key features of the current position and provides a checklist for local authority self-evaluation based on the Ofsted inspection Framework and Handbook. The commentary represents the personal views of the author and not LGA policy or advice. (11 June 2013)

DfE: Early learning for two-year-olds – Trials:  sets out some of the work that 10 trial authorities undertook to offer early learning to those two-year-olds, within specific localities, meeting the eligibility criteria due to be introduced nationally in September 2013. The overall aim of the trials was to enable local authorities to test how best to deliver early learning to all eligible children in a particular geographic area or areas.  undertook against the main objectives. (12 June 2013)

HC Home Affairs Committee: Child sexual exploitation and the response to localised grooming: this report scrutinises action being taken to combat child sexual exploitation. It finds that, despite recent criminal cases laying bare the appalling cost paid by victims for past catastrophic multi agency failures, there are still places in the UK where victims of child sexual exploitation are being failed by statutory agencies. The police, social services and the CPS must all bear responsibility for the way in which vulnerable children have been left unprotected by the system. In terms of support for victims and prosecution of offenders, a postcode lottery still exists and agencies are still failing to work effectively together. The Committee states that prevention and early intervention in cases of children at risk of sexual exploitation is essential and all local authorities must ensure that there is sufficient funding for prevention within the budget of any multi-agency team tasked with tackling child sexual exploitation. Its recommendations include:

  • Directors of Children's Services must take full responsibility for the failure of their department if it does not protect vulnerable children, no matter what they knew. It is their personal responsibility to find out what is taking place in their department;
  • all frontline council workers ought to be trained to recognise the signs of localised grooming and the indicators of child sexual exploitation, and should know how to report anything that might give them cause to believe that a child is at risk;
  • all local authorities ensure that there are clear lines of dialogue between their children’s social care departments and their licensing boards. Local authorities must make greater use of licensing to tackle the issue of grooming;
  • the forthcoming statutory guidance on children who run away or go missing from home or care should require local authorities to conduct return interviews, delivered by an independent professional a child or young person is comfortable speaking with, to all children who run away or go missing from home or care, within 72 hours of a missing incident;
  • each Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LCSB) be required to set up a Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub which would house representatives from social care, local police, health professionals, education, youth offending teams and voluntary organisations;
  • every LSCB should publish an annual report on the work of the child sexual exploitation team, using the data collected to assess the scale and nature of child sexual exploitation within the local area;
  • the Government gives the victim or their family, or an independent third party, the right of redaction of serious case reviews, rather than the LSCB; Serious Case Reviews should be published in full, subject to delay where it may compromise an ongoing investigation;
  • the Government should examine the feasibility of introducing a statutory duty to co-operate and share information to tackle child sexual exploitation.

 (10 June 2013)

Re B (A Child) [2013] UKSC 33 (Sup Ct): this case considered the threshold to the making of a care order set by s.31(2) of the Children Act 1989, whether the making of a care order was compatible and proportionate with the right to respect for family life under Art.8 ECHR, and the appellate court's boundaries when considering setting aside the grant or dismissal  of a care order.
M and F, the parents of a three-year old girl B, appealed against the court's decision to uphold the local authority's care plan for B which was made with a view to B's adoption. M had had a dysfunctional childhood and suffered from abnormal personality traits, a somatisation disorder that caused her to make multiple complaints about physical symptoms and requests for medical investigations, and also a factitious disorder in which she was driven repeatedly to exaggerate symptoms or altogether to fabricate them and to offer false histories. F had a long criminal history and was an habitual drug user. Both M and F were fundamentally dishonest, manipulative and antagonistic towards professionals. The judge held that, although M and F had a warm and loving relationship with B and their behaviour with B at contact meetings was impeccable, their psychological problems meant that it was not safe for B to be placed with them and adoption was the only viable option.
The Supreme Court held, dismissing the parents' appeal, that, on the evidence, the judge was entitled to determine that the threshold to the making of a care order set by s.31 of the 1989 Act was crossed and to proceed to make a care order in relation to B with a view to her adoption. The court reviewed the case law on "significant harm" under s.31 and set out the approach that the court should take when considering whether the statutory threshold had been crossed. Here, there were a number of features relative to the personalities of the parents and to the psychiatric conditions of M which raised a real possibility that, in their care, B would suffer impairment of her emotional development and, in principle, emotional harm was no less serious than physical harm.  The level of the dishonest, manipulative, antagonistic obstructionism of the parents was above that normally tolerated by the courts and precluded the success of any rehabilitative programme. The judge's description of adoption as "the only viable option" for B's future care correctly reflected both domestic law and the proportionality requirement under the ECHR. (12 June 2013)

Residential Holiday Schemes for Disabled Children (England) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/1394): these regulations, which come into force on 1 July 2013, provide for the conduct, management and regulation of holiday schemes for disabled children. They are based largely on the Children's Homes Regulations 2001, but include the provision that enables schemes to operate across a number of sites under one registration. (10 June 2013)

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

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DfE: School funding reform – Findings from the review of 2013 to 2014: arrangements and changes for 2014 to 2015: this document confirms the school funding arrangements for the 2014/ 2015 financial year. Most of the arrangements that were put in place for 2013-14 will remain in place next year. There are a number of changes which will aid the move to a national funding formula and which will address the unintended consequences which arose as a result of the 2013-14 reforms:

  •  local authorities will be required to allocate a minimum of 80% of their funding on the basis of pupil characteristics and the DfE will set a minimum amount that each pupil should receive;
  • from April 2014, local authorities will be able to provide additional funding for schools in sparsely populated areas;
  • there will be new flexibilities to provide different amounts of funding to cover the fixed costs of schools so that local authorities can act to take account of varying fixed costs between different types of school. Schools that merge will also be able to keep some of their funding for fixed costs for at least the first year;
  • local authorities will be required to target additional funding to deprived pupils in addition to the pupil premium. The changes also ensure that those pupils who are less likely to attain well at the end of the primary or secondary phase are identified and attract additional funding;
  • all local authorities will be required to provide notional SEN budgets to their schools on the basis that the school will meet the costs of the first £6,000 of additional support required by a pupil with special educational needs.

The DfE will be publishing technical guidance separately. (4 June 2013)

Duty to Participate in Education or Training (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/1205): Part 1 of the Education and Skills Act 2008 places a duty on young people to participate in education or training until they are 18 or have completed a prescribed Level 3 qualification. Local authorities have duties under Chapter 2 of Part 1 of the Act to promote participation and to make arrangements to identify persons not meeting the Section 2 duty. These regulations, which come into force on 28 June 2013, set out the detail of the matters defined in Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Act, including the types of education or training that will be treated as full time and how serving as a member of the Armed Forces is treated. (23 May 2013)

Duty to Participate in Education or Training (Alternative Ways of Working) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/1243): Section 2 of the Education and Skills Act 2008 sets out the three ways in which a young person may meet the duty to participate in education or training, which include part-time education or training alongside full-time occupation (as defined in s.5). These regulations, which come into force on 28 June 2013, prescribe three alternative ways of working for the purposes of s.5 so that young people who combine employment with education and training will be meeting the duty if they are self-employed, an office holder, or work other than for reward (e.g. undertake voluntary work). (23 May 2013)

Information as to Provision of Education (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/1255): these regulations, which come into force on 1 July 2013, amend SI 2008/4 which prescribes the information that local authorities have to provide to the Secretary of State each year  in relation to the provision of primary and secondary education in their area. They extend the requirement to information about school places added to localised areas, and the funding used to provide them. (10 June 2013)

School Admissions (Variation of Admission Arrangements) (Wales) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/1140 (W.120)): these regulations, which come into force in Wales on 8 July 2013, prescribe the circumstances in which an admission authority may vary the admission arrangements they have determined for a particular school year, in addition to the circumstances set out in s.89(5) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. (17 May 2013)

School Admissions (Infant Class Sizes) (Wales) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/1141 (W.121)): these regulations, which come into force in Wales on 8 July 2013, impose a limit on class sizes for infant classes at maintained schools in Wales. The limit imposed is the maximum of 30 pupils in an infant class at anytime or, where the session is conducted by more than one school teacher, a maximum of 30 pupils for every teacher. Certain types of children ("excepted pupils") are not to be counted for the purposes of ascertaining whether or not this limit is exceeded if suitable education could not be provided for that child in an infant class at that school without relevant measures having to be taken. (14 May 2013)

School Admissions (Common Offer Date) (Wales) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/1144 (W.122)): these regulations, which come into force in Wales on 8 July 2013, prescribe the date on which decisions in relation to primary and secondary school admissions are to be communicated to parents. (17 May 2013)

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

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HM Treasury: Code of Conduct for operational PFI/PPP contracts: this voluntary Code of Conduct sets out the basis on which public and private sector partners agree to work together to make savings in operational Public Private Partnership (PPP) contracts, including PFI contracts, PF2 and other variants of PPP contracts. The Code sets out eight key commitments for private sector parties and eight commitments for public bodies to encourage better working between the public and private sector. It also contains a number of new guidelines on transparency. Around 50 organisations, including investors, lenders, construction contractors and facilities management providers have already signed up to the code - see the list on the DCLG website. (14 June 2013)

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

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DCLG: The Government Response to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee Report – Implementation of welfare reform by local authorities: responds to the Committee's April 2013 report report that looked at the impact on local authorities of the far reaching reforms to the welfare system that started to be implemented on 1 April 2013. The Committee identified four key areas that would be crucial to the successful implementation of the changes and made 31 recommendations. This response sets out Committee’s recommendations and the Government’s response to each. (6 June 2013)

HC Public Accounts Committee: Financial sustainability of local authorities: this report critically examines the fundamental changes to the local government finance system being introduced by DCLG with reforms to business rates and council tax benefits. It finds that central government is cutting funding to local authorities by more than a quarter over four years but does not properly understand what the overall impact will be on local services. Departments have provided some information on possible impacts but it was superficial and incomplete; nor has enough work been carried out across government departments to determine how funding reductions in one area of spending might affect services in another, e.g. how cuts in local authority adult social care might lead to bed blocking in hospitals. The Committee raises the spectre of the worst-affected councils being unable to meet their statutory obligations. It concludes that DCLG must understand better the impact of its cuts on vulnerable groups and set out what actions it would take in the event of multiple financial failures of local authorities. While local authorities are tending to cope with funding reductions, in the long term there might well be little room for further efficiency gains and services would have to be cut. There needs to be frank and open dialogue between central and local government and the public on just what services councils will be expected to provide in a prolonged period of declining funding. (7 June 2013)

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

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Welsh Government: Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 – Part 7: Communities and community councils: seeks views on draft guidance under Part 7 of the 2011 Measure that gives effect to Welsh Government commitments to develop and strengthen the role of community councils in Wales, enabling them to deliver a wider range of services and actions locally as well as increasing the effectiveness of their representational role and their ability to work in partnership with other bodies. It includes statutory guidance in relation to the co-option of members of community councils (Chapter 3) and the appointment of community youth representatives (Chapter 4); councils must have regard to this when exercising functions under these provisions. For each of the other chapters the guidance provides a summary of the provisions contained within the Measure and, where appropriate, an update on the latest position regarding the adoption of those provisions. (3 June 2013)

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

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LGiU: The LGO and the future direction of local accountability: this report looks at the role of the Local Government Ombudsman and how it might best use the information it holds to enhance local accountability. The report was commissioned by the LGO to provide a better understanding of how issues giving rise to complaints in local government can be harnessed to benefit public policy and service improvement. It finds that there is broad support across local government for the LGO's work but calls on the LGO to provide a distinct offer to councillors. The LGO will use this report to inform the development of its future strategy for how it uses information. (12 June 2013)

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

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Public Health

Public Health England: MMR action plan: PHE has published a comprehensive set of local and national actions to significantly increase MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine coverage among those most at risk. (7 June 2013)

Public Health England: Longer lives: this website highlights premature mortality rates across every local authority in England. It allows local people to see easily how their areas perform on early deaths from the major four killers, like heart disease and cancer, and how this varies across the country. Using a traffic-light rating system, it ranks areas showing those performing above average in tackling avoidable deaths as green, and those that are lagging behind and need to do more as red. The website contains a range of data that allows people to easily compare an area’s mortality performance against those with similar populations, incomes and levels of health. (11 June 2013)

RoSPA: Delivering accident prevention at a local level in the new public health system: this handbook gives local authorities guidance on how to reduce the burden of accidents by encouraging people to take responsibility for their own safety, health and wellbeing. It sets out the current level of accidents and their associated costs, and outlines how accident prevention fits into the new arrangements for public health. Part 2 contains a raft of case studies, fact sheets and research papers, highlighting how accident prevention can be delivered successfully, with subjects including falls prevention, home safety for under-5s, water safety, local transport plans and how to link up with other agendas such as child welfare. (13 June 2013) 

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

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Regulatory Services

Home Office: Surveillance Camera Code of Practice – Protection of Freedoms Act 2012: Government response to statutory consultation over the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice: provides the Government's response to the consultation on a draft Surveillance Camera Code of Practice under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 that sets out new guidelines for CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition, encourages transparency in their use and ensures that public bodies such as local authorities and the police consider whether they are proportionate before erecting new cameras. The draft Code has been amended to reflect the comments made in response to the consultation and has now been laid before Parliament, with the intention that it comes into force this summer - see the draft Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (Code of Practice for Surveillance Camera Systems and Specification of Relevant Authorities) Order 2013. The Surveillance Camera Commissioner is preparing for implementation of the code at that time, and for providing relevant authorities and other system operators with the necessary information and advice to enable them to follow the 12 guiding principles in the Code. (4 June 2013)

DBIS: Draft Consumer Rights Bill: this draft Bill sets out  a simple, modern framework of consumer rights that aims to help consumers and their advocates understand their rights when things go wrong, to empower consumers and promote growth through competitive markets. The Bill clarifies consumer rights when a product is defective; introduces a proportionate system of redress for consumer protection issues led by enforcers; and in particular defines a consumer protection regime for digital content for the first time. It also proposes a set 30 day time period for when consumers can return faulty goods and get a full refund. (12 June 2013)

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

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