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 the two weeks up to28 June 2013. Items are set out by subject, with a link to where the full document can be found on the internet.

28/06/2013

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    Fire and Rescue Authorities
   Adult Social Services    Housing
   Audit    Licensing
   Children's Services    Pensions
   Economic Development    Police
   Education    Powers and Duties
   Employment    Public Health
   Enforcement    Shared Services
   Finance

 

Access to Information

Worcestershire CC and Worcestershire Safeguarding Children Board v HM Coroner for the County of Worcestershire [2013] EWHC 1711 (QB) (QBD): the Council and the WSCB applied to set aside witness summonses that required the production of reports to the Coroner under CPR 34.4(2). Following the death of a 16-year-old looked after child, the WSCB undertook a review and obtained individual management reviews and information reports. The Coroner was granted witness summonses requiring the disclosure of these documents. The claimants sought the setting aside of the summonses, contending that the IMRs and IRs were protected by public interest immunity.
The court held, dismissing the application, that while some of the material contained in the documents was potentially immune from disclosure, the public interest in the pursuit of a full and appropriately detailed inquest into the child's death firmly outweighed the claim for non-disclosure. (20 June 2013)

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

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Adult Social Services

DH: Fairer charging policies for home care and other nonresidential social services – Guidance for councils with Social Services responsibilities: updated statutory guidance, issued under s.7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970, to help local authorities which decide to charge for any non-residential services to design reasonable and fair charging policies. It seeks to ensure greater consistency in charging policies.
The DH has issued a new Local Authority Circular (LAC(DH)(2013)02): Charging for residential and non-residential social care that advises local authorities of changes to the social care charging arrangements and provides an overview of the changes and some additional statutory guidance. There is also an Update to Charging for Residential Accommodation guide (CRAG). (24 June 2013) 

DH: Draft national eligibility criteria for adult care and support: this discussion document sets out the plan for a new national minimum threshold for eligibility criteria for adult care and support, being introduced as part of the Care Bill, together with draft Care and Support (Eligibility Criteria) Regulations. The closing date for comments is 29 November 2013. There will then be a formal consultation in 2014. (28 June 2013)

Welsh Government: Strengthening social services regulation in Wales: the Welsh Deputy Minster for Social Services has announced that £1.5m funding to support the delivery of sustainable social services priorities during the implementation of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill. This includes funds to support local authorities as they make the transition to new arrangements for social services. (27 June 2013)

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

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Audit

LGA: Amendments to the appointment of auditors: this briefing paper proposes amendments to the Local Audit and Accountability Bill on the future of local audit and the role of the National Audit Office, ahead of these issues being debated during the Bill's Committee Stage. (18 June 2013)

LGA: Local Audit and Accountability Bill – Committee Stage briefing on the publicity code, council tax referendums and statutory notices: considers issues to be debated on the Bill's final day of the Lords' Committee, covering the Code of Practice on local authority publicity, council tax referendums and the role of the National Audit Office. (26 June 2013)

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

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Children's Services

DfE: Better quality care for vulnerable children: announces three consultations on proposals to overhaul children’s residential care to tackle system-wide failings. The proposed reforms will lead to a much sharper focus on transparency, a drive for higher quality in care homes and stricter measures to hold local authorities and care homes to account for their decisions. The proposals are:

The closing date for all three consultations is 17 September 2013. (25 June 2013)

DCLG: Troubled Families programme receives extra £200 million boost: announces additional payment by results funding from 2015-2016 over five years to provide vulnerable families with intensive help to get to grips with their problems and change their lives for the better, before they reach the crisis points that would qualify them for the current Troubled Families programme. Delivered in partnership with local areas, 40% of the funding will come from central government, with the other 60% covered by local authorities and other local partners.  (24 June 2013)

LGA: Bright futures – Local children, local approaches: Good practice in children's centres: Professor Munro's review of child protection (May 2011) discussed the benefits of children's centres, setting out that the best early years settings are those that know their communities, work holistically around the family, and act as a hub for multi-agency teams whilst also offering access to specialist services. These case studies show how councils are using children's centres to help deliver early intervention through integrated health provision and getting children school-ready, or with a more formal community budget approach. (11 June 2013)

Ofsted: Inspection of services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers: seeks views on a single framework for inspecting local authority child protection and services for looked after children, including those leaving or who have left care. The single framework replaces previous plans to implement separate inspections for child protection and services for children looked after. It proposes an evaluation of help, protection and care for children including the arrangements for local authority fostering and adoption services.
It has also launched two other consultations, Good voluntary adoption provision and Good independent fostering provision, that set out draft revised frameworks for evaluating adoption and fostering services provided by voluntary and independent providers respectively.
The closing date for all consultations is 12 July 2013. (14 June 2013)

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

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Economic Development

District Councils' Network: Localising growth – The district contribution to delivering City Deals: this collection of articles explores the vital role of districts in developing and delivering the first and second wave City Deal proposals. It highlights how district councils are at the heart of delivering this new localised approach to economic development where City Deals between local government, LEPs and Whitehall stretch over two-tier local authority areas. The case studies demonstrate  that districts have the growth enabling services, capacity and expertise to work collaboratively with district, unitary or county partners, LEPs and local businesses to lead on the new economic growth agenda. (13 June 2013)

HM Treasury: Investing in Britain's Future: sets out the Government's plans for investment in infrastructure from 2015. The funding includes over £70bn of investment in transport, over £20bn in schools, and £10bn in science, housing and flood defences. Local Enterprise Partnerships are to get greater power and influence, bringing the resources under their strategic influence to at least £20bn in the years to 2021, with a £2bn Single Local Growth Fund to drive forward job creation and investment in their areas, responsibility for how €6.2bn (£5.3bn) of EU Structural and Investment Funds is spent, £50m for the Local Infrastructure Fund and a grant fund of £100m in 2014-2015 for enterprise zones. (27 June 2013)
For a summary of the LEPs announcements, see our alert: LEPs and the Spending Review.

DBIS: European Regional Development Fund and European Social Fund – Allocations 2014 to 2020: this Written Statement to Parliament gives details of how €6.2bn EU Structural and Investment Funds for 2014-20 will be allocated to the Local Enterprise Partnerships in England. (27 June 2013)

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

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Education

Welsh Government: The future delivery of education services in Wales: seeks views on options presented by the independent task and finish group on the structure of education services in Wales. The reort by Robert hill Consulting makes a number of conclusions and recommendations in relation to the delivery of education services, recognising that educational standards are highly variable across Wales and that it is difficult to secure high-quality senior capacity and capability to deliver across 22 local authorities in Wales. The report recognises the development of regional consortia as a positive way to tackle issues relating to resources, capacity and outcomes. It further concluded that promising areas of benefit in the collaborative culture of the emerging regional consortia include releasing of resources to the front line that can be secured by the economy of scale, and the opportunity to provide very high-quality support services to schools. The consultation closes on 13 September 2013. (18 June 2013)

Ofsted: Unseen children – Access and achievements 20 years on: sets out a series of recommendations that aim to make a lasting difference to the prospects of ‘unseen children’ from low income backgrounds who are being let down by the education system. The review follows on from the 1993 report "Access and achievement in urban education" and its 2003 update, which looked at seven urban areas with high levels of deprivation. The review considers the current pattern of disadvantage and educational success across England and the lessons of recent policy initiatives. (20 June 2013)

Welsh Government: New funding to help break link between deprivation and educational achievement: the Welsh Communities Minister has announced an extra £1.2m financial support for projects that support children to do well at school and improve family engagement in their children’s education. The funding from the Welsh Government’s Communities First programme complements the Pupil Deprivation Grant that helps the least-well off pupils in Wales. (24 June 2013)

DfE: Review of efficiency in the schools system: this review was undertaken to try to understand how schools spend the money they have available. It focuses on what the best schools do to ensure they are making the most of their money, and how to apply those lessons to the sector as a whole. (26 June 2013)

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

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Employment

North v Dumfries & Galloway Council [2013] UKSC 45 (Sup Ct): the Supreme Court has held that female classroom assistants, support for learning assistants and nursery nurses employed in a local authority's schools were "in the same employment" as defined in s.1(6) of the Equal Pay Act 1970 as male manual workers employed by the same local authority as groundsmen, refuse collectors, refuse drivers and a leisure attendant. The court held that  the object of the legislation was to allow comparisons to be made between workers who did not and never would work in the same work-place and there was no  "real possibility" or "feasibility" test as to whether the comparators could be based at the same place as the claimants -  to adopt such a test would be to defeat the object of the exercise, namely to secure equality of treatment, not only for the same work, but also for work rated as equivalent or assessed by the experts to be of equal value. Therefore some very different jobs which were not or could not be carried out in the same workplaces might nevertheless be rated as equivalent or assessed as having equal value. Nor was it the function of the "same employment" test to establish comparability between the jobs done - that was established by the "like work", "work rated as equivalent" and "work of equal value" tests. Here, the difference in treatment between the claimants and their comparators was attributable to a single source, namely the local authority which employed them and which was in a position to put right the discrepancy if required to do so. Section 1(6) set a low threshold which did not operate as a barrier to the comparison proposed in this case. (26 June 2013)

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

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Enforcement

DCLG: Guidance to local councils on good practice in the collection of Council Tax arrears: guidance to local authorities on the enforcement of council tax arrears so as to provide more protection against aggressive bailiffs and unreasonable charging orders. It replaces the previous ODPM Guidance, ODPM Council Tax Collection Good Practice (2005). In particular the guidance deals with the kinds of help and support that local authorities should be giving to vulnerable people, both in the run up to enforcement activity taking place and afterwards. It covers how local authorities engage and deploy enforcement agents and also how they interact with bill payers throughout the process. It stresses the importance of councils being sympathetic to those in genuine hardship, proportionate in enforcement and that they do not overuse bailiffs. (17 June 2013)

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

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Finance

HM Treasury: Spending Round 2013: sets out plans for government spending, including departmental settlements, for the year 2015 to 2016. The measures include a further 10% cut in DCLG's budget, coupled with a continuing freeze on Council Tax. It states that a key objective for this Spending Round is better cooperation between services at local level, and the Chancellor has announced funding to support and reward integrated health and social care working in 2015-16, following the example of the Whole Place Community Budget pilots, and also funding to support increased collaboration between the emergency services. (26 June 2013)
See also the DCLG press release: Eric Pickles hails Council Tax ‘5 year freeze’ and £3.8 billion for social care
Bevan Brittan's Alert highlights the key points for local authorities of the Chancellor's announcement: Spending Round 2013 sets out local authority funding for 2015-16.

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: Health, safety and welfare framework for the operational environment: strategic level guidance for FRAs on planning health and safety in the operational environment. It advises on balancing risks, specifically in FRAs' wider role to protect the public and property, while meeting their health and safety at work duties to protect their staff and others. (28 June 2013)

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

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Housing

HM Treasury: Ministers welcome agreement on self-financing for local authority housing: announces that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Welsh Government Ministers have reached agreement which will enable Welsh local authorities to exit the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy (HRAS) system. The agreement puts the 11 Welsh local authorities that still have housing stock in a similar position to stock-owning local authorities in England, where the HRAS system was replaced by self-financing arrangements in March 2012. It does not affect those Welsh local authorities that have previously transferred their housing stock to registered providers. (25 June 2013)

Chartered Institute of Housing: Developing your local housing offer for health and care – Targeting outcomes: this policy briefing provides a chart to help housing professionals demonstrate the value of their housing and support services and how these contribute to the outcomes set out for their public health, health and care partners. It signposts to the evidence sources and tools that exist to develop impacts for a local housing offer to health and care. (26 June 2013)

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

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Licensing

Home Office: Amended guidance issued under section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003: this updated guidance  to licensing authorities on the discharge of their functions under the 2003 Act includes an error notice for the guidance and a summary of recent changes. (27 June 2013)

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

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Pensions

DCLG: Call for evidence on the future structure of the Local Government Pension Scheme: seeks views on ways of significantly reducing the costs of the LGPS by increasing fund cooperation, transparency and accountability to taxpayers. The closing date for comments is 27 September 2013. The responses will help inform a consultation on a number of broad principles for change that would improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the scheme. (21 June 2013)

DCLG: Local Government Pension Scheme (England and Wales) new governance arrangements – Discussion paper: discusses the Public Service Pensions Act 2013 that contains key provisions relating to the administration and governance of the new public service pension schemes established under s.1 of the Act. These arrangements will apply to the new Local Government Pension Scheme which comes into effect on 1 April 2014.  The paper examines five sections of the Act which impact on the governance arrangements in the new Scheme concerning: Responsible authority; Scheme manager; Pension board; Pension board information; and Scheme advisory board. The consultation closes on 30 August 2013. The draft regulations on governance will be poubished for consultation later this year. (20 June 2013)

DCLG: Local Government Pension Scheme 2014: seeks views on draft regulations on the new LGPS  relating to membership, contributions and benefits, and a new part covering scheme administration. The consultation closes on 2 August 2013. (20 June 2013)

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

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Police

Disclosure and Barring Service: Quality assurance framework case law: this web page links to case summaries of challenges to the disclosure of information under Part V of the Police Act 1997 (criminal records certificates). They further clarify the requirements and responsibilities placed on forces under the Act. It also includes a detailed summary of R (S) v West Mercia Constabulary [2008] EWHC 2811 (Admin) concerning identification of the alleged offender. (19 June 2013)

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

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Powers and Duties

Cusack v Haringey LBC [2013] UKSC 40 (Sup Ct): the Supreme Court has ruled that the Council was entitled to use its powers under s.80 of the Highways Act 1980 (power to fence highways) to erect barriers along a section of a road to prevent vehicles from driving over raised kerbs and footways. The appellant contended that the Council should have used its powers under s.66(2) of the 1980 Act (footways and guard-rails for publicly maintainable highways). The Council's powers under the two sections overlapped but s.66 required the highway authority to pay compensation to any person who sustained damage by reason of the execution of the works whereas s.80 contained no general compensation requirement. The court held that the Council was entitled to rely on the clear words of s.80 for the power they sought and there was no express or implied restriction on its use. On the basis of the pre-1998 Act cases, the fact that s.66(2) might confer an alternative power to achieve the same object, which was subject to compensation, was beside the point. The power under s.80 was available as a legitimate means of controlling use of a private access in the public interest, and its use by the Council in the these circumstances was neither an abuse of the Council's powers nor outside the boundaries of the discretion allowed by the ECHR. (19 June 2013)

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

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Public Health

DH: National health visitor plan – Progress and future implementation: the National Health Visitor Plan sets out how the DH, NHS England, PHE and HEE will work with the health profession, families and communities to achieve the Government’s health visiting commitment to increase the workforce by 4,200, transform the service by April 2015 and support its sustainability beyond 2015. This document details how the partner organisations will work with the health profession, families and communities to achieve this commitment. (26 June 2013)

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

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Shared Services

Cabinet Office: Chloe Smith welcomes new pilot property scheme: announces a pilot scheme, One Public Estate, to encourage local councils to work with central government and other public sector organisations to share buildings and re-use or release surplus property and land. The 12 pilots will examine issues within geographic areas rather than departmental structures, making use of local knowledge. These could range from sharing buildings to encourage regeneration and growth to selling land in small parcels which will attract local development and business. The scheme will also enable the sharing of services and support regeneration. (25 June 2013)

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

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