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    Energy
   Audit and Accountability    Fire and Rescue Authorities
   Children's Services    Government Policy
   Communities    Parish Councils
   Delivery of Services    Public Health
   Economic Development    Standards
   Education    Transport


Adult Social Services

DH: The Social Care Commitment: this agreement, launched by the DH in partnership with ADASS, CQC and the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group, involves employers promising to implement best practice in a number of areas relating to workforce values, attitudes, behaviours, skills and competence. By signing up to the commitment, employers and their workers are pledging to continually deliver high quality care, ensuring the public have confidence in the services provided. (20 September 2013)

Welsh Government: The future of regulation and inspection of care and support in Wales: this White Paper sets out proposals to change the regulation and inspection of care and support in Wales that will support the proposals in the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill. The paper proposes a model of care and support based on the idea of well-being and improved outcomes for citizens, whilst ensuring that quality standards are being met by service providers and the workforce, with an outcomes based inspection regime, a service based regulatory regime and a national institute of care and support. The consultation closes on 6 January 2014. (30 September 2013)

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

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Audit and Accountability

DCLG: Accountability system statements for local government and fire and rescue authorities: the two system statements in this document set out the current funding systems, legislation and guidance which form the core accountability system for local authorities and fire and rescue authorities, which are concerned with issues such as their financial management and democratic accountability. (26 September 2013)

House of Commons Library: Local Audit and Accountability Bill: this Bill, which was introduced in the Lords in May 2013, abolishes the Audit Commission and replaces it with a new audit regime for local authorities, local health bodies and other public bodies covered by the Commission’s remit. It also amends the current regulations on council tax referendums, and permits the Secretary of State to direct local authorities to comply with the Local Authority Publicity Code. This research paper has been prepared to inform the 2nd Reading of the Bill in the Commons. (1 October 2013)

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

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Children's Services

Policy Exchange: Centres of Excellence? The role of children’s centres in early intervention: this report looks at Sure Start Children’s Centres and considers whether they are an ideal means for delivering services that can transform children’s lives and whether they are being used to their full potential. Whilst not agreeing with some who argue that they are an unnecessary addition to universal service provision, and that they could be abolished and such services delivered in other settings, the report argues that in tightened financial times, local authorities need to make better use of them or other services to close the gap between rich and poor children. It argues that in a time of stretched budgets, supporting high quality care for children from deprived backgrounds offers greater value for money than subsidies to the richest parents. It also argues that the government is right to allow childcare to be delivered in a range of settings, rather than just Children’s Centres. (17 September 2013)

Ofsted: Framework and evaluation schedule for the inspection of services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers (single inspection framework): outlines the framework for the inspection of services for children in need of help and protection, children looked after and care leavers under s.136 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, which is effective from November 2013. It focuses on the effectiveness of local authority services and arrangements to help and protect children, the experiences and progress of children looked after, including adoption, fostering, the use of residential care, and children who return home, and also on the arrangements for permanence for children who are looked after and the experiences and progress of care leavers.
Ofted has also published frameworks for inspecting voluntary adoption agencies and independent fostering services, which come into effect immediately. (25 September 2013)

DfE: Letter to the Mayor of Doncaster about children's social care: the Secretary of State has written to Doncaster MBC confirming he agrees in principle to the establishment of  a Doncaster Children's Trust to deliver children's services, that is genuinely independent of the Council and able to act autonomously in delivering the improvements needed. The Secretary of State retains the power to remove children's services functions from Doncaster in future if it proves necessary to secure swifter improvement.  The Trust will be established for a period of ten years, with a review after five years, as recommended in the LeGrand review. (26 September 2013)

DfE: Improving permanence for looked after children: seeks views on proposals to strengthen the team around the looked-after child, improve the status, security and stability of long-term foster care, and strengthen the requirements for returning children home from care. The consultation closes on 29 November 2013. (30 September 2013)

DfE: £100 million to support the education of children in care: announces that total funding for the new Pupil Premium Plus will increase from £40m in 2013/14 to £100m in 2014/15. The funding, which supports children in care at school, will increase by £1,000 per pupil to £1,900 per child p.a. from April 2014, children in care will be funded from the first day of care. In addition, children adopted from care and those who leave care under a special guardianship order or residence order will also attract the Pupil Premium Plus. (1 October 2013)

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

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DCLG: Cash boost for councils backing neighbourhood planning: announces £7.5m funding to help councils support neighbourhood plans. Local authorities can claim up to £100,000 p.a.to help their communities start a neighbourhood plan, with an extra £25,000 for plans that pass a successful examination. They can also claim up to £25,000 in grants to help communities establish Neighbourhood Forums in areas with no parish council.
DCLG also announced 40 Neighbourhood Champions who will spread the word about neighbourhood planning and help other communities looking to learn how best to get a plan underway swiftly. (26 September 2013)

DCLG: You've got the power - A quick and simple guide to community rights: provides a simple step-by-step overview of the rights which have been introduced to give people more power over what happens in their neighbourhood, including: 

  • Neighbourhood planning
  • Community Right to Build
  • Community Right to Bid
  • Community Shares
  • Our Place!
  • Community Right to Challenge
  • Town and parish councils
  • Right to Manage and community cashback
  • Right to Reclaim Land

The document also points people in the right direction for advice, support and funding. (26 September 2013)

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

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Delivery of Services

NLGN: What will localism look like in 2015?:  this collection of political essays from council leaders and influencers from all the main parties displays some of the best innovation in local government. The essays show what good local government needs from national government to enable them to continue to deliver – increasingly in very difficult circumstances. (17 September 2013)

DH: Friends and Family Test extended across public services: announces the extension of the NHS Friends and Family Test across other public services. The test, which asks “Would you recommend this service to your friends and family?”, will be extended to assess Jobcentre Plus services (learning from which will be incorporated into the next phase of the Work Programme), further education courses and all service providers of the youth scheme National Citizen Service. (1 October 2013)

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

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Economic Development

Insight Public Affairs: Clarity or confusion? Local Enterprise Partnerships at the crossroads: this report provides an update on the state of play for LEPs. It considers the Coalition Government’s continuing commitment to the LEPs and the Opposition’s perspective, with the Adonis Growth Review providing a backdrop to the analysis. It also evaluates ways in which the current governance and accountability structures could be improved to make them more effective. (11 September 2013)

DCLG: New parking reform proposals to support local shops and high streets: announces that the Government is to consult on reforming parking rules to help with the cost of living and to support local shops. The reforms will include:

  • stopping CCTV being used for on-street parking enforcement; 
  • updating parking enforcement guidance to support local shops;
  • tackling wrongly-issued fines;
  • stopping unacceptable parking fine collection practices;
  • reviewing unnecessary yellow lines and the scope for residents’ review;s
  • reviewing the grace period for parking offences;
  • spreading best practice on supporting town centres and tackling illegal parking;
  • new open data on parking to allow the public to ‘go compare’. 

(27 September 2013)
See also DfT's press release Councils urged to use parking zones to cut yellow lines, in which the Local Transport Minister Norman Baker urges local authorities to think about using restricted parking zones, instead of automatically opting to use yellow lines to control parking, particularly in single streets and environmentally-sensitive areas in towns and cities. (4 October 2013)

DCLG: Enterprising Libraries receive £450K to support local businesses of the future: announces the award of funding to 10 libraries to help turn library spaces into incubators for business ideas by provide coaching, advice, meeting spaces, and IT support to people interested in developing a proposal and taking it to the market. (3 October 2013)

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

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DfE: School uniform guidance: non-statutory best practice guidance to help local authorities, governing bodies, headteachers and school staff in maintained schools and academies make decisions on school uniforms. It updates the previous guidance on school uniform, published in May 2012, but now with greater emphasis on securing best value for money in the supply of school uniforms. It will be reviewed again in the summer of 2015. (20 September 2013)

DfE: Special educational needs reforms – Letter from Edward Timpson to Directors of Children's Services: the Children's Minister has written to DCSs about progress with reforms that will deliver a more simple, joined up system for the provision of education, health and social care for children and young people with special educational needs and learning difficulties up to the age of 25. There are also details of new £9m funding for local authorities for 2013/14. He asks DCSs to complete a short survey about their progress towards implementation and the support their are already receiving and what additional support they would find useful. (25 September 2013)

DfE: The Academy Conversions (Transfer of School Surpluses) Regulations 2010 – Consultation on replacing the Academy Conversions (Transfer of School Surpluses) Regulations 2010 with the Academy Conversions (Transfer of School Surpluses) Regulations 2013: seeks views on proposed changes for local authorities transferring financial surplus of a predecessor school to an academy, where the school has had its application to convert to academy status approved. The 2010 regulations state when a local authority must transfer the financial surplus of a predecessor school to an academy when it converts. The proposed new regulations, to come into effect frmo 1 January 2014, will provide extended timescales to enable accounts to be closed down successfully, to provide absolute closure where requests for reviews are not received in time, and to provide arrangements for splitting balances at federated schools. (26 September 2013) 

DfE: Research into the Phase 4 locally-led delivery projects for raising the participation age: the Education and Skills Act 2008 raised the age at which young people are required to stay in education or training in England to 17 years from 2013 and to 18 from 2015. The DfE funded local authorities to undertake trials and locally-led delivery projects over four years, with the Phase 4 projects forming the last phase of work. This paper sets out the findings of an evaluation of the Phase 4 projects that gathered evidence on new activities and effective practice, focusing on the changed economic, social, political, and local authority context since the announcement of the policy. (26 September 2013)

DfE: How to complain about post-16 EFA-funded institutions: guidance on complaints about sixth form colleges and commercial and charitable training providers where the complaint relates to Education Funding Agency funded provision and students aged 16 - 18 (and up to 25 who are subject to a learning disability assessment). (3 October 2013)

DfE: Draft 0 to 25 special educational needs (SEN) code of practice, draft regulations: the Children and Families Bill that is currently before Parliament proposes replacing SEN statements (for schools) and Learning Difficulty Assessments (for young people in further education and training) with single 0-25 Education, Health and Care Plans. This paper seeks views on the arrangements for the transfer to the new plans that will be phased in from September 2014. It includes draft new 0 to 25 SEN code of practice that will be statutory guidance and a number of associated draft regulations. The consultation closes on 9 December 2013. (4 October 2013)

DfE: Impact evaluation of the SEND pathfinder programme: the special educational needs and disability (SEND) Green Paper and subsequent draft legislation set out the Government’s proposals to improve the current system for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities and their families. The new proposals are being pioneered in 20 SEND pathfinder sites covering 31 local authority areas. This report evaluates the first 18 months of the SEND pathfinder programme. It focuses on the experiences, outcomes and distance travelled by the initial cohort of participating families; the extent to which working practices have changed for staff / individuals that have worked directly with these families; and an indicative assessment of the costs of the reforms. (4 October 2013)

DfE: Evaluation of the Green Paper support contracts: The DfE commissioned support contracts to complement the activity of the pathfinder support team. Collectively, the organisations delivering these support contracts were termed the ‘Delivery Partners’, each of which was originally contracted to deliver their activities for a period of two years, up to September 2013. This research report finds that take up of the support offered as part of all six contracts was high across the relevant target audiences. Furthermore, those that had accessed the support offers generally reported high levels of satisfaction in relation to the relevance, quality and usefulness of the activities that had been delivered. (4 October 2013)

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

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DCLG: £6 million funding for local authority heat networks: announces a new £6m grant funding programme to help local authorities in England and Wales to achieve urban decarbonisation, local growth, improved energy efficiency and reduced fuel poverty through increased use of heat networks. The fund, which will be managed by the Heat Networks Delivery Unit, will meet 67% of the estimated eligible costs of specialist consultants used to develop technical proposals and financial evaluations; applicants will need to contribute the remaining 33%. There will be six bidding rounds until March 2015. The closing date for Round 1 applications is 15 November 2013, and for Round 2 is 24 January 2014. More details are given at the bottom of the Heat Networks web page. (20 September 2013)

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

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Fire and Rescue Authorities

DCLG: Future control room services scheme – Summary ‘national picture’ of fire and rescue authority improvement plans: gives an update on progress with the plans for fire and rescue authorities’ locally determined projects to improve their control room arrangements. It shows that a tremendous amount of work is underway in fire and rescue authorities to deliver improvements to control room efficiency and resilience. It provides a revised high-level national summary of the improvements being made by each project, delivery timescales and projected savings. (27 September 2013)

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

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Government Policy

HM Government: The Coalition – Together in the national interest: Mid-term review: this document takes stock of the progress made in implementing the Coalition Agreement that was signed in May 2010, under the main themes of: Fixing the economy; Improving public services; Building a better society; and Standing tall in the world. It also sets out a new set of reforms, building on those already under way.
There is also a detailed update on the progress that has been made, up to the end of 2012,  in implementing all of the commitments in the Programme for Government. (October 2013)

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

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Parish Councils

House of Commons Library: Parish councils – Creation and abolition: this Standard Note describes the procedures for creating and abolishing parish councils that were introduced by the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007. It also notes the recent consultation on facilitating the creation of parish councils. (4 October 2013)

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

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Public Health

NICE: Judging whether public health interventions offer value for money: this briefing for local authorities and partner organisations summarises the economic and health benefits that can be gained from public health interventions and the methods that can be used to measure them. It is particularly relevant to health and wellbeing boards. It also highlights what could be gained by placing greater emphasis on 'prevention rather than cure' in relation to health. (1 September 2013)

NHS Confederation: Good practice in joint health and wellbeing strategies – A self-evaluation tool for health and wellbeing boards: provide guidance to HWBs on good practice in planning, developing and delivering JHWSs, based around key questions to consider and top tips on approaches that might be taken. It includes case studies to illustrate the good practice. (30 September 2013)

LGIU: Policy in practice – Implementing NHS Health Check: NHS Health Check is a national programme which identifies people at risk of developing preventable illness including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease so they can take action to avoid or delay ill-health. Local authorities took over responsibility for the NHS Health Check programme in April 2013 as part of their new public health responsibilities. This September the first set of local authority performance data was published by Public Health England. This LGIU briefing describes the NHS Health Check and the role of councils and clinical commissioning groups, identifies some examples of good practice and suggests questions for councils and HWBs to consider. (11 September 2013)
See also the LGA's NHS health check – frequently asked questions that address a number of transitional issues relating to the transfer of responsibility for commissioning NHS Health Check to local government. (16 September 2013)

SOLACE: Principles for health and social care reform: this report outlines the views of Solace members on the shape that health and social care reform should take. It outlines ten Key Principles which should underpin future reform. It states that the preferred goal for health and social care reform is shared commissioning, shared budgets and shared management teams, with local HWBs providing local strategic leadership across the whole system. (30 September 2013)

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

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DCLG: Openness and transparency on personal interests – a guide for councillors: this guide on personal interests gives basic practical information about how members should be open and transparent about their personal interests, now that new standards arrangements have been introduced by the Localism Act 2011. It reflects the Government’s policy that elected representatives should continue to declare financial interests in an open and transparent way, to avoid conflicts of interest especially on issues such as planning applications or financially benefiting from the issuing of council contracts. This revised version includes a specific requirement to register trade union memberships: within 28 days of taking office, councillors must register certain financial as well as non-financial interests required by their council’s code of conduct, which should include any trade union membership. 
There is also a revised Illustrative text for local code of conduct that councils can, if they choose, use as a basis for their new local code of conduct. (20 September 2013)

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

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DfT: £80 million to tackle more pinch points on local roads: announces the award of £25m funding under the Local Pinch Point Fund to 15 schemes that aim to tackle barriers on the local highway network that may be restricting the movement of goods and people. The Transport Minister is also inviting local authoirities to submit bids for a share of a further £55m to help address congestion on the local road network in England, which are acting as an impediment to economic growth. The fund is available to English local highway and transport authorities, including Transport for London. Bids can either be new schemes or for authorities to resubmit their previous bids to the department following feedback. The DfT will shortly be issuing a further guidance note on the application process. The closing date for bids is 31 October 2013. (27 September 2013)

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

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