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 & Rescue Authorities
   Children's Services    Fraud
   Commons and Village Greens    Governance
   Communities    Internal Drainage Boards
   Defamation    Members
   Economic Development    Public Health
   Education    Rating
   Environmental Protection    Regulatory Services
   Equality and Discrimination    Transport
   Finance    Welfare Reform


Access to Information

DCLG: Code of recommended practice for local authorities on data transparency – Government response to consultation: sets out the Government's response to the ‘Improving local government transparency’ consultation that sought views on proposals to strengthen the public’s ability to hold councils to account. It includes a draft revised Transparency Code that will be mandatory for all councils with gross income or expenditure above £6.5m. Councils will also be required to publish certain key information, such as: details of all grants to voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations; their organisation chart; time and resources spent on trade union tasks and functions; parking revenues and number of controlled parking spaces; and details of officer salaries over £50,000. The closing date for comments on the draft Code is 17 January 2013.
The press release states that the Government will provide funding to cover the new burdens that the proposed new Transparency Code places on local authorities. Also, in early 2014 it will consult on broadening transparency to companies linked to councils and parishes with gross income or expenditure less than £25,000. (9 December 2013)

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

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Children's Services

R (J) v Worcestershire CC; Equality and Human Rights Commission (Intervener) [2013] EWHC 3845 (Admin) (Admin Ct): this case considered whether a local authority's duty under s.17 of the Children Act 1989  to safeguard and promote the welfare of children within its area who were in need by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children's needs included a power to provide services when the child was actually outside its area (but still within England and Wales).
J was a 3 year old child who had Down's syndrome and other complex medical problems. It was agreed that he was a "child in need" for the purposes of s.17. His father was a fairground traveller who for much of the year travelled with his family to fairs around England and Wales. In the winter months the family lived with J's grandfather in Malvern. The Council provided funding for nursery or respite care for J when he was residing in the authority's area, but stated that it was unable to fund support for the family while they travelled. J, through his father, applied for a declaration that the Council's power to provide services under s.17 applied to services that might be provided to J when he was outside its area.
The court held that the Council did have the power under s.17, for so long as J remained a child who was a child in need, to provide a range and level of services appropriate to his needs both inside and outside their area, and at times when J was not physically within their area (but was within England and Wales). The wording of s.17 implied a two-stage process: first, assessment that a person was a child and was in need, then the provision of services. The section conferred a broadly expressed general duty (and power) which, when it related to the provision of services, should be purposively construed. The power to provide services was capable of being exercised outside the area of the local authority and at a time when the child himself was outside their area. If Parliament had intended to restrict the provision of services to within the area of the local authority while the child was actually physically present within that area, it would have done so by adding the words "within their area" between the words "level of services" and "appropriate". Theoretically, the power persisted for so long as J remained a child who was a child in need, and extended wherever he might be throughout England and Wales. In deciding whether or not they should exercise the power and whether they had any duty to do so, the Council had to take into consideration a very wide range of factors and legal duties, including: the actual strength of J's connection with Worcestershire; how far away he might go from the area; how long it was or would be since he left the area; and, perhaps importantly, whether or not or when he would return. (6 December 2013)

DfE: Findings and recommendations from the Department for Education’s ‘A long way from home’ initiative 2012: sets out the findings and recommendations from a DfE initiative that explored the long-distance commissioning of children’s homes placements, i.e. placements over 20 miles from the child’s responsible authority border. (2 December 2013)

DfE: Behaviour management and reducing offending by children placed in children’s homes: this research report looks at the mechanisms which could lead to children being prosecuted for behaviour in children’s homes. It identifies key characteristics in residential settings that contribute to successfully manage behaviour and reduce the risk of criminalisation of looked-after children. (2 December 2013)

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

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Commons and Village Greens

DEFRA: Consultation on registration of new town or village greens – Proposed amendments to Schedule 1A (Exclusion of Right under section 15) to the Commons Act 2006: Summary of responses and government response: sets out the Government's response to the July 2013 consultation on a draft order to further reform the provisions for applications to register land as a town or village green. It states that the Government will take forward the proposals to introduce a new ‘catch all’ terminating event for land identified for potential development in draft local plans, with the period set at two years from publication of the plan. The publication stage is reached when a plan is published under reg.19 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012. (9 December 2013)
See also the Draft Commons (Town and Village Greens) (Trigger and Terminating Events) Order 2013, which implements these proposals.

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

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DCLG: Support for new ways of neighbourhood working: announces that a consortium will be working with DCLG to support at least 100 communities to tackle issues at a neighbourhood level under the ‘Our Place’ programme. The consortium will be led by Locality, a national community support organisation, in partnership with the Local Government Association and a wider network of associate organisations. (10 December 2013)

DCLG: Winners of Post Office Community Enterprise Fund competition announced: announced the 25 successful post office branches that  have each been awarded £10,000 under the Community Enterprise Fund to implement their proposals to support local people and businesses, and to tackle isolation among older people. (11 December 2013)

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

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Defamation Act 2013 (Commencement) (England and Wales) Order 2013 (SI 2013/3027 (C.125)): this Order brings the Defamation Act 2013 into force on 1 January 2014. The Act introduces a number of new statutory defences, including a new defence for those organisations that host user generated content on their website, and it abolishes the old common law defences of justification, fair comment and Reynolds privilege. (2 December 2013)
Bevan Brittan has published an article that highlights the provisions that are most relevant to entities that provide public services or perform public functions who are seeking to protect their own reputation or that of their officers and employees, and also to those organisations who find themselves on the receiving end of a defamation claim: Changes to defamation law from 1 January 2014.

If you wish to discuss any of the items noted in this section please contact Wesley O'Brien.

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Economic Development

DCLG: Supporting high streets and town centres: this background paper gives details of a package of measures announced by the Govenrment that are designed to help high street shops to grow, expand and increase employment. The plans build on the wide range of measures resulting from Mary Portas’ review of high streets. They include:

  • business rates support (see below)
  • consultation on parking strategies (see below)
  • changes to permitted development rights
  • a new multi-million pound competition, run by the Technology Strategy Board, to support business-led digital town centres.

(6 December 2013)

DBIS: Research on understanding localised policy interventions in business support and skills: this study presents early evidence on the effective implementation and delivery of four examples of localised policy interventions that support and/or complement national provision; Greater Manchester Business Growth Hub; Plymouth Growth Acceleration and Investment Network; New Anglia Business Information Portal; West of England Employability Charter Mark. The research aims to understand the rationale for local differentiation of the policy, how the policies were designed and implemented, the enablers for achieving intended outcomes, the barriers faced and to identify lessons learnt. It includes the main findings and synthesis of the research, outlining the implications for future localised policy interventions. (7 December 2013)

DPM's Office: City Deals: the Deputy Prime Minister has announced six new City Deals as part of the second wave. The new City Deals cover:

(13 December 2013)

DBIS: £15 million boost for local growth at universities: announces a new £15m University Enterprise Zones scheme that will allow universities to drive local growth plans and support entrepreneurship and innovation. Under the scheme, universities will work with local authorities and the existing LEPs to be engines of new business growth in the area. DBIS will launch a call for expressions of interest for 3 to 4 pilot University Enterprise Zones in January 2014. (13 December 2013)

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

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DPM's Office: Nick Clegg announces funding details for free school meals: the Government has previously announced plans that every child in reception, year 1 and year 2 in state-funded schools will receive a free school lunch. The Autumn Statement (see below) gives details of how this will be funded: there will be £450m new revenue funding for the DfE in 2014 to 2015 and £635m in 2015 to 2016, along with £150m of capital available to ensure that schools can build new kitchens or increase dining capacity where necessary. £70m of this will be new money from HM Treasury and around £80m will be from unspent DfE maintenance budgets. (5 December 2013) 

Academy Conversions (Transfer of School Surpluses) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/3037): s.7 of the Academies Act 2010 requires local authorities to transfer a maintained school’s surplus to the Academy proprietor when the school converts to an Academy following an order following an application by the governing body. These regulations, which come into force on 1 January 2014, set out the framework for the determination by a local authority of any amount made available to the school by the authority which remains unspent when the Secretary of State has approved the school’s application to become an Academy. They provide for review of the determination by the Secretary of State and payment of the determined amount to the proprietor of the Academy. They revoke and replace SI 2010/1938 for schools converting on or after 1 January 2014. (6 December 2013)

DfE: 2014 to 2015 revenue funding arrangements – Additional information for local authorities: provides information about the different formula factors and funding streams that maintained schools and academies may have received in the financial year 2013/14 (or academic year 2013/14), what will change for 2014/15 and the reason for any change. It also sets out how funding pupil growth works in different types of maintained school and academy. (12 December 2013)

School and Early Years Finance (England) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/3104): these regulations, which come into force on 1 January 2014, provide how local authorities set their education budgets and how they allocate funding to maintained schools and providers of free early years provision in their area for the 2014-15 financial year. (9 December 2013)

Transfer of Functions Concerning School Lunches etc. (England) (Amendment) Order 2013 (SI 2103/3111): this Order, which comes into force on 1 January 2014, amends SI 1999/2164 to provide that the duty to provide school lunches under s.512(3) and (4) of the Education Act 1996, and the duty to provide school lunches free of charge under s.512ZB(1) of that Act, is transferred from local authorities to the governing body of each maintained school in England. (10 December 2013)

School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 (Commencement No. 3) Order 2013 (SI 2013/3024 (W.299) (C.124)): this Order brings Part 4 of the 2013 Act into force on 3 December 2013. Part 4 imposes a statutory duty on Welsh local authorities to consult on, produce and publish a three-year Welsh in Education Strategic Plan that will be submitted for approval of, and monitoring by, Welsh Ministers. (2 December 2013)

Welsh Government: School term dates regulations: seeks views on draft regulations on the consultation process to be followed before the use of Welsh Ministers’ powers of direction on school term dates. The proposals result from legislative changes to the setting of school term dates under the Education (Wales) Bill, which is currently before the National Assembly for Wales. The proposed changes to the setting of school term dates include giving the Welsh Ministers a power to direct local authorities and the governing bodies of voluntary aided and foundation schools on the term dates they set. This is to achieve harmonisation of school term dates if local authorities and the governing bodies of voluntary aided and foundation schools have been unable to agree on term dates, or if the term dates which have been agreed need to be altered. The consultation closes on 21 February 2014. (4 December 2013)

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

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Environmental Protection

DEFRA: Local air quality management in England review – Summary of responses and government reply: sets out the Government's response to the July 2013 consultation on four options to improve local air quality management in the UK and increase focus on measures to improve air quality. It states that  there were no clear favourites among the four options, with many respondents calling for an amalgamation of the best elements of each option. DEFRA will explore all alternatives with key delivery partners in the early part of 2014, and will then hold a second consultation in mid - late 2014 on regulatory changes and guidance. (13 December 2013) 

DEFRA: The future of DEFRA funding for the Contaminated Land Capital Grants Scheme: Lord de Mauley, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, has written to local authorities announcing that funding for the Contaminated Land Capital Grants Scheme under Part 2A of the Environmental Portection Act 1990 is to be phased out and will cease from 1 April 2017. He states that the publication of the revised Part 2A Statutory Guidance in April 2012 has led to a more risk-based approach to identifying and remediating contaminated land, which in turn has led to the decision to withdraw funding for contaminated land identification and remediation. This reflects current circumstances including activities looking at departmental priorities and government spend. The letter has not been published on the DEFRA website but is available on the Institute of Environmental Sciences' website. (11 December 2013) 

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

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Equality and Discrimination

Mba v Merton LBC [2013] EWCA Civ 1562 (CA): M was a practising Christian who a held a deep and sincere belief that Sunday was a day for worship and not for work. She was employed by the Council as a care worker in a children's home and her job description required her to work on weekend shifts as and when required. Her managers endeavoured to arrange the rosters so as to permit her not to work on Sundays but when the Council began to roster her for Sunday working she raised a grievance that was rejected. Following disciplinary proceedings and a final warning, she resigned and commenced proceedings in the Employment Tribunal (ET) alleging constructive unfair dismissal and indirect religious discrimination. The ET found that M's belief that Sunday should be a day of rest and worship upon which no paid employment was undertaken was not a core component of the Christian faith. It ruled that the imposition of the requirement that staff worked Sunday shifts as rostered was proportionate and that M's claim of indirect discrimination failed. M appealed.
The EAT held, dismissing her appeal, that the ET had erred in law in finding that M's belief that Sunday should be a day of rest and worship "was not a core component of the Christian faith". The ET should have found that the application of the Sunday working provision, criterion or practice (PCP) satisfied reg.3(1)(b)(i) of the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003, so that the real issue in this case was whether the Council could show "a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim" under reg.3(1)(b)(iii).  In the circumstances of this case, and despite the ET's legal errors, its decision that the imposition of the PCP was proportionate was plainly and unarguably right. Once M had failed to establish the more favourable terms of the contract for which she had contended and the Council had established that there was really no viable or practicable alternative way of running the home effectively, there was only ever going to be one outcome to this case. The legal error made no difference. (5 December 2013)

Swan Housing Association Ltd v Gill [2013] EWCA Civ 1566 (CA): the housing association (SHA) appealed against the dismissal of its application for an anti-social behaviour order against G under the Housing Act 1996 on the grounds that G's behaviour was in breach of his assured tenancy and a nuisance to adjoining occupiers. The judge found the facts to be established by the evidence but he refused the application for an injunction as he found, without any proper or medical evidence, that G was suffering from Aspberger's Syndrome and was therefore disabled. He ruled that SHA had thus breached the Equality Act 2010 and their public sector equality duty under s.149 as they had failed to review the continuation of G's claim to decide whether there was some other, or better way in which they might approach the case in the light of the disability, and that the grant of an injunction would subject G to a very considerable detriment.
The Court of Appeal held, allowing SHA's appeal, that the judge's reasoning was both flawed and a conspicuous red herring. For Asperger's Syndrome to form any part of the arguments for not granting an injunction, proper medical evidence of its extent and effect in this case would have been essential. In the circumstances, it could not properly form any part of the court's exercise of its discretion. Section 149 had no material applicability to this case -  there was no medical evidence that G was disabled and G had not relied on the matter. G did not have a relevant protected characteristic so SHA could not be said to have failed to have due regard to the need to eliminate conduct prohibited by the 2010 Act, or to the need to advance equality of opportunity between persons who shared a relevant protected characteristic and persons who did not, or to the need to foster good relations between persons who shared a relevant protected characteristic and persons who did not. Once the misconception about discrimination and breach of the public sector equality duty had been cleared out of the way, there was no impediment to the grant of the injunction. (9 December 2013)

Gallop v Newport City Council [2013] EWCA Civ 1583 (CA): G appealed against the EAT's dismissal of his disability discrimination claim against his local authority employer. The issues concerned an employer's knowledge that the employee was a disabled person within the meaning of the  Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
G was employed by the Council in its grounds maintenance department. He complained that he was suffering stress, identiifying a number of symptoms. The Council obtained an assessment from their external Occupational Health advisers who reported that G had some 'stress related symptoms' but that there were no signs of clinical depression, and they referred him for stress counselling. G was signed off from work  for "work-related stress" for several long periods over two years. He was eventually dismissed for gross misconduct following allegations of bullying. He brought a claim for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination. The Employment Tribunal (ET) found that G was a disabled person for the purposes of the 1995 Act but his claim was dismissed on the grounds that the Council did not have actual or constructive knowledge of that disability. The EAT uplheld that decision, stating that the Council was entitled to rely on the advice from their advisers on three or four separate occasions that, despite G's medical condition, he was not disabled within the 1995 Act.
The court held, allowing G's appeal, that the task for the ET was to ascertain whether, at the material times, the Council had actual or constructive knowledge of the 1995 Act facts constituting G's disability. The ET did not engage in that inquiry and so it had erred in finding that the Council was entitled to deny relevant knowledge by relying simply on its unquestioning adoption of the advisers' unreasoned opinions that G was not a disabled person. It was the employer who had to make the factual judgment as to whether the employee was or was not disabled: it could not simply rubber stamp the adviser's opinion that he was not. The employer, when seeking outside advice from clinicians, could not simply to ask in general terms whether the employee was a disabled person within the meaning of the legislation but had to pose specific practical questions directed to the particular circumstances of the putative disability. The answers to such questions would then provide real assistance to the employer in forming its judgment as to whether the criteria for disability were satisfied. The case was remitted to the ET for a re-hearing of G's discrimination claims. (11 December 2013)

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

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HM Treasury: Autumn Statement 2013: the Chancellor has delivered his Autumn Statement to Parliament, giving a formal update on the current state of the economy, responding to the most recent analysis from the Office of Budgetary Responsibility, and setting out the Government's planned measures to boost growth. Key announcements for local authorities are:

  •  support for business rates in England and Wales, with rates to be capped at 2% rather than linked to RPI inflation, a 50% discount for businesses moving into vacant properties and bills to be spread over 12 months rather than 10 months as currently, with effect from 1 April 2014. The Government will also discuss with business options for longer-term administrative reform of business rates post-2017;
  • support for social investment, with a new and innovative social investment tax relief to encourage individuals to invest in social organisations, and tax relief on investment in social impact bonds where the special purpose vehicle is structured as a company limited by shares; 
  • local authorities will have the flexibility to spend £200m of receipts from new asset sales on the one-off costs of reforming services;
  • nearly £800m of borrowing at the PWLB project rate will be available to LEPs in partnership with local authorities in 2014-15 and 2015 16. This will be allocated on a competitive basis alongside the Local Growth Fund as part of growth deal; 
  • £1bn in loans to unblock large housing developments in 2014-15, with investment decisions on 9 specific sites, capable of unlocking around 27,000 houses. £50m of this will be earmarked for Local Enterprise Partnership supported bids; 
  • Housing Revenue Account borrowing limits raised by £150m in 2015-16 and £150m in 2016-17, allocated on a competitive basis, and from the sale of vacant high-value social housing; 
  • councils to sell off the most expensive social housing and rundown urban housing estates to be regenerated; also, the Government will launch a review into the role local authorities can play in supporting overall housing supply; 
  • measures to further improve the incentive provided by the New Homes Bonus, in particular through mechanisms to withhold payments where planning approvals are made on appeal; 
  • consultation on a new 10-unit threshold for Section 106 affordable housing contributions; 
  • the Government will explore options for kick starting the regeneration of some of the worst housing estates through repayable loans;
  • additional £90m over three years to improve the energy efficiency of schools, hospitals and other public sector buildings.

(5 December 2013)
The LGA has produced an On the Day briefing that comments on the implications for local authorities.
See also Eric Pickles' letter to local authority leaders following the Autumn Statement 2013.

Draft Community Infrastructure Levy (Amendment) Regulations 2014: these draft regulations, once in force, amend the operation of the Community Infrastructure Levy, so as to improve the administration of the levy and make its application fairer and more transparent. They also introduce new exemptions for certain residential development, and restrictions on the ability of local planning authorities to require developers to enter into highways agreements where the levy applies. (9 December 2013)

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

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Fire & Rescue Authorities

DCLG: Fire and rescue authorities transformation funds for 2015 to 2016 – Bidding process: in June 2013, the Government announced £75m funding for 2015 to 2016 (£30m revenue and £45m capital) for the fire and rescue sector to support transformational change and deliver further efficiencies. This consultation seeks views on the draft bidding process through which these funds will be administered. The consultation aims to both familiarise fire and rescue authorities with the single bidding process being developed for these two funds, and to gather opinion and feedback to make sure the bidding process operates as smoothly and effectively as possible. There is also draft application form and guidance, draft guidance on demonstrating value for money and a Fire Transformation Grant bid calculator. The consultation closes on 14 January 2014. (3 December 2013)

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

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DCLG: Stepping up the fight against fraud: announces £16.6m funding over two years for additional investigators across England to help local authorities collect money that they are rightfully owed. The Government is also initiating a project with local government to ensure that data is shared between the Single Fraud Investigation Service (SFIS) and local authorities, and that the SFIS and authorities have the ability to jointly investigate and prosecute fraudsters.(10 December 2013)

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

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DCLG: Government response to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee report – Post-legislative scrutiny of the Greater London Authority Act 2007 and the London Assembly: sets out the Government's response to the CLG Select Committee’s recommendations in its October 2013 report. The recommendations aimed to strengthen the powers of the Assembly and correct what the Select Committee saw as inconsistencies in the Greater London Authority’s function and ability to hold the Mayor of London to account. The Government has rejected four of the Committee's seven recommendations on the basis that they increase the costs and bureaucracy of the current systems and dilute the powers of the Mayor. The Government will, however, consider the recommendations that would reform the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, remove Assembly Members' rights to join the Mayor’s Cabinet and consider the role of the Assembly if further devolution of powers to the Mayor were reviewed. (4 December 2013)

Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 (Modification of Enactments and other Provisions) Order 2013 (SI 2013/3005 (W.297)): this Order, which comes into force on 27 November 2013, modifies various enactments in consequence of changes to Welsh local authorities' governance arrangements introduced by the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011. (27 November 2013)

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

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Internal Drainage Boards

DEFRA: Water Bill – Internal Drainage Boards: this briefing note provides an overview of the changes the Water Bill will make to Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs) and explains the reasons for these changes. The Bill aligns IDBs’ byelaw-making procedures under the Land Drainage Act 1991 with that of local authorities under s.236 LGA 1972. It also streamlines the IDB structural reform process by simplifying the steps to be taken. (3 December 2013)

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

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Family Absence for Members of Local Authorities (Wales) Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/2901 (W.280)): Part 2 of the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2011 gives members of Welsh local authorities entitlement to a period of family absence, divided into five types: maternity absence; newborn absence; adopter’s absence; new adoption absence and parental absence. These regulations, which come into force on 5 December 2013, prescribe the conditions that members must satisfy to be entitled to a period of family absence. They also provide for the extent of the various periods of absence, the cancellation of periods of absence, and bringing absence to an end(12 November 2013)

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

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Public Health

DH: Public health ring-fenced grant conditions - 2014/15: LAC(DH)(2013)3: announces the ring-fenced public health grant conditions for 2014/15, with details of how the £2.79bn public health funding is allocated to all the English unitary and upper tier authorities. (13 December 2013)

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

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DCLG: Checking and challenging your rateable value: seeks views on proposals to reform the current system for explaining and challenging rateable values, so as to improve transparency in the business rates valuation and formal challenge system. The consultation closes on 3 March 2014. (5 December 2013)

DCLG: Business rates information letter 9/2013: gives details of a package of business rates measures announced in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement. (6 December 2013)

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

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Regulatory Services

DCLG: Local authority parking strategies: seeks views on views on current local authority parking strategies and on options to change the balance of how parking is enforced with the aim of ensuring that parking strategies complement and enhance the attractiveness of high streets and town centres. The proposals include tackling aggressive parking policies which harm high streets, a review of double yellow lines, legislating to allow “grace periods” and stopping CCTV being used for enforcement. The parking enforcement guidance is updated to mirror the pro-high street policies reflected in the National Planning Policy Framework; these advocate a less heavy-handed approach to parking enforcement and reinforce that parking charges and fines should not be used to subsidise other areas of local government spending. The Government has also stated that it will cap increases in parking penalty charges for the rest of this Parliament, with immediate effect. The consultation closes on 14 February 2014. (6 December 2013)

Home Office: Guidance for local authorities on taking action against head shops selling new psychoactive substances: this guidance highlights the range of options available for local authority trading standards officers against retail outlets selling so-called ‘legal highs’ and drug paraphernalia. The guidance covers the offences that these 'head shops' may be committing under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, the Intoxicating Substances (Supply) Act 1985, and consumer protection regulations. (12 December 2013)

DCMS: Red Tape Challenge – Proposals for each of the regulations in the Sports & Recreation theme: gives details of the 286 regulations that DCMS will consult on under the Red Tape Challenge sports and recreation theme. DCMS plans to revoke or improve 135 of these regulations following a vigorous process, representing a 47% reduction or improvement in the regulatory landscape. The proposed changes include:

  • removing excessive bureaucracy around gaming machine permits;
  • simplifying through consolidation sports ground safety regulation;
  • further changes to entertainment licensing that are expected to reduce the licensing burden for plays, dance and indoor sport; and
  • keeping 147 necessary regulations, covering: the export and return of cultural objects; planning in respect of ecclesiastical buildings; protection of wrecks and areas of archaeological importance; and the governance and location of some museums.

(13 December 2013)

Brough v St Helen's MBC (Unreported, Admin Ct): B appealed by way of case stated against the magistrate's court's destruction order imposed under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. B owned a pit-bull type dog that was found attached to a railing, without a muzzle, acting aggressively and barking. Under s.4(1A)(b) of the Act, the court was not required to order destruction if satisfied that the dog was not a danger to public safety. There was conflicting evidence from experts and from B's family and neighbours as to the dog's behaviour. The court found that, having considered all the circumstances, the dog's history and characteristics, the dog remained a danger to public safety and that it was appropriate to make an immediate order for destruction. B appealed, contending that the judge had erred in concluding that the dog presented a danger to the public and to impose a destruction order on the facts found proved and on the law as it stood.
The court held, dismissing B's appeal, that the magistrates had adopted the correct approach in reaching their decision. The magistrates' court had conflicting evidence before it that the dog had given no cause for concern. The appeal court could only intervene if persuaded that preferring the animal control officer’s evidence and not the expert dog handler's was a preference which a reasonable court could not have made. It could not be said that that had been a conclusion that the court had not been entitled to reach on all the evidence. (29 November 2013)
The judgment is available on Lawtel (password required).

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

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DfT: Road and rail projects to boost local and regional transport: announces funding to tackle congested local roads and improve key points in the strategic road network, and also new initiatives to drive forward rail electrification. The funding includes: £49m from the Local Pinch Point Fund for 25 local roads schemes; confirmation of nearly £111m for the M6-Heysham link road, along with funding for projects to improve the M55 J1, A1, and M62 J19; and electrification of the Wigan-to-Bolton railway line. A taskforce will report to the Transport Secretary within 12 months on the acceleration of further rail electrification schemes in the North of England. (13 December 2013)

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

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Welfare Reform

DWP: Preparing for Universal Credit implementation – Key questions and answers for local authorities: sets out a series of FAQs to help local authorities with the introduction of Universal Credit. The questions and answers were commissioned by Lord Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform and developed by the 12 local authority led pilots, that began in September 2012. (6 December 2013)

DWP: Universal Credit local support services – Update and trialling plan: sets out how DWP will work together with local government associations and authorities over the next year, testing different arrangements for partnership working, financial management, the effective delivery of front line services and other specific aspects of the Local Support Services Framework. It also sets out what local authorities and Jobcentre Plus District Managers can do to prepare, such as strengthening existing partnerships and building new ones, identifying resource opportunities and sharing good practice. (6 December 2013)

See also DWP's web page Universal Credit for local authorities that brings together documents, information and updates about Universal Credit for local authority staff.

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

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