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 to 7 February 2014. Items are set out by subject, with a link to where the full document can be found on the internet.

07/02/2014

Claire Booth

Claire Booth

Professional Support Lawyer

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    Indemnities
   Audit    Judicial Review
   Children's Services    Libraries
   Commons Registration    Officers
   Communities    Performance
   Development Control    Police
   Economic Development    Powers and Duties
   Education    Procurement
   Electoral Services    Public Health
   Emergency Planning    Rating
   Energy    Regulatory Services
   Finance    Social Enterprises
   Housing    Welfare Reform and Benefits

Adult Social Services

DH: Care Bill impact assessments: the Government has published a series of impact assessments alongside the Care Bill that look at the problems that the Bill aims to address, the policy objectves and options that have been considered, and that compare the costs, benefits and impact of the options. They include impact assessments on:

There is also a summary of the 11 impact assessments. The Care Bill is currently before the Commons Committee. (29 January 2014)

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

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Audit

Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014: this Act has received Royal Assent. In particular, the Act: 

  • brings about the closure of the Audit Commission and in its place create a new framework for local audit;
  • extends council tax referendum provisions introduced in the Localism Act 2011 so local taxpayers can veto excessive council tax increases; 
  • gives the Secretary of State (SoS) power to direct a local authority to comply with the code of recommended practice as regards publicity issued under s.4 LGA 1986; and
  • gives the SoS power to make regulations allowing the public to record, film or tweet council meetings.

Most of the Act comes into force on a day or days to be appointed. Some of the council tax referendum provisions came into force on 30 January, and the Publicity Code and Access to Meetings provisions come into force on 30 March 2014. (30 January 2014)

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: S31 Grant determination letter for Adoption Reform Grant (2014-15): this letter from Shirley Trundle, Director at DfE, sets out the allocations, by local authority, of the Adoption Reform Grant. Local authorities can spend this one-off grant to recognise the programmes of change underway in the area of adoption. They can choose how best to spend the money in order to meet local need. (31 January 2014)

DfE: Letter to all childminders in England from Elizabeth Truss: this letter informs childminders about government reforms designed to make it easier to work as a childminder and to attract new people into the profession. These reforms include: making it easier for childminders to access government funding; the introduction of childminder agencies; changes to local authority networks and support; and how childminders can work with schools in providing childcare before and after school. (3 February 2014)

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

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Commons Registration

Adamson v Paddico (267) Ltd; Taylor (on behalf of the Society for the Protection of Markham & Litte Francis) v Betterment Properties (Weymouth) Ltd [2014] UKSC 7 (Sup Ct): in these two joined cases concerning rectification of the Commons Register, the Surpreme Court considered  the effect of the lapse of time between the registration of land as a village green and the application to rectify. In the first case (Paddico) the application to rectify was made 12 years after registration; in the second case (Betterment) the residents appealed against the decision to allow rectification nine years after it was made.
The court held, allowing the appeals in part, that there was no limitation period for applications under s.14 of the Commons Registration Act 1965 - it simply required the rectification to be "just", with no bias either for or against rectification. The best analogy to apply would be with the equitable doctrine of laches, which generally required (a) knowledge of the facts, and (b) acquiescence, or (c) detriment or prejudice - the last would usually be the crux of the matter. There were at least four categories of prejudice which might be relevant: to the local inhabitants; to other individuals; to public authorities and the public they served; and to the fair hearing of the case. Applying these principles to these two case, the court dismissed the appeal in Betterment, agreeing with the Court of Appeal that the lapse of time was a material factor but was not such as to allow the appeal; there was no evidence of prejudice and no material from which the likelihood of prejudice could be inferred. In Paddico, the court allowed the appeal: although the lapse of time was much greater than in Betterment, the law was in a considerable state of flux during much of this time. Paddico would suffer injustice as a result of being wrongly deprived of the right to seek to develop the land, the company would suffer injustice in being deprived of the likelihood that they would benefit from the overage provisions in the sale contract and the public would suffer prejudice in the land not being available for the use to which the democratic planning procedures had decided that it should eventually be put. (5 February 2014)

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

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Communities

DCLG: £5 million government cash injection to transform community buildings: announces the award of funding from the Community Assets Fund, managed by the Social Investment Business Group, for 17 community buildings to help them reopen to the public or improve their existing use. (30 January 2014)

Locality / LGA: Our Place programme: information on a new DCLG initiative which aims to give people more power over local services and budgets in their neighbourhoods, with a £4.3m package of support and grants. Our Place follows on from the Neighbourhood Community Budgets Pilot Programme. It is now inviting applications for grants from eligible bodies (including charitable, philanthropic or benevolent organisations, parish and town councils, public service providers and local authorities in England). The programme opened to applications on 20 January 2014 and will run through to 31 March 2015l however, it expects a surge in applications and so urges anyone thinking of applying to submit their applications as soon as possible. (31 January 2014)

DCLG: Allotment disposal guidance – Safeguards and alternatives: updated statutory guidance on the criteria that councils must meet in order to obtain the Secretary of State’s consent to dispose of allotment land under s.8 of the Allotments Act 1925. The criteria themselves have not been altered but their scope has been clarified. The guidance replaces the letter sent to local authority chief executives in February 2002 and sets out, much more robustly, the factors that the SoS will consider when deciding whether to give consent. It provides much greater accountability and transparency for local authorities, allotment holders and members of the public wanting to know how decisions have been reached. The guidance also explains how councils and local residents can make good use of the new community rights introduced by the Localism Act 2011, including neighbourhood planning and the Community Right to Bid. (30 January 2014)

LGA: Briefing for Opposition Day debate – Pub companies: the LGA is calling on pub companies to operate a fair-playing field to offer the greatest chance of survival to community pubs. Its proposals include: a ban by competition bodies on the use of restrictive covenants that enable big breweries to sell community pubs and stop them from being reopened; and giving more communities a say in what happens to their local pub. (21 January 2014)

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

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Development Control

DCLG: Change of use – New homes: the Planning Minister Nick Boles has made a statement to Parliament on the Government's policy enabling offices to convert to homes without having to apply for full planning permission. He announced that DCLG is writing to eight local authorities who have made directions which prevent such office to home conversions, requesting that they consider reducing the extent of their directions so that they are more targeted. This will ensure that offices which should legitimately benefit from this national right can do so. Ministers are also thinking of cancelling Article 4 permitted development directions which seek to re-impose unjustified or blanket regulation, given the clearly stated public policy goal of liberalising the planning rules and helping provide more homes. (6 February 2014)

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

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Economic Development

DCLG: Over £400 million boost for business and local economies: announces that 12 Enterprise Zones have been shortlisted to receive a share of £100m funding for business infrastructure. In addition, eight universities can bid for part of a £15m fund to establish University Enterprise Zones. It also announces that small retail businesses are eligible for a new special retail discount, worth £1,000, on their business rates - see below. (29 January 2014)

DPM's Office: Oxford and Oxfordshire City Deal: the Deputy Prime Minister has signed the Oxford and Oxfordshire City Deal that will see major improvements in local roads and public transport specifically tailored to link universities with the city’s major industrial and research areas. Road links to the Science Vale Enterprise Zone will be improved, and the first phase of the new Science Transit public transport scheme will begin. In addition, a network of four new innovation centres will give Oxford the tools to really make the most of its world-renowned science and research, creating jobs and driving the local economy for years to come. (30 January 2014)

DPM's Office: Black Country City Deal: this City Deal builds on the long history and high performance of Black Country manufacturing and supports the growth of high value manufacturing, particularly in the automotive and aerospace sectors. It covers the areas of Wolverhampton, Walsall, Dudley and Sandwell. (3 February 2014)

Welsh Government: £100m Vibrant and Viable Places funding announced: announces the allocation of funding for the Welsh Government’s regeneration grant, to be used for various regeneration projects – helping to create jobs, tackle poverty, increase housing supply and improve community facilities. (31 January 2014)

Welsh Government: Technical Advice Note (TAN) 23 – Economic development: this revied TAN provides guidance for Welsh local planning authorities on the national planning policy on economic development set out in Chapter 7 of Planning Policy Wales, including: developing high level economic planning objectives; assessing the economic benefits of new development; economic development and the rural economy; preparing an evidence base for a Local Development Plan; creating an economic development vision for a Local Development Plan; and determining employment land supply. (7 February 2014)

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

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Education

DfE: School organisation – Maintained schools: statutory guidance for governing bodies, local authorities and decision makers on opening, closing, or making school organisation changes to maintained schools. It sets out how those changes can be made, and the areas where a statutory process must be followed. (28 January 2014)

DfE: Making significant changes to an existing academy: advice for academy trusts that helps them to understand what they need to do before making a significant change to their existing arrangements. It sets out the steps that an academy trust needs to follow to enable that change, with examples of what would be considered a significant change. It includes the main components of the business case that has to be submitted to the Education Funding Agency to propose the change. (29 January 2014)

DfE: Policy review – Asbestos management in schools: seeks views on the DfE's policy on asbestos management in schools. In particular, it would like to hear from those that are involved in the day-to-day management of asbestos in schools, about their experiences and how they think DfE can support schools to fulfil their responsibilities. The consultation closes on 31 March 2014. (31 January 2014)

DfE: S31 Grant Determination letter for Special Educational Needs (SEN) Reform Grant (2014-15): this letter from Ann Gross, Director at DfE, sets out the allocations, by local authority, of the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Reform Grant. Local authorities can spend this one-off grant to recognise the programmes of change underway in the areas of SEN. They can choose how best to spend the money in order to meet local need. (31 January 2014) 

DfE: Behaviour and discipline in schools: updated guidance for school leaders and school staff that explains staff members' powers to discipline pupils. It is for individual schools to develop their own best practice for managing behaviour in their school. The updated guidance includes new advice on sanctions for poor behaviour. (3 February 2014)
Ofsted has announced the start of a rolling programme of unannounced visits to schools where standards of behaviour are giving cause for concern.

DfE: Supporting pupils at school with medical conditions: seeks views on draft statutory guidance on governing bodies' new duty under the Children and Families Bill that is currently before Parliament. Once in force, the new duty will require governing bodies to make arrangements for supporting pupils at school with medical conditions. The consultation closes on 14 March 2014. (3 February 2014)

DfE: Post-16 transport to education and training: Statutory  guidance to local authorities on their duty under s.509AA of the Education Act 1996 to prepare and publish an annual post-16 transport policy statement. The policy statement must detail the transport provision for everyone of sixth form age receiving education or training. (5 February 2014)

Further and Higher Education (Governance and Information) (Wales) Act 2014: this Act has received Royal Assent and comes into force on a day to be appointed by the Welsh Ministers. It seeks to enhance the autonomy and decision making abilities of Welsh Further Education Institutions by removing and modifying existing legislative controls on them. The Act also gives effect to the Welsh Government policy to allow data relevant to student grants and loans to be shared by HMRC) with the Welsh Ministers and anyone to whom the Welsh Ministers delegate or transfer functions. (27 January 2014)

School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 (Commencement No. 4 and Savings Provisions) Order 2014 (SI 2014/178 (W.26) (C.5)): this Order brings a number of provisions of the 2013 Act into force in Wales on 20 February 2014. The commenced provisions include Part 2 Chapter 1 (intervention in conduct of maintained schools) and Part 2 Chapter 2 (intervention in local authorities). (29 January 2014)

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

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Electoral Services

Government Equalities Office: Cash grants to help disabled people in standing for election extended for another year: the Access to Elected Office for Disabled People Fund helps disabled people with additional costs that a disabled candidate may face in standing for election as a councillor or MP, such as extra transport or sign-language interpreters. The Government has now announced that the fund will be extended to help cover the 2015 General Elections. (3 February 2014)

Cabinet Office: Funding for new ways to encourage voter registration: announces that every local authority in Great Britain will receive a share of £4.2m funding aimed at ensuring that everyone in the country is signed up to the electoral register and has their chance to vote. In addition, five national organisations have been selected to receive funding to find new ways of reaching out to groups who feel most distant from the political process, and encouraging them to get involved in politics and register to vote. (5 February 2014)

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

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Emergency Planning

DCLG: Severe weather recovery scheme: information on support to local authorities in England that incurred, or will incur recovery costs as a result of flooding caused by the east coast tidal surge on 5 and 6 December 2013 and/or severe weather up to 7 February 2014. The scheme covers 2 elements: supporting communities; and repairing local highway infrastructure. This funding is in addition to the Bellwin scheme, insurance and the existing central and local government obligations and programmes. The closing date for applications is 19 February 2014. (4 February 2014)

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

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Energy

DECC: Community Energy Strategy: this Strategy lays the foundation for future growth of community energy in the UK, focusing on creating a supportive environment for community energy and removing specific barriers to growth. It explains how the Government is supporting community energy across the four strands of generation, reduction, management and purchasing. It sets out the role that communities can play in helping to meet the UK’s energy and climate change challenges, including supporting a sustainable and secure energy system, reducing UK greenhouse gas emissions and lowering consumer bills. It stresses that, while Government can support community-led action on energy, to realise the full potential of community energy requires concerted support from many different organisations, and it gives examples of partnerships and collaborations.
The plans include:

  • £10m Urban Community Energy Fund to kick-start community energy generation projects in England;
  • £1m Big Energy Saving Network funding to support the work of volunteers helping vulnerable consumers to reduce their energy;
  • a community energy saving competition, offering £100,000 to communities to develop innovative approaches to saving energy and money; and
  • a “one-stop shop” information resource for people interested in developing community energy projects.

The Government is challenging community energy groups to think about how they can work best with new partners, such as LEPs or local businesses, to make the most of these opportunities. (27 January 2014)

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

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Finance

DCLG: Local government finance report 2014 to 2015: set out for each local authority in England their individual settlement funding assessments, tariffs and tops ups, and the basis of their distributions.
The Referendums relating to council tax increases (principles) (England) report 2014 to 2015 sets out that any increase in council tax of 2% or higher which local authorities, fire authorities and Police and Crime Commissioners in England set in 2014 to 2015 will require a referendum. 
There are also a number of spreadsheets and supporting documents on the DCLG web page. (5 February 2014)

DCLG: New democratic checks to help keep council tax down: announces that new regulations have been laid before Parliament that will require councils to publish, as a matter of record, how each councillor votes on any budget decisions, including council tax changes. (4 February 2014)
See the Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/165), in force 25 February 2014.

Welsh Audit Office: Meeting the financial challenges facing local government in Wales: this report provides an overview of the extent to which councils in Wales are responding to the financial pressures they face. It explores the effectiveness of their financial planning, their approach to financial decision making and the actions they are taking to minimise the impact of significant budget cuts. It also considers the extent to which councils understand the impact of their actions and provides some early thoughts on the implications of the 2013 Spending Review for local government in Wales. The WAO concludes that many councils in Wales do not have clear and realistic plans to deliver efficiency savings and do not routinely base their strategic plans on sound financial information. (27 January 2014)

DCLG: Localising support for Council Tax – Vulnerable people: key local authority duties: updated guidance on local authorities' existing duties in relation to vulnerable groups that they must take into account when designing their local council tax reduction scheme. It covers: 

  • the Public Sector Equality Duty ( Equality Act 2010); 
  • the duty to mitigate effects of child poverty (Child Poverty Act 2010); and 
  • the duty to prevent homelessness (Housing Act 1996).

(3 February 2014)

Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) (Amendment) (Wales) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/129 (W. 17)): these regulations, which come into force in Wales on 14 February 2014, provide for the billing, collection and enforcement of council tax. They amend SI 1992/613 in relation to Wales to take into account the introduction of local council tax reduction schemes. (22 January 2014)

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

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Housing

DCLG/HCA: Affordable Homes Programme 2015-18: DCLG and the HCA have launched the new Affordable Homes Programme, inviting housing associations, councils and housebuilders to bid for a share of £1.7bn government funding to deliver 165,000 new homes between 2015 and 2018. The bid system opens on 6 February and closes on 30 April 2014. (27 January 2014)

DCLG: New review into how more social homes can be built: announces an independent review into how more social homes can be built.The review, led by Natalie Elphicke, chair of Million Homes, Million Lives, and Keith House, Leader of Eastleigh BC, will assess if councils are making sufficient use of their existing powers and flexibilities to deliver new social housing. It will also consider how councils can work more closely with housing associations, housebuilders and businesses to build more new homes. (30 January 2014)

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

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Indemnities

Welsh Audit Office: Indemnity for libel counterclaim – Carmarthenshire County Council: Report in the Public Interest: the WAO has issued a Public Interest report that draws attention to Carmarthenshire CC's decision to indemnify the Chief Executive in respect of the costs of a libel counterclaim. The auditor concludes that under the Local Authorities (Indemnities for Members and Officers) (Wales) Order 2006, the Council was not authorised by statute to grant an indemnity in respect of bringing a claim or counterclaim for defamation and it could not rely on s.111 of the Local Government Act 1972 to avoid that limitation on its powers. The Executive Board's decision to grant the indemnity was therefore unlawful and any payment made pursuant to that decision would give rise to an item of account which was ‘contrary to law’. The report recommends that the Council should rescind the decision and withdraw the indemnity granted to the Chief Executive. (29 January 2014)

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

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Judicial Review

MoJ: New planning court gets go ahead to support UK growth: announces a package of reforms to judicial review, including a new Planning Court that will fast-track legal disputes over major developments, and changes to the rules regarding liability for the costs of judicial review cases. (6 February 2014)

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

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Libraries

DCMS: William Sieghart to chair panel to produce independent report on England’s public library service: announces that DCMS and DCLG have commissioned an independent report into the public library service in England that will examine: the core principles of a public library; whether the current model of delivery is the most comprehensive and efficient; and the role of community libraries. The panel has issued a call for evidence – the closing date for submissions is 21 March 2014. (8 February 2014)

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

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Officers

Welsh Audit Office: Senior officers’ pay and pensions – Reports in the Public Interest: the WAO has issued two reports that look at decisions of Carmarthenshire CC and Pembrokeshire CC allowing senior officers to opt out of the Local Government Pension Scheme in order to avoid potential tax liabilities, and be paid a ‘supplement’, equivalent to their pension contributions, to enable them to make their own arrangements for retirement. The Appointed Auditor concludes that the councils' decisions were unlawful. The councils could not use their powers to set reasonable remuneration for the avoidance or mitigation of the effect of pensions legislation. There were also failings in governance arrangements and inadequacies in the processes to determine the pay of senior officers which also rendered the decisions unlawful. (29 January 2014)

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

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Performance

DCLG: Mid year report – April to September 2013: gives a progress update on the department’s delivery and financial performance between 1 April and 30 September 2013. (23 January 2014)

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

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Police

Home Office: £20 million reward for police innovation: announces that every police force in England and Wales will receive a share of £20m funding from the Police Innovation Fund for projects aimed at transforming policing. The Fund will be established from 2014/15 and will be worth up to £50m a year. However, ahead of its full year of operation, the Home Office has made a precursor fund of £20m available to police and crime commissioners in 2013/14. (16 January 2014)

Home Office: Police grant report 2014 to 2015: sets out the Home Secretary’s determination for 2014 to 2015 of the aggregate amount of grants for police purposes that she proposes to pay and the amount of grant she proposes to pay each local policing body, comprising the Home Office police core settlement, DCLG formula funding and legacy council tax grants. The report also states the considerations that the Home Secretary took into account in making her determination. (5 February 2014)

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

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Powers and Duties

R (Trafford) v Blackpool BC [2014] EWHC 85 (Admin) (Admin Ct): T, a solicitor, applied for judicial review of the Council's decision to refuse to offer her a new lease of her office premises. T had a three year lease of a unit in a building that was owned and operated by the Council. The lease was contracted out of Part IIof the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. Her law firm specialised in personal injury claims and she had acted for a number of clients who had brought "tripping" claims against the Council. The council advised T that it would not renew her lease at the end of the term as the nature of T's business was wholly contrary to the stated aims and objectives of the Council. T applied for judicial review, contending that the Council had exercised its power to dispose of land under s.123 LGA 1972 for the improper or unauthorised purpose of seeking to cause detriment to her, even though her firm was acting entirely lawfully in assisting local people to obtain access to justice.
The court held, granting the application, that  the exercise of a power with the sole or the dominant intention of punishing T and subjecting her firm to a detriment, in circumstances where there was no evidence that she was actually doing anything at all unlawful or improper, was the intentionally improper exercise of the power conferred on the Council and the exercise of that power for unauthorised purposes. The effect of the decision was that the Council had decided, by reference to T's firm's professional activities as the Council had decided them to be, and in advance of any request T might make for a new tenancy, that it was not prepared to consider any such application on its merits, by reference to its published tenant selection criteria. Also, the Council had  fettered its discretion by deciding in advance that it was simply not going to entertain any request by T for a new tenancy, regardless as to whether or not she satisfied the tenancy selection criteria. Furthermore, the decision was Wednesbury unreasonable. (24 January 2014)

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

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Procurement

Cabinet Office: New models of construction procurement: the Government has published draft guidance on new models of construction procurement, based on best practice in public sector construction. These will enable both central and local government bodies to work with industry in a consistent and collaborative way, building long term stable partnerships between client and suppliers. The models provide modern, innovative methods and tools, allowing clients to lead change and drive positive results. The guidance consists of:

The guidance documents have been issued as draft so that they can be road-tested before a formal launch in summer 2014. (29 January 2014)

Cabinet Office: Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 – One year on: this paper reviews the implementation of the 2012 Act that requires commissioners to think about how they can secure wider social, economic and environmental benefits when procuring services. It outlines how commissioners have responded to the Act during its first year, and looks at the Government’s plans to advance social value in the future. (31 January 2014)

Cabinet Office: Procurement Policy Notes: the Cabinet Office has published three new PPNs providing guidance on best practice for public sector procurement:

  • PPN 01/14: Information sharing in Government procurement exercises: sets out the actions that should be taken to make sure that information can be shared within government and to protect government’s rights in the event of a dispute settlement agreement. (3 February 2014)
  • PPN 02/14: Extension of the Mystery Shopper service: announces the decision to extend the Cabinet Office’s Mystery Shopper service to carry out spot checks on procurement processes as well as continuing to deal with referrals raised by SMEs and other concerned suppliers. Spot checks will be undertaken by examining procurement documents, usually online, on procurement portals and checking for compliance with the relevant PPNs. (7 February 2014)
  • PPN 03/14: Measures to promote tax compliance: sets out the scope and background of the new policy requiring all suppliers bidding for central government contracts >£5m from April 2013 to self-certify their tax compliance. (7 February 2014) 

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

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Public Health

LGA: Public health transformation nine months on – Bedding in and reaching out: this resource commissioned by the LGA and PHE describes how public health in a number of councils has started to use the opportunities of a local government setting to improve health and wellbeing, since the formal transfer to local government in April 2013. (4 February 2014)

LGA: Transfer date announced – 0-5 children's public health commissioning: draws attention to the DH's announcement that the responsibility for children's public health commissioning for 0-5 year olds will transfer from NHS England to local authorities on 1 October 2015. This will mark the final part of the public health transfer. (4 February 2014)

British Academy: "If you could do one thing ..." – Nine local actions to reduce health inequalities: this collection of nine proposals from leading social scientists sets out ways that local authorities could improve the health of their communities and reduce health inequalities. Each of the authors has identified one policy intervention that they think local authorities could introduce to improve the health of the local population and reduce health inequalities. The report highlights successful case studies, as well as encouraging councils to collaborate, share information, and build good relationships with local academics from the social sciences. (16 January 2014)

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

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Rating

DCLG: Business rates – Retail relief guidance: the Government announced in the Autumn Statement on 5 December 2013 that it will provide a business rates discount of up to £1,000 to all occupied retail properties with a rateable value of £50,000 or less in each of the years 2014/15 and 2015/16. This document provides guidance to local authorities about the operation and delivery of that retail relief. (29 January 2014)

Draft Non-Domestic Rating (Levy and Safety Net) (Amendment) Regulations 2014: these draft regulations, once in force, amend SI 2013/737 which form part of the scheme for local retention of non-domestic rates. These regulations set out the operation and calculation of levy and safety net payments under the scheme. (28 January 2014)

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

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Regulatory Services

Deregulation Bill: this Bill has been introduced into the Commons and received its 2nd Reading. The Bill proposes a range of measures in line with the Government’s aim to reduce burdens on businesses and public authorities. Its provisions include the repeal of a number of legislative duties placed on local authorities:

  • repeal of s.4 LGA 2000 that requires local authorities to produce a ‘sustainable community strategy;
  • repeal of ss.105-113 LG&PIH Act 2007 removing the duty to prepare and submit Local Area Agreements;
  • repeal of Part 7 LDEDC Act 2009 regarding the duty to prepare multi-area agreements; 
  • removal of the requirement to consult regarding local authority functions under s.3A LGA 1999.

The Bill also:

  • removes the requirement for social work providers to be registered with and inspected by Ofsted;
  • replaces the current criminal sanctions under s.46 EPA 1990 for non-compliance with local authority requirements for collection of household waste, with a new fixed penalty scheme; and
  • repeals Part 11 LG&PIH Act 2007 that enables the Secretary of State to create Joint Waste Authorities at the request of the relevant local authorities.

(3 February 2014)
See also the Commons Library Research Paper that examines the provisions in the Bill and the LGA's Second reading briefing.

Control of Horses (Wales) Act 2014: this Act has received Royal Assent and comes into force on 28 January 2014. It gives Welsh local authorities power to seize, impound, sell or otherwise dispose of horses (including by arranging for their destruction) which are on land in their area without lawful authority. It also gives them power to recover costs where the owner or person acting for the owner can be identified. (27 January 2014)

LGA: Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013 – Compliance and enforcement guide: sets out the new enforcement powers and tools that will be available to councils, and in some instances the police, under the new Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013. It forms part of a set of guides to help councils understand their responsibilities under the new Act. (4 February 2014)

LGA: Open for business – Rewiring licensing: the LGA is calling for full reform of the licensing framework to deliver a deregulatory approach that frees up business and council time while maintaining important safeguards for local communities and businesses. (4 February 2014)

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

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Social Enterprises

HM Treasury: Social investment roadmap: sets out the Government's plans to extend support in the tax system for the ways that people can invest in social enterprise in 2014. The actions include: expanding the options for indirect investment; establishing a government-run accreditation scheme for Social Impact Bonds eligible for social investment tax relief; making changes to community interest companies’ regulations; and promoting the scheme to investors and social enterprises. The social investment tax relief will be available for private investment in charities, community interest companies and community benefit societies, and in social impact bonds where the special purpose vehicle is a company limited by shares. The Government has already announced that organisations with 500 or fewer employees will be eligible for the relief; it will announce the rate and the maximum amount of investment eligible per organisation at Budget. There is also a timeline for the plans. (30 January 2014)

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

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Welfare Reform and Benefits

DWP: HB Subsidy Circular S1/2014 – Discretionary Housing Payments for local authorities 2014 to 2015: gives details of the government contribution and overall expenditure limit for Discretionary Housing Payments for local authorities in the financial year 2014 to 2015. (29 January 2014)

Audit Commission: Councils’ expenditure on benefits administration: this Value for Money briefing considers published data on demand for housing benefit and council tax benefit, and the costs of administering them, up to April 2013. It also considers two aspects of councils’ performance where national data are available: how quickly they process new claims and changes of circumstances; and levels of overpayments and fraud. (30 January 2014)

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

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