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    Highways
   Adult Social Services    Housing
   Children's Services    Information Technology
   Economic Development    Parish Councils
   Education    Planning Procedure
   Employment    Police
   Environmental Health    Powers and Duties
   Finance    Rating
   Fire and Rescue Authorities    Regulatory Services
   Governance    Transport
   Health and Social Care    Vetting and Barring


Access to Information

Law Commission: Data sharing between public bodies: this report looks at whether there are inappropriate legal or other hurdles to the transfer of information between public bodies and between public bodies and private bodies engaged in public service delivery. It also considers whether law reform would mitigate or resolve the problems identified. It concludes that there are problems with the form of the law relating to data sharing that could usefully be addressed. It recommends that a full law reform project be carried out by the Law Commission of England and Wales, together with the Scottish Law Commission and the Northern Ireland Law  Commission, in order to create a principled and clear legal structure for data sharing, which will meet the needs of society. The scope of the review should extend beyond data sharing between public bodies to the disclosure of information between public bodies and other organisations carrying out public functions. (11 July 2014)

Home Office: Multi agency working and information sharing project: this report sets out findings from a project about multi-agency information sharing models, such as the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), that aim to improve the safeguarding response for children and vulnerable adults through better information sharing and safeguarding responses. It finds that multi agency working is key to early and effective identification of risk, improved information sharing, joint decision making and coordinated action. The document gives examples of how agencies are working together to stop abuse before it occurs and identifies key barriers to information sharing. It also concludes multi agency approaches do not supersede a single agency’s duty to identify, protect and support a child or vulnerable person. (30 July 2014)

Local Government (Transparency) (Descriptions of Information) (England) Order 2014 (SI 2014/2060): this Order adds to the descriptions of information covered by the Local Government Transparency Code 2014, about which the Secretary of State may require local authorities to publish information more than once a year. The two additional descriptions are:

  • information about any expenditure incurred by authorities; and
  • information about any legally enforceable agreement entered into by authorities and any invitations to tender for such agreements.

 (24 June 2014)

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

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Adult Social Services

DH: The Autism Innovation Fund, national co-ordination of awareness and the champions network 2014/15: invites local authorities, NHS, third sector, commercial and voluntary organisations to bid for a share of £1.2m of funding to improve local autism services and increase awareness. Funding will be awarded in two main areas: £1m for innovative projects to improve advice and support services and skills and employment services for those with autism, and £200,000 to help coordinate national work on awareness. The DH will issue information about capital funding to make local environments more autism friendly at a later date. The closing date for applications is 26 August 2014. (30 July 2014) 

Welsh Government: A guide to handling complaints and representations by local authority social services: guidance for Welsh local authorities on the new social services complaints system under the Social Services Complaints Procedure (Wales) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/1794 (W.187)) and the Representations Procedure (Wales) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/1795 (W.188). The new system provides for a two-stage process: local resolution followed by formal investigation. (1 August 2014)

DH: Adult social care efficiency tool: this Excel spreadsheet provides a basis for comparing spending and outcomes between councils and thus helps directors of adult social services and local authority financial leads to find new opportunities for improving adult social care efficiency. It identifies similar areas (or ‘statistical neighbours’) for adult social care delivery for older people and working age adults with learning disabilities. The comparable indicators include spending per head, quality of services and access to services. It is intended for use by councils to assess their own performance, and to identify where different approaches in comparable local authorities may provide examples to learn from. It cannot be used to make judgements about the relative performance of councils in delivering adult social care services, nor can it provide answers as to what the ‘correct’ price is for care. (5 August 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: Out of authority placement of looked-after children: this statutory guidance supplements The Children Act 1989 Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review guidance. It gives guidance on amendments to the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010 that require local authorities making distant placements to consult with children’s services in the area of placement, and for the Director of Children’s Services of the responsible authority to approve these placements. These duties should be considered in the context of the established duty for a local authority to secure sufficient accommodation to meet the needs of their looked-after children (the "sufficiency duty") in accordance with s.22G of the Children Act 1989 and the wider requirements of s.22 of the Children Act in relation to placements. (31 July 2014) 

DfE: Children’s homes regulations amendments 2014: departmental advice for children’s homes providers and their partners on amendments to regulations that came into effect on 1 April 2014. The advice covers: location assessment; regulation 33 independent visits; and amended qualifications for those managing and working in children’s homes. (31 July 2014) 

DfE: £20 million funding to help children adopted from care: announces that the pupil premium has been extended to cover all children adopted from care. This means that schools will get extra funding this financial year for pupils adopted before 30 December 2005. The money will help schools provide tailored support to raise the attainment of all adopted children from September 2014. In addition, 29 councils and voluntary adoption agencies are to pilot a scheme that allows approved adopters to search the national Adoption Register, so that they can learn more about the children who are waiting for a loving, stable home. (28 July 2014)

DfE: Childminder agencies and changes to the local authority role – Government consultation response: sets out the Government's response to the March 2014 consultation on its proposals for the provision of early education and childcare following the Children and Families Act 2014. The proposals aimed to make the rules around who can offer the early education and childcare entitlement clearer and simpler for parents and providers, and to free up local authorities so they can target their resources on ensuring that all eligible children are able to benefit from a funded early education place. Overall, the respondents supported proposals around the number of continuing professional development (CPD) hours per year that childminder agencies should secure for childminders registered with them, and the number of hours of support time and visits that childminder agencies should secure for or with childminders registered with them. There was less support for whether agencies should only have to undertake a minimum of one visit per year after the first year based on their assessment of the quality of the childminder. A number of points were made in relation to the other legal requirements about how childminder agencies will register with Ofsted and subsequently operate. The Government will now draft regulations on registration of childminder agencies and local authorities' funding of early education for eligible children, and will issue new statutory guidance and advice. (8 August 2014) 

DfE: The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations – Volume 3: Planning transition to adulthood for care leavers: updated statutory guidance to local authorities on their functions under Part 3 of the Children Act 1989 concerning the provision of continuing support to children leaving care. (8 August 2014) 

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

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Economic Development

DCLG: Seaside funding success for 10 coastal towns: announces that 10 coastal towns that are to receive a share of £8.5m funding from the Coastal Communities Fund for schemes that will create tourist attractions, regenerate historic sites and provide new flood defences. (1 August 2014)

R (Rotherham MBC) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills [2014] EWCA Civ 1080 (CA): the claimants were local authorities within the Sheffield City Region LEP and within the Liverpool City Region LEP. They applied for judicial review of the Secretary of State's (SoS) decisions relating to the regional allocation of EU Structural Funds for the period 2014 – 2020 as between the four countries of the UK and as between the regions. They contended that the decisions were irrational, unfair and disproportionate as the methodology did not protect them from the effects of sudden and significant cut backs while similarly placed based regions in Scotland and Northern Ireland had been so protected. They also claimed that the SoS had failed to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) prior to making either of the two decisions. The High Court dismissed the application, holding that the SoS's decision was a socio-economic decision which, given the margin of discretion, was rational and permissible.
The Court of Appeal held, dismissing the appeal, that the judge was right to hold that the margin of discretion was a wide one in the circumstances of this case – there must be a broad discretion in areas that involve political, economic or social choices. The decisions here were plainly concerned with matters of high level policy and economic, social and political judgment. They involved the making of choices as to funding allocations between the regions and their objectives could be achieved in many different ways. This was classic territory for affording the decision-maker a wide margin of discretion and the court should only interfere if satisfied that the decisions were manifestly inappropriate or manifestly wrong. In this case, they were not. (28 July 2014)

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

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DfE: Special educational needs and disability code of practice – 0 to 25 years: updated statutory guidance for organisations who work with and support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. The Code explains the duties of schools and colleges to provide reasonable adjustments and auxiliary aids and services to disabled children and young people. It also provides statutory guidance on duties, policies and procedures relating to Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014 and associated regulations, the Special Educational Needs and Disability Regulations 2014 and the Equality Act 2010. It applies from 1 September 2014. (30 July 2014) 

DfE: School complaints procedure: revised departmental advice for schools about setting up or reviewing complaints procedures. It applies to all maintained schools and maintained nursery schools. The advice outlines how schools can create a complaints procedure and how to deal with complaints relating to the school or to any community facilities. (1 August 2014)

DfE: Special educational needs and disability data descriptors: seeks views from the sector on aligning data descriptors in the Schools Census and Individualised Learner Record (ILR) with regards to Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND). The Children and Families Act 2014 introduces a broad range of reforms for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). For the first time SEND will be viewed as a 0-25 system which aims to improve the experience for children, young people and their families and carers. The ILR and School Census contain different fields for SEND, so DfE is seeking views on proposed amendments to SEND data fields based on the indicators outlined in table 1 of the consultation document. The consultation closes on 3 September 2014. (5 August 2014)

DH: Amendments to the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 to allow the supply of salbutamol inhalers to schools – Consultation response: sets out the Government's repsonse to the May 2014 consultation on proposals to allow schools to hold stocks of asthma inhalers containing salbutamol for use in an emergency. It confirms that from 1 October 2014, schools can buy inhalers and spacers from a pharmaceutical supplier in small quantities, provided it is done on an occasional basis and is not for profit. The DH is also issuing revised non statutory Guidance for the use of emergency salbutamol inhalers in schools. (7 August 2014)

DfE: School and Early Years Finance (England) Regulations 2014: seeks views on draft regulations that put in place the new arrangements for local authorities to set school budgets for the financial year 2015 to 2016. The proposed changes will come into force in January 2015 and will be applied for the financial year 2015 to 2016. The consultation closes on 17 October 2014. (8 August 2014)

R (CR) v Lambeth LBC Independent Review Panel [2014] EWHC 2461 (Admin) (Admin Ct): CR applied for judicial review of the independent panel's decision to uphold the headmaster's decison to exclude CR permanently from his primary school, when aged 4 years 7 months. On his first days at the school he behaved aggressively and violently towards several girl pupils, and displayed sexually inappropriate behaviour. CR was asked for an explanation but he did not say what had happened. The headmaster felt that it was not appropriate for him to conduct any further investigation as child behavioural experts were dealing with the incident. The school made no further attempt to question CR and the head teacher decided to permanently exclude him under s.52 of the Education Act 2002. It was contended that the failure to conduct investigations was a serious procedural impropriety and that the panel had not properly considered that CR was a child in need.
The court held, refusing the application, that the panel could not be criticised for the way in which they reached their conclusions, nor in the conclusions that they reached. The governing body and the panel were entitled to take the view that the accounts given by the girls immediately after the events when they were still showing signs of distress, could be accepted as accurate, and form a proper basis for the decision that was eventually made. CR had had every opportunity to give his account of the matter and the panel was correct in deciding that no procedural impropriety existed. The panel was well aware that there were problems regarding CR and the family, and that the Social Services were concerned with him. They were clearly aware of, and took into account, the possible vulnerability of CR because of the circumstances. The judge gave guidance on the practice and procedure of the new exclusions regime introduced by the Education Act 2011. (27 June 2014)
The judgment is available on Lawtel (subscription required).

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

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HC Public Accounts Committee: Whistleblowing: this report finds that although whistleblowing is an important source of intelligence to help government identify wrongdoing and risks to public service delivery, many concerns go unreported and the intelligence that does exist is not routinely collected and shared. It states that it is essential that employees have trust in the system for handling whistleblowers, and confidence that they will be taken seriously, protected and supported by their organisations if they blow the whistle. However, far too often whistleblowers have been shockingly treated, and whistleblowers who have come forward have had to show remarkable bravery. Departments’ own attempts at changing whistleblowing policy and processes for the better have not been successful in modifying a bullying culture, or in combating unacceptable behaviour, such as harassment of whistleblowers, within their organisations. The lack of cross-government leadership on whistleblowing has resulted in an inconsistent approach across departments. The Committee welcomes the Secretary of State’s recent announcement that Sir Robert Francis QC will lead an independent policy review into whistleblowing and creating a culture of openness and honesty in the NHS. (1 August 2014)

DBIS: Prescribed persons – Annual reporting requirements on whistleblowing: seeks views on the implementation of the Secretary of State's power in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill to require persons prescribed under s.43F of the Employment Rights Act 1996 to report annually on whistleblowing issues. The consultation closes on 30 September 2014. (1 August 2014)

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

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Environmental Health

London Councils: London Councils calls for funding and power to tackle poor air quality: reports that London Councils and the Mayor of London are arguing that councils need greater financial support and legal powers to tackle poor air quality. London Councils also believes that DEFRA should not pass on EU fines to London boroughs for missing air quality targets. (29 July 2014)

Amenity Land (Adoption by Local Authorities) Bill: this Private Member's Bill has been introduced into Parliament by Annette Brooke MP and received its 1st Reading. The Bill proposes to amend s. 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which gives local authorities power to take steps requiring land to be cleaned up when its condition adversely affects the amenity of the area. The changes would allow local authorities to adopt areas of amenity land which are unregistered or vested in the Crown, for the purposes of maintenance. (15 July 2014)

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

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R (Winder) v Sandwell MBC; Equality and Human Rights Commission (Intervener) [2014] EWHC 2617 (Admin) (Admin Ct): W and two others applied for judicial review of the Council's council tax reduction scheme (CTRS) which reduced the liability of those in need to pay council tax. The CTRS was introduced by s.13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 and replaced  the means-tested council tax benefit. The Council adopted a CTRS that, for working age taxpayers, was restricted to those who had lived in the borough for the previous two years ("the residence requirement"). W was refused a council tax reduction because she did not meet the residence requirement. She contended that the Council did not have power to impose the residence requirement, because s.13A(2)(b) of the 1992 Act restricted the criteria by which classes for council tax reduction could be defined to financial and so the imposition of the requirement was outside the legitimate purposes of the Act. She also contended that the Council had failed to take into account material considerations, failed to consult and failed to comply with its Public Sector Equality Duty, and that the residence requirement was an unlawful obstacle to freedom of movement under EU law.
The court held, granting the application, that s.13A(2)(b) of the 1992 Act required the scheme to specify "the reductions which are to apply to amounts of council tax payable, in respect of dwellings situated in its area, by ... persons in classes consisting of persons whom the authority considers to be, in general, in financial need". The wording was unambiguous: the Council could identify a class of people who were in general in financial need. The class could be dependent upon criteria as to income and/or capital, or age or disability, but it had to be characterised by an increased likelihood of its members being in financial need. The residence requirement was not based upon such a criterion. The Council had no power to define a class for the purposes of s.13A(2)(b) by reference to non-financial need criteria and so the imposition of the residence requirement in the CTRS was ultra vires and unlawful.
Even if the requirement were intra vires, the Council had failed to take into account the adverse impact that the residence requirement might have on the wider and clearly stated policy objectives of the council tax reduction provisions at national level, or on the wider potential consequences of other authorities adopting such schemes. It had failed to comply with its consultation duties and its Public Sector Equality Duty. The residence requirement was also discriminatory and a barrier to freedom of movement within the EU. (30 July 2014)

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

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Fire and Rescue Authorities

DCLG: Minister opens independent review of firefighter conditions: announces that the Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt has launched an independent review of firefighters' conditions of service. The review will be led by Adrian Thomas, an expert in the field of personnel management and staff resourcing, who will consider whether the current terms and conditions are conducive to building the fire and rescue service of the future. The review is expected to take around five months with a final report submitted to Government by February 2015. (7 August 2014)

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

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Openness of Local Government Bodies Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/2095): these regulations, which come into force on 6 August 2014, allow persons to report and commentate on public meetings of local government bodies. They also require a written record of certain decisions made by officers of such bodies. (5 August 2014)

DCLG has published a plain English guide Open and accountable local government: A guide for the press and public on attending and reporting meetings of local government that provides practical information to help the public exercise their new rights under the regulations, and what they should expect from their councils and other local government bodies. (6 August 2014)

For a commentary on practical issues regarding these regulations, see Bevan Brittan's alert: Council meetings – Lights, cameras, action!

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

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Health and Social Care

Monitor: Complying with Monitor’s integrated care requirements: guidance for providers and commissioners of healthcare services and health and wellbeing boards on complying with their integrated care obligations. It also explains the relationship between these obligations and the other rules that Monitor enforces. (28 July 2014)

Home Office: FGM strategies and communications by local authorities: the Home Office has published FGM strategies and communications from Bristol, Lambeth and Manchester as examples of strategies and action taken by local authorities. (30 July 2014)

R (Whapples) v Birmingham Crosscity Clinical Commissioning [2014] EWHC 2647 (Admin) (Admin Ct): W had severe physical symptoms resulting from PTSD and she was tetraplegic. She applied for a ruling that the CCG had an obligation under s.3 NHS 2006 to provide her with accommodation, as part of the healthcare package  which it should provide free of charge under the NHS. The court was asked to determine whether W had a right to provision of accommodation suitable to meet her needs as part of the free, non-means tested care which she received from the NHS or whether her accommodation should be provided by a soical housing provider or local authority, in the form of means tested welfare benefits. W submitted that, if she moved into different accommodation provided by a housing association with care being provided as well, that might be classed as residential accommodation within reg.9 of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006, so as to disqualify her from receiving housing benefit.
The court held, refusing W's application, that there was no presumption that the provision of accommodation to meet a person's healthcare needs was the responsibility of a health care body. Rather, the responsibility for meeting the accommodation part of the individual's needs would require an assessment of what might be available in terms of provision of suitable social housing by a local authority, or their own ability to own or rent accommodation. If the accommodation needs of an individual could be met without diversion of resources from the NHS, that was fair both to them and to others who looked to the NHS to meet their healthcare needs. As a matter of ordinary language, reg.9 of the 2006 Regulations would not make W's private home a care home even if she were assigned a full-time, live-in carer. It could not possibly be the case that the provision of any element of health care at all at a person's own home had the effect of converting their home into a "care home", so that they lost the right to housing benefit and the full cost of their accommodation was forced upon the NHS. That was not something that happened in practice and would involve a bizarre interpretation of the concept of "care home" in the NHS Act and the Housing Benefit Regulations. It was possible that W could be found a suitable property by a housing association, if she were willing to co-operate in an assessment of her needs. If W had made a free choice not to try to find a larger flat for herself, it was open to the CCG to assess that she had no "reasonable requirement" of accommodation to be provided. However, if W lacked capacity, the CCG was entitled to pursue the issue in the Court of Protection and it had acted with reasonable promptness in that regard. (30 July 2014)

GW (A Patient) v A Local Authority [2014] EWCOP 20 (CoP): GW, who suffered from Huntington's Disease, appealed against a decision that she lacked capacity to leave and return to her residence unescorted and to make decisions concerning her care and residence. GW was formally placed at a unit that specialised in the care of persons suffering from Huntingdon's Disease under a guardianship order under s.7 of the Mental Health Act 1983. In May 2013, an urgent authorisation was granted to prevent GW leaving the property without supervision and support. The judge held that GW had capacity to litigate in the proceedings and that she lacked capacity to decide to leave the residential unit unescorted or to make decisions as to her care and residence. The issue before the court in this appeal related to capacity, and was brought by the local authority as the supervisory body for the purposes of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DOLS) set out in the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
The court held, dismissing the appeal, that the judge had carried out a proper evaluation of capacity and his decision was right. Applying the statutory principles and guidance from case law as to the evaluation of capacity, GW sadly lacked the capacity to make a decision as to whether or not she should leave the unit unescorted. (31 July 2014)

UF v X County Council (No.2) [2014] EWCOP 18 (CoP): F was aged 84 years and suffered from vascular dementia of a moderate level, with associated behavioural and psychological symptoms. She was being supported at home with a home care package but after her condition deteriorated, she was moved to a care home.  Her three children differed over the arrangements for her care, and the youngest daughter considered that F should return to her own home with the necessary care package. The County Council considered that it was in F's best interests to remain at the care home, where she was being well cared for and where she had settled. The daughter applied to the court under s.21A of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 regarding the standard authorisation of deprivation of liberty.
The court held, after reviewing the evidence, that that it was in F's best interests that she remain resident at the care home. There was considerable uncertainty about how F viewed her 'home' or 'homes'. The "best interests" principle took priority, i.e. the option which was in the person's best interests must be chosen, which might not necessarily be the least restrictive alternative. (31 July 2014)

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

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DCMS: Proposal to authorise motor sport events on public roads – Government response: sets out the Government's response to the February 2014 consultation on proposals to give local authorities powers to stage motor sports events, including stage rallies, hill climbs and trials of speed, on public roads in certain circumstances. It states that in light of support for the majority of the proposals, the Government will finalise the regulations subject to one minor clarification: that local authorities may draw on the expertise of the Sports Ground Safety Authority, especially in regards to crowd management, even though the SGSA will not have a formal role in the running or organisation of closed road racing events. 11 July 2014)

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

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Welsh Government: Renting Homes – Illustrative model contract: the Welsh Government is proposing to introduce a Renting Homes (Wales) Bill into the National Assembly in 2015. The Bill would establish new arrangements for renting a home, replacing what is currently a confusing and complex area of law with a clearer, simpler and more straightforward legal framework. This paper seeks views on what the contracts under Renting Homes could look like, together with examples of the sort of supporting guidance that will be provided. It proposes two types of contract: 

  • a "secure contract" based on the current secure tenancy issued by local authorities; and 
  • a "standard contract" modelled on the assured shorthold tenancy that is used mainly in the private rented sector.

There will be model contracts based on these types, including a community landlord secure contract for use by a housing association or local authority. This consultation focuses on the structure and layout of the documentation only and not the terms of the contract, using as the example the periodic standard contract. The closing date for comment is 14 October 2014. (23 July 2014)

DCLG: Review of local authorities’ role in housing supply – Progress update: provides a progress report on the independent review by Natalie Elphicke and Keith House into local authorities' role in boosting housing supply. This update recognises that local authorities have a key role to play in ensuring delivery to meet the housing needs of the local population, and are well placed to drive a step change in housing activity and delivery. It also points to a number of challenges for local authorities and their partners, and sets out some of the areas to be addressed in the next phase of the review. It argues that councils could significantly boost their housebuilding plans using more private sector investment; councils could also look to boost skills, capacity and the pace of building in their area, as well as using smaller sites to deliver more homes and this, as well as securing private sector investment, will now be the focus of the review’s work over the coming months. (31 July 2014)

DCLG: Site delivery fund – Invitation to bid: invites local authorities to bid for a share of £3.5 funding to help them resolve issues that are preventing housing schemes starting on site. The document also sets out the criteria which will be used to assess the bids. Councils with the greatest numbers of large housing developments recently agreed will be given priority for the funding, as well as those who can show how they will make each pound go further by enabling faster starts on site. The closing date for applications is 31 August 2014. (30 July 2014)

DCLG: Right to buy summary booklet: information for council tenants and housing association tenants who are interested in taking up their Right to Buy. It provides an overview of eligibility criteria, discount levels, the application process, how to take the next steps and useful contacts for free, unbiased advice, including the Right to Buy Agent service. The booklet has been updated to take into account changes made to the Right to Buy scheme in April 2012 and July 2014. (31 July 2014)

DCLG: Higher Right to Buy discounts and expert advice to help tenants become homeowners: announces that tenants who wish to buy their council home can now get advice and support from Right to Buy advisers via a dedicated helpline. In addition, the maximum discount caps available have increased so tenants can benefit from up to £77,000 off the value of their home (£102,700 in London). (5 August 2014)

DCLG: Local development orders for housing development on brownfield land – Invitation to bid: DCLG has launched a new £5m fund to help local authorities bring forward brownfield land for housing development. It is inviting bids from local planning authorities which can identify brownfield sites that are suitable for housing and capable of accommodating in the region of 100 units or more. To qualify for the funding, councils will need to consult on a local development order on the land they identify, making it easier and quicker for developers to get work started. Successful bidders would receive £50,000 per bid towards the costs incurred in delivering the local development order. Payments will be made through s.31 LGA 2003. The £5m fund will be paid over both 2014-15 and 2015-2016 with the bulk of the funding to be available in 2014-15. The closing date for applications is 30 September 2014. (7 August 2014)

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

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Information Technology

Cabinet Office: Local government – Naming and registering websites: sets out the rules, principles and the responsibilities for the applicant when registering a new domain name or managing an existing local government domain name. It applies to all local government bodies, including parish councils, fire authorities, police and joint working bodies. (31 July 2014)

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

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Parish Councils

DCLG: Draft transparency code for parish councils with a turnover not exceeding £25,000 – Consultation summary of responses: sets out the Government's response to the March 2014 consultation that proposed introducing a transparency code for smaller authorities with an annual turnover not exceeding £25,000 that would otherwise be exempt from routine external audit. Respondents were mainly in favour of the proposals. The Government intends to lay regulations for making the transparency code for parish councils and other smaller authorities mandatory later on this year. (6 August 2014)

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

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Planning Procedure

DCLG: Technical consultation on planning: seeks views on a range of proposals that aim to make it easier for communities to devise neighbourhood plans, help builders get onto sites with planning permission without delay and reduce bureaucracy and red tape. The proposals include: 

  • requiring local planning authorities to decide whether to designate certain neighbourhood areas within 10 weeks and removing the minimum 6 week consultation and publicity period; 
  • putting permitted development rights to allow offices to be converted into new homes on a permanent footing, as well as making it easier to convert empty and redundant buildings into new homes; 
  • relaxing change of use rules from a shop to a restaurant, and from a shop to leisure use, while payday loan shops and betting shops would be excluded from a new, wider “retail class"; 
  • reducing the numbers of homes and other urban development proposals that would be screened for environmental impact assessments; and
  • a more flexible and streamlined major infrastructure system so practical changes can be made to planning proposals where these are beneficial and developers can use a “one stop shop” for more of the consents they need.

The consultation closes on 26 September 2014. (31 July 2014)

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

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Home Office: Guidance on police misconduct, unsatisfactory performance and attendance management procedures (Circular 012/14): this statutory guidance covers the Standards of Professional Behaviour for police officers, including special constables. It sets out the procedures for dealing with misconduct, unsatisfactory performance and attendance and for appeals to the Police Appeals Tribunal. The procedures described are designed to accord with the principles of natural justice and the basic principles of fairness, and should be administered accordingly. It has been updated to reflect the Code of Ethics (see below). (15 July 2014)

College of Policing: Code of Ethics – A Code of Practice for the principles and standards of professional behaviour for the policing profession of England and Wales: this statutory Code, issued under s.39A of the Police Act 1996, sets out the standards of behaviour that the public can expect from officers and staff at every role and at every level and will help guide decision making. It is based on nine policing principles which are built on the Nolan principles for public life, with the addition of ‘Fairness’ and ‘Respect'. (6 August 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 (Maries) v Merton LBC [2014] EWHC 2689 (Admin) (Admin Ct): M, a group of local residents, applied for judicial review of the Council's decision under s.122(1) LGA 1972 that part of a recreation ground waas no longer required for the purposes for which it was currently held and to appropriate it for three identified purposes to allow for the enlargement of the adjacent state primary school. M contended that the Council had failed to ask itself the correct statutory question: that the purpose for which the land in question was currently held was not a purpose to be defined by the current  sporting uses upon which it was said the Officers' report and the considerations of the Cabinet concentrated, but the purpose for which it had been conveyed to the Council back in 1893, i.e. the purpose authorised under s.164 of the Public Heath Act 1875 of 'being used as a public pleasure ground'.
The court held, refusing the application, that the Council had lawfully carried out the balancing exercise under s.122. The Council had balanced comparative and competing local community needs and were entitled to take a broad view of local needs. It was open to a council carrying out the exercise of balancing comparative local community public interest needs when determining whether land was no longer required for its current purpose, to conclude that as one set of needs (that of the public need for access to identified recreational activities) could be satisfactorily met by new arrangements, those needs no longer required the land to be held for its current purpose as a recreational ground/open space governed by the hitherto applicable statutory trust regime, and the land should be appropriated to be used to meet also the competing comparative public interest needs of the school. Nor was the Council's decision irrational. (31 July 2014)

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

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DCLG: Business rates – Open letter to those who responded to the consultation paper "checking and challenging your rateable value": states that , in light of responses to the December 2013 consultation on proposals to improve transparency in the business rates valuation and formal challenge system, the Government has decided to fold the consideration of reform of the business rates appeals process in to the broader review of business rates administration, which is considering longer-term reform taking effect after the next revaluation in April 2017. (31 July 2014)

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

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Regulatory Services

Better Regulation Delivery Office: Grant to explore a simpler licensing system in England: announces that Cornwall Council has been chosen as the single pathfinder project to explore the possibility of creating a new licensing blueprint, with the aim of creating a single business licence. The project includes mapping a typical set of activities for both start-up and established businesses. It will also be exploring options that will work better for councils and businesses such as a single licensing application form, a council licensing single point of contact, online accessibility and flexible payment options. (29 July 2014)

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

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TfL: Safer lorries: seeks views on proposals to prohibit HGVs over 3.5 tonnes that are not fitted with required safety equipment, such as sideguards and extended view mirrors, from driving in London. The aim is to make lorries safer and so help to address safety for cyclists and pedestrians. The ban would initally be enforced through the criminal courts. The consultation closes on 22 September 2014. (29 July 2014)

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

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Vetting and Barring

Discosure and Barring Service: A guide to eligibility for criminal record checks: updated guidance on the types of jobs and roles that are eligible for a criminal records check, to support registered bodies' decision making when carrying out pre-recruitment checks following an offer of employment, including volunteering roles and applications for specific licences. The DBS has also published updated child and adult workforce guides that help identify the type of workforce that an applicant will be working in. (5 August 2014) 

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

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