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

03/10/2014

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    Health and Social Care
   Anti Social Behaviour    Housing
   Asset Management    Infrastructure
   Audit    Procurement
   Children's Services    Public Health
   Economic Development    Publicity
   Education    Regulatory Services
   Employment    Scrutiny
   Environmental Services    Shared Services
   Equality and Discrimination    Standards
   Finance    Welfare and Benefits

 

Access to Information

DCLG: Local government transparency code 2014: this updated statutory Code of Recommended Practice sets out what information must be published by local authorities and how often it must be produced. New requirements in the revised Code include:

  • a breakdown of income and expenditure on the authority’s parking account and how the authority has spent a surplus on its parking account;
  • information about counter fraud work;
  • information on trade union facility time; 
  • details of all land and building assets; and
  • details of their existing waste collection contracts.

The revised Code is expected to come into force in early November 2014.  
DCLG has also published a  frequently asked questions document that addresses technical questions which are related to the publication of specific data sets. (1 October 2014)

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

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Anti Social Behaviour

LGA: The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 – Implementing the community trigger: guidance on the new powers regarding anti social behaviour (ASB) case reviews (the "Community Trigger") which will provide victims of ASB with the right to request a review of how local agencies have responded to previous ASB complaints and consider what further action might be taken where the behaviour persists. This guidance sets out the statutory requirements for agencies and explores how the community trigger might be implemented locally. (24 September 2014)

Absolute Ground for Possession for Anti-social Behaviour (Review Procedure) (England) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/2554): s.84A of the Housing Act 1985 (inserted by the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014) provides for a new, absolute, anti-social behaviour ground for possession of a dwelling that is the subject of a secure tenancy. Section 85ZA of the Act provides secure tenants of local housing authorities and housing action trusts with a right to request a review of the landlord’s decision to seek possession under s.84A. The landlord must review the decision if the tenant requests it. These regulations, which come into force on 20 October 2014, specify the procedure to be followed in an internal review by a local housing authority or housing action trust of its decision to seek possession under the new absolute ground for anti-social behaviour under s.85ZA(7) of the Housing Act 1985. (25 September 2014)

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

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Asset Management

Localis: Public land, public good – Getting maximum value from public land and property: this report highlights the potential for public land and assets to be used for developing new housing, reshaping public services, and boosting local economies. The report's findings suggest that councils are reacting to ongoing austerity by acting more like property developers looking to redevelop assets that would provide streams of revenue income to help support public services. However, according to a survey one in six councils sold property assets for less than their optimal value to fill funding gaps. It recommends that local authorities across the country should have a co-ordinating role for public service land in their locality, acting as custodians of their local communities, and all arms of central and local government should be required to produce an annual public register of assets. Also, there shuold be a local authority ‘hit squad’ of highly experienced officers, tasked with maximising returns on council assets. (17 September 2014)

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

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Audit

NAO: Draft Code of Audit Practice for the audit of local public bodies: seeks views on the draft Code of Audit Practice for the audit of local public bodies. The Code prescribes the framework within which local auditors are to carry out their statutory responsibilities under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. The auditor’s application of the contents of the Code will be influenced by their professional judgement of what is reasonable and appropriate, reflecting the circumstances at individual local public bodies. The consultation closes on 31 October 2014. The NAO aims to publish the finalised Code before the end of 2014 that would take effect from 1 April 2015 for audit work relating to the 2015-16 financial year onwards. (19 September 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

Welsh Government: Draft 10-year plan for the early years, childcare and play workforce in Wales: seeks views on a draft plan that sets out how the Welsh Government aims to support individuals and address the workforce development needs of all types of registered early years, childcare and play provision, in both the maintained and non-maintained sectors. The consultation closes on 15 December 2014. (22 September 2014)

DCLG: Safeguarding vulnerable children: the Secretaries of State for Communities & Local Government and for Education have written to council leaders in England about the safeguarding of vulnerable children. They ask all council Leaders to read Professor Jay's report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and to consider whether their authority has adequate measures in place, in advance of Louise Casey's statutory inspection. (24 September 2014)

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

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Economic Development

County Councils Network: Our plan for Government 2015-20: this report lays out a bold new relationship between central and local government, centred on a new Core Settlement, extensive fiscal devolution and reforms to LEPs to boast economic growth and achieve a vision of ‘One Place, One Budget’. The plan makes a case for strategic English councils to gain further powers for accelerating local growth, improving children's services, ensuring the long-term viability of adult social care and for the next Government to launch a comprehensive review of how local authorities are funded centred on bringing decisions closer to the communities they effect.  (17 September 2014)

Institute for Government: It's a No – Now what? Six questions to ask after the Scottish referendum: in the run-up to the referendum, the IoG conducted research into what would happen after the result and what would be the implications of various proposals for further devolution. Drawing on this work, this report identifies six questions that will need to be addressed in the coming weeks and months as the process the Prime Minister has announced proceeds. (19 September 2014)

Key Cities: Charter for devolution: the Key Cities group of 24 of England’s mid-sized cities is calling on all political parties to do more to empower cities to stimulate growth, create jobs and deliver a better return not just for their residents but for the whole country. In its Charter for Devolution, the group calls for English cities to be provided with single-city budgets with all public funding for their city pooled into one block with funding fixed for a five-year period. City leaders would then be free to allocate funds without interference from Whitehall red tape, thus stimulating jobs and growth while also improving lives for their residents. (22 September 2014)

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

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Education

DfE: Universal infant free school meals: this departmental advice gives details of schools' obligation to provide free school meals to all pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2. It provides information on eligibility, food standards and funding, along with the implementation support available for schools and the impact of the policy on the pupil premium. (30 September 2014) 

Charity Commission: Charities and charity trustees – An introduction for school governors in Wales: guidance for governors of foundation, voluntary aided, voluntary controlled and academy schools on their responsibilities as a charity trustee and where to find out about being a company director (for academies). (30 September 2014)

Welsh Government: Qualified for life – An education improvement plan: the Welsh Government has published its education plan for 3 to 19 year old in Wales that sets out its vision and aims for education up to 2020. It outlines four strategic objectives that will help deliver improvements in the sector, which centre around a strong work force, an engaging curriculum, internationally respected qualifications and education leaders working together to drive up standards. The plan sets out how the Welsh Government will measure progress and identify improvements, including the annual publication of a Wales Education Report Card that will detail a range of performance indicators and show how successful Wales has been in meeting them. The plan reinforces the Welsh Government’s key education priorities of raising standards in literacy and numeracy and breaking the link between deprivation and low attainment. It also sets out a new ambition of achieving scores of 500 for reading, mathematics and science in the PISA tests 2021. (2 October 2014)

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

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Employment

DBIS: Blowing the whistle – List of prescribed people and bodies: if an employee decides to "blow the whistle" to a prescribed person rather than their employer, they must make sure that they have chosen the correct person or body for their issue. This document lists the prescribed persons and bodies to whom a disclosure can be made. There is also a brief description about the matters that can be reported to each prescribed person. (1 October 2014)

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

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Environmental Services

House of Commons Library: Litter – Commons Library Standard Note SN/SC/6984: local authorities in England and Wales spend almost £1bn per year clearing up litter, but the cost of litter goes beyond the cost of clearing it up: there are implications for health, the environment and tourism. This note outlines the financial cost of litter, relevant legislation and penalties for the offence of littering, forthcoming legislation and how to combat litter. It does not cover fly-tipping. (11 September 2014)

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

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Equality and Discrimination

Karia v Leicester City Council [2014] EWHC 3105 (Admin) (Admin Ct): K applied for judicial review of the Council's decision to close a care home. K was a British Asian woman of Gujarati descent, aged 101, and had lived in the home since 1999. She contended that the Council, in making its decision, had breached its Public Sector Equality Duty under s.149 of the Equality Act 2010, had breached her human rights and her legitimate expectation of a home for life at the care home, and had failed to take into account K's likely future care needs and whether these could be met in alternative potential placements.
The court held, refusing her application, that while it had sympathy with K and understood her concerns, its task was to apply the recognised legal principles which showed that there were no valid grounds for challenging the Council's decision. The s.149 duty was not a duty to achieve a particular result - the Council's duty was only to show "due regard" to the need to advance equality of opportunity, not to ensure that equality of opportunity was achieved. The Council had considered how K's linguistic, cultural, dietary and religious needs could be met and had confirmed that K and other residents would only move from the home when appropriate alternative provision had been found for her which was suitable to meet her various needs. There was nothing in K's Placement Agreement which showed that K would be entitled to remain in the home in certain circumstances, e.g. if she was and would continue to be the only resident there or if it was unsafe for her to live there because of a serious defect in the building. So she was not entitled to an order quashing the decision on the grounds that she had a legitimate expectation to remain at the care home for life. (30 September 2014)

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

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Finance

Welsh Government: Collection and management of devolved taxes in Wales: this White Paper sets out proposals to establish arrangements for the collection and management of devolved taxes in Wales. it is the first of three consultations that will be undertaken concerning proposals for Welsh taxes. Consultations on proposals for Welsh taxes to replace Stamp Duty Land Tax and Landfill Tax will follow in spring 2015. The consultation covers:

  • proposals to establish the Welsh Revenue Authority;
  • options for the efficient and effective collection of Welsh taxes;
  • actions to encourage tax compliance and tackle non-compliance, including tax avoidance;
  • arrangements for resolving tax disputes.

The consultation closes on 15 December 2014. (23 September 2014)

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

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Health and Social Care

Cabinet Office: Carers Social Action Support Fund: the Cabinet Office has launched a £1m fund for social action projects that support unpaid family carers. It is inviting applications from voluntary, community and social organisations that have plans to expand or develop ambitious social action projects that will help to improve the lives of carers. The guidance notes set out the eligibility criteria and the application process. The closing date for completed applications is 22 October 2014. (22 September 2014)

LGO: Councils advised about care charging following complaint: the Local Government Ombudsman is advising councils that they cannot significantly change contractual funding arrangements for current care home residents because they alter the way they commission care. It says that councils should not reduce the amount they pay for care home placements, and leave families to find the difference, where there are funding agreements already in place for a particular level of care. The advice follows an investigation into the way Tameside MBC had acted when it changed the way it commissioned care. (3 October 2014)

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

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Infrastructure

DEFRA / DCLG: Delivering sustainable drainage systems: seeks views on a proposal to make better use of the planning system to meet the Pitt Review's recommendations on sustainable drainage. It sets out an alternative approach to the one envisaged in the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 to deliver effective sustainable drainage systems that will be maintained for the lifetime of the developments they serve. The Government is now proposing to deliver sustainable drainage systems through changes to the current planning regime. The consultation closes on 24 October 2014. (12 September 2014)

HC Public Accounts Committee: Maintaining strategic infrastructure – Roads: this report examines the issue of strategic road infrastructure. It concludes that the DfT and the Highways Agency are making progress in improving the way in which road maintenance is carried out, but more needs to be done.  it finds that the DfT’s piecemeal and stop-go approach to funding for road maintenance in recent decades has made it difficult for highways authorities to deliver maintenance cost-effectively, with too much reactive work and not enough focus on preventative work that is less expensive in the long-term. Two-thirds of local highway authorities have formed alliances with other authorities which has reduced their costs; however, not all local authorities have adopted good practice and the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP) is not sufficiently targeted at assisting poor performing authorities - for example, 45 local highway authorities had not completed an asset management plan setting out the state of their roads. The DfT should identify those local highway authorities that carry out maintenance less efficiently and target the HMEP at them. It should use the HMEP to help local authorities quantify the benefits of more preventative work and to anticipate problems rather than react to them. DfT and DCLG should examine the cumulative impact of their combined funding decisions on local authorities’ road maintenance, and they should adjust their approach accordingly to support essential routine road maintenance activities. (25 September 2014)

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

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Housing

Joseph Rowntree Foundation: Landlords' strategies to address poverty and disadvantage: this paper summarises the findings of a poverty-focused review of housing organisations’ strategic and business plans. It examines social landlords' written strategies, business plans and other policies across 15 local authority areas. It finds that building homes either for commercial sale or rent, or for letting at Affordable Rents, is increasingly prevalent among housing associations. Most business plans also did not mention 'poverty' directly but spoke in broader terms about 'disadvantage' or providing housing for those 'in need'. It also found that some associations are moving away from focusing only on those in the most severe need. (17 September 2014)

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

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Procurement

Bevan Brittan: Byte size procurement update 11: The draft Public Contract Regulations 2015 – Implementing optional provisions: the Cabinet Office has launched a consultation on the draft Public Contracts Regulations that transpose Directive 2014/24. The draft Regulations include some additional provisions not in the Directive. This byte size update highlights some of the optional provisions which will be of particular practical interest to those working in procurement. (26 September 2014)

Cabinet Office: Procurement Policy Note 09/14: Use of Cyber Essentials scheme certification: the Cyber Essentials scheme defines a set of controls which, when properly implemented, will provide organisations with basic protection from the most prevalent forms of threat coming from the internet. There are 2 levels of certification: Cyber Essentials and Cyber Essentials Plus. Cyber Essentials is for all organisations of all sizes, and in all sectors. This PPN advises that the Government is making the scheme mandatory for central government contracts advertised after 1 October 2014 which involve handling personal information and providing certain ICT products and services. (26 September 2014)

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

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Public Health

DH: Transfer of 0-5 children’s public health commissioning to local authorities – Finance issues: planning and paying for public health services for 0 - 5 year olds will transfer from the NHS to local authorities in October 2015. This factsheet explains the timescales for NHS Area Teams and local authorities in the run-up to the commissioning transfer, and how funding will work after October 2015. (29 September 2014) 

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

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Publicity

DCLG: Ministers move to defend independent free press: announces that the Government is taking action against 11 councils over the frequency of their municipal newspapers. The Secretary of State has written to the local authorities giving notice of a Direction that he proposes to give to them under s.4A of the Local Government Act 1986 requiring them to comply with the Recommended Code of Practice on Local Authority Publicity. It has been revised to clarify the guidance on payment between public authorities and business. (26 September 2014)

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

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Regulatory Services

DBIS: Directive 2011/7/EU on combating late payment in commercial transactions – A user's guide to the recast Late Payment Directive: updated guidance on the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2013 (2013/395) that implement Directive 2011/17. Under the regulations, public authorities must pay for the goods and services that they procure within 30 days. This revised version clarifies the guidance on payment between public authorities and business. (3 October 2014) 

Home Office: Temporary event notice form: updated form for use by applicants to inform the local council, the police and environmental health about a planned event at which they intend to sell or supply alcohol on a temporary basis. (1 October 2014)

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

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Scrutiny

CfPS: What Rotherham and Mid-Staffordshire tell us about scrutiny, and where it’s lacking: this briefing analyses the implications of recent service and governance failures for council scrutiny. The report’s findings point to a scrutiny culture that places too much store on the assurances of people in authority that everything is fine. Too many council scrutiny committees are content to discuss items where the only source of evidence is a report written and presented by a chief officer and councillors are asked merely to note the contents. It argues that monitoring officers must “step up to the plate” in ensuring that their organisation's Constitution functions correctly and protects those whom it is designed to protect. (17 September 2014) 

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

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Shared Services

NLGN: The DIY ethic – Business models for community integration: this research report from NLGN in association with the CBI and Pinnacle PSG outlines business models that councils can adopt to help them work towards integration. It offers practical assistance for all councils who wish to pursue integration of their services but are unsure how to go about it. Key findings are that councils should rapidly test new business models, start small and develop models at a neighbourhood level that can be built upon. Councils and their partners will also need to develop a joint approach to managing risk. (17 September 2014)

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

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Standards

Cabinet Office: The statutory register of lobbyists draft regulations: Part 1 of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014 provides for a statutory register of consultant lobbyists. The register will: increase transparency by requiring those who lobby on behalf of a third party to disclose the names of their clients on a publicly available register; require lobbyists to declare whether or not they subscribe to a publicly available code of conduct; and help improve standards by enhancing the scrutiny of the ethical principles for lobbyists. This consultation seeks views on the draft regulations that will complete the statutory framework needed to implement the register. The consultation closes on 17 October 2014. (11 September 2014)

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

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Welfare and Benefits

DWP: Housing Benefit Circular A14/2014 – Special Educational Needs (Consequential Amendments to Subordinate Legislation) Order 2014 (SI 2014 / 2103): new regulations (SI 2014/2103) amend the Housing Benefit regulations as a consequence of the passing of the Children and Families Act 2014. From 1 September 2014, under Part 3 of the Act, parents of children and young people with SEN can ask for them to be assessed under a new participative assessment process which will provide them with an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. The parents of children and young people with an EHC plan will also have the option of a personal budget through which they will have control over how some of the provisions set out in the EHC plan will be delivered. This circular explains how this affects Housing Benefit. (22 September 2014) 

DWP: Universal Credit data sharing with social landlords – Consultation on draft regulations: seeks views on draft Social Security (Information-Sharing in Relation to Welfare Services etc) Amendment Regulations 2015 which will amend SI 2012/1483 to allow the Secretary of State to share relevant information with social landlords in certain situations. The information shared by DWP will enable social landlords to assess and provide support to their tenants who have made Universal Credit (UC) claims or receive UC. Social landlords will include registered social landlords, local authorities with their own housing stock, and arms length management organisations. The proposed changes will come into force in January 2015 and will be implemented from February 2015 onwards. The consultation closes on 19 October 2014. (19 September 2014)

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

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