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.


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:

   Children's Services    Housing
   Delivery of Services    Human Rights
   Development Control    Infrastructure
   Economic Development    Licensing 
   Education    Police
   Emergency Planning    Powers and Duties
   Finance and Funding    Public Health
   Fraud    Reorganisation
   Governance    Transport
   Health and Safety


Children's Services

London Councils: Troubled Families Programme – Lessons in public service reform: this report explores the experience of the Troubled Families Programme in London, with councils taking a strong local grip on the delivery of integrated services and suggests that it offers important lessons for the wider reform of public services. It shows that since the launch of the programme in 2012, London local authorities and their partners have improved the lives of more than 11,500 families. The report sets out case studies of London boroughs' different approaches to the Programme and identifies the learning so far. It also draws out the implications for developing locally pooled budgets for delivery of other public services more effectively and efficiently. (18 November 2014)

Ofsted: Inspections of children's homes: seeks views on proposals for a new inspection framework to improve standards in children’s homes, that takes more account of the experiences of children and young people. It sets out how Ofsted will make inspection judgements and how it anticipates putting the new quality standards into operation. The consultation closes on 13 January 2015. (20 November 2014)

DfE: Fresh approach to school mental health support: announces that the DfE will be working with the PSHE Association to help schools know how to teach pupils about mental health and banish the stigma which can leave young people with mental health problems feeling isolated. In addition, it will set out a blueprint for schools to use when delivering their counselling services, which will be informed by young people and experts to make sure the advice will meet the needs of the people it is intended to support. (20 November 2014)

Welsh Government: Adoption and Children Act 2002 (Joint Adoption Arrangements)(Wales) Directions 2015: seeks views on draft directions to local authorities about joint arrangements for the delivery of adoption services. The Directions, which are made under the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, are intended to support the arrangements that have been put in place for the new National Adoption Service by ensuring that effective joint arrangements are in place between local authorities for the delivery of adoption services. The consultation closes on 23 December 2014. (11 November 2014)

NAO: Children in care: this report concludes that the DfE cannot demonstrate that it is meeting its objectives for children in foster and residential care. The long-term consequences of such children not getting the right care are poorer outcomes for them and increased costs to local authorities and taxpayers. The NAO found that local authorities spent £2.5bn in 2012-13 supporting children in foster and residential care, a real terms increase of 3% since 2010-11. However, the DfE does not have indicators by which it measures the effectiveness of the care system. In addition, there is a lack of understanding of what factors contribute towards the costs of care. In 2012-13, local authorities spent on average between £131,000 - £135,000 on residential care for a child and between £29,000 - £33,000 on foster care for a child, but costs vary between local authorities and by type of provider. Without a full understanding of the reasons for variations in cost the DfE and local authorities will not be able to reduce them. The NAO states that the DfE needs to use its new Innovation Programme to understand what works, especially on early intervention, if it is to improve the quality of care and reduce short and long-term cost. (27 November 2014)

DfE: Promoting the health and welfare of looked-after children – Updated statutory guidance: seeks views on draft joint statutory guidance from the DfE and the DH on promoting the health and welfare of looked-after children. The revised guidance has been updated to reflect changes made to the NHS following the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The consultation closes on 9 January 2015. (27 November 2014)

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R (GE (Eritrea)) v Secretary of State for the Home Department and Bedford BC [2014] EWCA Civ 1490 (CA): GE, an Eritrean national, appealed against the Council's refusal to accommodate and look after her, contending that the Council owed her duties as a "former relevant child" under s.23C of the Children Act 1989. GE had claimed asylum when she arrived in the UK in 2011, and said that she was 16. Immigration officials considered that she was over 18 and refused her claim. She then applied for an order requiring the Council to accommodate and look after her as a child in need but the judge refused to release her to the care of the Council; instead she ordered the Secretary of State to provide her with NASS support and accommodation. After allegedly reaching 18, GE applied for judicial review of the Council's refusal. The court held that the Council owed no duties to her as a former relevant child, since, in order for her to be classified as such, it was necessary that she should in fact have been being looked after by the Council when she attained the age of 18. It was therefore unnecessary to decide whether she was under 18 when she entered the UK.
The court held, allowing GE's appeal and referring the case to the Administrative Court to determine GE's age, that the language of s.23C was clear: an eligible child had to be either in care or provided with accommodation by the authority. The question was not whether the child ought to have been accommodated but whether she was in fact accommodated. A child who had not in fact been looked after by a local authority should not be treated as if he had been, so as to be able, on that account, to become a former relevant child. Nor could the court deem accommodation to have been provided pursuant to s.20 with the result that the child was to be treated as a former relevant child. However, the fact that the Council did not think GE needed accommodation because they got her age wrong did not mean that they owed no duty since their actual perception of her age was not an issue. The question as to GE's true age was not wholly without relevance since, if she was under 16½ when she entered the UK, the Council may well have been in breach of its duty under s.20 in failing to accommodate her. GE's age might also be relevant to her immigration status, the legality of her detention and her priority need for accommodation under s.189 of the Housing Act 1989. The matter would be referred back to the Administrative Court for it to determine GE's age. If the court concluded that she was under 18 at the relevant time, directions will have to be given as to how any subsequent claim against the Council should be processed. (20 November 2014)

R (J) v Worcestershire CC [2014] EWCA Civ 1518 (CA): this case considered whether a local authority's power to provide services to a child in need under s.17 of the Children Act 1989 was limited to children in need who were physically present in the authority's area at the time the services were provided, or whether the power extended to the provision of services to children who, although physically present at the time of assessment, were outside the area at the time of provision. 
J was 4 years old and had Down's Syndrome. His family were fairground travellers and part of the Gypsy community. For most of the year they travelled around the country but they returned each winter to the Council's area to live with J's grandfather. The Council assessed J's needs and recommended that he receive certain services, including a nursery placement. They advised J's parents that the services could not "travel" with the family and so when they were not living within the Council's boundary, the family would need to access the host local authority's services. J applied to quash that decision and the High Court ruled that Council had the power, for so long as J remained a child in need, to provide a range and level of services appropriate to his needs both inside and outside their area, and at times when J was not physically within their area (but was within England and Wales).
The court held, dismissing the Council's appeal, that  the wording of s.17 was equivocal and did not, on its own, provide an answer to the question of whether a local authority had the power to provide services outside its area where a child in need had left the area voluntarily. The court had to look to a purposive interpretation of s.17 and it set out the six points that were of particular assistance. On a purposive construction of s.17, there was only one result, namely that a local authority had the power to provide services for a child in need whom they had assessed, regardless of the circumstances which had led to that child being no longer physically present in that authority's area. A proper interpretation of the section did not result in an intolerable burden on an authority –  the Council had the power, not a duty, to provide assessed services and were therefore entitled to consider what services they would provide for a child in need having carried out the assessment. Legitimate considerations included the child's connection with the area, how long they intended to be away, whether, as with this travelling family, they would be staying for short periods in many different locations and also whether they were likely ever to return. (25 November 2014)

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

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Delivery of Services

Service Transformation Challenge Panel: Bolder, braver and better – Why we need local deals to save public services: the independent Service Transformation Challenge Panel was set up in April to advise on what needs to happen both locally and nationally to increase the pace and scale of transformation within public services. It has now published its final recommendations on changes to help public services deal with demographic changes, increasing expectations and the need to reduce the cost of public services. The Panel calls for three fundamental changes:

  • that local and central government use the person-centred approach of the Troubled Families programme to design services for groups and individuals with multiple and complex needs;
  • more easily accessible and more flexible funding for the up-front costs of transformation, but not more cash overall; and
  • radical improvements in how data and technology are used to provide smarter services.

(26 November 2014)

DCLG: Funding awarded to improve local services and save over £900 million: announces the 73 successful bidders to the Transformation Challenge Award. They will share £89.4m to invest in projects that will improve residents’ health, education and job prospects and reduce the demands they put on public services. All of the bids were submitted by partnerships which set out how they would work together to eliminate duplicate services and provide more coherent support for people. (28 November 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: Planning contributions (Section106 planning obligations): sets out the Government's response to the March 2014 consultation on the circumstances in which affordable housing contributions may be sought. It announces that, in light of responses received, the Government intends to make changes to national policy with regard to Section 106 planning obligations. These changes include a new 10-unit threshold for affordable housing contributions, with a lower threshold of 5 units for developments in National Parks and AONBs. Self-build, extensions and annexes will also be exempt from such contributions. In addition, a financial credit, equivalent to the existing gross floorspace of any vacant buildings brought back into any lawful use or demolished for re-development, should be deducted from the calculation of any affordable housing contributions sought from relevant development schemes. (28 November 2014)

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

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Economic Development

County Councils Network: County devolution – Interim findings: CCN is surveying its members on the issues of devolution within England, with the final report scheduled to be published in January 2015. This report explores the interim findings, which shows a strong consensus that devolution to county areas is vital economically, socially and politically. Counties also feel that with genuine devolution they could deliver better services, improved outcomes and sustainable growth. (18 November 2014)

TfL: Investing in city regions: this report discusses what should be the proper powers and responsibilities of cities in the UK through a renewed focus on transport infrastructure investment and the empowerment of city regions to achieve their full potential. It highlights a mismatch between central government’s ambition to boost jobs growth and economic prosperity in cities and the system used to prioritise transport investment and funding. It lays out the backdrop to the need for city regions to have funding guarantees that cut across political cycles, fiscal devolution that allows cities to keep a greater proportion of the tax revenue generated by investment, and additional powers over transport services. (18 November 2014)

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

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DfE: Cyberbullying – Advice for headteachers and school staff: departmental advice for headteachers and all school staff on how to protect themselves from cyberbullying and how to tackle it if it happens.
There is also parallel Advice for parents and carers on cyberbullying that provides advice and information about how they can protect their child from cyberbullying. (16 November 2014) 

DfE: Promoting fundamental British values as part of SMSC in schools: departmental advice for maintained schools on promoting fundamental British values as part of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development. Maintained schools have obligations under s.78 of the Education Act 2002 which requires schools, as part of a broad and balanced curriculum, to promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society. This guidance relates specifically to the requirements to actively promote fundamental British values in schools and explains how this can be met through the general requirement in the 2002 Act. (28 November 2014)
There is also departmental advice on improving the SMSC development of pupils for independent schools, academies and free schools.

DfE: SEND pathfinder programme – thematic reviews: SQW was commissioned by DfE to lead a consortium of organisations to undertake the Evaluation of the Special Educational Needs (SEN) and Disability Pathfinder Programme. It has published a series of in-depth thematic reviews that have arisen from the study. The latest look at:

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

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Emergency Planning

LGA: A guide for communicating during extreme weather: good practice guide for councils on communicating during periods of extreme weather. Even the very best reputations can be damaged by single incidents and the impact of extreme weather on local communities can shape views about councils and their partners. This guide is designed to help authorities develop a council-wide communications strategy to help prepare for, and react to, extreme weather and to ensure that they are able to communicate effectively with their residents. (14 November 2014)

DCLG: Bellwin scheme of emergency financial assistance to local authorities: following the severe weather last winter, the Government undertook a review of the Bellwin scheme of emergency financial assistance to local authorities to ensure that it is fit for purpose. This consultation seeks views on the proposed revised principles of the scheme. It states that the Government intends to refocus the scheme on emergency response and not recovery. It will separately consider the way longer term recovery and repairs to infrastructure are funded in due course. The consultation closes on 2 January 2015. (27 November 2014) 

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

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Finance and Funding

NAO: Financial sustainability of local authorities 2014: this report  examines evidence of the impact of funding reductions, and DCLG’s actions to inform itself of likely impact on financial and service sustainability of local authorities. It finds that DCLG has a limited understanding of authorities’ financial sustainability and the impacts of funding cuts on services. The NAO is concerned that DCLG does not monitor in a coordinated way the impact of funding reductions on services, and relies on other departments and inspectorates to alert it to individual service failures. In consequence, the Department risks becoming aware of serious problems with the financial sustainability of local authorities only after they have occurred. DCLG's processes for assessing the capacity of authorities to absorb further funding reductions are also not sufficiently robust.
In a complementary report, The impact of funding reductions on local authorities, the NAO found that there is significant variation in the way that authorities have responded to the funding reductions – many local authorities have coped well, but some groups of authorities are showing clear signs of financial stress. Authorities that have had larger cuts in government funding have not been able to protect funding of adults’ and children’s social care to the same extent as those with lower cuts. The report also shows that certain sub-services have experienced very substantial cuts in spending. This study is the first local government report published under the Comptroller and Auditor General’s new powers under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. The report examines comparative patterns of change in income, spending and financial and service sustainability across local authorities since 2010-11. (19 November 2014)

PM's Office: Prime Minister hails the rise of 'civic crowdfunding': announces that Spacehive, the world’s first crowdfunding platform for civic projects, has won the Big Society Award. The platform is a social business funded partly by private investors and partly by the Big Lottery Fund. It works in partnership with local authorities as well as the community network Locality, which verifies the viability of projects. Match-funding schemes have been set up both with companies like Experian and with DCLG, which has match-funded 14 projects to create community festivals. To date, 58 civic projects have been funded worth £1.8m. (27 November 2014) 

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

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DCLG: Government clampdown on fraud: announces a further  £16m funding to councils who are tacking fraud through a range of innovative projects across the country. This is in addition to the £19m announced earlier in 2014 to help councils fight housing tenancy fraud. (26 November 2014)

DCLG: Counter fraud fund successful bids: lists the successful bids to the Counter Fraud Fund, which offers local authorities the opportunity to boost capability and capacity in tackling non-benefit fraud and make real financial savings from reducing the cost of fraud. The total scheme is worth up to £16m over the financial years 2014/15 and 2015/16. (28 November 2014)

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

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LGA: Connecting health and wellbeing boards – A social media guide: this guide explains how HWBs can use social media effectively to help them shape policy, explain decisions and deliver objectives. (5 November 2014)

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

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Health and Safety

MoJ: Managing the safety of burial ground memorials – Practical advice for dealing with unstable memorials: this guidance sets out a risk-based approach to help burial ground operators develop a proportionate approach to managing the risks associated with memorials that is based on good practice. (20 November 2014)

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

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DCLG: Transparency in social housing assets value: sets out the Government's reposnse to the July 2014 consultation on proposals to increase local transparency in social housing value; and to improve local asset management of high value, vacant social housing properties. The consultation also aimed to gather information on how local authorities are already utilising their assets to deliver more homes, and information they collect on land held in their housing revenue accounts. in light of the responses, the Government has announced that from April 2015, councils will be required to publish the most recent valuation of their social housing stock annually to ensure it is being put to best use. (16 November 2014)

DCLG: Funding to strengthen accommodation based specialist domestic abuse service provision: announces a new £10m fund for local housing authorities to help them strengthen refuge services across the country. The funding is available for 2014-2015 to 2015-2016. Applications are invited from individual local housing authorities or those working together in partnerships. The closing date is 16 January 2015. 
DCLG has also issued Supplementary statutory guidance to housing authorities on domestic abuse and homelessness that advises on how to identify domestic abuse and how to respond quickly and appropriately to victims experiencing domestic abuse. The guidancealso sets out the minimum level of service standards that the Secretary of State expects to see in accommodation-based domestic abuse provision. (25 November 2014)

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

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Human Rights

Rochdale MBC v KW (Rev 1) [2014] EWCOP 45 (CoP): the Court of Protection has considered the approach to be taken where it is alleged that a person's confinement in their own home under arrangements made for their care by a local authority or health body amounts to a deprivation of liberty under Art.5 ECHR.
K was severely mentally incapacitated after suffering brain damage while undergoing surgery in 1996. Physically, she was just ambulant with the use of a wheeled Zimmer frame; mentally, she was trapped in the past with powerful delusions that it was still 1996 and that she was living at her old home with her three small children (who were all now adult). She lived in her own home with round-the-clock care, paid for by the Council and the CCG, and had a tendency to try to wander off in order to find her small children. It was alleged that the arrangement made for K's care by the Council amounted to a deprivation of liberty under Art.5 ECHR, following the Supreme Court's decision in P (by his litigation friend the Official Solicitor) v Cheshire West and Chester Council  [2014] UKSC 19.
The court held, dismissing the claim and distinguishing the Cheshire West case, that K was not in any realistic way being constrained from exercising the freedom to leave, as she did not have the physical or mental ability to exercise that freedom. It was impossible to conceive that the best interests arrangement for K, in her own home, provided by an independent contractor, but devised and paid for by the Council and CCG, amounted to a deprivation of liberty within Art.5. If her family had money and had devised and paid for the very same arrangement this could not be a situation of deprivation of liberty. But because they were devised and paid for by organs of the state they were said so to be, and the whole panoply of authorisation and review required by Art.5 was brought into play. This argument was arbitrary, arguably irrational, and a league away from the intentions of the ECHR. A key element of the objective test of confinement was whether the person was "free to leave" – this meant "leaving in the sense of removing herself permanently in order to live where and with whom she chooses", not just wandering out of the front door. K's ambulatory functions were very poor and were deteriorating. If she became house-bound or bed-ridden it must follow that her deprivation of liberty just dissolved. It was not impossible for a person ever to be deprived of his liberty by confinement in his or her own home, but for the many cases such as this, where a person, often elderly, who was both physically and mentally disabled to a severe extent, was being looked after in her own home, and where the arrangements happen to have been made and paid for by a local authority, rather than by the person's own family and paid for from her own funds, or from funds provided by members of her family, Art.5 was simply not engaged.
The court granted permission to appeal to the CA.  (18 November 2014)

Home Office: Modern slavery strategy: this strategy details the wide-ranging actions that the Government expects from government departments, agencies and partners, including local authorities, to tackle modern slavery. It builds on and adapts the framework that has been successfully implemented in both the serious and organised crime and counter terrorism strategies. The strategy has four components: Pursue; Prevent; Protect; and Prepare.
The Government introduced the Modern Slavery Bill into Parliament in June 2014. The Bill would provide law enforcement with stronger tools to stamp out modern slavery, ensure slave drivers can receive suitably severe punishments and enhance protection of and support for victims. (29 November 2014)

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

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DCMS: Broadband delivery framework summary: guidance on plans to continue to improve the UK’s broadband network, with particular emphasis on making high-speed broadband available in rural communities. It contains information on funding for local authorities, including links to factsheets on raising finance, and details of the delivery and procurement framework set up by DCMS's Broadband Delivery UK team (BDUK). It also explains state aid clearance requirements under the umbrella clearance scheme, and provides contact details for the scheme. (19 November 2014)

DCMS: Overview of the Scheme and criteria for use: gives an introduction to the National Broadband Scheme being funded by the BDUK programme. The Scheme will be delivered through a number of broadband projects due to be rolled out at a local and a community level and led for the most part by local bodies or by communities supported by local bodies. This document details terms and criteria of the National Broadband Scheme framework and application by local bodies.
DCMS has also published detailed guidance to local bodies on compliance with the relevant State aid guidelines applying to broadband interventions. This guidance is applicable to the BDUK superfast broadband and/or rural broadband programme, including both local and community broadband projects:

(26 November 2014)

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

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DCMS: Working draft of a revision to Chapter 15 of the amended guidance issued under Section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003: this draft has been published to provide advance notice to licensing authorities, legal advisers and those who run licensed premises and community events, of the intended reforms to the licensing of entertainment provision. It should into force on 6 April 2015 at the same time as legislative changes to the Licensing Act 2003. (28 November 2014)

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

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Home Office: Consultation on changes to the police disciplinary system: seeks views on proposals for changes to the police disciplinary system, and strengthening protections for police whistleblowers. The proposals cover: holding disciplinary and appeal hearings in public; introducing legally qualified chairs in disciplinary hearings; protecting whistleblowers; and changes to chief officer compensation payments. The consultation closes on 2 January 2015. (18 November 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

DCLG: Review of public authorities’ powers of entry:  the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 placed a duty on all Secretaries of State to identify and review the powers of entry they are responsible for and to report back to Parliament. DCLG has 63 powers of entry covering housing, planning and local government. Having identified individual powers of entry, this report sets out where the department has identified the potential to take further action to scrap, amend to include further safeguards, or consolidate existing powers to reduce the total number of powers. (27 November 2014) 

R (Tower Hamlets LBC) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Unreported) (Admin Ct): the court has rejected a renewal application by the Council for permission to bring judicial review proceedings against the Secretary of State for launching a best value audit of the authority.
The Secretary of State (SoS), in exercise of his powers under s.10 LGA 1999, appointed PwC to conduct a "best value" inspection of the Council, after he received confidential documents containing serious allegations of maladministration by the Council. The allegations concerned  irregularities in the payment of grants, the transfer of property and the processes used in the award of contracts. The Council said that it would cooperate with the inspection but asked for copies of the documents. The SoS referred the Council to the review and to a BBC Panorama programme that had broadcast the allegations. The Council applied for judicial review, contending that the SoS had failed to give sufficient reasons for his decision. It argued that it had been unable to file its claim earlier as, owing to mayoral elections, its administration had "gone into purdah" and was not operating normally for four weeks.
The court held, refusing the application, that "best value" was a very broad concept. The SoS had no express statutory duty to give reasons, but had a common law duty of fairness and natural justice. The statutory duty was no more than to identify whether, in general terms, the Council had performed its duties under s.3. When concerns were raised about fraud there had to be concerns about economic issues, efficiency and effectiveness. Much of the material was in the public domain and the Council could not credibly claim to be in the dark.  As for delay, the claim was filed just within the timeframe. While delay was not a ground for refusal, it impinged on the basis of the claim: the Council had made no attempt to stop the inspection or expedite the hearing. It was puzzling that the Council had allowed the process to proceed and so much public expenditure to be incurred while not taking action for so long. (14 November 2014)
The judgment is available on Lawtel (subscription required).

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

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Public Health

DH: Transfer of 0-5 children’s public health commissioning to local authorities – Finance fact sheet: updated fact sheet on 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.  (21 November 2014)

DEFRA: Isles of Scilly water legislation consultation: seeks views on proposals to introduce legislation in 2015 applying provisions of key water legislation to the Isles of Scilly. This will also ensure that the Drinking Water Directive and other EU Directives are fully implemented there. DEFRA proposes to take a light touch approach to the application of this legislation and apply it in a proportionate way that is appropriate to the situation in the islands. The Isles of Scilly Council already has certain statutory powers and duties in relation to the provision of public water supplies and sewerage services; also, some powers and duties of local authorities relating to water and sewerage (e.g. under the Public Health Act 1936 and the Water Act 1945) still apply to the Council even though they no longer apply to other local authorities. DEFRA intends to apply the equivalent provisions of the more recent legislation to the islands and repeal the old legislation in such a way as to ensure that equivalent powers and duties apply, without adding any additional burdens to the Council. The consultation closes on 12 February 2015. (20 November 2014)

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

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CIPFA: The transitional costs, benefits and risks of local government reorganisation: this report prepared for the WLGA, SOLACE Wales and the Society of Welsh Treasurers provides a detailed study on the financial implications of local government mergers in Wales. The study breaks down the main elements of costs and savings, and highlights a number of areas of risk that need to be taken into account during the reform process. While the report acknowledges that not every consequence of such a vast and complex undertaking could effectively be modelled at this stage, it raises a number of fundamental financial questions. Key findings include people change and redundancy costs of up to £158m, the rationalisation of property, systems and other change management costs of up to £54m, as well as £57m of income that will be forgone due to council tax harmonisation. The costs may be offset by savings of £65m that potentially take up to three years to be realised. The degree to which they can be realised will have to be assessed in the context of continuing austerity into the next UK Parliament. (21 November 2014)

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

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DfT: Community transport minibus fund: invites community transport operators in rural areas to bid for a share of £25m funding to provide new minibuses. The fund is focused on existing voluntary and third sector organisations that already have a permit to run not-for-profit services of benefit to the local community. Each bidder can apply for one vehicle and will need to undertake that the vehicle will be used only for voluntary services and will not be used to compete for bus service contracts. The closing date for bids is 15 January 2015. (28 November 2014)

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

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