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

09/01/2015

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 four 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    Governance
   Adult Social Services    Health and Social Care
   Anti Social Behaviour    Highways
   Audit    Housing
   Children's Services    Libraries
   Delivery of Services    London
   Development Control    Meetings
   Devolution    Parish Councils
   Economic Development    Police
   Education    Powers and Duties
   Efficiency    Procurement
   Emergency Planning    Public Health
   Environmental Services    Publicity
   Equalities and Discrimination    Rating
   Finance    Regulatory Services
   Fire and Rescue Authorities    Traffic and Transport

Access to Information

DCLG: Transparency code for smaller authorities: this code of recommended practice is issued under s.2 of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980. It sets out the information that smaller authorities should publish, i.e. parish councils, internal drainage boards, charter trustees and port health authorities with an annual turnover <£25,000. The information that these smaller authorities should publish includes: 

  • expenditure over £100 
  • list of councillor or member responsibilities 
  • details of public land and building assets 
  • minutes, agendas and meeting papers of formal meetings.

It also states that "smaller authorities should expect to publish details of contracts newly entered into – commercial confidentiality should not, in itself, be a reason for smaller authorities to not follow the provisions of this Code. Therefore, smaller authorities should consider inserting clauses in new contracts allowing for the disclosure of data in compliance with this Code". (17 December 2014)

LGA: Local transparency guidance: the LGA has published a set of revised practical guidance documents to support local authorities in understanding and implementing the Transparency Code 2014 and to help them publish the data in a meaningful and consistent way. The guidance covers:

(2 December 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

Ofsted: Social care compliance handbook: this updated handbook sets out the legal background to Ofsted's compliance work and its powers. It is used in the regulation of adoption support agencies, children’s homes, holiday schemes for disabled children, independent fostering agencies, residential family centres and voluntary adoption agencies. (18 December 2014)

DH: Care and support for deafblind children and adults policy guidance: statutory guidance to local authorities on how they should act in relation to care and support for deafblind adults and children. (18 December 2014) 

Home Office: Strengthening the law on domestic abuse consultation – Summary of responses: sets out the Government's response to the August 2014 consultation that discussed whether there should be a specific offence that captures patterns of coercive and controlling behaviour in intimate relationships, in line with the Government’s non-statutory definition of domestic abuse. It announces that in light of the responses, the Government will introduce a new offence of domestic abuse as an amendment to the Serious Crime Bill. This will explicitly criminalise patterns of coercive and controlling behaviour where they are perpetrated against an intimate partner or family member. The new domestic abuse offence will be triable either way and carry a maximum penalty of 5 years' imprisonment, and/or a fine. (18 December 2014)

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

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Anti Social Behaviour

London Councils: Transport and Environment Committee agenda – Consultation on fixed penalty notices for anti-social spitting: this committee report presents the results of a public consultation on the levels of fines for breaches of anti-social spitting byelaws. It seeks Members’ decision on whether to set a £80 fixed penalty level for spitting. The report outlines the legal background to borough approaches to spitting offences and the setting of fixed penalty levels under the London Local Authorities Act 2004. (11 December 2014)

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

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Audit

Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 (Commencement No. 4) Order 2014 (SI 2014/3319 (C.154)): this Order brings further provisions of the 2014 Act into force on 16 December 2014. It commences Part 4 of the Act relating to the eligibility and regulation of auditors and brings into force the definition of local auditor in relation to financial years 2017/18 onwards. (15 December 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: Young carers’ draft regulations: seeks views on draft regulations that amplify and underpin s.96 of the Children and Families Act 2014, which introduced new rights to improve how young carers and their families are identified and supported. From April 2015 all young carers will be entitled to an assessment of their needs from the local authority. The new provision works alongside measures in the Care Act 2014 to enable a “whole family approach” to assessment and support, so that young carers and their families can access appropriate assistance. The consultation closes on 26 January 2015. (19 December 2014)

Coram Voice: The door is closed: this report examines the case notes of over 40 young people that challenged decisions by Children’s Services which had led to them becoming homeless. The children were supported by Coram Voice through their Outreach advocacy programme, during 2013-14. It scrutinises how and why these children were so badly let down by the system which was supposed to help them. It also looks at how Coram Voice’s advocates, and the solicitors they work with, have found a way to make that system do its job properly. The report concludes that local authorities' failure to comply with their legal duties to protect teenagers is leaving this vulnerable group homeless and at risk from abuse. (16 December 2014)

Cabinet Office: Outcomes Frameworks – A guide for providers and commissioners of youth services: this guide helps providers and commissioners who are considering how to improve the outcomes for young people as a result of their work. It gives an overview of the most widely applicable outcomes frameworks for providers and commissioners of services for young people. (29 December 2014)

DfE: Revisions to working together to safeguard children: seeks views on three substantive changes to the statutory guidance 'Working together to safeguard children’, published in 2013. The consultation closes on 2 February 2015. (6 January 2015) 

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

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Delivery of Services

DCLG: Research into drivers of service costs in rural areas: this research by LG Futures was commissioned by DCLG and DEFRA to establish whether rural authorities face additional and unavoidable costs in delivering services, compared to urban authorities. It finds that when considering costs, it is not possible to readily separate out those which are ‘avoidable’, given the range of ways in which policy choices over service delivery can be made. However, where services involve a significant degree of travel, there is a general tendency for more rural authorities to have greater costs associated with travel claims and for more rural areas of authorities to have greater associated travel downtime. The services where rural premia could most readily be identified by authorities were domiciliary care and residential care; however, no statistically significant relationship with sparsity was identified in the national unit costs analysis. The study also identified wider issues, such as barriers in relation to reducing service costs through channel shift, due to lack of or prohibitively high costs of broadband access, and the need for greater community engagement to reduce social isolation and reduce future demand, but it was not possible to quantify such costs. The report is published alongside the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement 2015-16 (see below). (18 December 2014)

LGA: Transforming local public services using technology and digital tools and approaches: this report captures examples of where councils have used technology and digital tools and approaches to deliver services that are better target and more efficient. It includes nearly 50 such examples, where digital or technological innovation has been successfully combined with the intelligent use of customer insight and other complementary approaches such as demand management, lean and systems thinking and collaborative procurement, showing over £41m of direct savings. The report demonstrates not only that there is significant technological innovation in local government, but also that it is being applied with real skill and thoughtfulness. Councils have learned lessons from technology projects in the past, and are increasingly using agile and flexible project management approaches to implementation, belying the myth that the public sector cannot effectively implement change supported by information technology. (16 December 2014)

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

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Development Control

HC Communities and Local Government Committee: Operation of the National Planning Policy Framework: this report scrutinises the Government’s flagship planning policy, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). it concludes that it needs to do more to protect against unsustainable development in England and ensure communities aren’t subject to unwanted housing development. The Committee found that developers are taking advantages of loopholes in the framework to launch ‘speculative’ planning applications leading to unwanted developments contrary to the wishes of local communities, particularly where a local plan or five year supply of housing land was not in place. It recommends that clearer guidance is needed about how housing need should be assessed and that local authorities should be encouraged to review their green belts as part of the local planning process. It  also finds that the NPPF and Government planning policies are not doing enough to ensure the health and vibrancy of town centres, and it calls on DCLG to establish a remediation fund for brownfield sites. (16 December 2014)

DCLG: Further changes to statutory consultee arrangements for the planning application process: seeks views on three measures aimed at ensuring more effective provision of advice to local planning authorities in relation to surface water drainage management. The proposals include making the Lead Local Flood Authority a statutory consultee on major planning applications with surface water drainage implications, to ensure technical advice is available to local planning authorities. The consultation closes on 29 January 2015. (18 December 2014) 

DCLG: Neighbourhood planning – Government response to consultation: in July 2014 the Government consulted on a range of proposals to streamline the planning system, including proposals to make it even easier for residents and business to come together to produce a neighbourhood plan or a neighbourhood development order. This response states that the Government will introduce time limits within which decisions on all applications to designate a neighbourhood area must be made - the timescale will be eight, 13 or 20 weeks, depending on the area(s) covered by the application. In light of responses, it will not take forward the proposed reforms to the pre-submission consultation and publicity process. The changes will into effect by the end of January 2015. (31 December 2014)
See also the Government's consultation responses regarding Deemed discharge of planning conditions and  Making changes to Development Consent Orders.

DCLG: Plain English guide to the planning system: this guide explains how the planning system in England works. It is intended to give an overview only and does not set new planning policy or guidance. DCLG has also published an accompanying plain English guide to planning for free schools. (5 January 2015)

DCLG: New fund to help councils crack down on unauthorised development: announces a new £1m Planning Enforcement Fund that gives local planning authorities <£10,000 funding per case towards the legal costs in seeking an injunction against those who flout planning laws. (10 January 2015)

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R (Larkfleet Homes Ltd) v Rutland CC [2014] EWHC 4095 (Admin) (Admin Ct): LH, a developer, applied to quash the Council's decision to allow a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) to proceed to a neighbourhood planning referendum. LH contended that: the legislation did not permit allocation of sites for particular development in NDPs;  the Council had failed to apply the correct test in concluding that the NDP fell within reg.5(6)(a) of the Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004 in that it comprised a small area at local level; and the Council had failed to carry out the required environmental assessment process properly because of a failure to consider whether the proposals would cause any significant positive environmental effects.
The court held, refusing the application, that LH's contention that the National Planning Policy Framework showed that housing policies were strategic in nature and so could not be dealt with in a NDP was wrong. The requirement in para.16 for NDPs to "support the strategic development needs set out in the local plan" meant that the strategic elements in any housing policy must be applied in a NDP. Regulation 5(1) of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012 dealt with documents which need to be prepared as local development documents,and these included allocation of sites for a particular type of development or use.  The regulation was badly drafted, but it would be surprising, indeed contrary to what a neighbourhood plan was supposed to achieve, if allocation of precise sites were not able to be dealt with in a neighbourhood plan. (8 December 2014)

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

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Devolution

Cabinet Office: The implications of devolution for England: this paper presented by William Hague, the Leader of the House of Commons, sets out proposals for responding to the implications of devolution for England. It looks at the question of English votes for English laws – the so-called West Lothian question – and discusses how to ensure a much more radical dispersal of power within England, with a new, legal right for local authorities to demand powers. It inlcudes consideration of various potential routes to achieving greater decentralisation in England. (16 December 2014)

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

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Economic Development

DCLG: Proposal to use a Legislative Reform Order to give local authorities greater flexibility in forming a combined authority or economic prosperity board: seeks views on proposals to amend Part 6 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 relating to combined authorities and economic prosperity boards, through a Legislative Reform Order (LRO). The proposals would reduce inflexibilities and burdens that are currently in the 2009 Act, such as the geographical and procedural conditions that currently have to be met in order for a combined authority or economic prosperity board to be established. The changes would remove unnecessary barriers to local authorities collaborating across a functional economic area in order to promote economic growth. The consultation closes on 26 January 2014. (19 December 2014) 
See also the Commons Library's standard note on combined authorities, that outlines their legal basis and progress to date. It includes the latest proposals for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and lists other existing and proposed authorities.

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

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Education

DfE: Dedicated schools grant (DSG) 2015 to 2016:  information about the DSG and local authority allocations for 2015/16 as at December 2014. It includes funding for schools, for children and young people with high needs, and for children in their early years. The underlying school budget is kept at flat cash per pupil for 2015/16 with an increase in schools block per pupil funding for the 69 least fairly funded local authorities. To protect schools from significant budget reductions, the Minimum Funding Guarantee ensures no school sees more than a 1.5% per pupil reduction in 2015/16 budgets compared to 2014/15 and before the Pupil Premium is added. (17 December 2014)

DfE: £31.7 million boost for ‘life-changing’ SEND reforms: announces that the DfE will invest a further £31.7m in 2015/16 to help English local authorities continue to meet the costs of implementing the special educational needs and disabilities reforms. For details of the allocations, see the table showing funding for local authorities for children with SEND in 2015/16. (17 December 2014)

DfE: Evaluation of local areas’ readiness for the implementation of the disability and special educational needs reforms as set out in the Children and Families Act 2014: advice to DfE from Ofsted and the CQC on how well prepared local authorities are to carry out SEND reforms. It follows a study of 30 local authorities in Spring 2014. (17 December 2014)

DfE: School Admissions Code: this statutory Code, issued under s.84 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, comes into force no 19 December 2014 and applies to admission arrangements determined in 2015 for admission to all maintained schools in school year 2016/17 and any future years. It should be read alongside the School Admission Appeals Code and other guidance. Academies and free schools must also comply with this Code. (19 December 2014)

DfE: Using the Pupil Premium, Service Premium or Early Years Pupil Premium in admission arrangements: departmental advice for school admission authorities and local authorities to help when wishing to give admissions priority for children eligible for a pupil premium. (19 December 2014) 

School and Early Years Finance (England) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3352): these regulations, which come into force on 12 January 2015, provide how local authorities set their education budgets and how they allocate funding from the individual schools budget (ISB) to maintained schools and private, voluntary and independent providers of free early years provision in their area. (22 December 2014)

DfE: Schools revenue funding 2015 to 2016 – Operational guide: updated  information and guidance for local authorities and schools, explaining the changes that have been made to funding arrangements for 2015 to 2016. (22 December 2014)

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R (McCann) v Bridgend CBC [2014] EWHC 4335 (Admin) (Admin Ct): M applied for judicial review of the CBC's decision to close the primary school in her village and merge it with another school in a neighbouring village. M claimed that the CBC had failed to comply with the requirements of the statutory decision-making process under Part 3 of the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and the School Organisation Code.
The court held, granting the application, that in reaching its decision, the CBC had failed to comply in a number of material respects with the requirements of the 2013 Act and the Code. Taken together, those failures were both a cause of an inadequate approach to the decision-making process and symptomatic of a failure to engage with the ethos of the statutory provisions. The CBC had failed to set out in the consultation document the alternatives that had been considered and the reasons why they had been discounted. It did not provide particulars of the alternatives it had considered nor even claim that there were no other feasible or realistic options. That was not what the statutory process required, and it undermined the clear purposes inherent in that process, because it removed from the wider public sphere the opportunity for constructive engagement with alternatives that had not been included in the proposal; also the CBC's failure to comply with the required discipline of clear explanation and reasoned justification of its process of reasoning was liable to compromise the intended benefits of the Code in respect of improved quality of decision-making. Secondly, the CBC had failed to address adequately the requirement regarding the interests of pupils and the quality of outcomes, provision, and leadership and management – there should normally be evidence that standards in the new school would be at least equivalent to those at the existing school. In addition, the CBC had failed to notify the regional AMs, as required by the Code, and it was not certain that the outcome would inevitably have been the same if the regional AMs had been provided with the information to which they were entitled. (19 December 2014)

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

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Efficiency

Labour Party: Labour's zero based review – Interim report number 3: A new deal for Communities and Local Government: this third interim report from Labour’s Zero-Based Review (ZBR) of every pound spent by government outlines how a Labour Government would save over £500m in the CLG budget for the better protection of frontline services while getting the deficit down and implementing a radical devolution plan to pass power back to local communities. The report also looks at how the Labour Party would: end the New Homes Bonus, with the funding re-allocated more fairly within local government; consider proposals to merge some of the 46 Fire and Rescue Authorities in England; and save from collaboration between councils. Savings found in these areas will help ensure the frontline in local government is better protected. (15 December 2014)

DCLG: Good practice in local government savings: presents the findings from a study by Shared Intelligence and Grant Thornton UK LLP that examined how local authorities are making savings that do not adversely impact upon frontline services or the voluntary sector. The report includes examples of how councils have made savings through better policies, new technology, collaborating with each other, taking early action and working with the private and charitable sectors. It is published alongside the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement 2015-16 (see below). (18 December 2014)

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

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Emergency Planning

Prime Minister's Office: Flood support schemes guidance note: updated guidance for local authorities, businesses and homeowners on schemes that have been announced by the Prime Minister to help homeowners and business recover from adverse weather between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2014. It sets out the eligibility criteria for these funds and provides high-level guidance to local authorities who will be responsible for administering these schemes in local areas. (16 December 2014)

DEFRA: The National Flood Emergency Framework for England: this updated Framework brings together information, guidance and key policies. It is a resource for all involved in flood emergency planning. (18 December 2014)

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

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Environmental Services

DEFRA: Review of Local Air Quality Management (England) – Regulatory and guidance changes: seeks views on proposals to amend the regulations for local air quality management (LAQM) so as to improve LAQM delivery in England. It includes draft regulations that remove four redundant pollutants for local authority reporting purposes, and non-regulatory changes such as streamlining of reporting processes and providing local authorities with a role to tackle PM2.5 (fine particulates) to be set out in statutory guidance. The consultation closes on 30 January 2015. (19 December 2014)

DEFRA: Consultation on the draft Control of Waste (Dealing with Seized Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015: seeks views on draft regulations on the seizure of vehicles in relation to offences concerning waste. The aim of the draft regulations is to help reduce illegal waste activity, including fly-tipping, by giving enforcement authorities more effective tools to use in the investigation and prosecution of suspected offences. The Government is seeking views on the proposed approach to seizure of vehicles and invites comments on its assessment of the likely costs and benefits. The consultation closes on 3 February 2015. (15 December 2014)

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

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Equalities and Discrimination

DCLG: Government action on antisemitism: gives details of the Government's overall progress in addressing anti-semitism, including improving the collection of antisemitic hate crime data, fighting cyberhate crime, extending Holocaust education and remembrance and addressing anti-semitism internationally. It also forms the final report on the original 35 recommendations made by the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism. The Communities Secretary states that the Government's commitment to tackling anti-semitism "must be replicated wholeheartedly by councils who should use their position of authority to actively reduce tensions". (29 December 2014)

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

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Finance

DCLG: Provisional local government finance settlement for 2015-16: gives details of the provisional funding allocations for local authorities in 2015-16. It states that the average reduction in councils’ spending power is 1.8% (excluding the GLA). The documents include:

See also the LGA's briefing. (18 December 2014)

Council Tax Reduction Schemes (Prescribed Requirements) (England) (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3312): these regulations, which come into force on 12 January 2015, amend SI 2012/2885 that provides for localised council tax reduction schemes which replaced council tax benefit on 1 April 2013. The amendments increase certain figures which are used in calculating whether a person is entitled to a reduction and the amount of that reduction. The purpose of uprating the figures is to maintain consistency with the situation that would have applied under council tax benefit. The regulations also update the regulations to maintain consistency with changes which have come into effect in the housing benefit regime. (18 December 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: Addendum to the fire and rescue national framework for England – Firefighter fitness: the National Framework sets out the government’s expectations and requirements for fire and rescue authorities. This addendum sets out the steps that fire and rescue authorities should take to help ensure that firefighters remain fit and are supported in remaining in employment. (15 December 2014) 

DCLG: Dorset Fire Authority and Wiltshire and Swindon Fire Authority – Consultation on locally-led proposals to create a combined fire and rescue authority for Dorset and Wiltshire: seeks views on a proposal to make an Order under s.4(4) of the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 to revoke the combination schemes for Dorset and for Wiltshire and Swindon, to allow for the creation of a new combined fire and rescue authority for Dorset and Wiltshire under s.2(3)(a) of the 2004 Act. The consultation closes on 28 January 2015. (17 December 2014)

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

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Governance

DCLG: Directions to the council of the London borough of Tower Hamlets under secton 15 of the Local Government Act 1999: the Communities Secretary has issued Directions to Tower Hamlets LBC in accordance with his powers under s.15 of the Local Government Act 1999, putting in place a statutory intervention to address failures by the council to comply with its best value duty. This follows an independent inspection report which raised concerns about the governance of the council. The accompanying explanatory memorandum sets out the circumstances in which the Secretary of State has made these Directions, his reasons for this exercise of his powers, and the implications of the directions for the authority. Sir Ken Knight and Max Caller CBE have been nominated as commissioners and are in place until 31 March 2017. Their team will, with immediate effect, take control of grant making within the council, will approve any sale or disposal of property and will agree a plan for publicity. The council, under the direction of the commissioners, will have three months to prepare a strategy and action plan setting out how it will comply with its duty to act openly and transparently, serving all of its communities fairly and securing value for money. The commissioners will drive forward the action plan, updating the Secretary of State every six months on progress. (17 December 2014)

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

DH: Response to the consultation on funding formulae for implementation of the Care Act in 2015/16 – Allocations for early assessments against the cap on care costs, universal deferred payment agreements, social care in prisons and additional funding for Care Act implementation, including carers' rights: this response to the July 2014 consultation sets out local authority funding in the financial year 2015 to 2016 for: early assessments for against the cap on care costs (£146m); universal deferred payment agreements (£83.5m); carers and Care Act implementation (£55.5m); and social care in prisons (£11.2m). The funding for the first three grants will be paid to local authorities as a DCLG revenue grant, and the funding for social care in prisons will be paid as a DH revenue grant. (18 December 2014)

DH: Care and support – What's changing?: information on what the changes to care and support under the Care Act 2014 will mean for carers and the cared for. (29 December 2014)

LGA: Guide to the Care Act 2014 and the implications for providers: most of the Act’s changes take effect from April 2015. However, the major reforms to the way that social care is funded, including the care cap and care account and new power to establish an appeals mechanism, will not come into operation until April 2016. This guide gives details of key changes that providers should be aware of, new areas for providers and new opportunities. (9 January 2015)

 R (Torbay Quality Care Forum Ltd) v Torbay Council [2014] EWHC 4321 (Admin) (Admin Ct): TQCF, an association of independent care home operators, applied for judicial review of the Council's decision setting the amount which the local authority assessed as the normal cost of providing care services for care home residents, which was the figure it was prepared to pay to providers where it was responsible for the costs of care. TCQF claimed that the model on which the decision was based, specifically with regard to a staffing ratio calculation, was mathematically flawed and was thus unreasonable, and that the decision was unreasonable as the model considered top-up fees paid by privately paying residents which were not relevant, it took into account costs in an unlawful manner and was contrary to Government guidance in Local Authority Circular LAC (2004)20.
The court held, granting the application, that in judicial review the court would be particularly circumspect in engaging with the conclusions of the primary decision maker in relation to complex economic and technical questions. The normal setting of fee rates was a matter involving economic and financial assessment and a degree of expertise in how this sector operated; there was also a judgment to be made about the proper allocation of scarce resources. But if the local authority chose to adopt a mathematical model, some scrutiny of this was available on general public law principles. Here, the presence of an inexplicable weighting within the mathematical model was a matter of fact which no reasonable decision taker could properly take into account. Nor had the Council provided any justification for departing from the plain wording of the Circular. Its approach failed to take any proper account of the guidance concerned; taking those fees into account in the cost analysis did not pay due regard to actual cost and amounted to a significant error in the decision making process. (23 December 2014)

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

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Highways

DfT: £6 billion funding to tackle potholes and improve local roads: announces funding for local authorites outside London for maintenance of local highways between 2015 - 2021. Of this funding, £4.7bn will be allocated according to a needs-based formula, with £580m to incentivise good asset management and efficiencies; £575m reserved for the Local Highways Maintenance Challenge Fund for large one-off maintenance and renewal projects. The deadline for submitting bids for the Challenge Fund is 9 February 2015. (23 December 2014)

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

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Housing

DCLG: Areas shortlisted to become England's first housing zones: announces the 29 areas that have been shortlisted to become the first flagship Housing Zones in England. The Government plans to create 10 Housing Zones outside London that will share £200m funding for infrastructure and land remediation to get their ideas off the ground. Successful zones will also have access to cheaper borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board and priority access to expert planning and technical support from the ATLAS service run by the Homes and Communities Agency. In addition, 37 councils will receive a share of £5m funding in this financial year to help bring large-scale sites forward for development. (8 January 2014)

R (Regas) v Enfield LBC [2014] EWHC 4173 (Admin) (Admin Ct): R applied to quash the Council's decision made under the Housing Act 2004 to designate the entire borough for both additional licensing of houses in multiple occupation and selective licensing of private rented sector properties for a five year period from 1 April 2015. R contended that the Council's consultation process had been inadequate as it had failed to consult potentially interested parties outside the borough such as landlords and neighbouring local authorities, and also it had failed to consult for the period of time required by the Secretary of State in his General Approval 2010 as a condition of his approval for the additional and selective licensing schemes.
The court held, granting the application, that the additional and selective licensing schemes were not lawfully designated, nor could they lawfully be implemented unless and until the Council conducted a lawful consultation as required by s.56 and s.80 of the 2004 Act, and then obtained approval for a lawfully designated scheme. The 2004 Act imposed an obligation on the Council to take reasonable steps to consult people who were likely to be affected by the designation. The class of persons likely to be so affected plainly included those residents, businesses, landlords and agents who lived or operated in immediately adjoining parts of other local authority areas. These groups should have been consulted and no thought was given, as it should have been, to the likely impact on those outside the borough who would be affected but were not protected by the proposals. There was no justification for the Council to treat people in the immediate vicinity but who happened to be located outside the borough differently from those within the borough yet they had not been consulted in any meaningful way. Therefore the statutory precondition contained in s.56(3) of the 2004 Act had not been met. The statutory consultation requirement could not be satisfied by a general engagement and listening exercise but required a draft proposal which would require some precision in the identification of what is to be designated and its consequences. Therefore the consultation lasted much less than the ten week period required to satisfy the conditions set out in the General Approval. Moreover, not all those who should have been consulted within the borough, never mind outside the borough, were consulted for the whole of that period. (11 December 2014)

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

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Libraries

DCMS: Independent library report for England: DCMS commissioned an independent advisory panel, led by William Sieghart, to investigate how the public library system could best work, in the future. it highlights how a library is much more than simply a place to borrow books - it underpins every community and is the starting point of  empowerment for many citizens who lack opportunities at home. It finds that there are outstanding examples of libraries who benefit, and engage with, their local lives and communities, and this best practice needs to be shared further. It is concerned that a library’s great strength – its localism – must not be allowed to become its weakness. More focused effort is needed to help local government implement its desire to benefit its communities through the public library system. It envisages a re-invigoration of the library network, with new services that would make the libary a vibrant and attractive community hub. The report makes three recommendations:

  • The provision of a national digital resource for libraries, to be delivered in partnership with local authorities; 
  • The setting up of a task and finish force, led by local government, in partnership with other bodies involved in the library sector, to provide a strategic framework for England, and to help in implementing the following 
  • The task force, to work with local authorities, to help them improve, revitalise and if necessary, change their local library service, while encouraging, appropriate to each library, increased community involvement.

 (18 December 2014)

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

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London

London Councils: Three minute briefings: London Councils is putting together a series of short films entitled ‘Three minute briefings’ that provide a comprehensive and succinct introduction to key policy areas. Each film will sit on London Councils' website and its YouTube channel. The first in the series is on London's High Streets. (5 January 2015)

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

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Meetings

Local Government (Electronic Communications) (England) Order 2015 (SI 2015/5): this Order, which comes into force on 30 January 2015, amends paras.4 & 10 of Sch.12 LGA 1972 to allow local authorities to use electronic facilities such as email to send their members summonses (including agendas and related papers) to attend meetings, provided their members consent. (7 January 2015) 

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

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Parish Councils

DCLG: The Government response to the consultation on a proposal to use a legislative reform order for making it easier to set up a new town and parish council: in March 2014 the Government consulted on a proposal to use a Legislative Reform Order to amend the current legislation in the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 governing the setting up of new town and parish councils. The changes would reduce the restrictions that can prevent or hinder local communities from requesting a local authority to carry out a Community Governance Review. This paper sets out how DCLG intends to proceed with this in light of responses received, by bringing in three new measures that: 

  • lower the threshold of signatures required to trigger a review of governance from 10% to 7.5% of residents; 
  • shorten the amount of time the local authority can take to complete a governance review to 12 months from receipt of a valid petition; and 
  • allow neighbourhood forums to trigger a community governance review for a new parish council without requiring them to submit a petition.

It has laid the draft Legislative Reform (Community Governance Reviews) Order before Parliament, along with a draft Explanatory Document. These provisions should come into force "within the next 12 months". (8 January 2015)

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

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Police

Home Office: Police and Crime Commissioners – Progress to date: sets out the Government's response to the Home Affairs Select Committee's report on the role and progress of PCCs in their first two years. (15 December 2014) 

Home Office: Provisional Police Grant Report (England and Wales) 2015/16: this provisional report sets out the aggregate amount of grants proposed for the police in England and Wales for 2015 to 2016 and includes the proposed amount of grant for each local policing body. (17 December 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

Home Office: Prevent duty guidance: seeks views on draft guidance issued under the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, which is currently before Parliament. The Bill places a new duty on local authorities and other public bodies to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. It makes clear that preventing people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism requires challenge to extremist ideas where they are used to legitimise terrorism and are shared by terrorist groups; it also also means intervening to stop people moving from extremist (albeit legal) groups into terrorist-related activity. The consultation closes on 30 January 2015. (17 December 2014)

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

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Procurement

Cabinet Office: Procurement Policy Note 11/14 – References and public procurement: this PPN explains how commercial staff in contracting authorities can provide references for their suppliers. (12 December 2014)

NAO: Paying government suppliers on time: this report examines the Government's prompt payment commitment and the role of the Cabinet Office and DBIS in supporting and monitoring the drive for prompt payment within government and the private sector. It finds that there is little evidence that the Government’s commitment to pay 80% of undisputed invoices within 5 working days is having the intended effect of helping the UK’s 5m small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Central government spends £40bn a year on goods and services, of which about £4.5bn is spent directly on purchases from SMEs. The report finds that, while UK businesses welcome the Government’s commitment to pay invoices more quickly than the 30 days required by law, there is a risk that the policy boosts the working capital of main contractors rather than benefiting other businesses down the supply chain. (8 January 2015)

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

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Public Health

LGA: Reducing the strength – Guidance for councils considering setting up a scheme: ‘Reducing the Strength’ schemes are initiatives designed to tackle the problems  associated with street drinking by removing from sale low price high-strength alcohol products through voluntary agreements with local retailers. Suffolk was the first place to trial such schemes, and they have since been set up in a number of places. But there have been a number of concerns raised about them, such as whether they breach competition law and / or the Licensing Act, and concerns about unintended consequences, such as the removal of products that were not a target for such schemes. This guidance aims to help ensure that Reducing the Strength schemes are designed and established in a way that addresses these concerns and complies with relevant legislation. (12 December 2014)

NAO: Public Health England’s grant to local authorities: this report examines whether PHE’s arrangements for the £2.7bn ring-fenced grant funding to 152 local authorities are likely to lead to intended outcomes and value for money. It concludes that the new public health agency has made a good start in supporting local authorities with their new responsibilities for public health; however, it is too soon to tell whether the agency’s approach is achieving value for money. (17 December 2014)

DH: Public health ring-fenced grant conditions 2015 to 2016 – Local authority circular LAC(DH)(2014)2: sets out the public health grant determination and conditions for 2015 to 2016. These cover 0-5 children's services due to be transferred to local authorities in October 2015. In 2015 to 2016 the allocations increased to £2.80bn as a result of locally agreed baseline adjustments of £ 7.7m submitted to the DH. (18 December 2014)

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

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Publicity

DCLG: Statutory notices for the 21st Century – Invitation to express an interest in becoming a pilot: invites councils, newspapers and others to pilot innovative ways of improving statutory notices. The pilots will explore how to change statutory notices so that they reach more people, are easier to read, give greater visibility and transparency to big issues and reduce costs in a sustainable way. DCLG states that it wants to get past the current "sterile debate based on a binary choice of the total retention or total abolition of requirements to publish notices in local newspapers". There is a "small and finite" amount of funding to support the pilots but the final decision on funding rests with the Secretary of State and there is no guarantee. The closing date for expressions of interest to become a pilot is 28 January 2015 (23 December 2014)

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

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Rating

Association of Convenience Stores: Discretionary rate relief and high streets – A guide for local authorities: this guide has been developed on behalf of the Government’s Future High Streets Forum, which brings together high street stakeholders, local authorities and businesses to tackle high streets issues. The stakeholders of the group have identified discretionary rate relief as a clear opportunity for local authorities to support their high streets and local parades. This guide explains the benefits of allocating local rate reliefs, diagnoses the challenges faced by high streets and brings together cases studies from councils across the country already using their local discretionary rate relief powers. (26 December 2014)

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

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Regulatory Services

Home Office: Surveillance Camera Commissioner – Annual report 2013 to 2014: this report outlines the work that the Commissioner has completed and his future plans. It sets out how he continues to ensure that the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice is promoted to relevant authorities under s.33 (5) of the Protection of Freedoms Act so that they fully understand and fulfil their duty under it. He also intends to explore other opportunities to promote the Code to non-relevant authorities, seeking voluntary adoption across a broad range of sectors. He notes that some relevant authorities, particularly public space CCTV managers in local authorities, show enormous enterprise in adopting the principles within the Code. However, the application of the Code is not consistent throughout all relevant authorities, e.g. where some traffic enforcement officers utilise the same cameras as those used to deliver crime and disorder reduction strategies. Accordingly where dual use CCTV Operation Rooms are in use he intends to raise the obligations within the Code to encourage compliance. (16 December 2014)

Draft Single Use Carrier Bags Charges (England) Order 2015: this draft Order, which will come into force on 5 October 2015, requires retailers with 250 or more employees to charge a minimum amount of 5p for unused single use plastic bags. The charge will be enforced by local authority trading standards officers. The draft Order sets out their enforcement powers, including power to impose a fixed monetary penalty; it also places duties on LATS to publish reports and guidance about enforcement action. (19 December 2014)

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

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Traffic and Transport

Office for Low Emission Vehicles: Multi-million pound fund for cities to take driving seat in green car revolution: invites local authorities to bid for a share of funding from the Go Ultra Low City Scheme, to help increase the local uptake of ultra low emission vehicles. The funding can be used for measures such as: installing charge-points for electric cars; introducing low emission zones; changing planning rules to make it easier to install electric vehicle charge-points; trialling new technology; and encouraging workplace schemes. The closing date for submitting outline bids is 20 February 2015; shortlisted cities will be invited to submit final bids by end of August and the winner will be announced in Autumn 2015. (26 December 2014)

DfT: Cycle City Ambition grant programme – Guidance on distribution of ongoing funding: gives details of the formula which is being used to allocate a £114 million extension to the original cycle city ambition grant, as announced in November 2014. It also explains the threshold criteria to bidders, which will be used by the DfT to decide how to award the funding. (31 December 2014) 

DfT: Door to door action plan: progress reports on the Government's door to door strategy which was launched on 14 March 2013. The strategy describes the Government’s vision for integrated sustainable journeys. It sets out what the DfT wants from transport providers and local authorities, and what is being done across the Department to support door-to-door journeys. (31 December 2014)

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

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