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:

   Anti Social Behaviour    Health and Social Care
   Audit    Police
   Children's Services    Powers and Duties
   Community Rights    Procurement
   Development Control    Public Health
   Education    Rating
   Enforcement    Transport
   Governance    Welfare and Benefits

 

Anti Social Behaviour

Draft Anti-social Behaviour (Authorised Persons) Order 2015: this Order, once in force, enables local authorities to give housing providers the power to issue community protection notices and fixed penalty notices under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. (22 January 2015)

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

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Audit

Accounts and Audit (Wales) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3362 (W.337)): these regulations, which come into force on 31 March 2015, revoke and replace the Accounts and Audit (Wales) Regulations 2005 regarding the accounts and audit of local authorities and other bodies under s.39 of the Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004. The changes include: an increase in the threshold of gross income or gross expenditure for smaller relevant bodies, from £1m pa to <£2.5m; changes to the procedures for approving and publishing accounts; the separation of procedures governing published accounts and audit for larger relevant bodies from that for smaller relevant bodies; and it is no longer an offence to fail to comply with any aspect of the Regulations. (22 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

DCLG: Government puts rocket boosters under plans to get troubled families back to work: announces an extra £10m funding to enable the number of Jobcentre Plus specialists seconded directly into local authorities’ troubled families teams to increase from 150 to 307 from April 2015. These will support the expansion of the programme from April 2015, to work with a further 400,000 families and tackle a wider range of problems such as mental health, debt and domestic violence, as well as an additional focus on families with children under 5. (18 January 2015)

Welsh Government: £6.9m capital investment prioritises early years support: announces £6.9m capital funding for Flying Start, a scheme to support families in some of Wales’ most disadvantaged areas. The funding is for the creation of childcare settings and places where parents will be able to access the help and support they need to cope with the pressures of poverty. (19 January 2015)

DfE: Children Act 1989 – Transition to adulthood for care leavers: updated statutory guidance for local authorities on helping care leavers aged 16 and 17 prepare for adulthood. The revisions include further information on suitable accommodation. (23 January 2015)

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

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Community Rights

Draft Community Right to Challenge (Business Improvement Districts) Regulations 2015: these regulations, once in force, will add a body responsible for the implementation of Business Improvement District arrangements (BID body), to the list of organisations that can submit an Expression of Interest to deliver local authority services through the Community Right to Challenge under s.81(6) of the Localism Act 2011. This will allow BID bodies to formally challenge local authorities to give them the opportunity to bid to run services in their area. (23 January 2015)

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

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Development Control

Neighbourhood Planning (General) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/20): these regulations, which come into force on 9 February 2015, amend SI 2012/637 to further provide for the designation of neighbourhood areas and the submission of neighbourhood development plan proposals to local planning authorities. They prescribe the date by which a local planning authority must determine applications for designation of a neighbourhood area. This date is either eight, 20 or 13 weeks from when the application is publicised, depending on whether the application area is the whole of the area of a parish council but does not fall within the areas of two or more local planning authorities, falls within the areas of two or more local planning authorities, or all other cases. They also require a qualifying body to submit an environmental report with its proposal for a neighbourhood plan. (14 January 2015) 

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

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Education

DfE: Character education – Apply for 2015 grant funding: invites schools, colleges and organisations to apply for a share of a new £3.5m Character Education Grant fund to support projects in character education. Proposals should develop new innovations or expand existing evidence-based practice in some, or all, of specified areas. The closing date for proposals for grant funding is 6 February 2015. (12 January 2015)

LGA: Councils fear school place tipping point: the LGA is warning that the £12bn cost of creating places for the 900,000 extra pupils expected at England's schools over the next decade could push schools to breaking point. It is calling on the Government to fully-fund the cost of all school places, now and in the future, and to give councils the powers to open new schools without bureaucratic burdens so they can be delivered according to local need. (12 January 2015) 

DfE: National standards of excellence for headteachers: this departmental advice defines high standards that apply to all headteacher roles within a self-improving school system. The standards are designed to inspire public confidence in headteachers, raise aspirations, secure high academic standards in the nation’s schools, and empower the teaching profession. (19 January 2015)

HC Public Accounts Committee: 16-18 year old participation in education and training: this report scrutinises how DfE is using its resources to prevent young people falling out of education, training or employment at 16. It finds that at the end of 2013, 148,000 out of the 2m 16- to 18-year-olds in England were not in education, employment or training (NEET). The report states that careers advice remains patchy across the country and local authorities do not know what large numbers of the young people in their areas are doing. This means these young people are difficult to target. In 2010 the DfE transferred responsibility for providing careers advice to schools but did not give them additional resources to fund it. The Committee is also concerned that many local authorities do not help 16- to 18-year-olds with the costs of travelling to school or college, which can lead to some young people being disadvantaged. (22 January 2015)

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

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Enforcement

DCLG: Council Tax and business rates – Powers of entry: seeks views on proposals to amend the Valuation Office Agency's powers of entry that are operated by the VAO’s listing officers and valuation officers as part of their duty to assess domestic and non-domestic properties for banding purposes and rateable values respectively. The consultation closes on 20 February 2015. (23 January 2015) 

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

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Governance

Welsh Government: An evaluation of Welsh Local Government’s executive and scrutiny arrangements: this study aimed to assess how the introduction of the cabinet system in local government has impacted on decision-making, democracy and accountability in Wales and to identify lessons for future development; and also to examine to what extent the cabinet system enables effective scrutiny of local government, and to identify policies for future development. It presents a number of case studies and make several recommendations, including that the Welsh Government and the local government community should work together to build a set of principles to guide the future operation of executive and scrutiny arrangements in Wales. These principles should be co-produced with councils and other interested parties. The principles would have the force of non-statutory guidance with councils being encouraged to try innovative ways of operationalising the principles that reflect the political and socio-geographical context in which they are working. Councils should be encouraged and supported to share best practice as a cost effective and positive approach to modernising executive and scrutiny arrangements, and should consider assessing current levels of officer support for cabinet and scrutiny as both areas are coming under increasing pressure. (8 January 2015)

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

HC Public Accounts Committee: Funding healthcare – Making allocations to local areas: this report concludes that the slow progress towards target funding allocations means the Government has not fulfilled its policy objective of equal access for equal need. It finds that around two-fifths of CCGs and three-quarters of local authorities are receiving more than 5% above or below their target funding allocation. The National Audit Office has calculated that, if the slow pace of change were to continue, it would take around 80 years for all local commissioners to get close to their target funding allocations; for local authorities and the expenditure on public health, it would take 10 years before no local authority remained below its target allocation by more than 5%. The Committee's recommendations include that the DH should develop an evidence base to inform government decisions on how quickly public health allocations to local authorities should move towards their target allocations. (9 January 2015)

DH: No secrets – Guidance on developing and implementing multi-agency policies and procedures to protect vulnerable adults from abuse: the ‘No Secrets’ guidance will be repealed by the Care Act 2014 on 1 April 2015 as the Act contains replacement and mandatory requirements around adult safeguarding - see Chapter 14 of Care and Support statutory guidance. This updated guidance reflects the forthcoming repeal. (22 January 2015)

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

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Housing

Welsh Government: Consultation on the future of Right to Buy and Right to Acquire – A White Paper for social housing: seeks views on proposals to change the legislation on the Right to Buy and Right to Acquire. The Welsh Government considers that the reduced number of social rented homes available to help people who are on housing waiting lists, as a result of the Right to Buy and Right to Acquire policies over the past 30 years, is adding to the pressures on housing supply and on people’s ability to find a home they can afford. It sets out two proposals that aim to protect the social housing stock from further reduction: either, changing existing legislation so as to reduce the maximum discount available to a tenant who applies to buy their home from their Council or Housing Association landlord;  or ending the Right to Buy and Right to Acquire altogether. The consultation closes on 16 April 2015. (22 January 2015)

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

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Police

DH / Home Office: Review of the operation of Sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act – Review report and recommendations: in April 2014, the Government launched a review of the operation of ss.135 & 136 MHA 1983, which give the police powers to temporarily remove people who appear to be suffering from a mental disorder and who need urgent care to a ‘place of safety’, so that a mental health assessment can be carried out and appropriate arrangements made for their care. The review found that in a number of areas there is a case for legislative change and that there is strong support for change from practitioners and from service users. In particular, there is a need to reduce the use of police cells as places of safety for people detained under s.136 to those circumstances where such use is unavoidable and to end their use for children or young people. There is also a continuing need to ensure that people can get the help they need as soon as possible wherever they are at the time. The report recommends a number of legislative and non-legislative changes. (18 December 2014)

Police (Conduct) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3347): these regulations, which come into force on 12 January 2015, amend the Police (Conduct) Regulations 2012 to provide that a police officer may not resign or retire without the consent of the chief officer of police or the Police and Crime Commissioner, once an allegation has come to their attention that may result in the officer’s dismissal from a police force. A chief officer or PCC will only be able to consent to an officer’s resignation or retirement if they are deemed medically unfit or in other exceptional circumstances, for example where a covert criminal investigation could be prejudiced. (18 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

R (Galaxy Land Ltd) v Durham CC [2015] EWHC 16 (Admin) (Admin Ct): GL, a housing developer, applied for judicial review of the Council's decision to join a limited liability partnership (LLP2) for promoting land for housing development in a particular area. The partners had options agreements under which landowners would receive net sales proceeds in proportion to their land which was sold for housing. GL was a member of another LLP (LLP1) that had also been established to promote development in that area. The Council had decided not to join that LLP; instead it decided to join LLP2. GL claimed that the options agreement was an unlawful exercise of the Council's powers to dispose of land under s.123 LGA 1972 and that the Council had failed to take in account material considerations when making its decision. It also claimed that the Council failed to recognise that the playing fields were open space within s.336 T&CPA1990 and so had failed to follow the procedure required by s.123(2A) LGA 1972.
The court held, granting the application, that the Cabinet had not been provided with the necessary information so that it could take into account obviously relevant considerations. While s.123 did not require any particular process, a purported discharge of a duty under the section could be impugned on ordinary public law principles. Here, there was no evidence that the officers had considered and resolved a number of obviously relevant issues behind the recommendations being advanced. The strategic nature of the Council's landholding was an obviously relevant consideration which had not been considered by the officers and thus not fed through to the Cabinet so the Cabinet's decision was flawed. There was evidence of public use of the playing fields such as to constitute a bare licence so that the land was "open space" for the purposes of s.123(2A). Moreover, the Council had entered into a binding agreement to grant an option of the playing fields – an interest in land – subject to the requisite consents. In any event the relevant intention to dispose of the open space was already in existence at the time of the decision to enter the agreements. The failure to publicise that intention before the agreements were entered meant that it would not be possible for the Council to consider any objections to the proposed agreement under the section. Ground 2 was made out. (15 January 2015)

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

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Procurement

Cabinet Office: Small Business, Enterprise and Employment (SBEE) Bill Clause 38 – Regulations about procurement: Cabinet Office policy statement: in October 2014, the Government consulted on introducing an enabling power that would allow it to introduce a range of measures to make procurement simpler and reduce barriers as the need arose. These measures would be introduced through secondary legislation at a future date and would impose duties on procuring authorities. Based on responses to the consultation, the Government has produced this policy statement and illustrative draft regulations for cl.38 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill that is currently before Parliament, relating to the conduct of pre-procurement market engagement and the application of Lean sourcing principles – both proposals to be applied to procurement above the EU threshold. (12 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: A councillors' guide to tackling new psychoactive substances: growing numbers of councils have been calling for greater powers to tackle the sale of new psychoactive substances (NPS), also known as ‘legal highs'. Faced with the unique problems associated with tackling the sale of NPS, councils across England and Wales have employed a range of options to try and protect their communities from the harms caused by NPS. This guide provides councillors with an introduction to NPS, how they can raise awareness of the harm NPS use can cause and what councils can do to tackle sales of NPS in their areas. (7 January 2015)

LGA: Tackling the causes and effects of alcohol misuse: highlights how the transfer of public health responsibilities from the NHS to local government and Public Health England represents a unique opportunity to set out a local approach to tackling alcohol misuse. The LGA is calling on the Government to help people live healthier lives and tackle the harm caused by excessive drinking and alcohol dependence by: reinvesting a fifth of existing alcohol duty in preventative measures; giving councils the power to take public health issues into account when making licensing decisions; and supporting licensing and trading standards departments to better tackle the black market in alcohol. (12 January 2015)

PHE: PHE supporting local council tobacco control: the CLeaR model supports local authorities to review their current tobacco control efforts, and identify actions to further reduce smoking rates. PHE has announced that it is offering a £1,000 discount to councils undertaking a CLeaR peer assessment. (12 January 2015)

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

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Rating

DCLG: Business rates – Extension of transitional relief for small and medium properties: guidance to support local authorities in administering the extension of transitional relief for small and medium properties to properties with a rateable value up to and including £50,000, as announced in the Autumn Statement on 3 December 2014. It sets out the detailed criteria which central government will use to determine funding relief for properties falling out of transition to higher bills in 2015/16. (14 January 2015)

Draft Non-Domestic Rating (Levy and Safety Net) (Amendment) Regulations 2015: these regulations, once in force, amend SI 2013/737 so as to make changes to the operation and calculation of levy and safety net payments under the scheme for local retention of non domestic rates. (19 January 2015)

DCLG: Business rates retention and shale oil and gas – Summary of responses and the Government response: sets out the Government's response to the October 2014 consultation on proposals to allow local government to retain 100% of business rates on shale oil and gas sites. Having considered the responses to the consultation, the Government continues to believe that where shale oil and gas sites are developed, local government should be permitted to retain 100% of the business rates collected, and that its proposals for sharing business rates income in two tier areas strike the right balance. However, it does not believe that allowing parishes to share rates income from shale sites is practicable and, moreover, the relatively low spending needs of parishes are already adequately met from the precept they raise on council tax. (23 January 2015)

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

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Transport

DfT: £4 million for local transport in rural and isolated areas: announces £4m pilot funding for county councils, integrated transport authorities and unitary and combined authorities to show how transport resources can be used more efficiently by bringing organisations together, improving vital transport services in rural and isolated communities. The aim of the Total Transport pilot fund purpose is to integrate transport services currently commissioned by different central and local government agencies and provided by different operators. The pilots will fund the costs of feasibility studies and other groundwork to identify scope for service integration in individual areas. Successful bidders will then submit a detailed plan for delivering that integration to the DfT. The closing date for applications is 11 February 2015. (14 January 2015)

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

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Welfare and Benefits

LGA: Local authority schemes supporting people towards work: this independent report by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research for the LGA, explores in detail how a sample of local authorities across the country are supporting people towards work through employment and skills programmes. The nine case studies show how the schemes have had success with helping some of the hardest to reach residents into work, such as lone parents, ex-offenders and disabled people which has contributed to reductions in the number of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET), lower re-offending rates and less use of health and social services which helps save millions of pounds from the public purse. (12 January 2015)

HC Public Accounts Committee: Housing benefit fraud and error: this report reveals how billions of pounds have been lost to the taxpayer as a result of the DWP's failure to tackle Housing Benefit fraud and error effectively. It finds that the DWP has made little progress in reducing fraud and error despite repeated calls by the Committee over the last 16 years for the DWP to improve its management of the problem. The DWP needs to take action now to strengthen incentives for local authorities to tackle claimant error and fraud, develop a clearer understanding of fraud and error at the local level and target major areas of loss. The Committee makes a number of recommendations on how the DWP should allocate money and resources to tackling Housing Benefit fraud and error, and on measures it should introduce specifically to target underpayments and encourage legitimate take-up. (13 January 2015)

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

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