Access to Information    Governance
   Adult Social Services    Health and Social Care
   Audit    Highways
   Benefits    Housing
   Children's Services    Libraries
   Community Infrastructure Levy    National Parks
   Community Rights    Noise and Nuisance
   Community Safety    Parish Councils
   Compulsory Purchase    Police
   Delivery of Services    Publicity
   Economic Development    Rating
   Education    Regulatory Services
   Finance    Traffic and Transport
   Fire and Rescue Authorities

 

See also Authority Update 20/3/15 (Part 1).

Housing

DCLG: Right to Move – Response to consultation: sets out the Government's response to the September 2014 consultation on proposals to introduce a Right to Move for social tenants who need to move to take up a job, or live closer to employment or training. The Government announces that, in light of responses, it will introduce regulations to prevent local authorities in England from applying a local connection test for social housing in relation to existing social tenants who need to move to another local authority district (in England) for work related reasons. It will also issue new statutory guidance on social housing allocations that will make clear that local authorities should apply the existing ‘hardship’ reasonable preference category to social tenants who need to move for work related reasons. The Government is also considering introducing a new reasonable preference category to give effect to the Right to Move, but will consult further on how this would work. The new statutory guidance will include an expectation for local authorities to set aside a proportion of their lets for social tenants who need to move across local authority boundaries for work related reasons, to publish the quota as part of their allocation scheme, and to report locally on demand and lettings. The guidance will also encourage choice based lettings partnerships to provide for mobility between the partner authorities. Local authorities will need to have regard to the guidance when exercising their allocation functions including framing their allocation policies. (9 March 2015)

DCLG: Custom Build Serviced Plots Loan Fund – Continuous market engagement: Prospectus: sets out details of how to access the £150m fund that has been designed to fund the development of serviced plots to support the growing number of people who want to custom build their own home. The fund isopen to applications from 2014/15 until 2019/20 until it is fully allocated. The total fund must be drawn down by 31 March 2020. Funding is available for private sector developers (particularly small and medium-sized), housing associations, Community Land Trusts or community groups; local authorities may bid if they are in partnership with a third party developer and have a less than 50% interest.
The Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Bill has now almost completed its passage through Parliament and is awaiting Royal Assent. The Bill places a duty on local authorities to maintain a register of people who are looking to buy serviced plot land to build their own homes. Local authorities will also have to take account of the demand for self and custom build when exercising their planning, housing, regeneration and land disposal functions. (12 March 2015)

DH: Homelessness Change and Platform for Life Funds 2015 to 2017 – Prospectus: information for bidders on the Homelessness Change and Platform for Life Funds 2015 to 2017, which set aside up to £25m capital funding for specialist housing providers to bring forward proposals for the development of tailored hostel accommodation for rough sleepers; and shared accommodation for young people who are homeless or insecurely housed to enable them to take on or continue employment, education or training outside of London. Bidding is open to all organisations who are, or intend to become, qualified as HCA investment partners, including housing associations, local authorities, private sector developers and community groups. Bids developed in partnership with other bodies such as NHS Trusts are also welcomed. Organisations are encouraged to work with existing registered providers. The closing date for bids is 12 June 2015. (12 March 2015)

DCLG: Dedicated housing finance support for local authorities: announces that the Government will be working with Keith House and Natalie Elphicke to implement a Housing Finance Institute, in conjunction with the Local Government Association and business. Funded privately, this new body will address the skills and knowledge gap in delivering local authority housing identified as one of the key recommendations of their recent report into local authority housing. The precise scope, duration and governance of the new institute will be confirmed in due course. (16 March 2015)

R (MT) v Oxford City Council (Unreported, QBD (Admin)): the High Court has held that a local housing authority had been entitled to refuse to allocate public housing to a mentally disabled man, as he lacked the capacity to enter into a tenancy agreement. This refusal was not inconsistent with his rights under Art.14 ECHR.
The Council had told MT that his application could not be accepted under the Housing Act 1996 Pt VII as he lacked capacity to make such an application, that in accordance with R v Oldham MBC ex p. Garlick [1993] AC 509 he had to be capable of accepting or rejecting accommodation if a place was offered, and that assistance could possibly be provided for him under s.21 of the National Assistance Act 1948.
The court ruled that the need for accommodation was a prerequisite under both the 1948 and 1996 Acts. The reality of MT's circumstances was that he was not entitled to assistance under either Act. Parliament's decision to have two different schemes was rational and not amenable to judicial review; it was not discriminatory to provide two different schemes. Incompatibility with MT's ECHR rights had not been made out. (6 March 2015)
The judgment is available from Lawtel (subscription required).

Nzolameso v City of Westminster Council (UKSC 2014/275) (Sup Ct): this case considered the Council's exercise of its duty to secure accommodation for homeless persons in their district so far as "reasonably practicable". N was housed in a four bedroom house in Westminster, paid for by housing benefit. When the amount of housing benefit was reduced in 2012 N became unable to afford the rent on her property and she and her five children became homeless. The Council offered her temporary accommodation near Milton Keynes which she refused on the grounds that she had lived in Westminster for over four years and had many friends who provided her with emotional and practical support. The Court of Appeal ruled that the Council had discharged its homelessness duty in offering N the accommodation, and its decision was lawful. At the time of the appeal, N was homeless and her children had been taken into local authority care.
The Supreme Court allowed N's appeal and quashed the Council's decision that it had properly discharged its duty to secure accommodation available for occupation by N. Given the need for arrangements to be made for the family involved, the Court has made its decision known immediately, and the full judgment with reasons will follow in due course. (17 March 2015)

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

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Libraries

DCMS: Decision letter on local inquiry into library provision in Sheffield: this letter from Culture Minister Ed Vaizey to the Leader of Sheffield Council, Julie Dore, explains the Culture Secretary's reasons for deciding not to call a local inquiry into Sheffield library provision. it provides a useful summary of local authorities' duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient service under s.7 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 and the Secretary of State's power to direct a local inquiry. (9 March 2015)

DCLG: Library funding boost to help more entrepreneurs: announces additional £650,000 funding for the Enterprising Libraries programme that runs in 16 libraries to help them turn their spaces into hotbeds for business ideas that can drive local economic growth. (12 March 2015)

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

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National Parks

National Park Authorities (England) Order 2015 (SI 2015/770): this Order, which comes into force on 1 July 2015, revokes and replaces SI 1996/1243 (as amended), consolidating provisions regarding the governance of National Parks. It continues provision relating to the National Park authorities for National Parks in England, which were established under the 1996 Order. (19 March 2015)

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

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Noise and Nuisance

Newham LBC v White (Unreported, Div Ct): the Council appealed against the magistrates' decision to acquit W of breach of a noise abatement notice. The notice required W to cease or cause to cease alleged shouting, and amplified music said to have caused noise and vibrations, at volumes sufficient to be a statutory nuisance, contrary to s.80(4) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The enforcement officer had listened to the noise for 35 minutes and decided that it constituted a statutory nuisance. The magistrates acquitted the respondent, but stated a case for the court, asking it whether they had applied the correct test in deciding whether there was a statutory nuisance in breach of the abatement notice. The Council submitted that the magistrates had erred in failing to apply the correct test when considering whether a statutory nuisance existed. It argued that the magistrates had weighed their opinion against that of the enforcement officer, compared how individuals, including W, subjectively perceived noise rather than how the average person did so, failed to consider the residential character of the neighbourhood, focused on volume rather than the noise itself, failed to consider whether the noise was a nuisance that interfered with the use and enjoyment of the complainant's property, wrongly took into account assumptions about the nature of the complainant's floor and failed to find a statutory nuisance proved despite the evidence of an experienced local authority officer to that effect.
The court held, allowing the appeal, that the magistrates had applied a subjective test, which was the wrong one. The correct test as to what constituted a statutory nuisance was the common law one, namely the standard of the average person, which could differ depending on the neighbourhood. The magistrates had not been entitled to dismiss the information laid. The case was remitted to the magistrates to apply the proper test. (12 March 2015)
The judgment is available from Lawtel (subscription required).

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

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Parish Councils

DCLG: Supporting new town and parish councils: the Communities Minister Stephen Williams has given a Written Statement to Parliament on progress with the draft Legislative Reform (Community Governance Reviews) Order 2015 that was laid before Parliament on 11 December 2014. The Order aims to make it easier to set up new town and parish councils by proposing a reduction in the percentage of local government electors required to sign a community governance petition, to trigger a review. He announces that the HL Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee is now satisfied that the order meets the tests set out in the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 and is not otherwise inappropriate for the Legislative Reform Order procedure; the House of Commons Regulatory Reform Committee has therefore recommended that the draft order be approved. DCLG proposes to proceed with the draft order without any revisions. (11 March 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: Improving police integrity – Reforming the police complaints and disciplinary systems: sets out the Government's response and next steps following the December 2014 consultation on proposed reforms to improve the police complaints and disciplinary systems, measures to strengthen protections for police whistleblowers, an extension to the remit of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), and changes to the role, powers and structure of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). (12 March 2015)

Police (Conduct) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/626): these regulaitons, which mainly come into force on 1 May 2015, implement changes to the police disiplinary system in relation to protected disclosures by police officers, the persons who may conduct a misconduct hearing, the information which may be published in respect of misconduct and special case hearings and the holding of those hearings in public, and the removal or limitation of compensation payable to a senior officer in respect of the cessation of the officer’s fixed term appointment. (12 March 2015)

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

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Publicity

LGA: Purdah – A short guide to publicity during the pre-election period: the term ‘purdah’ has come into popular use across central and local government to describe the period of time immediately before elections or referendums when specific restrictions on communications activity are in place; the term ‘pre-election period’ is also used. This year it starts on 30 March. This short guide provides advice on the publicity restrictions that should be observed during the purdah period. (11 March 2015)
See also Bevan Brittan's Alert: Going into "purdah" – Decision making in the pre-election period.

DCLG: Local authority publicity: this Written Statement to Parliament announces the Secretary of State's decision to issue notices to three London borough councils that have been publishing fortnightly municipal newspapers (Hackney, Newham and Waltham Forest). The notices state that he is minded to issue a direction requiring each council to comply by no later than 30 April 2015 with the March 2011 Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity. Each council now has 14 days to make written representations to the Secretary of State about the proposed direction. (10 March 2015)

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

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Rating

HM Treasury: Business rates review – Terms of reference and discussion paper: the Treasury has announced a review of business rates in England in response to concerns ‎from some business ratepayers that the system is in need of reform to make it fit for a 21st century economy. The review will look at how businesses use property, what the UK can learn from other countries about local business taxes, and how the system can be modernised so it better reflects changes in the value of property. This document sets out the terms of reference for the review and provides further information on its aims and core themes. The closing date for responses to the questions and requests for evidence is 12 June 2015. The review will report its findings by Budget 2016. (16 March 2015)

DCLG: Council tax and business rates powers of entry – Response to consultation: announces that, in light of responses received to the January 2015 consultation, the Government intends to proceed with the proposed amendment of two powers operated by the Valuation Office Agency’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. (19 March 2015)

Non-Domestic Rating (Levy and Safety Net) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/617): these regulations, which come into force on 10 March 2015, amend SI 2013/737 regarding the operation and calculation of levy and safety net payments under the scheme for local retention of non-domestic rates. (9 March 2015)

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

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Regulatory Services

DCLG: Improving the private rented sector and tackling bad practice – A guide for local authorities: guidance for local authority housing officers to help them effectively tackle poor and illegal practices by landlords and letting agents. It provides advice on the identification of criminal landlords, how to gather local knowledge of the private rented sector, and how to build a case and present evidence for the effective prosecution of criminal landlords and letting agents. it includes a section on post-court action and how criminal landlords and letting agents can be removed from the private rented sector. The annexes include guidance on letting agent redress schemes and letting agent fees. The guide updates and replaces the 2012 version Dealing with Rogue Landlords: a guide for local authorities. (13 March 2015)

DCLG: Mobile Homes Act 2013 – A best practice guide for local authorities on enforcement of the new site licensing regime: the new scheme, which came into effect on 1 April 2014, gives local authorities powers to issue compliance notices and, in an emergency or where a site owner has been convicted for failing to take the steps required by the compliance notice, to enter the site and do the works. This guidance provides local authorities with best practice guidance on how to use the new licensing regime and powers to best effect. (13 March 2015)

DCLG: Mobile Homes Act 2013 – Advice to local authorities on the new regime for applications for the grant or transfer of a site licence: local authorities need to put in place new procedures for dealing with applications for new site licences or the transfer of existing licences, following the introduction of new site licensing provisions on 1 April 2014. This advice provides useful information on the matters that an authority can take into consideration when processing an application. (13 March 2015)

DBIS: The impact of local authority trading standards in challenging times: this independent report sets out the findings of a national survey of trading standards departments on the impact and effectiveness of local authority trading standards services. It looks at the benefits and efficiency of trading standards activities, shows how they align with national and local priorities and shows the impact of cuts to funding over recent years. (21 March 2015)

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

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Traffic and Transport

TransportExtra: TfL and boroughs explore new cycle scheme delivery models: reports that Transport for London, London Councils and individual boroughs are exploring how expertise can be pooled to deliver the capital’s expanding programme of cycling schemes, as well as other transport projects. The cycling discussions are part of a broader initiative, the Sharing Skilled Transport Staff Initiative, that is looking at collaborative working, sharing staff and expertise between boroughs, with TfL and outside external support. (9 March 2015)

DfT: Extra funding for station improvements: invites train operators and local authorities to bid for a share of the £60m rail station improvement fund, which can be put towards improvements such as car parks, ticket gates and better facilities. (12 March 2015)

London Councils: Car Club strategy: this draft strategy sets out a collaborative approach between commercial and public sector players to accelerate the growth of the sector in London and maximise their potential benefits for London, which are achieved by providing an alternative to private car ownership. These benefits include reduced pressure for car parking, access to cleaner vehicles, improved air quality and promoting a greater use of sustainable transport options. The actions in the Strategy are designed to unlock new markets by appealing to a wider group of potential members. In line with the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, the different models for car clubs must complement rather than replace sustainable and active modes of travel such as walking, cycling, bus and tube travel. (19 March 2015)

DfT: More powers for northern authorities to manage rail services: announces that agreement has been reached with the 29 Rail North local transport authorities that will enable them to make decisions on changes to their local rail services and make investments in these franchises to make improvements. It also enables further devolution to take place during the life of the franchises. (20 March 2015)

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

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