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:

   Adult Social Services    Finance
   Audit and Accountability    Governance
   Children's Services    Housing
   Consultation    Procurement
   Economic Development    Public Health
   Education    Regulatory Services
   Electoral Services


Adult Social Services

Local Government Ombudsman: Councils should carry out regular reviews of care home residents’ assets: the LGO has reminded all councils that they should make regular reassessments of people’s finances when calculating their contributions towards the cost of their care. It is also good practice, when undertaking those reassessments for councils to signpost people to other organisations if they believe they may be able to claim additional benefits. (18 August 2015)

LGO: Council did not consider exceptional circumstances when denying care payments to young disabled man: the LGO has recommended that councils properly consider individual circumstances when they balance people’s choice to be cared for by a family member against the risk to their carer of working long hours. The advice was issued after Cheshire East Council mistakenly used the Working Time Regulations to refuse the direct payments they assessed a young man as needing, because he wanted his mother to provide his round-the-clock care. The LGO stated that the council did not give proper consideration to the exceptional circumstances the family found themselves in and, while it would not normally criticise a council for considering the risks of employing a family member as a carer or working unreasonable hours, the absence of a risk assessment or detailed discussion in this case cast doubt on the Council’s decision. (6 August 2015)

Welsh Government: Draft statutory guidance on the National Training Framework on violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence: the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 ensures a focus across the public sector on the prevention of these issues, the protection of victims and the support for those affected by such issues. This document seeks views on draft statutory guidance to relevant authorities on how they can contribute to the achievement of the purpose of the Act when exercising their functions. It outlines the National Training Framework on violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence and a series of proposed requirements to be made relating to training on these issues. The consultation closes on 23 October 2015. (31 July 2015)

House of Commons Library: Social care – Paying for care home places and domiciliary care (England): this research note explains the new rules that apply from April 2015 in respect of those who either reside in a care home or receive domiciliary care, and are in need of care and support from their local authority. It sets out the means test that applies to care home residents and those in other settings (such as care at home) in need of social care, and provides information on personal budgets. (6 August 2015)

House of Commons Library: Social care – Announcement delaying introduction of funding reform (including the cap) and other changes until April 2020 (England): this research note explains the policy background to the Government's announcement that it intends to delay reform of social care funding, including the introduction of a cap on social care costs and a more generous means-test, by four years from April 2016 to April 2020.
There is also a briefing on Social care: how the postponed changes to paying for care, including the cap, would have worked (England). (6 August 2015)

Care and Support (Ordinary Residence) (Specified Accommodation) (Wales) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/1499 (W.171)): these regulations, which come into force in Wales on 6 April 2016, specify "care home accommodation" as accommodation of a specified type for the purposes of s.194 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (establishment of ordinary residence). (10 July 2015) 

R (SG) v Haringey LBC (Unreported, Admin Ct): Doughty Street Chambers reports that the High Court has heard the first case under the Care Act 2014. SG maintained that as she had a need for accommodation-related care and support she should be accommodated by the Council pursuant to the Care Act 2014 and not by the Secretary of State under the asylum support regime. The Council contended that it no longer had a duty to accommodate asylum seekers in light of the repeal of s.21 of the National Assistance Act 1948. The court quashed the Council’s decision on the grounds that an independent advocate had not been appointed and because it had not disregarded the provision of asylum support by the Secretary of State when deciding if it had to provide SG with accommodation in order to meet her needs. The Council was obliged to have regard to whether the claimant's needs could be met if it she was homeless and it had not done so. However, the judge did not order the Council to provide SG with accommodation and instead remitted the matter back to the Council to make another decision. (4 August 2015)

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

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Audit and Accountability

NAO: A Short Guide to the NAO’s work on local authorities: the NAO is publishing a suite of short guides, one for each government department, to assist House of Commons Select Committees. This guide provides provide a quick and accessible overview of how local government is funded, the pressures local authorities face, staffing, and major recent and future developments.
It complements the Short Guide to the Department for Communities and Local Government that gives an overview of DCLG, focusing on what the Department does, how much it costs, and recent and planned changes. (31 July 2015)

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

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Children's Services

Ofsted: Children's social care in England 2015: Ofsted has released the first combined official statistics for children’s social care providers and local authority children’s services departments in England. (13 August 2015)

LGO: B&Bs never suitable accommodation for homeless children and young people: the LGO has stressed that bed and breakfast accommodation is not suitable to house young homeless people, even in an emergency. The warning arose following an investigation into Lancashire CC, after a vulnerable teenager with significant behavioural problems was housed by the council in a B&B when his home life broke down. The Council did not realise that in providing him with accommodation it was treating him as a ‘looked after child’, which carried very specific duties, and he should not have been allowed to stay in a B&B, or without significant support. (13 August 2015)

DCLG: Privacy notice for the evaluation of the Troubled Families Programme: to understand whether the Troubled Families programme has improved outcomes for families with multiple problems and offered value for money to the taxpayer, DCLG is to carry out a national impact study that will compare the progress of families who have taken part in the programme with those who have not. This guidance document explains how DCLG will carry out this analysis. It confirms that no individuals will be identifiable in any published information or in anything shared with DCLG. (21 August 2015)

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

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R (Croydon Property Forum Ltd) v Croydon LBC [2015] EWHC 2403 (Admin) (Admin Ct): CPF was set up to represent private landlords in the borough of Croydon. It applied to quash the Council's decision to designate the entire borough for a selective licensing scheme under the provisions of the Housing Act 2004. CPF contended that the council had failed to consult people who were likely to be affected by the designation, namely property developers and landlords.
The court held, dismissing the application, that the Council's duty under s.80(9) of the 2004 Act was only to take "reasonable steps", and the obligation did not extend to taking either "all steps" or "every step" or even "all reasonable steps". Looking at all the factors, the Council had complied with its duty to take "reasonable steps to consult people who are likely to be affected by the designation" and this included developers and landlords. The judge noted that a strict construction of s.80(9) was not an appropriate approach on a judicial review application and was too favourable to the claimant. There was clear authority that the Council must have a comparatively wide discretion as to how the consultation process was carried out and the process would not be considered unlawful unless something went clearly and radically wrong. There was a high threshold for the claimant to reach to obtain relief. Here, the Council had "a comparatively wide discretion" as to how the consultation process was conducted. Nothing went "clearly and radically" wrong in the consultation exercise, bearing in mind that it was almost invariably possible to suggest ways in which this or indeed any consultation exercise might be improved. (13 August 2015)

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

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Economic Development

DEFRA: Towards a one nation economy – A 10-point plan for boosting productivity in rural areas: sets out a 10-point action plan to increase productivity growth in England’s rural areas. It proposes measures to boost the rural economy by investing in education and skills, increasing wages, improving infrastructure and connectivity, and simplifying planning laws for rural businesses and communities. These include:

  • the current bidding round for Enterprise Zone will give preference to proposals involving smaller towns, districts and rural areas;
  • there will be a fast-track planning certificate process for establishing the principle of development for minor development proposals;
  • it will be easier for villages to establish neighbourhood plans and allocate land for new homes, including the use of rural exception sites to deliver Starter Homes; 
  • the Government welcomes early expressions of interest from rural areas to deliver 30 hours of free childcare to working parents; and
  • the Government encourages further proposals from local areas for devolution of powers in return for strong and accountable local governance.

(20 August 2015)

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

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DfE: The constitution of governing bodies of maintained schools: statutory guidance for governing bodies, local authorities and school staff on the arrangements for the constitution of governing bodies of all local authority maintained schools that were formed, or whose instrument of government changed,  on or after 1 September 2012. (14 August 2015)  

Children and Families Act 2014 (Transitional and Saving Provisions) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2015 (SI 2015/1619): this Order, which comes into force on 1 September 2015, amends SI 2014/2270 (the Transitional Order) that makes transitional provisions in connection with the coming into force of provisions in Part 3 of the Children and Families Act 2014 regarding educational, health and care (EHC) plans. This Order amends the Transitional Order so that, where a decision has been made to prepare an EHC plan following an EHC needs assessment under Part 5 of the Transitional Order, the EHC plan must be finalised within 18 weeks beginning from the day on which the EHC needs assessment began. (18 August 2015)

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

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Electoral Services

Cabinet Office: Sir Eric Pickles to examine electoral fraud: announces that Sir Eric Pickles, former CLG Secretary of State and the Government’s Anti-Corruption Champion, is to review electoral fraud and make recommendations on what more could be done to tackle it. The review will determine whether changes are needed to make the system more secure, and make recommendations as to what those changes should be. Sir Eric will report back to Parliament by the end of 2015. (13 August 2015) 

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

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DCLG: Local government finance settlement 2016 to 2017 – August data letter: this letter gives statutory notice of data required from authorities by 1 October 2015, or other such date specified in Annex A. (10 August 2015)

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

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Welsh Government: Proposals relating to Strategic Planning Panels Regulations – Composition and financial matters: seeks views on proposals on the gender composition and financial matters affecting Strategic Planning Panels (SPPs). An SPP is a public body set up under the Planning (Wales) Act 2015 with one function – plan making. An SPP will have corporate body status and will be formed of both local planning authority members and nominated members from social, economic and environmental groups. The consultation closes on 2 November 2015. (10 August 2015)

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

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HC Communities and Local Government Committee: The housing association sector and the Right to Buy inquiry: the Committee has launched an inquiry into the viability and sustainability of housing associations that will look at the proposed extension of Right to Buy and how this and a number of other government measures may impact on the ability of housing associations to build and develop. The closing date for submissions of evidence is 28 August 2015. (29 July 2015)

R (HA) v Ealing LBC [2015] EWHC 2375 (Admin) (Admin Ct): HA applied for judicial review of the Council's revised Housing Allocations Policy and its decision dated relating to the application of that policy to her case. HA and her five children were victims of domestic violence and had fled their home to escape further violence. The Council accepted a full housing duty to her under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 and offered accommodation that was unsuitable. HA's application to go on the Council's Housing Register was rejected on the grounds that, following changes to the Allocations Scheme, households could not register unless they could demonstrate that they had been resident in the borough for five years. HA contended that: the Council's policy was contrary to the statutory scheme as: it established an absolute exclusion from the Housing Register for those who did not meet the residency requirement; the residency requirement unlawfully discriminated against women who were victims of domestic violence; and the Council had fettered its discretion by failing to apply the exceptionality provision in the policy.
The court held, granting the application and quashing the decision, that HA had been automatically deemed not eligible for entry onto the Housing Register because she had not been resident in the borough for the last five years, and the Council's policy had no exceptions for those in reasonable preference categories specified in s.166A(3) of the 1996 Act. Although a residency requirement was an entirely appropriate provision in relation to admission onto a social housing list, it could not preclude the class of people who fulfilled the 'reasonable preference' criteria. The Council's policy did not provide for the giving of reasonable preference to prescribed categories of persons as required by s.166A(3) and so the policy was unlawful. The residency criteria was unlawful as it did not permit the exception of women fleeing domestic violence and so was contrary to Art.14 ECHR. The Council gave no consideration to HA's circumstances that she did not fulfil the residence criteria nor to whether her case was exceptional. The Council had failed to apply its own policy and so its decision was unlawful. (7 August 2015)

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

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Cabinet Office: UK transposition of new EU Procurement Directive – Concessions Contracts Regulations 2016: seeks views on draft regulations that implement the Concessions Directive 2014/23 in the UK from 18 April 2016. The Government is consulting on whether the draft Regulations transpose the Directive effectively and in the best way.  
The Cabinet Office is also consulting on draft Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016 that implement the Utilities Directive 2014/25. Both consultations close on 18 September 2015. (21 August 2015)

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

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Public Health

DH: Smoking in vehicles: provides an update on the new law on smoking in cars and other vehicles with someone under 18 that comes into effect on 1 October 2015. (11 August 2015)

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

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Regulatory Services

House of Commons Library: Parking policy in England: this briefing paper summarises parking policy in England. It covers civil parking enforcement on public highways, parking on private land and parking on private roads. It summarises the current legislation and policy, and flags up possible reforms. (12 August 2015)

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

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