Authority Update 25/3/16

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

29/03/2016

Claire Booth

Claire Booth

Professional Support Lawyer

This update contains brief details of recent Government publications, legislation, cases and other developments relevant to those involved in local government work, which have been published in the previous two weeks. Items are set out by subject, with a link to where the full document can be found on the internet.

If you have been forwarded this update by a colleague and would like to receive it direct please email Claire Booth.

All links are correct at the date of publication. The following topics are covered in this update:  

 Adult Social Care

 Fire and Rescue Authorities

 Asset Management

 Fraud

 Burials and Cremation

 Governance

 Business Rates

 Health and Social Care

 Children's Services

 Housing

 Cultural and Leisure Services

 National Parks

 Delivery of Services

 Planning and Compulsory Purchase

 Devolution

 Procurement

 Economic Development

 Public Health

 Education

 Regulatory Services

 Finance

 Transport and Infrastructure

Adult Social Care

DH: Local authority circular – Charging for care and support (LAC(DH)(2016)2): this circular advises local authorities of the social care charging arrangements for 2016 to 2017. It sets out the capital limits, Personal Expenses Allowance, Minimum Income Guarantee and the savings credit disregards. (17 March 2016)

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

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Asset Management

DCLG: Local authority assets – Disposal guidance: the Chancellor announced in the Budget that local authorities will work with central government to release surplus land with the capacity for at least 160,000 homes. From 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2019, local authorities will be able to spend receipts from asset sales (excluding Right to Buy) on the revenue costs of reform projects, subject to the conditions set out in the Secretary of State’s Direction of 11 March 2016. The Government is also working with local authorities and other public sector property owners to support them working together to make more productive use of their collective assets. This document brings together useful information and guidance for local authorities to use when disposing of property, including wider government initiatives that may help local authorities to unlock opportunities for rationalising their estate. (21 March 2016)

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

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Burials and Cremation

DCLG: Review of crematoria provision and facilities – Discussion paper: seeks views on whether the capacity and facilities of crematoria are suitable to meet the demand and cultural requirements of all communities. The review is being carried out in response to concerns about the capacity of crematoria, in particular to accommodate Hindu and Sikh cremations at which traditionally larger numbers of mourners wish to attend. In addition, there have been concerns that crematoria do not always pay sufficient regard to the cultural sensitivities of different faiths. The review does not cover burial policy or other aspects of the burial or cremation process. (16 March 2016)

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

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Business Rates

HM Treasury: Business rates review – Summary of responses: the Government announced a review of business rates at Autumn Statement 2014, and the terms of reference for the review and a discussion paper were launched at Budget 2015. This document provides a summary of responses to the review. It announces that in light of the responses, the Government will legislate for the permanent doubling of Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) and the change in indexation by primary legislation at the earliest opportunity. Raising the thresholds of SBRR and the standard business rates multiplier will be legislated by secondary legislation later this year. (24 March 2016)

HM Treasury: Business rates – Delivering more frequent revaluations: at Budget 2016 the Government announced that it will aim to introduce more frequent (at least 3 yearly) revaluations of properties in England for business rates purposes. This discussion paper seeks comments on the challenges of delivering more frequent revaluations under the current valuation system and alternate approaches, including self-assessment and a formula approach. It aims to enable stakeholders to consider the trade-offs of delivering more frequent revaluations against the merits and limitations of the current bespoke valuation system. The consultation closes on 8 July 2016. (24 March 2016)

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

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Children's Services

DfE: Adoption – A vision for change: this policy paper sets out how the Government plans to address challenges in the adoption system over the next four years. It states that the Children Act 1989 will be amended to ensure that decisions about placements are always made in children’s best interests, so that quality of care and stability of placement are prioritised by decision makers whenever they make decisions about a child’s future. In addition, service delivery should have at its heart innovation and practice excellence, with systems designed around the needs of children, free from bureaucratic barriers that do not add value, and drawing on the best of both the statutory and voluntary sectors. The plan includes a new drive to boost the educational success of adopted children: every child adopted from care will have a designated teacher and ‘virtual school head’ who will provide tailored support to help children overcome trauma and give these young people the best possible education. The Government will also provide £14m investment for innovative local schemes that result in more children ending up in loving homes. These reforms form part of the wider children’s social care reforms, and the Government will publish a strategy on delivering ambitions for children’s services later in 2016. (27 March 2015)

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

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Cultural and Leisure Services

DCMS: Culture White Paper: sets out the Government’s vision, strategy and proposals for the cultural sectors (the arts, museums and galleries, libraries, archives and heritage). It outlines the key issues facing the cultural sectors today and the role of culture in society, what the Government and public bodies will do to address those issues and how to ensure that everyone can enjoy and benefit from culture. It includes plans for a new Great Place scheme, which will bring national arts and heritage lottery funders together to work with councils, cultural organisations and universities to make culture a core part of local authority’s plans and policies. This will be piloted in 12 areas, at least four of them rural. Historic England will provide advice on how to use planning and development to bolster local culture. (24 March 2016)

DCMS: Libraries deliver: Ambition for public libraries in England 2016-2021: seeks views on the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce's draft Ambition document for public libraries in England that provides a focus for collaborative action, and a clear articulation of the vision and support for public libraries in England. It also provides a confirmation of how libraries support and add value to a range of local and national policy priorities and link to practical examples of existing good practice. It includes a discussion of governance and service delivery models - the Taskforce will promote, and consider ways to incentivise libraries to exploit opportunities for collaboration, e.g. shared service models and/or combined authorities, which could effectively reduce the number of library management bodies over time. It advises local authorities to carry out a data-driven, community-informed mapping exercise which could be used to develop a clear Public Library Delivery Plan for its area. It notes that authorities that are considering making changes to the provision of their library service should send notification of their proposals at the earliest possible stage to DCMS. The report also discusses new ways of working, including income generation, commissioning, procurement and co-location. The consultation closes on 3 June 2016.
Published alongside the consultation is a Community libraries good practice toolkit – a best practice guide, produced by the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce, for communities and heads of library services in establishing community libraries. (23 March 2016)

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

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Delivery of Services

Nesta: Connected councils – A digital vision of local government in 2025: this report examines how digital technologies could help councils save money, foster local economic growth and deliver better outcomes for local residents and communities. It finds that local government has made huge progress in enabling residents to carry out basic transactions online. But most councils have a long way to go to deliver smooth, frictionless services and fully digitise their back offices. The report sets out a vision of where councils might be in 2025 to better understand what opportunities they face now. Its recommendations include that councils become digital by default, moving all transactional services online and fully digitising their back offices by 2020. (14 March 2016)

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

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Devolution

All-Party Parliamentary Group on Reform, Decentralisation and Devolution: Devolution and the Union – A higher ambition: report of the APPG's inquiry into how to bring long-lasting and coherent constitutional renewal to the UK. The inquiry, chaired by Sir Bob Kerslake, examined the transfer of statutory powers and functions from the centre to more local tiers of government. It concludes that the Government should follow through on its commitments of bespoke, locally driven devolution, broadening out from the initial starting focus of cities and growth to meet the aspirations of all places across a variety of policy areas and geographies. The fullest range of powers must be made available to local government, to suit the particular requirements of the authority concerned. As part of this vision, local government must be clearer in its long-term aspirations for devolution. This requires reform of the UK Civil Service, as well as local government. The temptation for central government to step in when something goes wrong at a local level must be resisted and there needs to be a new legal basis for the independence of local government, made through primary legislation. (22 March 2016)

HM Treasury: Devolution Deals: the Chancellor has announced three new devolution agreements giving three proposed new Combined Authorities greater control over transport, skills, planning and other areas: 

(16 March 2016)

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

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Economic Development

HM Treasury: Cardiff Capital Region City Deal: sets out the terms of the £1.2bn City Deal for the Cardiff Capital Region in partnership with the Welsh Government and 10 local authorities. (15 March 2016)

London Councils: London's future: presents the results of research into Londoners' attitudes towards infrastructure and their prioritisation of certain types of infrastructure in their local area and for London as a whole. The report finds that Londoners' top priorities are housing, health and education, but it also highlights the importance of ‘hidden’ infrastructure to Londoners – energy, flood defences, waste and digital connectivity. It also shows strong support by Londoners for central government to fund infrastructure investment. (10 March 2016)

House of Commons Library: City Deals: this research briefing provides an overview of City Deals - bespoke packages of funding and decision-making powers negotiated between central government and local authorities and/or Local Enterprise Partnerships and other local bodies. It includes details of the 29 that have been successfully negotiated since July 2012. (16 March 0216)

NAO: Local Enterprise Partnerships: this report scrutinises the expansion of the role and remit of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) since 2010. It finds that while LEPs' role and remit has grown significantly and rapidly, the approach taken by DCLG to overseeing Growth Deals risks future value for money. LEPs have serious reservations about their capacity to deliver and the increasing complexity of the local landscape, with only 5% of LEPs considering that the resources available to them were sufficient to meet the expectations placed on them by government. Pressure on LEPs to spend their Local Growth Fund allocation in year creates a risk that LEPs will not fund those projects that are most suited to long term economic development. LEPs have also found it challenging to develop a long-term pipeline of projects that can easily take the place of those that are postponed. The NAO found that there are considerable gaps in LEPs’ compliance with DCLG's assurance frameworks requirements, and that the availability and transparency of financial information varied across LEPs. (23 March 2016)

DCLG: Greg Clark offers communities multi-billion pound offer to boost local growth: invites English LEPs to apply for a share of £1.8bn from the Local Growth Fund to support projects in their areas that boost local economic growth and create jobs. (22 March 2016)

DCLG: Coastal Communities Fund annual progress report 2015: highlights the achievements and progress of the Coastal Communities Fund in the first three funding rounds between 2012 and 2015. The Fund was set up to support the economic development of coastal communities by promoting sustainable economic growth and jobs. (24 March 2016)

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

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Education

DfE: Educational excellence everywhere: this White Paper sets out the Government's plans to deliver educational excellence everywhere, so that every child and young person can access world class provision, achieving to the best of his or her ability regardless of location, prior attainment and background. It confirms plans for all schools to either become academies, or be in the process of converting to academy status, by the end of 2020. It also proposes that the vast majority of schools work in multi-academy trusts (MATs), allowing them to share resources, staff and expertise to continue driving up standards. The role of local authorities will change so they can concentrate on delivering their core functions, with LEAs’ education duties focusing on three areas: Ensuring every child has a school place; Ensuring the needs of vulnerable pupils are met; and Acting as champions for all parents and families. (17 March 2016)

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

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Finance

HM Treasury: Budget 2016: the Chancellor has presented his Budget for 2016. Points of interest for local authorities: 

  • the Government will consult on consult on new rules requiring local authorities to be transparent about the cost of the in-house services they provide, and whether there could be savings from using competitive external providers 
  • new mayoral devolution deals with the West of England, East Anglia and Greater Lincolnshire (see above)  
  • the Government will consult on how to reduce regulatory barriers so that new providers can provide legal advice 
  • Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) doubled from 50% to 100% and the thresholds increased 
  • 100% business rates retention to be piloted in Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region and London. There will be a consultation on the implementation of 100% business rate retention in Summer 2016 (see above)
  • all schools in England to become academies by 2022 (see above
  • a new soft drinks industry levy to fund extension of the school day and provide increased support for the primary PE and sport premium 
  • legislation to make it easier for local authorities to work together to create new garden towns; also technical and financial support to areas that want to establish garden villages and market towns of between 1,500 to 10,000 homes (see below).

See also the LGA's On the Day briefing. (16 March 2016)

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

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Fire and Rescue Authorities

LGA: Beyond fighting fires 2: Fire and rescue service transformation: the fire and rescue sector is transforming the way that it delivers services. This document contains case studies that show the wide variety of ways and different partners that the sector is working with on transformation, including the police, health services and the ambulance service. (7 March 2016)

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

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Fraud

DCLG: The local government counter fraud and corruption strategy: this strategy discusses the approach that local authorities should take and the main areas of focus over the next three years in order to transform counter fraud and corruption performance. It sets out ways in which local authorities can further develop and enhance their counter fraud response by ensuring that it is comprehensive and effective and by focusing on the key changes that will make the most difference and considering their performance against each of the "6Cs" that emerged from the research: Culture – creating culture where beating fraud is part of daily business;  Capability; Capacity; Competence; Communication; and Collaboration. The report concludes that "It is now for elected members, chief executives, finance directors, and all those charged with governance to ensure this strategy is adopted and implemented in their local authorities". (23 March 2016)

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

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Governance

LGA: Purdah – A short guide to publicity during the pre-election period: updated advice on the publicity restrictions that should be observed by local authorities during the 2016 pre-election period. (17 March 2016)

Cabinet Office: May 2016 elections – Guidance on conduct: guidance to civil servants in UK Government departments, and the staff and members of NDPBs and other arm’s length bodies on their role and conduct during the forthcoming campaign for the 5 May elections. This year there are elections for the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly, local authorities in England, directly elected Mayors of London, Bristol, Liverpool and Salford; and for Police and Crime Commissioners areas. It sets out the general principles to be observed regarding action that could be construed as being party political or otherwise controversial in the context of the elections. (24 March 2016)

DCLG: Proposal to enable Harrogate Borough Council to use the general power of competence to host a stage of the Tour de Yorkshire 2017: seeks views on making an Order under s.5(1) of the Localism Act 2011 to temporarily disapply and amend provisions of the Harrogate Stray Act 1985 from 23 April 2017 to 3 May 2017 for particular areas of the Stray for the sole purpose of hosting the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race. The consultation closes on 19 May 2016. (24 March 2016)

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

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Health and Social Care

DH: Care and support statutory guidance: updated statutory guidance that supports implementation of Part 1 of the Care Act 2014 by local authorities, the NHS, the police and other partners. It supersedes the version issued in October 2014. The updated guidance takes account of regulatory changes, feedback from stakeholders and the care sector, and developments following the postponement of social care funding reforms to 2020. Note that the statutory guidance is now web-base and is no longer available in pdf format.
There is also a table showing where changes have been made and detailing the more significant changes. (18 March 2016)

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

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Housing

DCLG: Locally-led garden villages, towns and cities: this prospectus sets out how DCLG can support local areas who want to create new garden villages, towns and cities. It offers tailored government support to local areas with ambitious and innovative proposals to deliver 1,500 homes and above. It invites expressions of interest by 31 July 2016 for up to 12 new ‘garden villages’ of between 1,500 to 10,000 homes. The second part of the prospectus invites expressions of interest on a rolling basis in new garden towns and cities of more than 10,000 homes. (16 March 2016)

DCLG: Starter Homes – Unlocking the land fund: this prospectus inviting expressions of interest from local authorities outside of London to form partnerships with the Homes and Communities Agency to use the Starter Home Land Fund, which supports the acquisition, remediation and de-risking of suitable land for starter home developments that can then be built out by developers by 2020. The initial round of expressions of interest from local authorities closes on 13 May 2016; authorities may continue to submit expressions of interest up to 31 December 2016. (16 March 2016)

DCLG: The General Social Housing Rents Permitted Review Day Consent 2016: s.23 of the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 requires registered providers of social housing to reduce rent levels by 1% in each year for four years from 2016-17. The reduction is calculated by reference to the amount of rent that was payable by the tenant in respect of the preceding 12 months. The effect is that, for the purposes of calculating rent payable during the rent reduction period, social rents are essentially frozen from 8 July 2015 (the date of the summer budget when the rent reduction measures were announced), or another day if the Secretary of State consents to use of a different reference date (ʺthe permitted review dayʺ). This general consent enables social housing providers who had not implemented their 2015 to 2016 rent increase on 8 July 2015 to use a permitted review date to determine the baseline rent from which the reduction is to be made. Generally, the permitted review day is 31 March 2016, except in the case of re-lets of Affordable Rent housing where the permitted review day is the day the new tenancy agreement starts. This is to ensure that all landlords have a 2015 to 2016 baseline for the reductions. (21 March 2016)

Social Housing Rents (Exceptions and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2016 (SI 2016/390): the social rent provisions of the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 require registered providers of social housing to secure that rents are no more than an amount determined in accordance with s.23 or Part 1 of Sch.2 in each of four relevant years, the first of which starts on 1 April 2016. These regulations relate to exceptions from and alternative provision to the basic requirements of the 2016 Act and define certain terms which are essential for the effective operation of these measures – formula rent, affordable rent housing and affordable rent, prescribe circumstances in which an exemption from the measures may be granted to a private registered provider and prescribe when rent does or does not include service charge. (18 March 2016)

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

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National Parks

DEFRA: 8-point plan for England's National Parks: sets out the Government's priorities for improving National Parks in England over the period from 2016 - 2020. It includes plans to connect more young people to the environment through National Parks, and to increase visitor numbers. It also includes plans to develop apprenticeships through National Park Authorities, and to protect and enhance the natural environment. (23 March 2016)

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

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Planning and Compulsory Purchase

Planning Inspectorate: Procedural guides: the Planning Inspectorate has published updated guidance on the responsibilities of each party (appellant, the local planning authority and other parties) and the roles they have in each process: 

(23 March 2016)

DCLG: Consultation on further reform of the compulsory purchase system: seeks views on a range of proposals aimed at making the compulsory purchase regime clearer, fairer and faster. Section 1 sets out a number of proposed reforms to the principles of assessing compensation. Section 2 contains some proposals for technical process improvements. The consultation closes on 15 May 2016. (21 March 2016)

Oakley v South Cambridgeshire DC [2016] EWHC 570 (Admin) (Admin Ct): O applied for judicial review of the Council decision's to grant to grant planning permission for the construction of a 3,000 seat football ground. The planning officer recommended refusal of the application. The planning committee resolved to give officers delegated powers to approve the application subject to certain matters; the minutes of the meeting did not record the reasons for this decision nor were any given orally. The officers' decision to grant planning permission was published, which said that a report setting out the basis of the decision was available on the Council website. O contended that the Council had a duty to give short reasons in the particular circumstances of this case and that she had a legitimate expectation on the basis of a promise given in the published decision.
The court held, refusing the application, that it was open to the planning committee to come to a different conclusion on the ultimate issues, in the exercise of its planning judgement. The purpose of the officer's report was to set out all the relevant parameters for decision-making, in other words to furnish some sort of route map through the development plan and the NPPF. It must have been clear to O that members did not accept the recommendation of the planning officer. There was no proper basis for holding that members did not apply their planning judgment to the correct set of issues. Disagreement with a recommendation, particularly in circumstances where that recommendation was advisory only, was not evidence of aberration. Nor was there any merit in the legitimate expectation point. (16 March 2016)

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

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Procurement

Concession Contracts Regulations 2016 (SI 2016/273): these regulations, which come into force on 18 April 2016, implement the new Concession Contracts Directive 2014/23, which provides rules for the award of concession contracts above certain thresholds by public authorities and utilities. They regulations also implement the Remedies Directives 89/665 and 92/13 so far as they apply to remedies and review procedures for the procurement of concession contracts. Together with the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/102) and the Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016 (SI 2016/274), they form a package of measures to improve public procurement processes.
See also the Crown Commercial Service's Procurement Policy Note 02/16 that announces the new regulations and explains when they come into force, and Bevan Brittan's Procurement Alert. (17 March 2016)

Public Procurement (Amendments, Repeals and Revocations) Regulations 2016 (SI 2016/275): these regulations, which come into force on 17 March 2016, make consequential amendments, repeals and revocations to primary and secondary legislation as a result of implementing the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, the Utilities Contracts Regulations 2016 and the Concession Contracts Regulations 2016. They also correct and amend the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, including amendments to transpose Commission Implementing Regulation 2015/1986 establishing standards forms for publication of notices in the field of public procurement. (17 March 2016)

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

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Public Health

LGA: Healthy weight, healthy futures – Local government action to tackle childhood obesity: the transfer of responsibility for public health in 2013 to councils has sparked a surge in innovative programmes and some are featured in these case studies. From working with children who are obese and overweight to encouraging children to cut their consumption of sugary drinks, local authorities are showing how child obesity can be tackled. (17 March 2016)

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

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Regulatory Services

Welsh Government: Local air quality management interim policy guidance for Wales: guidance for Welsh local authorities on their local air quality management (LAQM) duties under Part IV of the Environment Act 1995. It includes an overview of the LAQM system and the various considerations that local authorities should bear in mind. (4 March 2016)

Control of Noise (Appeals) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2016 (SI 2016/279): these regulations, which come into force in England on 6 April 2016, amend SI 1975/2116 to reflect the repeal of ss.64-67 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 regarding noise abatement zones that was made by the Deregulation Act 2015. (4 March 2016)

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

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Transport and Infrastructure

HM Treasury: National Infrastructure Delivery Plan 2016-2021: sets out key projects and programmes, and major policy milestones, in each infrastructure sector. It includes details of the Government’s ongoing work to improve the prioritisation, performance and delivery of infrastructure, including building a skilled workforce, reducing costs and encouraging private sector investment. (23 March 2016)


DfT: Draft cycling and walking investment strategy: seeks views on a draft strategy to: increase cycling activity, reverse the decline in walking activity, increase the number of children walking to school and reduce the rate of cyclists killed or seriously injured. Working in partnership with local bodies, business and commerce, the third sector, individuals and the wider public and private sector is central to the strategy. The consultation closes on 23 May 2016. (27 March 2016)

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

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