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:

   Accountability     Health and Social Care
   Adult Social Services     Housing
   Children's Services    Legislation
   Combined Authorities     Public Bodies
   Community Rights    Regulatory Services
   Delivery of Services       Traffic and Transport
   Education    Welfare and Benefits
   Finance  

Accountability

HC Public Accounts Committee: Accountability to Parliament for taxpayers' money: this report scrutinises the role of Departmental Accounting Officers (AOs) who are personally responsible and accountable to Parliament for their department’s use of public money and the stewardship of its assets. They have to balance these responsibilities to Parliament with their other responsibilities as Permanent Secretaries to serve their Ministers. It finds that the growing use of complex delivery methods, such as devolution to local areas, outsourced contracts, government companies and cross-cutting initiatives, has often not been accompanied by clarity over accountability arrangements. Also, there are too many examples of departmental AOs allowing projects and initiatives such as funding to the charity Kids Company to proceed unchallenged, despite strong evidence of poor value for money. There is consequently a damaging lack of transparency as AOs’ concerns about the use of public money are not brought to Parliament’s attention. (4 May 2016)

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

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Adult Social Services

DH: LASSL(DH)2016 Adult personal social services – Specific revenue funding and grant allocations 2016 to 2017: this letter clarifies local authority specific revenue funding for the financial year 2016 to 2017, which was subject to the 2015 Spending Review. It provides information on funding for the second year of Care Act implementation, which comes from a range of sources, as well as allocations for parts of the Better Care Fund. (6 May 2016)

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

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Children's Services

HC Education Committee: Mental health and well-being of looked after children: this report finds that a significant number of local authorities and health services are failing to identify mental health issues when children enter care and that looked after children face significant challenges in getting access to mental health support. The report finds that child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) are turning away vulnerable young people in care because they have not met high thresholds for treatment or because the children are without a stable placement. This is contrary to the 2015 statutory guidance which states that looked after children should never be refused a service on the grounds of their placement. To help tackle this inflexibility, the report recommends that looked after children be given priority access to mental health assessments by specialist practitioners, with subsequent treatment based on clinical need. (28 April 2016)

DfE: Childcare workers – Changes to disqualification arrangements: seeks views on proposals to make changes to the childcare disqualification arrangements in England. The paper sets out three separate options for changing the arrangements in schools and non-domestic registered settings. The aim is to improve the fairness of the current arrangements, particularly in respect of the ‘by association’ elements, which mean that a childcare worker can be disqualified because someone who lives or works in their household is disqualified. The closing date for comments is 1 July 2016. (6 May 2016)

LGA: Westminster Hall debate on unaccompanied children: this parliamentary briefing calls for a fully funded, national mechanism for the relocation of unaccompanied children across the country, to ensure that children are able to live in areas with sufficient capacity to provide the care and support that they need. It highlights the challenges faced by councils caring for unaccompanied minors which include not only financial pressures but also the availability of foster placements, access to therapeutic support, legal advice and translation services, and pressure on health, education and housing services. (18 April 2016)

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

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Combined Authorities

Draft West Midlands Combined Authority Order 2016: this draft Order establishes the West Midlands Combined Authority for the exercising of specified local authority functions across the local government areas of Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton. It also provides for its constitution and funding. (3 May 2016)

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

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Community Rights

Two cases on the listing of pubs as Assets of Community Value (ACV) under the Localism Act 2011 and the Assets of Community Value (England) Regulations 2012 (SI 2012/2421):

Hawthorn Leisure Ltd v St Edmondsbury BC (Localism Act 2011) [2016] UKFTT CR-2015-0018 (FTT GRC): HL appealed against the ACV listing of a pub that had ceased business in 2014. The Council had refused HL's application for permission for change of use to a dwelling house. The second respondent, a "Friends" community group, wished to buy the pub from HL and produced a business plan to support its proposal to raise funds to make an offer to purchase the pub. HL argued that the Friends had not produced evidence that the pub had served the wellbeing of the local community since 2009 and so the "recent past" test in s.88 of the Localism Act 2011 was not met; also that their business plan was fanciful and their scheme was not "realistic," as required by s.88.
The tribunal held, dismissing the appeal, that the requirements of s.88(2) were satisfied. The business plan was a dynamic document and it was entirely credible. It was realistic to think that, in the next five years, the pub could return to furthering a relevant social interest. The Friends had demonstrated that there was a realistic future for the building as a pub. In view of this, it was realistic to think that HL would either begin to run it as such, or else sell it to someone who will. (26 April 2016)

Mendoza Ltd v Camden LBC (Localism Act 2011) [2016] UKFTT CR-2015-0015 (FTT GRC): in this case, the pub was nominated for ACV listing by "Supporters" comprising 21 local people who appear on the electoral roll for the Council's area, who were said to be an association representing the views of the pub's users. M, the owner of the pub, appealed against the listing, arguing that the nomination was ineffective because the Supporters did not comprise "a person that is a voluntary or community body" for the purposes of s.89(2)(b)(iii) of the 2011 Act, read with reg.5 of the 2012 Regulations.
The tribunal held, dismissing the appeal, that the membership of the Supporters was sufficiently ascertainable to meet the requirements of the legislation. The legislation did not require the group to be an unincorporated association, involving contractual obligations as between its members, or to be an unincorporated body whose membership had to be capable of being comprehensively identified. The nomination in this case was made by 21 identified individuals, who had organised themselves into a group with the common purpose of nominating the pub as an asset of community value. Those individuals met the legislative requirement to be "local" residents. (27 April 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

House of Commons Library: Local government – Alternative models of service delivery: this research briefing looks at the policy and legislative background to new forms of service delivery being implemented by English local authorities. These include:  the use of shared services; outsourcing to private or voluntary providers; local authority trading companies and mutuals; and the development of place-based sharing of services via ‘community budgets’ and via the 2015-16 Devolution Deals. For each model, it gives examples plus links to relevant statistical sources. The briefing also includes notes on research that has been conducted on shared services, outsourcing, and trading. (27 April 2016)

SOLACE: Transforming services, transforming leadership: this report examines the views of Solace members on the current and future local government priorities and key drivers. It gives examples of best practice and innovation, and the future of local government finance and devolution, outlining some clear and important messages to the sector. (29 April 2016)

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

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Education

DfE: Next steps to spread educational excellence everywhere announced: announces changes to the Government's policy that every school should become an academy by 2022. The Education Secretary has now stated that the Government will not introduce legislation to bring about blanket conversion of all schools to achieve this goal; instead, measures will target those schools where the need to move to academy status is most pressing. All schools within a local authority will be converted in two specific circumstances:
• where it is clear that the local authority can no longer viably support its remaining schools because a critical mass of schools in that area has converted. Under this mechanism a local authority will also be able to request the DfE converts all of its remaining schools; or
• where the local authority consistently fails to meet a minimum performance threshold across its schools, demonstrating an inability to bring about meaningful school improvement.
For other high-performing schools in strong local authorities the choice of whether to convert will remain the decision of the individual schools and governing bodies in question. (6 May 2016)

LGA: LA maintained schools and academies: this report considers alternative methods of data presentation and analysis to assess the performance of LA maintained schools, and of academies. It has been produced in light of the DfE's stated aim to end the statutory role that councils have in managing local school performance and improvement, and to convert all local authority maintained schools to academies by 2022. The analysis shows that LA maintained schools continue to perform more highly in Ofsted inspections than academies. Council leaders are now calling on the Government to withdraw plans to force all schools to become academies by 2022, and allow schools to choose for themselves the most appropriate ways to improve education for their pupils. (25 April 2016)

Ofsted: The framework for the inspection of local areas’ effectiveness in identifying and meeting the needs of children and young people who have special educational needs and/or disabilities: this framework sets out the key inspection principles for local area inspections of responsibilities for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). It should be read alongside the inspectors' Handbook. (27 April 2016)

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

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Finance

APSE: Sustainable local government finance and liveable local areas – Can we survive to 2020?: APSE and NPI have published research which finds that by 2020, the combined current and capital spending by UK local government will be lower than at any time since before 1948. Whilst recent settlements mean the more deprived authorities will not see significant further decreases in funding by 2020, a new dimension of inequality is opening up according to how strongly an authority can grow its business rate income. The report advocates a sustainable future for liveability and public realm services. It explores the precarious financial position placed upon frontline services and, in a series of recommendations, calls upon councils to ensure sufficient future funding for frontline services, recognising the impact of such services on the quality of life for local residents, and providing good places for businesses to locate. (26 April 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

LGA: The journey to integration – Learning from seven leading localities: this independent report published by the LGA details the experience of seven localities in developing integrated care – Leeds, Northumberland, Nottingham City, Pennine Care, Salford, Torbay and Tower Hamlets. It examines each against a range of factors, including care model, leadership, workforce, payment model and information flow. It concludes that it is possible to have significant impact in terms of improved health outcomes and financial sustainability, and sets out the key lessons for other localities to consider in embarking on integration themselves. (26 April 2016)

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

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Housing

HC Public Accounts Committee: Extending the Right to Buy to housing association tenants: the Committee has raised significant and pressing concerns about the extension of the Government's Right to Buy policy to tenants of housing associations, funded by the sale of high-value council housing. It finds that the policy has potentially significant impacts for both local authorities and tenants of social housing, especially in areas where house prices are high. Despite the implications and complexity of this policy, DCLG has not published a detailed impact assessment to inform Parliament’s consideration of its legislative proposals. Many key policy details have not been clarified, with DCLG offering only vague assurances as to how this policy will be funded, without producing any figures to demonstrate that additional funding from central or local government will not be required. Other concerns remain, including the extent to which the new homes funded by this policy will be genuine replacements for those sold, and whether there will be sufficient controls to prevent abuse of the scheme given the significant discounts proposed for housing association tenants wishing to buy. (29 April 2016)

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

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Legislation

Enterprise Act 2016: this Act has received Royal Assent. Most of the provisions come into force on a day or days to be appointed. The Act includes measures that:

  • simplify the Primary Authority scheme; 
  • introduce a target for the total number of apprentices working in public sector bodies; 
  • allow the Valuation Office Agency to share business rates information about properties and  ratepayers with local government; 
  • reform the Business Rates Appeals system; and 
  • cap exit payments for public sector workers.

(4 May 2016)

House of Commons Library: Queen's Speech 2016: the Queen's Speech, which outlines the Government's legislative programme for 2016/17, will take place on 18 May. This briefing identifies issues and Bills that may appear in the Queen’s Speech. Forthcoming Bills may include the following topics:

  • Academies schools 
  • School funding reform 
  • Careers advice 
  • Higher education 
  • Adoption 
  • Homelessness 
  • Guardianship 
  • Local government finance – business rates 
  • Planning - Compulsory purchase; Garden cities, towns and villages 
  • Buses 
  • Privatisation of the Land Registry.

In addition, several Bills are being carried over from the 2015/16 session, including the Policing and Crime Bill. (20 April 2016)

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

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Public Bodies

Cabinet Office: Classification of public bodies – Guidance for departments: this guidance sets out the different categories of the UK’s public bodies in a public bodies handbook, focusing on arm's length bodies (ALBs). It provides a high-level introduction to the early decision-making process for establishing public bodies, summarises the main characteristics of different types of public bodies and provides information on the some of the legacy forms of public bodies that still exist. It forms Part 1 of the comprehensive handbook on public bodies; further parts of the handbook will be published during 2016 and 2017. (27 April 2016)

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

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Regulatory Services

LGA: Fixed Odds Betting Terminals: this briefing, prepared in connection with a Westminster debate, calls for a government review into gaming machine stakes to be launched immediately. It highlights concerns about the anomaly of the significantly higher stakes permitted on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals compared to other high street machines, and the evidence of harm and anti-social behaviour linked to them. It also argues for stronger powers for local authorities to prevent the opening of additional betting shops in areas that are already saturated with them. (22 April 2016)

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

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Traffic and Transport

DfT: Mandatory Travel Concession (England) Regulations 2011 post implementation review: the Concessionary Bus Travel Act 2007 extended the bus travel concession scheme, entitling eligible older and disabled people to travel for free throughout the country. The Mandatory Travel Concession (England) Regulations 2011 (SI 2011/1121) provided that operators should be reimbursed so that they are left no better and no worse off as a result of their participation in statutory concessionary schemes. The Regulations will cease to take effect in May 2018 unless they are renewed. This review finds that respondents were very largely satisfied with the Regulations as a whole and that they were delivering the intended financial and administrative savings. Therefore, the DfT wishes to maintain the Regulations as they are and does not see the need to amend or remove any of them. (26 April 2016)

DfT: Councils get new powers to tear down pointless road signs: highlights changes being brought in by the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016 (SI 2016/362) from 22 April 2016. The regulations introduce a less prescriptive traffic sign regime, allowing traffic authorities greater flexibility to develop signing schemes that meet local needs, whilst safeguarding national consistency. Local authorities will have power to take down unnecessary signs. In addition, signs that say "new layout ahead" will have "remove by dates" on the back so they are not needlessly left in place for years. Circular 01/2016 The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016 explains the new structure of the regulations, and provides worked examples to help users navigate how the new document works. (17 April 2016)

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

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Welfare and Benefits

Social Security Administration Act 1992 (Local Authority Investigations) Regulations 2016 (SI 2016/519): these regulations, which come into force on 24 May 2016, define “an investigation in respect of a benefit offence” for the purposes of s.116ZA of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 (inserted by s.112 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012), which greatly limits the powers of local authorities in England and Wales to prosecute social security housing benefit and council tax benefit fraud. The new provisions are intended to prevent local authorities from prosecuting social security benefit fraud, other than in very limited circumstances, following the introduction of the Single Fraud Investigation Service in the (DWP). (27 April 2016)

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

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