Authority Update 15/7/16

Brief details of recent Government publications, legislation, cases and other developments relevant to those involved in local government work.

18/07/2016

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     Health and Social Care
    Audit      Highways
    Business Rates     Housing
    Children's Services     Judicial Review
    Communities      Maladministration
    Community Interest Companies      National Parks
    Delivery of Services     Officers
    Devolution     Parish Councils
    Economic Development      Police
    Education     Procurement
    European Union     Public Health
    Finance      Regulatory Services
    Fire and Rescue Authorities     Traffic and Transport
    Government Policy     Welfare and Benefits

Adult Social Services

DH: Department of Health strategic statement for social work with adults in England 2016-2020: this statement sets out what the DH is doing, and will do in the future, to raise the standing and status of the social work profession, through its continuing reform programme. (12 July 2016)

ADASS: Budget survey 2016: this survey explores DSSs’ views of how councils are reconciling the growing numbers of people, often with increasingly complex needs requiring care and support, with the significant and sustained reductions in the funding available. It finds that the overall budget for adult social services has risen slightly from last year due to the precept, from £13.65bn to £13.82bn, but there is wide variation between individual councils, with 70 of 151 reporting a fall in budgets. It highlights that the social care precept, introduced in the Autumn Statement 2015 to give councils the option to raise council tax by 2 per cent for adult social care, will generate less than two thirds of the more than £600m needed to cover the NLW this year; also, the precept also raises the least amount of money in the areas of greatest need, intensifying budget pressures. (13 July 2016)

DfE: Changes to social work in 3 London boroughs – Focus on Practice: Focus on Practice introduced systemic training and systems level changes to family social work in three London Boroughs - Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Kensington & Chelsea. It seeks to bring greater coherence and confidence to social work practice through processes based on ‘systems thinking’. This evaluation finds widespread enthusiasm for the training and programme; early data looks promising. (4 July 2016)

NICE: NICE Pathway - Home care for older people: this quality standard covers home care given to older people in their own homes to meet their assessed social care needs. An age threshold is not specified for older people. Although almost 80% of people using home care services are over 65, the quality standard may also be relevant to some people under 65 with complex needs. The quality standard does not cover intermediate care, short-term reablement, home care for younger adults or children using home care services. (28 June 2016)

LGO: Councils cannot take into account personal injury claims when assessing care contributions, Ombudsman says: the LGO has upheld a man’s complaint about his council refusing to fund his care because he’d been awarded a personal injury claim in court. The investigation highlights to all councils that capital from personal injury claims cannot be taken into account when assessing a person’s contribution towards the cost of their care. The LGO said: “This report highlights that councils must follow the right guidance for assessing and providing care. Despite the man in this investigation receiving a settlement in court, this did not provide for future care costs and so he was entitled to be assessed on the correct terms for his contribution towards those costs. Guidance says councils can take into account income generated from the capital received in a personal injury claim, but they cannot take into account the capital itself. It is important that all councils remind themselves of this guidance when assessing care needs.” (6 July 2016)

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

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Audit

DCLG: Accounting Officer accountability system – Statement for local government: the DCLG Accounting Officer is responsible for the core local government accountability framework for local authorities and for ensuring that it is working and contains the right checks and balances. This statement sets out the current funding systems, legislation and guidance which form the accountability system statement for local government. It has been updated to include a new Section 5 on how the framework applies and is being adapted in the light of devolution deals within England, in the context of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016, including the arrangements for London. (12 July 2016)

Local Audit (Public Access to Documents) Bill 2016-17: this Private Member's Bill has been introduced into the Commons by Wendy Morton MP and received its 1st Reading. The Bill extends public access to certain local audit documents under s.26 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014. (4 July 2016)

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

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Business Rates

DCLG: Self-sufficient local government – 100% Business Rates retention: seeks views on the implementation of the Government’s commitment to allow local government to retain 100% of the business rates that they raise locally. Specifically this consultation seeks to identify some of the issues that should be kept in mind when designing the reforms. The consultation closes on 26 September 2016. (5 July 2016)
London Councils has issued a response, commenting that while it welcomes the reforms, it believes that due consideration to the funding of local public services should be given equal importance by Government to equity and fairness for ratepayers. (8 July 2016)

LGA: Don't be left in the dark – What localised business rates mean for your council: a guide to business rates retention: simple guide to how the Government's proposed new system might work. (23 June 2016)

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

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Children's Services

DfE: Putting children first – Delivering our vision for excellent children’s social care: sets out the Government’s reform programme for children’s social care in England over the next five years. It lays out a strategy to deliver a system that is: staffed and led by the best trained professionals; dynamic and free to innovate in the interests of children; with less bureaucracy; new checks and balances designed to hold the system to account in the right ways; and new ways to intervene more quickly where services consistently fail the most vulnerable children. This involves fundamental reform of each of the three pillars on which the children’s social care system stands:

  • people and leadership – bringing the best into the profession and giving them the right knowledge and skills for the challenging but hugely rewarding work ahead, and developing leaders equipped to nurture practice excellence; 
  • practice and systems – creating the right environment for excellent practice and innovation to flourish, learning from the very best practice, and learning from when things go wrong; 
  • governance and accountability – including developing innovative new organisational models with the potential to radically improve services.

The DfE will encourage more children’s services not-for-profit Trusts leading children’s social care services in a single authority, or having the responsibility for all children’s social care services in a combined authority area; it will also consider Trusts delivering a sub-set of children’s social care services. It is particularly interested in testing specialist Care Leavers Trusts – new organisations that would be focused entirely on improving the life chances of care leavers (aged 16-25). (4 July 2016)

HC Education Committee: Social work reform: this report scrutinises the Government's plans to reform children's and families' social work. It finds that children's and families' social work is under severe stress and the Government's proposals have significant weaknesses. The Committee calls for the Government to scrap its plans for setting up a new social work regulator, and recommends that the Government help to establish a strong, new professional body for social work to take a lead on helping deliver improvements in the sector.
Chapter 7 discusses structural change and innovation, looking at reforms to the structure of children's services. The Committee cautiously welcome the Government's attempt to bring more innovation into the children's social care system; however, the report finds that the Government's proposals are untested and recommends there should be no expansion of the independent trust model until there is proof it works. It states that interventions for poorly-performing children's services should focus less on unnecessary structural change and more on giving local authorities appropriate support during the improvement period. (13 July 2016)

DfE: Residential care in England – Report of Sir Martin Narey’s independent review of children’s residential care:  Sir Martin Narey was asked by DfE to conduct an independent review of children’s residential care. His report makes a number of recommendations and makes clear that young people leaving residential care need more support. The Education Secretary has announced that the Government will pilot a radical new scheme - Staying Close - allowing young people leaving children’s homes to live nearby and retain links with those people who have cared for them. (4 July 2016)

DfE: Keep on caring – Supporting young people from care to independence: this strategy looks at how to improve services, support and advice for care leavers, based on innovation, system reform, and the embedding of corporate parenting responsibility across society. The Government will use the Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme to rethink transitions to adulthood for young people in the children’s social care system, with a focus on: 

  • developing new ways to provide care leavers with the personal support networks they need to thrive; 
  • piloting ‘Staying Close’, a variant of Staying Put for those leaving residential care; and 
  • testing out alternative models of delivery for leaving care services through the use of Trusts, Mutuals and other arrangements.

The Government will test payment-by-results approaches, and create the first care leaver-specific Social Impact Bond. And it also provides a commitment to support and test approaches that empower care leavers to have a greater say in the design and delivery of services. It identifies and describes how the State, as corporate parents, will support care leavers to achieve five key outcomes (7 July 2016)

CQC: Not seen, not heard – A review of the arrangements for child safeguarding and health care for looked after children in England: this report looks at how effectively health services provide early help to children in need, and how they identify and protect children at risk of harm and looked-after children’s health and wellbeing. It reviews findings from 50 inspections across England as well as specific focus groups. The report concludes that health professionals have improved how they assess risk and recognise safeguarding concerns, but services are not protecting and promoting children’s health and welfare consistently. More needs to be done to listen to and involve children in need in their care. (8 July 2016)

DfE: Children’s services – Spending and delivery: this independent research report by Aldaba and the Early Intervention Foundation looks at how local councils responded to pressures on children’s services over the last Parliament, and their forecasts for changes in demand for, and spend on, children’s services in the future and planned adaptations. In particular, it identifies the changes in demand and spending faced by local councils, and the adaptations that local councils have underway, or have planned, to deal with this, including service delivery, commissioning, and joint working. It focuses on services for children in need and looked after children. (6 July 2016)

R (Essex CC) v Secretary of State for Education [2016] EWHC 1724 (Admin) (Admin Ct): the Council applied for judicial review of the SoS's decision to reduce the amount of unspent capital grant funding that could be carried over into the next financial year. The SoS notified the Council that he was cutting funding for nursery and schools building projects where funds had not already been "committed". He then determined that funds would only be classed as committed where a building contract had been entered into. The Council contended that the SoS had failed to consult about the criteria for committed expenditure, the criteria were irrational, and he had failed to fulfil his equality duties in considering the impact of his decision. He court found that the SoS had not fully discharged his duties under the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 by evaluating the impact of the measures on the relevant disadvantaged groups. It ordered that his decision be quashed and be retaken insofar as he was to give effect to his equalities duties.
The SoS then reconsidered the matter and made a fresh decision. As part of the decision-making process he undertook a full equality impact assessment exercise. The Council claimed that the second decision was also unlawful, as the decision: adopted an unlawful and irrational approach to the criterion to be applied when deciding how much funding was to be cut; adopted an unlawful and unfair approach to the making of exceptions; was inadequately reasoned; and did not comply with the SoS's duty under s.149 of the Equality Act 2010.
The court held, refusing the application, that the SoS's approach to the criteria to be applied to cuts on funding was not irrational. The decision was adequately reasoned and complied with his s.149 duty.
The court criticised the parties, saying that the dispute was over five years old - the subject matter was historical and a fact specific "one-off" which raised no recurring issue of principle or policy. It had become something of a carousel which did no credit to the field of administrative law, nor to the relationship of cooperation which should exist between the national and local arms of the government of this country. There was no reason at all why mediation or other forms of ADR should not have a significant role in the field of judicial review in cases which did not raise important questions of law, principle or policy. The power of talk should be at its strongest between arms of government. (6 July 2016)

Re AO (Care Proceedings) [2016] EWFC 36 (Fam Ct): this case concerned an application for a care order in respect of an eight month old baby who had been relinquished for adoption by her Hungarian parents at birth. The local authority applied for orders transferring jurisdiction to the Hungarian courts and authorising the placement of the baby in Hungary. The court refused the application. In the course of his judgment, the judge stated that the fact that a mother had given up her baby does not by itself satisfy the threshold criteria for making a order under s.31 Children Act 1989. When a baby had been simply abandoned on a doorstep, it was likely that criteria would be satisfied, but in cases where the mother had reached the difficult decision that she could not keep the baby, notified the local authority in advance, and made responsible plans for the relinquishment of the baby in a way which minimised the risk of harm, it was unlikely that the threshold criteria would be satisfied. Even if the threshold criteria had been met, the local authority's care plan would not have been in the child's best interests. Other things being equal, it would be in the child's advantage to grow up in her own culture; however, other things were not equal – she was settled with her English foster carer and a move to Hungary would be far more disruptive and damaging than an adoptive placement in this country. (30 June 2016)

R (C, T, M and U) v Southwark LBC [2016] EWCA Civ 707 (CA): the appellants appealed against the dismissal of their claim for judicial review of the Council's decisions regarding the level of financial support provided to them under s.17 of the Children Act 1989. They claimed that the Council had acted unlawfully in determining the rate at which it provided financial support by reference to the amount payable in respect of child benefit or the support payable to asylum seekers or failed asylum seekers. They contended that the level of support required to comply with the duty under s.17 depended upon an assessment of the children's particular needs; also, as the level of benefits was not set at a level that was intended to provide sufficient means to support a family with children, the local authority's conduct was irrational and breached the appellants' rights under Art.8 ECHR.
The court held, dismissing the appeal, that the Section 17 scheme did not create a specific or mandatory duty owed to an individual child but was a target duty which created a discretion in a local authority to make a decision to meet an individual child's assessed need. Although the adequacy of an assessment or the lawfulness of a decision could be the subject of a challenge to the exercise of a local authority's functions under Section 17, it was not for the court to substitute its judgement for that of the local authority on the questions whether a child was in need and, if so, what that child's needs were, nor could the court dictate how the assessment was to be undertaken. Instead, the court should focus on the question whether the information gathered by a local authority was adequate for the purpose of performing the statutory duty. Here, the council had not followed a flawed policy or practice whereby it inflexibly fixed its support payments.  (12 July 2016)

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

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Communities

DCLG: Launch of Great British High Street competition 2016: DCLG has launched this year's competition that celebrates the great work that is being done to revive, adapt and diversify the nation’s high streets. As well as a cash prize of up to £10,000, winners will also receive dedicated support and mentoring from industry experts which could range from one to one coaching to advice on digital marketing. The deadline for entries is 9 September 2016.
There is also a Good Practice Guide that has practical advice and guidance for councils, businesses, town teams, community groups and interested volunteers who want their high streets to be the best that they can be. (7 July 2016)

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

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Community Interest Companies

Office of the Regulator of Community Interest Companies: CIC business activities – Forms and step-by-step guidelines: updated guidance on the processes to follow, and the documents to submit, for  community interest companies (CICs) or those wishing to form (or convert to) a CIC. (4 July 2016)

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

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Delivery of Services

Civica: The commercial imperative: this report explores the role of commercialisation as a way for authorities to close the funding gap and become self-sufficient. It provides step-by-step guidance on how to find the right path to achieve a sustainable commercial model. (13 July 2016)

HC Communities and Local Government Committee: Public parks inquiry: the Committee has launched an inquiry into public parks to examine the impact of reduced local authority budgets on these open spaces and consider concerns that their existence is under threat. The Committee will look at how parks should be supported now and in the future, including studying alternative management and funding models, such as a mutual or a trust. The deadline for written submissions is 30 September 2016. (11 July 2016)

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

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Devolution

HC Public Accounts Committee: Cities and local growth: this report examines devolution as an evolving policy area. It highlights concerns that plans for proper accountability to taxpayers at a central, local and Parliamentary level are not yet in place. The Committee is "not confident" that existing local arrangements for scrutinising devolved functions are adequate and also questions the capability of LEPs to fulfil their agreed role in the devolution process. It calls on the Government to provide stronger leadership and greater clarity in multiple areas of the devolution process. These include ensuring the timetable for implementing deals remains feasible and that there are clear contingency plans for potential delays. (1 July 2016)

LGA: What next for devolution? A discussion paper: the LGA has launched a green paper to encourage local debate and generate wider scrutiny of the whole devolution process. It aims to stimulate debate and conversation in councils and with local partners and wider stakeholders to agree some key principles which will underpin the next phase of devolution. It also sets out some examples that illustrate how councils and partners could transform the way in which local services are run and delivered to improve lives and local areas. (5 July 2016)

LGA: English devolution – Learning lessons from international models of sub-national governance: the LGA commissioned Professor Robin Hambleton of the University of the West of England to carry out an international review of different models of sub-national governance, assess them according to six principles of good governance and draw out the key points of learning for those faced with strategic choices regarding devolved governance arrangements. The guide provides a summary of that research. It will be of particular interest to councils that will be part of a mayoral combined authority, have an interest in understanding how different mayoral models work in practice and how scrutiny, accountability, and decision-making are handled; and also councils in the process of negotiating or considering a deal with government who want to understand how other, non-mayoral models of governance might satisfy government's expressed desire for robust local governance. (5 July 2016)

LGA: Don't be left in the dark – Devolution questions answered: following the passing of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016, this guide provides answers to some of the key questions about devolution and what it means for councils, their residents and communities. (27 June 2016)

LGA: Combined authorities – A plain English guide: overview of combined authorities (CAs), a legal body set up using legislation that enables a group of two or more councils to collaborate and take collective decisions across council boundaries. CAs are formally established by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government through a Parliamentary Order following the request or consent of the councils concerned. There are two types of combined authority: those with a mayor for the area covered by the CA and those which do not have a mayor. (5 July 2016)

Draft West Midlands Combined Authority (Election of Mayor) Order 2016: this draft Order provides that the area of the Combined Authority is to have a directly elected mayor, and for the date of the first and subsequent elections to the role of mayor and the term of office. (4 July 2016)

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

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Economic Development

LGA: Skills for future growth – Tackling skills gaps and supporting growth: presents a series of case studies that demonstrate innovative skills and employment projects being delivered by, and with, councils across England. They show councils making a real difference, using their unique position to bring partners and resources together to drive local economic growth by working with employers to create jobs and quality apprenticeships, with skills providers to ensure learning opportunities are relevant to local growth plans and supporting local residents to reach their full potential. (5 July 2016)

LGA: Local solutions – Boosting the visitor economy: the LGA commissioned UK Research and Consultancy Services Ltd to analyse the added value that devolution could bring to visitor economy-led economic growth in England. This publication shares the findings from the research and starts to build an evidence base showing how devolution can boost visitor economy-led growth throughout England. It aims to help places to identify and evidence opportunities that devolution might present for boosting their tourism offers. (5 July 2016)

Welsh Government: New approach to support Valleys investment announced: announces a new taskforce that will work across Government to meet the valleys’ future needs for education, health and economic development. It will have representatives from the private and public sector to help the most disadvantaged areas of the valleys, and ensure every individual has the opportunity to fulfil their potential. (5 July 2016)

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

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Education

DfE: Post-16 skills plan: sets out the Government’s plan to support young people and adults to secure skilled employment and meet the needs of the economy. It accepts every one of Lord Sainsbury’s recommendations on simplifying the current system, while setting out the Government’s innovative vision for the future of technical education. It proposes a new system where students who have finished their GCSEs will be able to choose from up to 15 routes providing a clear path to skilled employment. The content for those routes and the accompanying standards will be set by an employer-led body. Each route, such as health and science, construction, social care or engineering and manufacturing, will take place either at a college and include a work placement or through apprenticeships. The first routes will be made available from 2019.
DfE has also published Technical education reform: the case for change that presents the available evidence underpinning the main technical education reforms laid out in the Post-16 Skills Plan. The analysis shows that skills are vital to addressing the United Kingdom’s productivity problem, but that the current technical education system is unresponsive, suffers from a lack of engagement with employers, and is complex and difficult for employers, learners, and parents and carers to understand. (8 July 2016)

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

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European Union

DCLG: Greg Clark's speech to the LGA conference 2016: focuses on challenges for local authorities following the EU referendum.  (5 July 2016)

Cabinet Office: Statement –The status of EU nationals in the UK: statement on the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK, and that of UK nationals in EU member states, as a result of the referendum. The statement answers some FAQs about the implications of the referendum vote for EU nationals living in the UK. (12 July 2016)

DfE: EU referendum result – Department for Education update: announcement on how the EU referendum result affects the Government's reforms to education and social care. (1 July 2016)

Wales Office: We live in unusual times – but for Welsh companies, it's business as usual: statement from the Welsh Secretary on the implications of the EU referendum result for Welsh business. (4 July 2016)

Terms of Withdrawal from EU (Referendum) Bill 2016-17: this Private Member's Bill has been introduced into the Commons and received its 1st Reading. The Bill requires the holding of a referendum to endorse the UK and Gibraltar exit package proposed by HM Government for withdrawal from the EU, or to decide to remain a member, prior to the UK giving notice under Art.50 of the Treaty on European Union. (6 July 2016)

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

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Finance

CIPFA: Confidence in councils' financial resilience expected to fall: reports that figures released by DCLG / CIPFA show that councils’ spending will fall by 1.0% (£0.9bn) in 2016-17, calling into question their ability to maintain core services. The most significant fall will be to the education budget -2.2% (£765m); cultural -5.8% (£145m); and fire and rescue services - .3% (£28m). Children’s social care spending will increase by 1.8% (£0.136bn); adult social care spending will also rise by 2.2% (£0.308bn). (6 July 2016)

Social Finance: Social impact bonds – The early years: this White Paper looks at the state of the Social Impact Bond (SIB) market. It goes back to the launch of the first SIB in Peterborough in 2010 and charts the development and take up of the model across different countries and different social issues. The paper reflects the shared lessons from the three Social Finance organisations in the UK, US and Israel, which together represent the largest pool of SIB expertise globally, across multiple jurisdictions. (5 July 2016)

House of Commons Library: Local government in England – Capital finance: this briefing paper provides an introduction to capital finance and borrowing by local authorities in England, including details on the Public Works Loan Board, bonds, and tax increment financing. It also covers recent debates on the possibility of local authority pension funds investing in local authority infrastructure projects, and on the restrictions on investment using funds from local authorities’ Housing Revenue Accounts. (27 June 2016)

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

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Fire and Rescue Authorities

Home Office: Policing and Crime Bill – Emergency services collaboration: the Home Office has published three updated factsheets on Part 1 of the Bill, which introduces a duty to collaborate on the police, fire and rescue and emergency ambulance services, where doing so would improve their efficiency or effectiveness, and enables PCCs to take on the functions and duties of FRAs where a local case is made. (13 July 2016)

Home Office: Fire and rescue national framework – 2016 progress report: the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 requires the Home Secretary to report every two years on fire and rescue authorities’ compliance with the fire and rescue national framework for England. The 2016 progress report outlines the extent to which fire and rescue authorities are complying with the framework, and steps taken by the Home Secretary to make sure that fire and rescue authorities comply. (4 July 2016)

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

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Government Policy

PM's Office, 10 Downing Street: New ministerial appointment July 2016 – Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government: announces that Sajid Javid has been appointed as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in place of Greg Clark. (14 July 2016)
A full list of the Cabinet re-shuffle and new ministerial appointments is on the Government website.

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

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Health and Social Care

Carers Trust: The Care Act - one year on: a year on from the introduction of the Care Act 2014, this review by the UK’s largest charity for unpaid carers finds that the Act has made little or no difference to the 5.4m carers in England. Carers Trust surveyed and spoke to unpaid carers looking after their sick or disabled family and friends, and to health and social care professionals to find out how well they thought the new Act, which entitles carers to an assessment of their needs, was working. The review, led by former Care Minister Paul Burstow, found a ‘mixed picture’ with examples of good practice, but in many cases found that the Act had made no difference to carers. In some instances, carers hadn’t heard about the measures that had been introduced, which could support their needs and well-being as a carer. (4 July 2016)

LGA: Integration – Delivering better outcomes for citizens and communities; the 2016/17 Care and Health Improvement (CHIP) offer: the CHIP supports councils and partners to implement and improve health and care services through sector-led approaches. This paper sets out how the LGA is working with councils and partners on integration of health and social care. (5 July 2016)

NICE: Oral health for adults in care homes: this guidance calls for oral health and access to dental treatments to be given the same priority as general health for all adults in care homes. Recommendations in the guidance focus on improving and maintaining residents’ day-to-day oral healthcare, ensuring staff are properly trained to confidently look after the oral health needs of residents, and there is adequate access to dental services when needed. It also recommends that all residents have an oral health assessment when they enter a care home with the results being entered into their personal care plan. (4 July 2016)

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

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Highways

Local Authority Roads (Wildlife Protection) Bill 2016-17: this Private Member's Bill has been introduced into the Commons by Wendy Morton and received its 1st Reading. The Bill places a duty on local highways agencies and local transport authorities to make provisions safeguarding wildlife on roads passing through, or adjacent to, specified protected areas. (4 July 2016)

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

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Housing

NAO: Disposal of public land for new homes – A progress report: this report finds that DCLG has made progress in setting up its new programme to release enough public sector land for 160,000 homes by 2020, but so far only land with capacity for an estimated 8,580 homes has been disposed of. DCLG still has a lot to do to meet the Government’s commitment; at most, 8% of the overall commitment has been achieved in the first full ten months of the programme, meaning departments must now dispose of more land in each of the remaining four years than they achieved in any year of the previous land disposals programme. (12 July 2016)

HL Economic Affairs Committee: Building more homes: this report strongly recommends that the Government lift its target by 50% and build 300,000 homes each year to tackle the housing crisis. It also criticises the Government's housing policy for restricting local authorities' access to funding to build more social housing. It recommends that restraints on local authority borrowing be lifted and that local authorities should be free to borrow to fund social housebuilding as they are other building programmes. It is also highly critical of policies to increase home ownership, in particular the extension of the Right to Buy and Starter Homes, which it states directly conflict with the stated goal to increase the supply of affordable housing. It also recommends that local authorities are granted the power to levy council tax on developments that are not completed within a set time period, and that they be given the power to increase planning fees. Local authorities should be able to set and vary planning fees to help fund a more efficient planning system and the upper cap on these charges should be much higher than the current limit. (15 July 2016)

London Chamber of Commerce and Industry: Living on the edge – Housing London's blue light emergency services: this report finds that that high housing costs mean that a total of 54% of frontline 'Blue light' police, fire and paramedic staff now live outside London and have to commute into the capital. Blue light workers interviewed for the report said lengthy travel times and inevitable travel delays, added to the stress and strain of shift working - and could impact on the emergency services' response. LCCI has made six recommendations to the Mayor from changing planning guidelines to providing rental deposit loans to the Mayor becoming the landlord for emergency services housing. (30 June 2016)

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

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Judicial Review

MoJ: Reform of judicial review – Request for further views on the provision of financial information to other parties: the Government is setting out how it intends financial information to be provided and used in connection with judicial reviews, and seeking further views on one aspect. Following last year's consultation, and discussions with senior stakeholders, the Government has decided to invite further views on one aspect of the reforms, regarding the provision to other parties of financial information provided under s.85 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. The invitation to provide further views does not affect and is distinct from the proposals on costs capping orders under ss.88-90 of the 2015 Act. The consultation closes on 18 August 2016. (7 July 2016)

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

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Maladministration

House of Commons Library: A Public Service Ombudsman for the UK: this briefing paper looks at the Government's proposal to bring forward a draft Bill for a Public Service Ombudsman which will provide a unified ombudsman service for UK reserved matters and public services delivered solely in England. It also looks at the existing ombudsman landscape for public services across the UK. (7 July 2016)

LGO: South Oxfordshire District Council urged to reconsider Ombudsman’s report: the LGO has issued a further report about the Council's historic sale of two council houses that were subject to Section 157 local connection restrictions. The LGO found the Council at fault for failing to check either homeowner had a local connection before granting consent to buy, and found no evidence that the Council actively made a decision to exercise discretion not to enforce the requirement. The LGO said the Council should have informed the homeowners of the full restriction; it also found the Council at fault for failing to give their solicitors complete information about the restrictions. The LGO recommended that the district valuer assess the value of the properties at the point at which both homeowners sold them with the same partial restriction imposed as when they bought them and compare it with the value of the properties when they were sold with the full restriction. The district valuer had completed an assessment of the properties’ values but was instructed to do so with a less stringent interpretation of the section 157 restriction than the Council imposed on the homeowners when the properties were sold. Also, the Council had failed to pay 50 per cent of the difference to both homeowners, as recommended, nor had it provided the LGO with a copy of the valuation for one of the homeowner’s houses. (8 July 2016)

LGO: Ombudsman highlights inadequate response to remedying complaint: an investigation report highlights how Lewisham LBC failed to put things right for a complainant, causing her to complain to the LGO for a second time to get her issue resolved. The investigation found the council at fault for not completing the recommendations it originally agreed to; it was also at fault for its confused and sometimes inaccurate responses to both the woman and the LGO.  These faults meant the woman had to wait for longer than necessary to have the matters resolved and she is still waiting for an apology for the council’s original failings. The LGO stated that: “When a council agrees to my recommendations I expect it to fulfil them within the time limits I specify – not doing so erodes public trust in that council. I have the same powers as the High Court to obtain information. When councils respond to us they should take the same care to give us complete and accurate information as they would in court proceedings. I take the matter seriously when councils don’t provide accurate and timely information and believe it is in the public interest to highlight this case." (7 July 2016)

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

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National Parks

National Park Authorities (England) (Amendment) Order 2016 (SI 2016/703): this Order, which comes into force on 31 July 2016, makes provision consequent upon the enlargement of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks. It expands the membership of the Yorkshire Dales NPA, adding three new local authority members in respect of newly incorporated areas. It also sets out transitional provisions in respect of the extensions to both National Parks. (7 July 2016)

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

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Officers

SOLACE / LGA: Walk Tall – Being a 21st century public servant: this e-book draws on the experiences of individuals working in councils and other parts of the public sector to bring to life the concept of the 21st Century Public Servant. It builds on University of Birmingham research that identified the different roles and characteristics of 21st century public servants. (15 July 2016)

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

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Parish Councils

NALC / LGC: Power to the people: highlights the work of local parish and town councils and how they are a vital part of local government and communities. The report demonstrates the value that local councils can add to an area’s prosperity and makes the case for greater parish involvement in services delivery. It argues for ‘double devolution’ where power is moved from Westminster to principal authorities, and from there spread to local councils. (4 July 2016)

NALC: Being a good employer – A guide for parish and town councillors: this training and development tool gives practical guidance on recruiting and managing employees effectively and compliance with employment legislation. It aims to help councils to put in place good employment practices, to recruit and retain staff and support them to deliver the best possible services for local people. (4 July 2016)

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

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Police

Home Office: Policing and Crime Bill factsheets: the Home Office has published updated factsheets on the Bill that reforms policing and enables important changes to the governance of fire and rescue services. The factsheets include ones on:
• Overview of the Bill
• Emergency services collaboration
• Police complaints, discipline and inspection
• Police powers and PCCs
(13 July 2016)

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

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Procurement

Modern Slavery (Transparency in Supply Chains) Bill [HL] 2016-17: this Private Member's Bill has been introduced into the Lords by Baroness Young of Hornsey and received its 1st Reading. The Bill requires commercial organisations and public bodies to include a statement on slavery and human trafficking in their annual report and accounts. It also requires contracting authorities to exclude from procurement procedures economic operators who have not provided such a statement. (4 July 2016)

CIPFA: Fraud and corruption tracker report 2016: the Fraud and Corruption Tracker is an annual survey of the fraud and corruption detected in local authorities across the UK. It provides a national, up-to-date overview of all fraud, bribery and corruption activity throughout the UK public sector. It is similar to the former the Audit Commission's Annual Fraud and Corruption Survey and includes questions commissioned by the Fighting Fraud and Corruption Locally Board and the Home Office to give an even fuller picture of the preparedness and actions being taken by local authorities across the country. It found an estimated 77,000 cases were tackled last year, with council tax fraud the most common type of fraud. It highlights that Right to Buy fraud and Procurement fraud are growing threats. (11 July 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: Public health’s role in local government and NHS integration: this report makes the case for greater engagement of public health in supporting integration, with a view to promoting comprehensive involvement across the country. (5 July 2016)

PHE: Use of e-cigarettes in public places and workplaces – Advice to inform evidence-based policy making: this guide aims to help organisations develop their own policies on e-cigarette use in public places and workplaces. It sets out five principles to guide the development of evidence-based policies that maximise the potential for e-cigarettes to improve public health while managing the risks in any particular setting. It is recommended that policies are kept under regular review to take account of developments in the evidence base and changes in the regulatory environment. There is also a five point summary. (6 July 2016)

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

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Regulatory Services

DEFRA / DCLG: Fly-tipping – Council responsibilities: guidance on how local authorities must deal with fly-tipping and the penalties they can charge. (27 June 2016)

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

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Traffic and Transport

DfT: DfT launches £60 million competition to support sustainable travel: DfT is inviting English councils to bid for a share of the green Sustainable Travel Access Fund, which encourages councils to offer sustainable transport initiatives which can improve access to jobs, skills, training and education. The cash will support projects over three years from 2017 to 2020, as part of a wider government fund of over £300m to boost walking and cycling during the current parliament. Councils are being encouraged to look at opportunities to work together on devising schemes. The successful authorities will be asked to contribute 10% of their scheme costs. They are also encouraged to work alongside LEPs. Full details are in the guidance on bidding. The deadline for applications is 9 September 2016.  (5 July 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

DWP: Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment – Second independent review call for evidence: DWP has appointed Paul Gray CB to undertake the second independent review of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment, as required by s.89 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012. The review includes all stages of the PIP process, with a particular focus on the use of further evidence in the claim process, data sharing and the claimant experience. This call for evidence is aimed at organisations and individuals who have information that is relevant to how the PIP assessment is operating both for new claims and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) reassessment claims, including claims made under the Special Rules for terminally ill people. The closing date for submissions is 16 September 2016. (12 July 2016)

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

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