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
    Children's Services    Housing
    Community Safety    Infrastructure
    Delivery of Services    Legislation
    Economic Development    Maladministration
    Education    Planning and Development Control
    Emergency Services    Procurement
    Employment    Public Health
    Equality and Discrimination    Regulatory Services
    Finance    Shared Services
    Governance    Standards


Adult Social Services

NICE: Mental wellbeing and independence for older people (QS137): NICE has issued a new quality standard on interventions to maintain and improve the mental wellbeing and independence of people aged 65 or older. It urges councils, housing organisations and the voluntary sector to work together to identify vulnerable older people. (5 December 2016)

Carers UK: Missing out – The identification challenge: this research explores the time it takes for people to recognise they have taken on a caring role, and whether they had missed out on support because they simply didn’t think of themselves as a carer. The research also looks at the impact that missing out on support can have across carers’ lives. (25 November 2016)

CMA: CMA launches review of UK care and nursing homes: the Competition and Markets Authority has launched a market study into care homes for the elderly, to explore whether the current regulation and complaints system gives residents adequate protection, and examine how well care homes are complying with their obligations under consumer law. It also seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of competition between care homes in driving quality and value for money for residents and taxpayers. (2 December 2016)

Social Care Wales regulations: the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016 renames the Care Council for Wales as Social Care Wales (SCW), restates and modifies SCW’s original functions and confers additional functions. A number of regulations have been made rules regarding registration appeals panels, fitness to practise panels and interim order panels:  

All come into force on 3 April 2017. (22 November 2016)

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

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Children's Services

DfE: Early years funding – Changes to funding for three- and four-year olds: sets out the Government's response to the August 2016 consultation on proposed changes to the funding of free childcare and early education for 3- and 4-year-olds, including a new national funding formula. It announces that the new funding formula will commence in April 2017 for the existing universal entitlement for three- and four-year olds, at the same time as the increase to the average funding rate. The additional 15 hour entitlement for working parents, being implemented nationally in September 2017, will also be subject to the new funding rates. It also announces local authority allocations, confirming local authority hourly funding rates, a factsheet summarising the response and guidance plus a technical note setting out how allocations have been calculated. (12 December 2016)

DfE: Adoption services – Practice and improvement fund: Round 2 Improving outcomes in a regionalised adoption system: guidance for organisations in the adoption sector who are interested in bidding in Round 2 of the Practice and Improvement Fund. The programme works with the adoption sector to develop and disseminate excellent practice, develop innovative services which are responsive to the needs of the system and ensure that children who need adoption, and those who adopt them, have access to the best services, wherever they live. This document sets out the objectives, evaluation criteria and assessment process. The closing date for expressions of interest is 16 January 2017. (12 December 2016)

DfE: Children's social care providers – Fees and inspection frequency: seeks views on proposed changes to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Fees and Frequency of Inspections) (Children’s Homes, etc) Regulations 2015. It proposes: a 10% increase on current fees, for those settings where fees are not already at full cost recovery; a reduction in the annual fee for residential holiday schemes for disabled children; and amending the frequency of Ofsted inspections for those registered children’s homes currently judged “good” or “outstanding” so that they receive a minimum of one full inspection during the next inspection period (April 2017 - March 2018) and each subsequent year. The new regulations would come into force in April 2017. The consultation closes on 17 January 2017. (13 December 2016)

MoJ: Review of the youth justice system in England and Wales: final report of the Taylor Review, with recommendations for extensive reform of the youth justice system covering devolution, courts, sentencing and custody. It finds that almost all of the causes of childhood offending lie beyond the reach of the youth justice system. The review concludes that education needs to be central to the response to youth offending. It is vital that health, education, social care and other services form part of an integrated, multi-agency response to a child’s offending, but it is more desirable that these same services intervene with at-risk children and families before their problems manifest themselves in offending. This is best achieved by devolving greater freedoms and responsibility for the youth justice system to local authorities who otherwise hold the statutory accountability for educating and protecting children.
The Government has published its Response to Charlie Taylor’s Review of the Youth Justice System, which sets out how the Government will take forward Charlie Taylor’s proposals to deliver an effective, education-led approach to custody. These include the launch of two secure schools that will deliver core subjects such as English and Maths, as well as a range of work training and apprenticeship schemes to help offenders find work on release. (12 December 2016)

LGA: Healthy futures: supporting and promoting the health needs of looked after children: looked after children and young people have higher levels of health needs than their peers, and these are often met less successfully, leading to poorer outcomes. In particular, they have significantly more prevalent and more serious emotional and mental health needs (mainly because of the frequency with which these children enter care with problems arising from poverty, abuse, neglect, or trauma from other family circumstances). These seven case studies highlight positive initiatives in local authorities around the country. They provide a useful starting point for local councils to take practical action in their own areas. (13 December 2016)

Public Health England: The mental health of children and young people in England: this report describes the importance of mental health and wellbeing among children and young people and the case for investment in mental health. It also summarises the evidence of what works to improve mental health among children and young people in order to inform local transformation of services. There is a separate report covering the mental health of children and young people in London. (6 December 2016)
If you are a health and social care professional and would like access to the Bevan Brittan Mental Health Extranet which has a secure online forum and up-to date mental health knowledge, please click on this link: http://www.bevanbrittanmentalhealth.com/apply  

LGA: Working to support positive parenting and relationships. What can councils do?: six case studies showing how councils are working to support positive parenting and relationships. (8 December 2016)

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

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Community Safety

Home Office: Violence against women and girls – National statement of expectations: explains the actions that local areas should take to ensure victims of violence against women and girls (VAWG) get the help they need. It sets out what local areas need to put in place to ensure their response to VAWG issues is as collaborative, robust and effective as it can be. It follows on from the VAWG strategy that sets outcomes to be achieved by 2020: a reduction in the prevalence of all forms of VAWG, matched by increases in reporting, police referrals, prosecution and convictions for what can still be hidden crimes.
See also the Violence Against Women and Girls services: Supporting local commissioning toolkit that gives guidance for commissioners and services in England on how to address and prevent the effects of violence against women and girls.
The Home Office is inviting bids from local authorities, Police and Crime Commissioners and health commissioners for funding from the £15m VAWG Service Transformation Fund to support community-based services and promote best practice. They are encouraged to make joint bids for funding with women’s charities and VAWG service providers to encourage a joined-up approach with a focus on early intervention as well as crisis response. (7 December 2016)

LGA: Community engagement on female genital mutilation: these case studies provide some examples of how councils and their partners have been working with women and girls to raise awareness of FGM, provide support and protect vulnerable people who may be at risk. (5 December 2016)

Birmingham City Council v Pardoe [2016] EWHC 3119 (QB): P appealed against the grant of an injunction  under s.1 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. The council had applied for the injunction, claiming that over a period of years P and others had repeatedly engaged in a particularly unpleasant form of anti-social behaviour by targeting elderly and vulnerable persons and charging them excessive sums for building works which were unnecessary and/or shoddy. Two conditions had to be met before an injunction could be granted under the 2014 Act: first,  the court had to be satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that the respondent had engaged or threatens to engage in anti-social behaviour, and second, it was just and convenient to grant the injunction for the purpose of preventing the respondent from engaging in anti-social behaviour. P argued that the effect of the transitional and savings provisions in s.21(7) of the Act was that the court was precluded from taking into account conduct prior to 23 September 2014.
The court held, dismissing the appeal, that anti-social behaviour by its very nature would generally involve a course of conduct and in many cases, there would be at least some interval of time between the earliest conduct complained of, and an application to the court for an injunction. To interpret s.21(7) as a provision which limited the court's power under s.1 of the 2014 Act, and required the court wholly to ignore behaviour prior to 23 September 2014, would lead to absurd results at each of the two stages which s.1 required the court to consider. The court concluded that where an application for an injunction under Part 1 of the 2014 Act was based on an allegation of actual anti-social behaviour, as opposed to an allegation of threatened anti-social behaviour, the applicant authority had to satisfy the court of the first condition by proving on the balance of probabilities that the respondent had engaged in anti-social behaviour which occurred after 23 September 2014. If such behaviour was not proved, the court had no jurisdiction to grant an injunction. But the court could take such evidence into account at the first stage, where it was relevant to the issue of whether the respondent had engaged in anti-social behaviour after 23 September 2014. The court could also take account of the respondent's conduct prior to 23 September 2014 when considering whether it was just and convenient to grant an injunction. (5 December 2016)

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

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Delivery of Services

CIPFA: Spending on local libraries falls by £25m: highlights that figures from CIPFA’s annual library survey reveal that council-run library services suffered a drop in funding and have also experienced a decline in visitors, with 15m fewer visits in 2015/16 compared with the previous year. (8 December 2016)

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

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Economic Development

NAO: Local Enterprise Partnerships – Census findings: presents the results of a census of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) that was conducted as part of the NAO's value for money report on LEPs (March 2016), which examined whether DCLG had funded and implemented Local Growth Fund Growth Deals in a way that was likely to deliver value for money. The March 2016 report also examined LEPs’ progress in implementing their local assurance frameworks and assessed the transparency of LEPs to the public. (2 November 2016)

IPPR: The State of the North 2016 – Building northern resilience in an era of global uncertainty: this latest annual report addresses three key issues – Brexit, industrial strategy and local economic resilience – that will build business confidence amid unpredictable times. It offers a comprehensive assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each LEP area in the Northern Powerhouse region. (9 December 2016)

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

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DfE: Schools national funding formula - stage 2: the Government is introducing a national funding formula that will replace the current system with a new formula to ensure that children with similar characteristics and similar needs attract similar levels of funding, regardless of where their families happen to live. This consultation seeks views on the detailed design of the formula, building on the earlier consultation on the principles and structure. It confirms that the Government will introduce national funding formulae for schools, high needs and local authority services for schools in 2018-19. The dedicated schools grant (DSG) will be split into 4 blocks – for schools, high needs, early years and central school services. This paper seeks views on: the weighting for each factor in the schools national funding formula; the transition to the formula; and the implementation of the formula.
DfE is also consulting on the details of the High needs funding reform - stage 2, seeking views on the design of funding for children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities who need extra support at school, college or alternative provision settings. Both consultations close on 22 March 2017. (14 December 2016)

DfE: High needs strategic planning fund: information for local authorities about grant funding for strategic reviews of high needs provision. Local authorities can use this fund to carry out a strategic review of their high needs provision. There is a total of £23m is available for this programme in 2016-17 with funding to be split between each local authority in England based on their 2-19 population. The paper details funding allocations for 2016/17, how to use it, and how the money will be paid. (14 December 2016)

Family and Childcare Trust: Starting out right – Early education and looked after children: this report warns that children in care are falling well behind children in the general population before they get to primary school. Opportunities to narrow the achievement gap between looked after children and their peers are being missed because too many looked after children do not receive good quality early education places. The report highlights numerous studies showing that high quality early education vastly improves outcomes for disadvantaged children and makes a number of recommendations towards making sure looked after children have access to high quality early education that boosts their outcomes and life chances. (1 December 2016)

DfE: New funding for school improvement: announces a £50m p.a. fund for local authorities to continue to monitor and commission school improvement for low-performing maintained schools, along with a new £140m Strategic School Improvement Fund for academies and maintained schools that is aimed at ensuring resources are targeted at the schools most in need of support to drive up standards, use their resources most effectively and deliver more good school places. In addition, the Education Endowment Foundation has committed to spend a further £20m over the next two years to scale up and disseminate evidence-based programmes and approaches. (30 November 2016)

National Assembly for Wales: Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill: this Bill has been introduced into the Welsh Assembly and is at Stage 1. The Bill provides for a new statutory framework for supporting children and young people with additional learning needs. This will replace existing legislation surrounding special educational needs and the assessment of children and young people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities in post-16 education and training. The Bill also continues the existence of the Special Educational Needs Tribunal for Wales, renamed the Education Tribunal for Wales, and provides for children, their parents and young people to appeal to it against decisions made in relation to their or their child’s additional learning needs. (12 December 2016)

Welsh Government: Harmonising school term dates for 2018 to 2019: seeks views on proposed national term dates for 2018/19. The Education (Wales) Act 2014 requires local authorities and governing bodies of voluntary aided and foundation schools to work with each other to ensure that term dates are the same or as similar as possible. The Welsh Ministers can also direct them on what their term dates must be if those dates are not harmonised or if they need changing. The consultation closes on 20 March 2017. (12 December 2016)

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

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Emergency Services

Home Office: Emergency Services Collaboration Working Group national overview 2016: provides an update on the 2014 National Overview with examples of collaborative projects, plans and initiatives from across England and Wales. It provides services and associations with a variety of examples of significant collaborative projects from across the country, which are designed to help deliver efficient and effective emergency services. (8 December 2016)

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

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NLGN: Outside the box – The council workforce of tomorrow: this report argues that, with a workforce that is under pressure to deliver more with less, new strategies must be found to ensure services continue to be delivered. The research found that with over 700,000 local government jobs lost between 2010 and 2016, many in the sector are frustrated and demotivated which risks impacting on the future sustainability of councils. It also found that public sector ethos (42%), job security (34%) and work life balance (40%) are much more important to council staff than salary (16%); however, the importance of public sector ethos had a huge disparity across council staff – this is a much lower priority for those in front line roles. This contributes to the reputation of councils as a positive place to work. (8 December 2016)

DBEIS: Code of Practice – Picketing: this draft updated Code of Practice provides practical guidance on picketing in trade disputes for those contemplating, organising or taking part in a picket or activities associated with picketing. It has been amended to reflect new legal provisions on picketing made by the Trade Union Act 2016. Once in force, it will supersede the current Code of Practice on Picketing issued in 1992. (7 December 2016)

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

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Equality and Discrimination

DCLG: The Casey Review – A review into opportunity and integration: this report sets out the findings of Dame Louise Casey's review into integration and opportunity in the most isolated and deprived communities. The report considers: immigration and patterns of settlement; the extent to which people from different backgrounds mix and get on together; how different communities – considering ethnic and faith groups in particular – have fared economically and socially; and some of the issues that are driving inequality and division in society. It makes recommendations on what more could be done to promote opportunity and integration. It hopes that the Government will take these forward through a new communities programme to unite Britain, that would complement and underpin existing work to tackle extremism, hate crime and violence against women. (5 December 2016)

DCLG: Government Response to Home Affairs Committee report 'Anti-Semitism in the UK’: the Home Affairs Committee published a report in October 2016 that called on all political leaders to tackle the growing prevalence of this pernicious form of hate. The Government has published a response that focuses on the Committee's recommendations to Government. It broadly accepts the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, with two additional clarifications to ensure that freedom of speech is maintained in the context of discourse about Israel and Palestine, without allowing anti-Semitism to permeate any debate.
DCLG has also published an Anti-Semitism update with a progress report on the recommendations made by the All-Party Parliamentary Group against anti-Semitism inquiry into the rise in anti-Semitic incidents following the Gaza conflict in 2014. (12 December 2016)

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

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DCLG: Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement 2017/18: the Government has announced the  draft LGFS for 2017 to 2018 and is seeking views on the settlement and on the approach to future LGFSs. It includes:

  • confirmation of the allocations that were published 12 months ago, as the second year of the 4-year plan; 
  • councils to have flexibility over the social care precept, so they can choose to raise it by 3%, rather than the 2% originally planned; 
  • the New Homes Bonus will be reformed, with a new threshold after which payments would begin; also,  councils will receive bonus payments for 4 years from 2018/19 (changed from 5 years) on each new additional home built; 
  • West of England, Cornwall and the West Midlands will begin to pilot 100% business rate retention in 2017/18. 

The consultation closes on 13 January 2017. 
As well as the consultation paper, DCLG has published a number of supporting documents, including: 

  • Draft local government finance report 2017 to 2018 
  • Key information for local authorities 
  • Key information for pools 
  • Response to technical consultation 
  • New Homes Bonus provisional allocations 2017 to 2018 and calculator 
  • Business rates revaluation top ups and tariffs calculator 2017 to 2018 
  • Explanatory note on core spending power 
  • Explanatory note on Transition Grant 2017 to 2018.

All the documents are available on the DCLG website, in the LGFS collection.
See also the LGA's On the Day briefing, that highlights and comments on the key issues for local authorities. (15 December 2016)

DCLG: Draft Referendums Relating to Council Tax Increases (Principles) (England) Report 2017/18: sets out the referendum principles determined by the Secretary of State under s.52ZC(1) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 for the financial year beginning on 1 April 2017. The principles are to be used when assessing whether an authority’s relevant basic amount of council tax is excessive, for the purposes of triggering a referendum. DCLG has also published draft Alternative Notional Amounts for specified authorities to make like-for-like comparisons between their 2017 to 2018 Council Tax decisions and 2016 to 2017, for the purposes of determining whether their increases are excessive. The local authority affected by this publication is Sedgemoor DC. (15 December 2016)

Home Office: Provisional police grant report 2017 to 2018: sets out the aggregate amount of grants proposed for the police in England and Wales for 2017 to 2018. It also includes the proposed amount of grant for each local policing body. (15 December 2016)

DCLG: Lead local authority flood grant 2017-18 to 2019-20: details grant funding to lead local flood authorities to carry out their duties under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, and for their role as statutory consultee on surface water for major development. (15 December 2016)

Leeds City Council v Broadley (Rev 1) [2016] EWCA Civ 1213 (CA): B appealed against the Council's decisions as to his liability to pay council tax in respect of certain dwellings that he let out on assured shorthold tenancies. The issue was whether B or his tenant was "the owner" of the appeal dwelling within the meaning of s.6 LGFA 1992 when that dwelling had no resident for the period in dispute. The tenancy agreement stated that the premises were let "for a term of [6 or 12] months and thereafter continuing on a monthly basis unless terminated". The question was whether the tenant at the relevant times had "a material interest", i.e. "a leasehold interest which was granted for a term of six months or more" within s.6(5). The Council argued that the agreement created two distinct tenancies - a fixed term tenancy of six months and a separate periodic tenancy arising thereafter, and on that basis the second, periodic, tenancy, was not an "interest granted for a term of six months or more" and so was not be caught by s.6(5). The High Court ruled that the tenancy agreement created a term which was neither simply a fixed term nor a periodic tenancy, nor one followed by the other but was a term which has the characteristics of a fixed term followed by a periodic tenancy. Fixed terms and periodic tenancies were both capable of being created under the Law of Property Act 1925 and were not void for uncertainty at common law.
The court held, dismissing the Council's appeal, that on the natural reading of the agreement, it created a single interest which was initially for a fixed term but periodic thereafter and thus plainly satisfied the statutory language. This was not a case where a fresh tenancy arose at the end of a fixed term either because the tenant had held over and continued to pay rent or because of the operation of statute; here,  the agreement itself provided for the continuation of the original tenancy following the expiry of the initial fixed term. The term granted by the agreement here was a single grant for 6 or 12 months certain and then continuing from month to month. It granted "a term of six months or more", constituting a "material interest" within the meaning of s.6(6). The tenant held throughout the tenancy pursuant to that grant, whether during the fixed term or thereafter, Accordingly, the Tribunal and the judge were correct in finding that the tenant's liability continued while those tenancies subsisted as periodic tenancies and even if the tenant had gone out of occupation. (6 December 2016)

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

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Centre for Cities: Seven Lessons for the new metro mayors: suggests seven lessons on how the new combined authority mayors can make the most of their first term, based on 16 years of London's Mayor: (15 December 2016)

DCLG: Rotherham intervention – Return of licensing function: the Communities Secretary has issued revised Directions to Rotherham MBC, returning the licensing function to the council. The government-appointed commissioners will continue to oversee these decisions until 31 March 2019. The accompanying explanatory memorandum sets out the circumstances in which these Directions have been made, the reasons for exercising these powers and the implications of the Directions for the Council. (13 December 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 Act statutory guidance: Chapter 19 of the statutory guidance has been updated regarding the determination of questions of ordinary residence referred to the Secretary of State under s.40 of the Care Act 2014, following the Supreme Court judgment in the case of R (Cornwall Council) v Secretary of State for Health last year. (9 December 2016)

DH: Government response to the House of Commons Health Select Committee report into the impact of the spending review on health and social care: sets out the Government’s response to each of the 29 conclusions and recommendations made in the Select Committee's July 2016 report. It states that the Committee has correctly identified the significant challenges facing the NHS over the next few years, and it gives details of the clear plan for responding to these challenges. (16 December 2016)

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

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DCLG: Estate Regeneration National Strategy: the Government has launched a new strategy to regenerate deprived housing estates with an additional £32m of new funding, along with £140m from the Estate Regeneration Fund to build places that work for everyone. The strategy guidance covers: 

The Estate Regeneration Fund prospectus sets out the funding criteria and requirements. It seeks bids from private sector entities (including registered providers of social housing) taking forward schemes that improve or deliver additional homes, are fundamentally viable, and carry the support of local communities and local authorities. (8 December 2016)

DCLG: Government Response to House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee Report 'Building more homes': formal response to the Committee's July 2016 report that criticised the Government's target of 1m new homes by 2020 as inadequate and said that the level of house building required to meet the housing crisis could not be met by the private sector alone. The Committee called on the Government to free local authorities to build more homes for rent and to move away from its single minded focus on subsidising home ownership and do more to support people to rent affordably. The Government in its Response agrees that the country needs to build more homes to make housing more affordable for everyone, and that it will be setting out a comprehensive package of reform to increase housing supply in the forthcoming Housing White Paper. It agrees with the Committee that there are examples of local authorities developing new and innovative ways to build more homes, particularly through Local Housing Companies. It supports authorities using companies to deliver market housing for sale or rent and they have matched the ambition to release additional land with capacity for at least 160,000 homes.
The Committee has criticised the Government's Response as "inadequate to deal with the scale of the crisis in the housing market". It says that while the Government has accepted the Committee's analysis of the problem, it has shied away from the steps needed to address. It has failed to recognise the need for local authorities to build more homes and for them to be freed from unnecessary and arbitrary financial restrictions which severely curtail their ability to build. (13 December 2016)

LGIU: Small is beautiful – Delivering more homes through small sites: this research report looks at some of the barriers to enabling small scale development and how these might be overcome. It finds that nearly 90% of local authorities believe that the Government’s housing targets will be impossible to meet due to a lack of planning resources. The report focuses on how local authorities can help find ways to unlock a range of smaller sites for development and work with small and medium developers to build on them. (13 December 2016)

Localis: Power behind the home – Why devolving housing powers will build more homes: this report argues that to meet the needs of those families ‘just managing’, the Government must free up local authorities to take more decisions on how and where housing can be delivered. It states that only by affording local authorities greater flexibility around finance and land can the Prime Minister hope to achieve the million new homes she targets by 2020. (17 November 2016)

ResPublica: Going to scale – How a National Housing Fund can unlock Britain’s housebuilding capacity: this report sets out how government can meet Britain’s housing challenge and deliver the homes that are desperately needed around the country. It proposes a long-term National Housing Fund to deliver up to 75,000 homes a year and get the housing market work for the many. (17 November 2016)

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

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HM Treasury: Consultation on introducing the Local Infrastructure Rate: seeks views on offering discounted borrowing to local authorities to support infrastructure projects that are high value for money. At Autumn Statement 2016, the Government announced that it would consult on lending to local authorities at a discounted rate to support infrastructure projects that are high value for money. This paper proposes that local authorities would be able to borrow up to £1bn at a new Local Infrastructure Rate which would be set at gilts + 60 basis points. Loans at the new rate would be available for a period of three years, with a maximum term of 50 years. This consultation document sets out details on the proposed rate and seeks views on its potential impact. The consultation closes on 28 January 2017. (15 December 2016)

Welsh Government: Wales set for biggest investment in infrastructure since devolution: the Welsh Economy and Infrastructure Secretary, Ken Skates, has set out the Welsh Government's plans for a multi-billion pound infrastructure investment over the next five years, along with his vision for a modern, integrated transport network that delivers for communities right across Wales. (14 December 2016)

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

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HL Constitution Committee: Evidence sought on delegated powers before introduction of 'Great Repeal Bill': the Lords Committee has launched a new Call for Evidence as part of its inquiry into the legislative process. The Committee is looking for evidence on the creation, use and scrutiny of delegated powers, in advance of the introduction next year of a Great Repeal Bill. The deadline for submission of written evidence is 18 January 2017. (13 December 2016)

Welsh Government: New programme to make Welsh Law easier to find and understand: the Counsel General for Wales has announced that existing laws in areas devolved to Wales are to be consolidated and set out as distinct Welsh laws, rather than remaining within laws originally made by the UK Parliament that also apply to England or the rest of the UK. Once codified, all of the law, from Assembly Acts to guidance, would, for the first time, be published together and available in one place - on the Cyfraith Cymru / Law Wales website, in both English and in Welsh. The complex process of consolidating and codifying Welsh laws will begin as a pilot during this Assembly term with progress reviewed at the end of 2017. (13 December 2016)

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

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Cabinet Office: Draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill: this draft Bill sets out the legal framework for the Government’s plans to introduce a new Public Service Ombudsman, making it easier than ever before to rectify complaints about a range of public services. The Bill brings together the responsibilities of the current Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and the Local Government Ombudsman to create a new organisation with strengthened governance and accountability. It will refine the process and improve access to the Ombudsman’s services as complaints can be made with or without the help of a representative and in a variety of formats to meet the digital age. It will provide important new powers to allow the new Ombudsman to work more effectively with an explicit role in championing improvements in complaints handling. (5 December 2016)

LGO: Principles of complaint handling in combined authorities and devolved settings: guidance to help combined authorities deal with the complaints they receive. It includes recommendations on how to create a simple, integrated complaints system which is fair and encourages organisational improvements, based on LGO’s 40 plus years' experience of dealing with unresolved local authority complaints. The new combined authorities will be responsible for services devolved from central government, and will have to establish new ways of working, which will include new ways of dealing effectively with complaints. All services need to remain accountable to the people that use them, so councils and combined authorities need to make sure that service users have a clear route to redress when something has gone wrong. (13 December 2016)

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

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Planning and Development Control

DCLG: Implementation of neighbourhood planning provisions – Government response to consultation: sets out the Government's response to the technical consultation on the detailed regulations to implement some of the neighbourhood planning measures in the Neighbourhood Planning Bill. The proposed reforms cover three matters:
• the detailed procedures for modifying neighbourhood plans and Orders;
• the examination of a neighbourhood plan proposal where a neighbourhood area has been modified and a neighbourhood plan has already been made in relation to that area; and
• requirement for local planning authorities to review their Statements of Community Involvement at regular intervals.
(15 December 2016)

R (East Bergholt Parish Council) v Babergh DC (Unreported, Admin Ct): the Parish Council applied for judicial review of the District Council's grant of planning permission for 10 single-storey linked dwellings to be occupied by persons over the age of 55. The site was in an area of outstanding natural beauty, between two listed buildings and abutted the built-up area boundary of the old village which was a conservation area. The Parish Council complained that in granting permission the District Council had wrongly interpreted and applied the local plan policies, and had improperly ignored the financial benefit of the development.
The court held, granting the application and quashing the decision, that the District Council had failed to apply the relevant core strategy policy which provided that such development would only be permitted in exceptional circumstances subject to a proven justifiable need. It had made an error of law in identifying and considering the housing needs in the district as a whole, including the core and hinterland villages. Under the core strategy the approach to the distribution of new dwellings was to be driven by the function of the villages, their role in the community, and the capacity for a particular level of growth which would be guided by many factors and which would result in a different level of development being identified as appropriate in different settlements, even those within the same category. It followed that local housing need in the core strategy could only mean the need within the relevant core village and its cluster. (9 December 2016)
The judgment is available on Lawtel (subscription required).

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

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NAO: Crown Commercial Service: scrutinises the work of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), a government agency and trading fund that is directly responsible for buying around £2.5bn of goods and services for central government and public sector organisations. The NAO looks at the CCS's launch, the difficulties it encountered and the progress it has made in fixing these issues. It also considers the value that CCS has provided since it was established in 2014. The report concludes that the Government can save money by using CCS deals, but central government has not yet achieved value for money from its central buying. Furthermore, the Cabinet Office severely under-estimated the difficulty of implementing joint buying across government. (13 December 2016)

DCMS: Putting small charities at the heart of public services: announces three new measures as part of a programme to help tackle the challenges of getting small charities into the public service supply chain: 

  • Developing a placed based Public Service Incubator that helps small charities get commissioned; 
  • Exploring the development of a commissioning kitemark that will set out a best practice standard; and 
  • Recruiting a voluntary, community and social enterprise crown representative to centrally champion commissioning practices that help small charities contribute effectively to public services. It will also function as an intermediary between government and the voluntary sector.

Sir Martyn Lewis will chair a voluntary sector-led implementation group to put these proposals into practice. (13 December 2016)

CCS: Procurement Policy Note 10/16 Onerous practices in procurement and contracting: some suppliers are still reporting procurements that are being conducted in ways that result in disproportionate or inappropriate risk transfer between buyers and suppliers. Unnecessarily onerous requirements are not best practice and, while not commonplace, can stifle innovation and lead to increased costs for both parties. This PPN details how procurers can avoid using such practices in procurement and contracting activity. It applies to all 'in-scope organisations', i.e. central government departments, their executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies. (5 December 2016)

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

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Public Health

DH: Government response to the House of Commons Health Committee Report on Public Health Post-2013 (Second Report of Session 2016-17): sets out the Government's response to the September 2016 report on public health post-2013. The Government  responds to each of the Committee's recommendations on subjects such as funding, improving public health, politics and evidence, boundary issues and fragmentation and leadership. (16 December 2016)

DH: Public health grant and conditions – Local authority circular LAC(DH)(2016)3: sets out the allocations and conditions for using the Public Health grant. (15 December 2016)

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

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Regulatory Services

DCLG: Proposed 'banning order offences' under the Housing and Planning Act 2016: the 2016 Act introduced a package of measures which will enable local authorities to effectively tackle rogue or criminal landlords and property agents. This includes a national database of rogue landlords/property agents convicted of certain offences (or who have received multiple civil penalties as an alternative to prosecution in relation to certain offences). This consultation paper seeks views and comments on which offences should constitute ‘banning order offences’ as defined by s.14 of the Act. Those subject to banning orders would have to either improve the standard of the accommodation they rent out, or leave the sector entirely; also they would not be able to earn income from renting out housing or engaging in letting agency or property management work. The consultation closes on 10 February 2017. (13 December 2016)

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

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Shared Services

LGA: Stronger together – Shared management in local government: this report will look at some of the ingredients that make shared management of services work, as well as identifying some of the barriers. It aims to share the experiences and advice of chief executives and leaders and highlight good practice and innovation. (29 November 2016)

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

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R (Piffs Elm Ltd) v Tewkesbury Council (Unreported, Admin Ct): the court held that a series of planning decisions regarding applications for industrial development were tainted by apparent bias where the case officer’s husband worked for a rival developer, due to the potential impact of the claimant’s proposals on land being promoted by the rival developer nearby. The judge also held that it could not be said that the outcome would have been substantially the same but for the conduct complained of. However, although he found that the decision to commence proceedings had been reasonable, and that the Council’s conduct during the litigation had brought further suspicion upon it, he decided not to grant any formal remedy on the basis that the claimant had a more suitable alternative remedy via a planning appeal. The judgment is not yet available online; it is noted in Local Government Lawyer. (4 November 2016)

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

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