Authority Update 27/1/17

Brief details of recent policy and legislative developments relevant to those involved in local government work

30/01/2017

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:

    Access to Information    Finance
    Adult Social Services    Governance
    Business Rates    Health and Social Care
    Children's Services    Housing
    Combined Authorities and Devolution    Overview and Scrutiny
    Constitutional and Administrative Law    Parish Councils
    Economic Development    Powers and Duties
    Education    Procurement and Commissioning
    Emergency Planning    Public Health
    Employment    Regulatory Services
    Equality and Discrimination  

Access to Information

Norfolk CC v Information Commissioner (Allowed: Freedom of Information Act 2000) [2017] UKFTT 2016/0161 (GRC) (FTT GRC): the Council appealed against the IC's Decision Notice requiring it to disclose information requested by a journalist about to the Council’s system of regular risk assessment of schools and its assignment of each school to one of three categories. The Council refused the information request, relying on s.33(1) and s.36(2)(b)(i) & (ii) FOIA 2000. The IC ruled that the balance of public interest favoured disclosure.
The Tribunal held, allowing the appeal, that the balance of public interest favoured maintaining the exemption from disclosure under s.36 (2)(b)(i) & (ii). The public interest in transparency about the Council’s running of schools had to be balanced against evidence from those directly involved in the system of a significant risk that it would fail to operate as effectively and thus achieve its goal of improving school performance were the risk category data to be published. On the basis of the Head Teachers’ evidence, there was a significant risk that schools would cease to provide voluntarily the range of data currently provided were the categorisation of the school to become public and such a risk posed a grave threat to the continuation of the current system. Whilst the risk of misinterpretation of information by others was in most cases insufficient to favour maintaining these exemptions, it would not be reasonable to expect the Council or each school to contextualise a rating based on a subjective judgement by others of data taken in seven snapshots over a year for 400 schools. Such an exercise would involve significant resources and thus very probably lead to a scaling back of the system currently in operation.
Also, the qualified person’s opinion identified a specific prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs (the ability to meet the Council’s objectives for supporting school improvement and improving educational outcomes for children and young people in Norfolk) over and above the risks identified under s. 36(2)(b), so s.36(2)(c) was engaged and the public interest also favoured maintaining the exemption. (17 January 2017)

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

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Adult Social Services

Health Care Professions Council: Standards of proficiency - Social workers in England: the HCPC has published the revised Standards of Proficiency (SoPs) for social workers in England. The standards set out what social workers in England should know, understand and be able to do when they complete their social work training in order to register with the HCPC. They also set out clear expectations of a social workers’ knowledge and ability whilst practising. (9 January 2017)

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

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Business Rates

DCLG: Business Rates Information Letter 1/2017: information on the Non-Domestic (Chargeable Amounts) (England) Regulations 2016 (SI 2016/1265) that implement the transitional arrangements scheme for the 2017 revaluation as announced by the Chancellor at the Autumn Statement. It also provides information on uprating of business rate relief thresholds and the Local Government Finance Bill, and updates on better billing measures and the Business Rate Explanatory Notes (Demand Notice Regulations) 2003 (24 January 2017)

Non-Domestic Rating (Demand Notices) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/39): These Regulations amend SI 2003/2613 and SI 1989/1058 so as to remove the ability for billing authorities to issue single rate demand notices that cover multiple financial years. They also amend the existing requirement for explanatory notes to be included with rate demand notices, to instead provide that they are required to be published online, and update the information that must be included in explanatory notes. (25 January 2017)

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

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Children's Services

DH: These are our children – A review by Dame Christine Lenehan: Dame Christine Lenehan was asked to take a strategic overview and recommend what practical action can be taken to co-ordinate care, support and treatment for children and young people with complex needs (and behaviour that challenges) involving mental health problems and learning disabilities and/or autism. Her report makes 11 recommendations for government departments and partners at a national level on how to improve the system. (26 January 2017)

DfE: Alternative provision: Effective practice and post 16 transition: sets out the findings of research into best practice for raising attainment and aiding transition to post-16 destinations for young people in alternative provision. The literature review will be used to inform decisions on how to make best use of the AP Innovation Fund, ensuring good value for money by targeting resources at the approaches and methods that have the most potential for success. (24 January 2017)

DfE: The Learning into Practice Project – External evaluation report: the NSPCC and the SCIE were funded under the DfE Innovation Programme to undertake the Learning into Practice Project (LiPP), to develop and pilot innovative ways of improving the quality of Serious Case Reviews (SCRs) and improving the use of SCRs in practice. The LiPP was testing a proof of concept, aiming to establish what was needed on an ongoing and sustainable basis to improve the quality and use of SCRs in England. This paper evaluates the LiPP and its effectiveness in improving the quality of SCRs. The overall message was that improving the quality and use of SCRs should be seen as an ongoing journey. The concepts tested in the project were supported by those involved, and the wider stakeholders consulted via the survey. Much of the work will now need to be taken forward as part of other policy developments, but the project has created momentum for a set of practices that could lead to future improvements. (24 January 2017)

DfE: Government backs innovative projects for children and families: announces that three projects have been awarded a share of more than £7m grant funding to transform children’s services in their areas. (24 January 2017)

Hackney LBC v Williams [2017] EWCA Civ 26 (CA): the Council appealed against the High Court's decision that it had failed to comply with its statutory duty under the Children Act 1989 and were liable to pay damages for breach of Art.8 ECHR. W's eight children were removed into police protection for 72 hours under s.46 of the Children Act 1989. W were arrested on suspicion of assault and bailed on condition that they would not have unsupervised contact with their children. The Council placed the children in foster care and obtained the parents' signature to an agreement under s.20 of the Children Act 1989 authorising the Council's continued accommodation of the children away from their parents. W were not told of their right to take the children home at the end of the 72 hour police protection period, nor that their children could have been accommodated with family or friends. W obtained legal advice and withdrew consent to the children being accommodated by the Council. The Council concluded that the children were not at a continuing risk of harm from W, but refused to return the children due to the bail condition. The bail condition was eventually varied two months later and the children returned home. The judge allowed an extension of the time limit for bringing the claim, as W had been attempting to obtain redress through the local government complaints system and the LGO. He concluded that retention of the children after the initial 72 hour period of police protection was unlawful and, in assessing damages, he took the view that there were facts that made the non-consensual separation of the children from their parents more distressing than would normally be expected.
The court held, allowing the appeal, that it was first necessary to determine what, as a matter of law, as opposed to subsequently identified good practice, was required before the Council was permitted to accommodate W's children under s.20 and whether positive parental consent was required. The continued existence of the bail condition meant that W were 'prevented … for whatever reason' from providing suitable accommodation and care for their children under s.20(1) and, were not 'able' to provide accommodation for them in order to trigger their statutory right to object (s.20(7)). On the basis of the lawfully imposed bail conditions, the interference was in accordance with the law and necessary for the protection of the health or the rights and freedoms of others. It followed that there was no breach of s.6 of the 1998 Act and damages should not have been awarded under s.8. The Family Court guidance on voluntary arrangements between a parent and a local authority when a child might need to be accommodated was good practice guidance and a description of the process that the Family Court expected to be followed. It should continue to be followed, but a failure to follow it did not, of itself, give rise to an actionable wrong, or found a claim for judicial review. (26 January 2017)

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

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Combined Authorities and Devolution

Centre for Cities: Three policy priorities for Greater Manchester: this briefing outlines three priorities for Greater Manchester and offers steps to help the new metro mayor affect change in their first term. It notes that the Mayor's challenge and workload will be considerable, with powers and expectations ranging from delivering policy, to establishing the institutions and capacity for effective city region governance. (12 January 2017)

East Kent Districts: A business case for the potential creation of a single new council from the four East Kent ‘coastal’ districts: the district councils of Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Shepway and Thanet have been looking into the feasibility of establishing a new single council for East Kent. All five authorities agreed in July 2016 to explore the advantages and disadvantages of a merger and to examine how a new single council could operate. On the basis of the findings from a five way Business Case, Ashford BC has announced it no longer intends to be involved in the creation of a single council. The other four councils are to consider this four-way Business Case which, if approved, would see the abolition of these existing local government district areas and the creation of a new single East Kent DC from April 2019. (24 January 2017)

Draft Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Order 2017: this draft Order establishes the mayoral Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority across the local government areas of Cambridge, South Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Fenland, East Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. It also provides for the governance arrangements of the Combined Authority, including 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. The Order provides for certain functions of the Combined Authority’s constituent councils and certain public authorities to be exercised by the Combined Authority, and certain specified functions of the Combined Authority to be exercisable only by the Mayor of the Combined Authority. (24 January 2017)

Draft West of England Combined Authority Order 2017: this draft Order establishes the mayoral West of England Combined Authority across the local government areas of Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire. It also provides for the governance arrangements of the Combined Authority, including 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. The Order provides for certain functions of the Combined Authority’s constituent councils and certain public authorities to be exercised by the Combined Authority, and certain specified functions of the Combined Authority to be exercisable only by the Mayor. (17 January 2017)

Draft Tees Valley Combined Authority (Functions) Order 2017: This Order confers on the Tees Valley Combined Authority in relation to its area functions corresponding to functions that the Mayor of London has in relation to Greater London. Those functions include the power to designate any area of land as a mayoral development area, as well as the ability to decide that a mayoral development corporation (MDC) is to be the local planning authority for some or all of the area and to make a scheme transferring to an MDC property, rights and liabilities of certain persons. (24 January 2017)

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

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Constitutional and Administrative Law

R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Rev 1) [2017] UKSC 5 (Sup Ct): this case concerned the steps which were required as a matter of UK domestic law before the process of leaving the European Union could be initiated and in particular, whether a formal notice of withdrawal under Art.50 TEU could lawfully be given by ministers without prior legislation passed in both Houses of Parliament and assented to by HM the Queen. The Divisional Court declared that the Secretary of State did not have power to give Notice, without Parliament’s prior authority.
The case also raised devolution issues requiring the court to consider whether the terms of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (NIA), and associated agreements, required primary legislation, and the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly and/or the people of Northern Ireland, before a Notice could be served. Under each of the devolution settlements, the devolved legislatures had responsibilities to comply with EU law, and under the Sewel Convention, the UK Parliament will not normally exercise its right to legislate with regard to devolved matters without the agreement of the devolved legislature.
The Supreme Court held, dismissing the Secretary of State’s appeal by a majority of 8 to 3, that an Act of Parliament was required to authorise ministers to give Notice of the decision of the UK to withdraw from the EU. The Supreme Court considered that the terms of the European Communities Act 1972, which gave effect to the UK’s membership of the EU, were inconsistent with the exercise by ministers of any power to withdraw from the EU Treaties without authorisation by a prior Act of Parliament.
The 2016 referendum was of great political significance. However, its legal significance was determined by what Parliament included in the statute authorising it, and that statute simply provided for the referendum to be held without specifying the consequences. The change in the law required to implement the referendum’s outcome must be made in the only way permitted by the UK constitution, namely by legislation. The Government accepted that the resolution of the House of Commons on 7 December 2016 calling on ministers to give notice under Article 50 by 31 March 2017 was a political act which did not affect the issues arising in the appeals.
On the devolution issues, the court unanimously concluded that neither s.1 nor s.75 of the NIA was of assistance in this case. The Sewel Convention operated as a political constraint on the activity of the UK Parliament so played an important role in the operation of the UK constitution, but the policing of its scope and operation was not within the constitutional remit of the courts. The devolved legislatures did not have a veto on the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU. (24 January 2017)

European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill: this short Bill (two clauses) gives the Prime Minister power to notify the European Council of the UK's intention to withdraw from the European Union. The Bill has been introduced into the Commons and received its 1st Reading. The Government intends to ask Parliament to fast-track the parliamentary progress of this Bill, with the timetable for its progress through the Commons to be completed by 8 February – this can be tracked on the Bill's webpage. (26 January 2017)

Welsh Government: Securing Wales’ future – Transition from the European Union to a new relationship with Europe: the Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru have published a plan for Wales as the UK moves towards negotiations on leaving the EU. The paper sets out the main issues which have been identified as vital for Wales as the UK moves to leave the EU and which need to be addressed in negotiations: the Single Market and international trade; migration; finance and investment; constitutional and devolution issues; Wales’ social and environmental protections and values; and transitional arrangements. (23 January 2017)

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

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Economic Development

DBEIS: Building our industrial strategy: this Green Paper sets out the Government's vision for a modern industrial strategy and some early actions that it has committed to take. It identifies 10 pillars to drive forward the Government's industrial strategy across the entire economy. It is seeking comments about the skills, research, infrastructure and the other things needed to get right to drive long term growth in productivity. Pillar 10 "Creating the right institutions to bring together sectors and places" includes commitments: to work with local government to review how to bring more business expertise into local governance, and improve links between councils and the private sector, such as creating a modern “Alderman” type of role within local government; further devolution deals for the largest cities; the LGA to work with new Mayoral Combined Authorities to build up administrative capacity; and to work with Local Enterprise Partnerships to review their role in delivering local growth. The closing date for responses is 17 April 2017.
Alongside the Green Paper, the Government has announced £556m funding for further Growth Deals for the Northern Powerhouse. (23 January 2017)
See also the LGA's Britain's Industrial Strategy briefing, which summarises the main announcements in the industrial strategy of relevance to local government and sets out the LGA's response. (27 January 2017)

Cabinet Office: One Public Estate expands to help councils deliver 44,000 jobs and 25,000 homes: announces that a further 79 councils will join the One Public Estate programme, a national programme that supports joint working across central and local government to use land and property to boost economic growth, unlock regeneration, and create more integrated public services. The Autumn Statement 2015 announced that One Public Estate would receive £31m to further expand the programme.  (27 January 2017)

Welsh Government: £3.7 million to regenerate communities: announces funding from the Vibrant and viable Places programme for 23 regeneration projects across 12 Welsh local authorities. (25 January 2017)

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

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Education

DfE: Lenehan review of experiences and outcomes in residential special schools and colleges – Call for evidence: seek views on the educational experiences and outcomes for some of the country’s most vulnerable children, to inform Dame Christine Lenehan's independent review of the outcomes and experiences of children and young people attending residential special schools and colleges. The review will look at the characteristics of this group, how and why they are placed in residential special schools and colleges, the support that’s available to them during and after their placement and the ways in which families say their experience of these settings could be improved. The closing date for comments is 17 March 2017. (23 January 2017)

ADCS: Home to School Transport position statement and cost analysis: data received from Directors of Children's Services on local authority home to school transport spend in 2015/16 showed that local authorities across England spent approximately £1bn on home to school transport during 2015/16. ADCS has shared the findings with DfE and has called for a review of local authority duties in this area, urging a greater targeting of the criteria and consideration of how an increasingly school-led system can better support the transport needs of students. (26 January 2017)

Welsh Government: New £36m fund to reduce infant class sizes and raise standards announced by Kirsty Williams: the Welsh Education Secretary has announced new funding that will target classes where teaching and learning needs to improve and where there are high levels of deprivation. The money, consisting of both revenue and capital funding, will be invested over the next four years up until 2021. (23 January 2017)

School and Early Years Finance (England) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/44): these regulations, which come into force on 16 February 2017, prescribe how local authorities set their education budgets (the non-schools education budget, the schools budget, the central expenditure and the individual schools budget) and set out how they are to allocate funding from the individual schools budget to maintained schools and private, voluntary and independent providers of free early years provision (relevant early years providers) through a locally determined formula. They relate only to the 2017-18 financial year. (25 January 2017)

School Information (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/37): these regulations, which come into force on 14 February 2017, amend SI 2008/3093 so as to imposes a requirement on local authorities to write to parents each year notifying them of schools with atypical ages of admission within reasonable travelling distance of the local authority that their children could apply to. Local authorities will be required to write to the parents of pupils registered at a school in the local authority by no later than 12 September each year. The regulations include transitional arrangements for the 2016/17 academic year.   (23 January 2017)

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

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Emergency Planning

HC EFRA Committee: Future flood prevention – Government’s response to the Committee’s Second Report of Session 2016-17: set out the Government's response to the Committee's report on future flood prevention (November 2016) which recommended action to tackle fragmented, inefficient and ineffective flood management. MPs have stated that they are disappointed with the Government's cursory response and they criticise the Government for missing opportunities to act on improving flood protection for communities at risk across England. It requests a fuller response by the end of February to its proposals for improving local governance and partnership working at catchment level to address its concerns about fragmented and inefficient flood risk management structures. It orders DEFRA to update the Committee by the end of 2017 on progress on those recommendations where actions will not be completed within the recommended timescales. (24 January 2017)

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

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Employment

DBEIS: Important Public Services Regulations 2017 – guidance on the regulations: s.226(2B) of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (inserted by the Trade Union Act 2016) requires ballots for industrial action where the majority of union members who are entitled to vote are normally engaged in "important public services", to have the support of at least 40% of members before they are valid, unless the union reasonably believes this not to be the case. This guidance accompanies the several Important Public Services Regulations 2017 (currently in draft) that specify the important public services captured by this 40% threshold. It provides advice for unions on applying the 40% threshold in practice, and also suggests examples of workers who will be covered in each sector in the regulations - these include workers in the education, fire and health sectors. (15 January 2017)

Trade Union (Wales) Bill: this Bill has been introduced into the Welsh Assembly and is at Stage 1. The Bill  introduces changes that dis-apply certain provisions of the UK Trade Union Act 2016 as they apply to devolved Welsh authorities. Sections 3, 13, 14 and 15 of the Trade Union Act 2016 impose new requirements in relation to balloting for industrial action, facility time and check off (payment of trade union subscription fees by way of a deduction by the employer from the employee’s wages). The Welsh Government contends that these provisions have an adverse effect on its social partnership approach. The Bill will reverse the effect of these provisions to protect the continued delivery of key public services in Wales. (16 January 2017)

Williams v Surrey Heath BC [2017] EWCA Civ 23 (CA): W was employed by the Council as a revenue control officer. The Council introduced a new pay structure in 1999 as part of a job evaluation scheme. W's job was found to have been over-valued and it was categorised as a lower grade, grade 8, in the pay structure. The Council therefore created a "personal grade" for her which reflected as closely as possible, and was no less favourable than, her current pay and she was placed in grade 9.37. She could move up that grade until she reached at least the maximum which she could have attained in her former position but could then rise no further. She reached that highest point, 9.38, in 2000. In 2004 salary levels for higher grade posts were increased following a regarding exercise and salaries for posts at 9.38 were increased but W's salary did not increase. W retired in 2005 and her pension was calculated by reference to her 40 years' service and her final salary. W contended that her ongoing pension payments were under-calculated as a consequence of the wrong final salary being adopted in the relevant calculations – she argued that her contractual right was to be paid whatever salary was allocated to 9.38 so when that sum was increased following the 2004 restructuring, she was entitled to it in the same way as any other employee on that grade. She submitted that by refusing to pay the increase to her, the Council was in substance placing her on a completely new grade which was not found on the Council's salary scales at all. She sought a declaration as to what her final salary ought to have been, and also claimed damages for breach of various contractual rights including loss of pay and pension. The issue was whether she had a contractual right to be paid whatever salary was attached to grade 9.38 in all circumstances.
The court held, dismissing her appeal, that there were in effect two different categories of officers on grade 9.38: those where the scale properly reflected the value of the job, and those where the scale did not reflect the value of the job but were personal grades conferred for protected pay reasons. Her placement in 9.38 was not because she held a grade 9 post, and the terms of her contract did not entitle her to benefit from pay increases which were intended only for officers whose posts were properly characterised as grade 9 posts. The Council had honoured the terms of her contract. (24 January 2017)

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

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Equality and Discrimination

Government Equalities Office: Mandatory gender pay gap reporting – Public sector: sets out the Government's response to the August 2016 consultation on mandatory gender pay gap reporting for public sector employers.
The draft Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties and Public Authorities) Regulations 2017 have now been published and are due to come into force on 31 March 2017. They impose new gender pay gap reporting requirements on the specified public authorities – these include local authorities. (24 January 2017

Home Office: Violence against women and girls – Service transformation fund: Application guidance: guidance on the application process for the service transformation fund, which offers £15m for local services that address violence against women and girls. The closing date for applications is 24 February 2017. (24 January 2017)

Hackney LBC v Haque [2017] EWCA Civ 4 (CA): this case considered issues about the impact of the Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) on a local housing authority's discharge of its duties under Part VII of the Housing Act 1996 (HA 1996). It concerned the relationship between the PSED and the authority's duty under s.193 HA 1996 to "secure that accommodation is available for occupation by the applicant" where the authority was satisfied that an applicant was "homeless, eligible for assistance and has a priority need, and are not satisfied that he became homeless intentionally".
The Council accepted that H was vulnerable by reason of physical disability and mental ill health, and therefore in priority need, and offered him a single room on the third floor of a hostel. H complained that the room was unsuitable by reason of particular aspects of his physical and mental condition, and sought a review. The judge quashed the reviewing officer's decision, ruling that he had not demonstrated that he had complied with the PSED when conducting his review. The Council appealed, arguing that the judge had misinterpreted the Supreme Court's decision in Hotak v Southwark LBC [2016] AC 811 by assuming that it would be necessary for the reviewing officer expressly to spell out his decision-making by reference to each of the requirements in the PSED, which the reviewing officer did not do.
The court held, allowing the appeal, that the PSED was a matter of substance rather than of form. It required the decision maker to be aware of the duty to have due regard to the relevant matters. The concept of due regard was to be distinguished from a requirement to give the PSED considerations specific weight – it was not a duty to achieve a particular result. In this case, the PSE required the reviewing officer to: recognise that H was disabled and therefore had a protected characteristic; focus on the specific aspects and consequences of his impairments and his particular needs in relation to accommodation arising from those impairments; recognise that H's particular needs arising from those impairments might require him to be treated more favourably than other persons not suffering from disability or other protected characteristics; and review the suitability of the accommodation for H which paid due regard to those matters. The judge was wrong to base his analysis upon a supposed general principle requiring the reviewing officer to spell out in express terms reasoning about whether an applicant does or does not have a protected characteristic, whether the PSED duty is in play and if so, with what precise effect. A conscientious reviewing officer considering those objections in good faith and in a focused manner would be likely to comply with the PSED even if unaware of its existence as a separate duty, or of the terms of s.149. The reviewing officer's analysis  showed an appropriate focus on H's needs, and upon the extent to which the accommodation reasonably met them, bearing in mind that the PSED attributed no specific weight to the considerations to which there had to be due regard, and determined no particular outcome. The allocation of scarce resources among those in need of it called for tough and, on occasion, heartbreaking decision-making, but having to say no to those deserving of sympathy by no means betokened a failure to comply with the PSED. (17 January 2017)

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

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Finance

Council Tax (Demand Notices) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/40 (W.16)): these regulations, which come into force on 15 February 2017, amend SI 1993/255 in consequence of the power conferred on Welsh billing authorities to charge a premium on long-term empty dwellings and dwellings occupied periodically under ss.12A and 12B LGFA 1992 that were inserted by s.139 of the Housing (Wales) Act 2014.  (25 January 2017)

Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) (Amendment) (Wales) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/41 (W.17)): these regulations, which come into force on 15 February 2017, amend SI 1992/613 in relation to Wales to take account of the introduction of council tax premiums on long-term empty homes and second homes under ss.12A and 12B LGFA 1992 that were inserted by the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. These regulations enable the premiums to be billed for and enforced. (25 January 2017)

Council Tax (Prescribed Classes of Dwellings) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/42 (W.18)): these regulations, which come into force on 15 February 2017, amend SI 1998/105 so as to clarify that the classes prescribed by reg.4 (Class A) and reg.5 (Class B) comprise dwellings of which there is no resident and that are substantially furnished. (25 January 2017)

Council Tax Reduction Schemes (Prescribed Requirements and Default Scheme) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/46 (W.20)): these regulations, which come into force on 19 January 2017, amend the Prescribed Requirements Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/3029 (W.301)) that require each billing authority in Wales to make a scheme specifying the reductions which are to apply to amounts of council tax payable by persons, or classes of persons, whom the authority considers are in financial need, and set out the matters that must be included within such a scheme.  They also amend the Default Scheme Regulations 2013 (SI 2013/3035 (W.303)) that set out a scheme that will take effect, in respect of dwellings situated in the area of a billing authority, if the authority fails to make its own scheme. (18 January 2017)

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

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Governance

DCLG: London Borough of Tower Hamlets – Revised intervention package: DCLG has written to the Mayor of Tower Hamlets advising that grants-making functions are being returned to the Council, subject to oversight arrangements, and ending the Commissioners' oversight of the Council's procurement processes and practices. The Commissioners' tem is reduced from four to three,  who will continue to exercise their other functions. The Secretary of State has made further Directions under s.15 LGA 1999 setting out these changes. (16 January 2017)

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

Care and Support (Area Planning) (Wales) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/56 (W.26)): s.14A of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 requires Welsh local authorities and Local Health Boards to each prepare and publish a plan following the carrying out of an assessment of needs under s.14 of the 2014 Act. This “area plan” must set out, amongst other things, the range and level of services the body proposes to provide, or arrange to be provided, in response to such population assessment. These regulations, which come into force on 1 April 2017, make provision about area plans, including specifying when an area plan is to be published, review and revision, engagement with citizens, private and third sector organisations and public bodies, and monitoring and evaluation. They also set out how each of the regulations is to apply if a local authority or Local Health Board has decided to prepare and publish a joint area plan. (27 January 2017)

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

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Housing

DCLG: Government backs Homelessness Bill with £48 million for councils: announces an additional £48 funding under the New Burdens doctrine, to help local authorities deliver their new responsibilities under the Homelessness Reduction Bill which is currently before Parliament. Once enacted, the legislation will require local authorities to help all eligible people, whether they are single or a family, for 56 days before they are threatened with homelessness. Those who are already homeless will get support for a further 56 days to help them secure accommodation. Other services will also be required to refer homeless people or those at risk to local authority housing teams who can provide them with free information and advice services. DCLG will continue to work with local councils and the LGA to develop the distribution model for the funding. which will reflect differing need in different authorities. It will also consider the case for making available a small amount of further funding for local authorities in high-pressure areas to manage the transition to the new duties. (17 January 2017)

R (Kensington and Chelsea RLBC) v Ealing LBC [2017] EWHC 24 (Admin) (Admin Ct): this case considered upon which housing authority the housing duty under the Housing Act 1996 fell where there had been a cessation of housing duty by one authority and a new application made to another housing authority.
The court held, granting K&C RLBC's application, that K&C had fulfilled its statutory obligations when it received HB's application for housing assistance and found that there was a main housing obligation under s.193(1) of the 1996 Act. That main housing obligation fell upon E LBC when E accepted the local connection referral. The cessation of the first duty that occurred when HB refused E's offer of accommodation in response to her first application for housing assistance did not prevent the second housing duty arising upon her making a fresh application under s.193(9). The fact that that application was made to another housing authority did not place E in any better or worse position. (13 January 2017)

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

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Overview and Scrutiny

HC CLG Committee: Overview and scrutiny in local government: the Committee has launched an inquiry into overview and scrutiny in local government. It will consider whether overview and scrutiny arrangements in England are working effectively and whether local communities are able to contribute to and monitor the work of their councils. It is inviting written evidence, which must be submitted by 10 March 2017. (24 January 2017)

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

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Parish Councils

NALC: Parliamentary Briefing – Neighbourhood Planning Bill: this briefing, prepared for the 2nd Reading of the Bill in the House of Lords, calls for a range of amendments to the Bill to give neighbourhood plans greater weight in the planning system through a ‘right to be heard’, incentivise neighbourhood planning and improve the financial benefits from development through reforms to Community Infrastructure Levy, and give communities more rights within the planning process. In particular, it urges that the Bill be amended to provide for the universal parishing of the whole country in order to accelerate neighbourhood planning and get thousands more neighbourhood plans in place, and put even more people in control of their areas. (16 January 2017)

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

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Powers and Duties

Harrogate Stray Act 1985 (Tour de Yorkshire) Order 2017 (SI 2017/34): this Order, which comes into force on 20 January 2017, is made under s.5(1) of the Localism Act 2011 which gives the Secretary of State power to amend, repeal, revoke or disapply a provision that prevents or restricts a local authority from exercising the General Power of Competence under s.1 of the 2011 Act. The Order temporarily disapplies or amends the provisions of a local Act, the Harrogate Stray Act 1985, and related byelaws for a specified period, to enable the Council to host the 2017 Tour de Yorkshire and for associated purposes. (19 January 2017)

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

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Procurement and Commissioning

Reform: Faulty by design: The state of public service commissioning: the think tank Reform has set out what it sees as the flaws in commissioning in the public sector. It includes insights from experts from government, providers and third-parties, alongside a literature review and evaluation of the publicly available data. The report focuses on complex human services, in which there is a purchaser-provider split - in health and social care, criminal justice, housing and homelessness, and employment services. It concludes that the current commissioning model is failing to achieve the Government’s aims of commissioning integrated, locally tailored services that meet the outcomes of service users, to the detriment of service users and taxpayers alike. Recognising this is the first step to designing a new commissioning framework capable of delivering services that meet the complex needs of users, wherever they may live. (18 January 2017)

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

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Public Health

DH: Childhood obesity plan case studies: these case studies describe the progress being made across the country to improve children’s nutrition, health and wellbeing. (20 January 2017)

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

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Regulatory Services

LGA: Taxi and PHV licensing – Councillor's handbook (England and Wales): this handbook helps elected members understand some of the key issues concerning taxi and PHV licensing. It is intended to be used as a starting point to explain some of the difficulties that can arise in this complex area of business regulation. The mix of legislation is widely regarded as outdated and the LGA is lobbying for a Taxi and PHV Licensing Reform Bill to be brought forward in the next Parliament to modernise the governance system for taxis and PHVs and better protect passengers from the many and varied risks which now exist. (22 December 2016)

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

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