Authority Update 5/5/17

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

08/05/2017

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     Environmental Protection
    Adult Social Services     Government Policy and Legislation
    Audit     Health and Safety
    Children's Services     Health and Social Care
    Combined Authorities and Devolution     Housing
    Community Rights     Licensing
    Delivery of Services     Members
    Development Control     Standards
    Education     Traffic and Transport
    Elections     Welfare and Benefits

Access to Information

Information Commissioner's Office: Guidance on political campaigning: updated guidance on the rules around data protection and electronic marketing. It includes a section on the use of data analytics and associated technologies by political parties for campaigning purposes. The updated guidance and briefing is in response to an increase in complaints from members of the public about the promotion of political parties, their candidates and their views during political campaigns. In recent years, the ICO has received complaints about the use of surveys to gain support for campaigns, spam texts and recorded marketing calls. People have also reported concerns that their personal information has been shared between national and local organisations. The IC has also written to campaigners from political parties reminding them of the need to comply with data protection and electronic marketing laws. (28 April 2017)

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

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Adult Social Services

Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Act 2017: this Act has received Royal Assent and comes into force on 27 June 2017. It encourages the Government to ratify the Istanbul Convention, by requiring the Secretary of State to lay a report before each House setting out the steps required to enable the UK to ratify the Convention, and the timescale within which this is expected to happen. The UK signed the Convention on 8 June 2012 but has yet to ratify it.  (27 April 2017)

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

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Audit

Local Audit (Public Access to Documents) Act 2017: this Act has received Royal Assent and comes into force on 27 June 2017. The Act amends s.26 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 so as to permit ‘journalists’ to inspect the accounting records of local authorities and other bodies covered by the 2014 Act, such as parish councils, Police and Crime Commissioners, fire authorities, combined authorities and CCGs. It defines ‘journalist’ as "any person who produces for publication journalistic material (whether paid to do so or otherwise)". (27 April 2017)

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

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Children's Services

Children and Social Work Act 2017: this Act has received Royal Assent and comes into force on a day, or days, to be appointed.  The Act improves decision making and support for looked after and previously looked
after children in England and Wales, and improves joint work at the local level to safeguard children and enabling better learning at the local and national levels to improve practice in child protection. It also enables the establishment of a new regulatory regime specifically for the social work profession in England. The Act's provisions include: 

  • seven corporate parenting principles that local authorities must have regard to in respect of looked after children and those leaving care; 
  • a duty on local authorities to publish their offer of support to young people leaving their care, and removal of the requirement for certain care leavers to be in education and training before they are entitled to a personal adviser and other help from the local authority; 
  • extends the existing duties of local authorities and schools to promote the educational attainment of children to cover children who have been adopted or placed in other long‐term arrangements; 
  • extends the Government’s current powers to intervene where local authorities are underperforming to Combined Authorities; 
  • establishes a central Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel and replaces the structure of existing Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) with new local arrangements for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, with only three safeguarding partners – local authority, NHS CCGs and police; and 
  • extends protections for whistleblowers.

The proposals to introduce powers allowing local authorities to test different ways of working under children's social care legislation were removed during the Bill's passage through Parliament. (27 April 2017)

A v Cornwall Council [2017] EWHC 842 (QB) (QBD): A brought a claim against the Council under the Human Rights Act 1998, following an order of the Family Court that there should not be direct contact between A and his son S. A contended that the Council prevented A's direct contact with S and did not support A's application to have S live with him, because A had expressed views about abortion and same sex marriage in blogs on the internet, and that his rights under the ECHR had been infringed. The issues were whether the Council had acted in a way that was incompatible with any of A's rights protected by arts.8, 9, 10, 12 and 14 ECHR , and if so, what, if any, relief or remedy should be provided to A.
The court held, dismissing A's claim, that the council had not infringed any of A's ECHR rights nor had there been any other relevant breach of duty. It found that the social worker had not acted to stop A having contact with S because A believed that abortion and same sex marriage was wrong – such an approach would not have been lawful. Nor had either the social worker or the council caused A's lack of contact with S following the making of the allegation that A had hit S – that had been the police. The process of producing the reports for the Family Court had been fair, and the social worker had made her recommendation as to contact on the basis of what was in S's best interests. (28 April 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

Combined Authorities (Finance) Order 2017 (SI 2017/611): this Order, which comes into force on 28 April 2017, provides for a precept to be set by the mayor of a combined authority to fund mayoral functions, the arrangements for setting and approving a combined authority mayoral budget, and for a mayor’s general fund. It also contains transitional provisions, including ones relating to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. (26 April 2017)

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (Functions and Amendment) Order 2017 (SI 2017/612): this Order provides for certain functions of the GMCA’s constituent councils and certain public authorities to be exercised by the GMCA, certain specified functions of the Combined Authority’s functions to be exercisable only by the Mayor of GMCA and for certain governance arrangements of GMCA. Part 2 (Mayoral development corporations), Part 3 (Grants) and arts.14,15 & 16 on delegation of functions to the Mayor and functions exercisable only by the Mayor, come into force on 8 May 2017.  Part 4 (Waste disposal) comes into force on 1 April 2018. The remaining provisions came into force on 27 April 2017. (26 April 2017)

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

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Community Rights

Marshall v Arun DC [2017] UKFTT CR/2016/0025 (GRC): M appealed against the Council's decision to register the Seaview Hotel as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). The building was nominated for inclusion on the Council's list of ACVs by an organisation named as "Supporters of the Seaview Hotel". M contended that the building fell within the exemption in para.2(b)(iii) of Sch.1 to the Assets of Community Value (England) Regulations 2012 as it was partly or wholly used as a hotel. M also submitted that the listing was not valid as the nominating organisation was not a "voluntary or community body with a local connection" as required by the Regulations.
The tribunal held, allowing the appeal, that the requirements of s.89(2)(b)(iii) of the Localism Act 2011 and Regulation 5(1)(c) were not satisfied as there was no "body" and therefore there were no "members". There was no organised group – there was simply a list of signatures of persons obtained in support of listing organised by one person with minor assistance from another.  Those adding their names to that list did so on a random basis and they were simply signing a form, rather than joining an organised group or signing up to an objective of an organised group. The tribunal therefore was not required to decide whether the building was in any event exempt from listing. The judge stated that if he had had to rule on the correct interpretation of the para.2(b)(iii) exemption and the para.1(5) exception to the exemption,  then his view would have been that the Seaview Hotel was not a building which would have been excluded from listing had the nomination been valid. Taking account of all of the circumstances and giving due weight to the name of the premises, its marketing and other material and its business rates status, the main use of the building was as a public house and not as a hotel. (30 April 2017)

Admiral Taverns Ltd v Cheshire West and Chester Council [2017] UKFTT CR/2016/0022 (GRC): the tribunal has dismissed an appeal against the listing of a pub as an Asset of Community Value. The parish council had submitted an ACV Nomination relating to a licensed establishment in its area. The appellant contended that use of the property as a public house was only a minor and ancillary part of the business run from the property and therefore irrelevant to the question of whether s.88 of the Localism Act 2011 was satisfied, and that  the nomination submitted by the Parish Council was inadequate for the Council to make its listing decision. 
The tribunal held that in listing the pub, the Council had legitimately considered the recent past and there was sufficient evidence of the social benefits derived from the last few years to justify listing. The initial nomination form completed by the Parish Council contained very little information However, that form was merely the start of the nomination process by which a Council determined whether the criteria for listing as an ACV were met and the Council was entitled to accept the nomination in good faith. (28 April 2017)

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

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Delivery of Services

NLGN: A changemaking vision for local government: at a time of intense financial pressures and when central government’s mind is on other things, many are asking themselves where local government goes next. In this essay, the NLGN calls for councils to embrace a bold ‘changemaking’ approach focused on the core values of creativity, collaboration and self-determination. (24 April 2017)

APSE: Redefining neighbourhoods – Beyond austerity?: this report presents evidence to support the case for the ‘neighbourhood services’ provided by local government, namely: highways and transport; cultural services; environmental services; and regulatory and planning services. Since 2010/11, neighbourhood services have been the hardest hit of all local government services, with the worst hit neighbourhood services having spending cut by a half. The report explores the impact of austerity on neighbourhood services, and warns of the consequences of this continuing downward trajectory in funding which risks falling to a 60-year low. (25 April 2017)

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

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Development Control

Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017: this Act has received Royal Assent and comes into force on a day, or days, to be appointed. The Act introduces a new procedure to allow neighbourhood plans to be modified. It also deals with the situation of where a new neighbourhood plan is needed, but covering a slightly different geographical area to the previous one. It provides that pre-commencement planning conditions can only be used by local planning authorities where they have the written agreement of the developer. If the developer does not agree to the pre-commencement condition then the local authority has the option to refuse the planning permission. It also includes measures relating to compulsory purchase powers, introducing powers allowing the temporary possession of land and a duty to provide compensation for it. (27 April 2017)

R (Lisle-Mainwaring) v Isleworth Crown Court and Kensington & Chelsea RLBC [2017] EWHC 904 (Admin) (Admin Ct): LM owned a building in a Conservation Area in the Council's area. She painted its façade in a scheme of red and white stripes. The council considered that the choice of painting scheme harmed the amenity of the area and it served a notice on LM under s.215 TCPA 1990, requiring her to repaint the building white. LM appealed. The court dismissed her appeal, finding as a matter of law that the painting of the property was a matter that affected the condition of the land, and that as a matter of fact, the painting of the property in this way had adversely affected amenity.
The court held, allowing LM's appeal, that it was improper for the Council to use s.215 to alter a lawful painting scheme, when there was no suggestion that there was any want of maintenance or repair in the land. "The condition of the land" in s.215 should be taken as referring to the state of maintenance of the land. The attractiveness of buildings was a different question from their condition, and it would be absurd to imagine using s.215 where the dispute was about the choice of colour scheme or their appearance rather than the condition of the fabric. That did not render s.215 redundant, but simply limited the section to its proper purpose, namely the maintenance of derelict, dilapidated or neglected premises. Nor did the painting fall outside the "ordinary course of events" under s.217(b) - the GDPO Class 2 part 2 permitted painting "in any colour" so it was very hard to see how a choice of colour other than white, or a colour scheme involving more than one colour, could fall outside the ordinary course of events. It would certainly be impossible to restrict the ordinary course of events to the use of white paint, as the Council insisted on in the Notice. (24 April 2017)

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

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Education

HC Public Accounts Committee: Capital funding for schools: this report finds that the Government's system for funding new schools and new places in existing schools is increasingly incoherent and too often poor value for money. The DfE is spending well over the odds in its bid to create 500 more free schools while other schools are in poor condition. In addition, local authorities are legally responsible for ensuring that there are enough school places for all children to attend good schools, even though they have no direct control of free school or academy places or admissions policies. The Committee questions how much of a grip the DfE really has in providing school places where they are needed. It is also concerned that there is a tension between setting up new free schools and supporting existing schools, with the DfE indicating that its priority is to meet the Government’s target of creating 500 more free schools by 2020. The Committee is not convinced that this represents the best use of the limited funds available. (26 April 2017)

Technical and Further Education Act 2017: this Act has received Royal Assent and comes into force on a day, or days, to be appointed. Part 2 provides for the creation of an insolvency framework for further education (FE) corporations and sixth form colleges and creates a new special administration regime for FE corporations, sixth form corporations, and companies which run designated institutions in England and Wales. Part 3 includes an additional measure regarding FE information which ensures the continued provision of information on FE to the Secretary of State after functions and budget for adult education have been transferred to combined authorities. (27 April 2017).

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

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Elections

Electoral Commission: UK Parliamentary general election in Great Britain: this web page links to all of the Commission's guidance and resources for (Acting) Returning Officers administering the UK Parliamentary election in Great Britain on 8 June 2017. The guidance covers: Roles and responsibilities; Planning and organisation; Administering the poll; Absent voting; Verifying and counting the votes; and Action after the declaration of the result. (4 May 2017)

Electoral Registration Pilot Scheme (England and Wales) Order 2017 (SI 2017/610): following the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration (IER), this Order establishes a pilot scheme under the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 to take place during the annual electoral registration canvass in 17 local authorities in England and two in Wales. The pilot scheme models allow the participating electoral registration officers (EROs) to conduct their 2017 annual canvass in a less prescriptive manner. The pilots will gather evidence to establish whether alternative methods can be used to conduct the canvass that are just as efficient and more cost effective. This evidence will be evaluated and used to assess whether the pilots support a case for permanent change for EROs to be given wider discretion over the conduct of the annual canvass. The Order comes into force on 30 June 2017 and expires on 6 July 2018.
See also the Electoral Registration Pilot Scheme (England) (Amendment) Order 2017 (SI 2017/606) that extends the earlier pilot scheme for a further year, to enable EROs to test these methods for a second year running. (26 April 2017)

Parliamentary Elections (Returning Officers’ Charges) Order 2017 (SI 2017/637): this Order, which comes into force on 4 May 2017, provides for payments for returning officers' services and expenses in connection with the conduct of parliamentary elections in England, Wales and Scotland. It revokes and replaces SI 2015/476. (3 May 2017)

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

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Environmental Protection

DEFRA: Local Authority Pollution Control – General guidance manual: guidance for local authorities on Local Authority Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (LA-IPPC) and Local Authority Pollution Prevention and Control (LAPPC) systems. It is statutory guidance under reg.64 of the Environmental Permitting Regulations 2010 (EPR); and helps them to understand the EPR’s main functions, procedures and terminology. (26 April 2017)

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

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Government Policy and Legislation

Dissolution of Parliament: Parliament has now dissolved pending the General Election on 8 June 2017, so all parliamentary business has ended. The State Opening of Parliament marking the formal start of the parliamentary year and the Queen's Speech setting out the Government’s agenda for the coming session, outlining proposed policies and legislation, will be on 19 June 2017. (3 May 2017)

LGA: General Election 2017 – Status of the outgoing Government's policies: this briefing identifies Government policy initiatives and projects relevant to local government, providing an assessment of their status given the General Election. It also provides an update on the status of key legislation (28 April 2017)

LGA: Local government priorities, general election manifestos: the LGA's offer to the next Government is that, as the most efficient part of the public sector, local government provides the strong local leadership and support that allows communities, individuals and businesses to flourish. This briefing sets out the policy priorities which councils would want adopted by each of the political parties in their manifestos in order to help local government better support their communities and deliver on the challenges facing the nation. (28 April 2017)

HC European Scrutiny Committee: Fortieth Report of Session 2016–17 – Documents considered by the Committee on 25 April 2017: the Committee looks at the significance of EU proposals and decides whether to clear the document from scrutiny or withhold clearance and ask questions of the Government. It also has the power to recommend documents for debate. The Committee is now looking at documents in the light of the UK decision to withdraw from the EU. This report, the final one of this Parliament, provides updates on the negotiating positions on a wide range of dossiers. (28 April 2017)

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

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Health and Safety

HSE: Council fined after member of public crushed by tractor: reports that Nottingham Crown Court has fined Nottinghamshire CC £1m and ordered it to pay costs of £10,270 after the council pleaded guilty to breaching s.2(1) and s.3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The prosecution arose after a disabled member of the public, who was on a guided walk in a park, was struck by a vehicle used for collecting branches. An HSE investigation found the council failed to implement a safe system of work for this activity, failed to train the workers to the required level, and also failed to supervise and adequately plan the work sufficiently in a public place and as a result put their own employees and members of the public at risk. (19 April 2017)

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

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Health and Social Care

Welsh Government: Phase 2 implementation of the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016: the 2016 Act establishes a new system of regulation and inspection which upholds the rights of Welsh citizens to dignified, safe and appropriate care and support. This consultation seeks views on improvements to the regulation of social care that will create a new, stronger regulation and inspection regime which will improve oversight of the whole service an organisation provides. It also seeks views on draft statutory guidance developed on compliance with the requirements set out in the regulations. The consultation closes on 25 July 2017. (2 May 2017)

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

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Housing

Homelessness Reduction Act 2017: this Act has received Royal Assent and comes into force on a day, or days, to be appointed. It makes changes to the current homelessness legislation contained in Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996, and to the Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) (England) Order 2012. It places duties on local housing authorities to intervene at earlier stages to prevent homelessness and to take reasonable steps to help those who become homeless to secure accommodation. It requires local housing authorities to provide some new homelessness services to all people in their area and expands the categories of people who they have to help to find accommodation. It imposes several new duties on local authorities, including: to take reasonable steps to help prevent homelessness for any eligible household threatened with homelessness; and to take steps for 56 days to prevent and relieve homelessness by helping any eligible homeless applicant to retain or secure accommodation; and new procedures and duties where an applicant has deliberately and unreasonably refused to co‐operate with local housing authorities. (27 April 2017)

Waltham Forest LBC v Khan (Housing - Selective Licensing) [2017] UKUT 153 (LC): the issue in this case was whether the local housing authority which had designated an area as subject to selective licensing of private sector housing, could have regard to the planning status of a house when considering an application for a licence under Part 3 of the Housing Act 2004. K, a professional landlord, had converted two properties into flats without planning permission; he then applied for Part 3 licences for those flats. The Council granted a licence for one year, with the intention that the planning status should be regularised within that period. K appealed, and the FTT decided that the licence should be varied to a five year term on the basis that the planning status of the house should not be taken into account when considering the terms on which a Part 3 licence could be granted.
The tribunal held, allowing the Council's appeal, that it was legitimate for a local housing authority to have regard to the planning status of a house when deciding whether or not to grant a licence and when considering the terms of a licence. Planning control and Part 3 licensing were not unconnected policy spheres in which local authorities should exercise their powers in blinkers. An authority could refuse to determine an application until it was satisfied that planning permission had been granted or could no longer be required; it could also refuse to grant a Part 3 licence, where it was satisfied that enforcement action was appropriate. The Council's solution of granting a licence for a short period to allow the planning status of the house to be resolved was a rational and pragmatic course which was well within its powers. The court ruled that the licences for each of the appeal houses should continue for two months, to give K sufficient time to make new applications and thereby avoid committing an offence by being in charge of unlicensed Part 3 houses, and to allow the Council to make a decision on those applications based on up to date information. (12 April 2017)

R (SG) v Haringey LBC [2017] EWCA Civ 322 (CA): SG, an asylum seeker, appealed against refusal of her application for judicial review of the Council's decisions that she had eligible needs for care and support under the Care Act 2014 but that she was not entitled to be provided with accommodation under s.18 of the 2014 Act in order to meet those needs. The judge quashed the decision, concluding that the Council's process was defective as SG did not an independent advocate to support her during the assessment process and it "did not ask itself the correct questions" during the assessment process. However, he declined to grant a declaration that the Council was bound to provide SG with accommodation under the 2014 Act. SG appeal's was based entirely on the judge's words in one sentence of his judgment in which he indicated that SG's eligible needs for care and support were accommodation-related and commented that such matters were "in any event … within the discretion of the local authority to decide". In preliminary proceedings, the court found that the proposed argument regarding a local authority's duty to provide housing did not arise out of the facts in this case or from the judge's findings.
The court held, dismissing the appeal, that it was clear that the two paragraphs in the judgment did not form any part of the reasoning that underpinned the judge's determination of the judicial review proceedings. The paragraphs were no more than passing commentary on an aspect of SG's case, which the judge expressly held was not an appropriate basis for determining the claim. (3 May 2017)

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

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Licensing

Durham CC: Taxi driver prosecuted after refusing to take assistance dog: reports that Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court has given a taxi driver a six-month conditional discharge, after he pleaded guilty to breaching the duty in s.168 of the Equality Act 2010 to carry guide dogs and other assistance dogs at no extra cost. He was also ordered to pay partial costs of £100 and a victim surcharge. The prosecution resulted from a test purchasing exercise with volunteers and their dogs to assess whether there was a problem in the area, after the Council received complaints by members of the public that guide dogs had been refused by taxi drivers. The taxi driver was caught telling a woman he would not take her fare because he had nowhere to put her assistance dog. (28 April 2017)

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

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Members

LGA: Councillors' Guide 2017/18: this guide provide newly elected members with the key information they need to know. It provides a useful addition to the support and guidance they will receive from their own council. The guide has also been formatted so it can be read on an iPad or tablet. (2 April 2017)

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

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Standards

EHRC: Voluntary principles on standards for political discourse: the Equalities & Human Rights Commission has published  a set of voluntary principles for standards in political debates. It is calling on all political parties to commit to ensuring that their members, whether as elected representatives, candidates or campaigners, refrain from any conduct which might reasonably be interpreted as: generating hostility, discrimination, prejudice or division; abusive or denigrating; promoting stereotypes; or using false, erroneous or misleading information, in relation to any individual or group of people on the basis of their actual or perceived protected or other personal characteristics. (21 April 2017)

Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police v Police Misconduct Panel [2017] EWHC 923 (Admin) (Admin Ct): the Chief Constable applied for judicial review of the Panel's decision that allegations of fact proved against a police officer, W, and breaches of the Standards of Professional Behaviour amounted only to misconduct and therefore the most serious penalty available was a final written warning. The breaches were that W had failed to record his possession of a soldier's MOD identity card and had attempted to dispose of it in a confidential waste sack at the police station. The Chief Constable contended that the Panel's decision was irrational. The issue was also raised as to whether the Chief Constable had capacity to bring such a challenge, given his role in the appointment of the Panel.
The court held, refusing the application, that the Panel found a failure to act with integrity but that the breach was not so serious as to amount to gross misconduct. Proper respect had to be given to the Panel's findings on the facts and their assessment of the seriousness of the breaches. It was possible to criticise the expression of their findings but despite that, the overall conclusions reached and the reasoning for them were apparent and comprehensible. Regarding capacity, Parliament had evidenced its intention that such disciplinary proceedings should be independent and transparent. The appointed Panel was sufficiently separate from and independent of the Chief Constable to enable him to bring such a challenge by way of judicial review. If that were not the case, then the claimant would have no remedy if a panel was to act in a patently irrational and unlawful manner. (4 May 2017)

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

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Traffic and Transport

Parking Places (Variation of Charges) Act 2017: this Act has received Royal Assent and comes into force on 27 June 2017. The Act aims to allow local authorities to more easily lower parking charges in areas for which they are responsible. It amends s.35C and s.46A of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 allowing for the amendment of the existing regulation-making powers of the Secretary of State in relation to the variation of charges of both off-street parking places and designated parking places. The Act provides for regulations in respect of the procedure to be followed for varying charges to make different provision for different purposes. It also provides that regulations can provide for local authorities to consult about their proposal to vary charges. This means that regulations can be made that provide for different procedures to be followed depending on whether local authorities intend to raise or lower their charges, potentially minimising the procedure to be followed when charges are being lowered. (27 April 2017).

DfT: Cycling and walking investment strategy: sets out the Government’s ambition to make cycling and walking a natural choice for shorter journeys, or as part of longer journeys, by 2040. The Government is investing £1.2bn in a number of initiatives to improve cycling infrastructure, provide cycle proficiency and safety training, and to support local walking and cycling schemes. Plans include specific objectives to double cycling, reduce cycling accidents and increase the proportion of 5 - 10 year olds walking to school to 55% by 2025.
The DfT has also launched a funding competition on innovation in cycling and walking. It invites organisations to apply for a share of up to £470,000 for innovative proposals that encourage more journeys by bicycle or on foot. The competition is open to individuals, groups and organisations. Industry partners such as local government, independent and third sectors can carry out the project on their own or with others.  Applicants must register their interest by 7 June 2017; the deadline for applications is 14 June 2017. (21 April 2017)

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

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Welfare and Benefits

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions v Carmichael and Sefton BC (Housing and council tax benefits - rent restrictions) [2017] UKUT 174 (AAC): this case concerning C's appeal against the Council’s decision on his housing benefit entitlement, is the current lead case in a block of some 170 further cases before the Upper Tribunal in which the claimants have received discretionary housing payments to help bridge the gap between their rent and their housing benefit entitlement following the application of the so-called "bedroom tax" or under-occupancy charge under the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/213).
The tribunal ruled that the First-tier Tribunal had reached the right conclusion by the wrong route. Its decision involved an error of law. The tribunal could leave its decision intact, given it arrived at the correct outcome. However, in the light of the wider repercussions of this case it would exercise its discretion to set aside the Tribunal’s decision and to re-make it in the following terms: C’s appeal against the Council’s decision was allowed; and C’s housing benefit entitlement was to be recalculated without making the under-occupancy deduction of 14%. The reason for so directing was that if the Tribunal or the Council were to apply this deduction there would be a clear breach of C’s Convention rights, contrary to s.6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998. (27 April 2017)

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

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