LA Spotlight

Risks to investment strategy

Following the autumn increase in Public Works Loan Board rates, local government remains sensitive to changes in its approach to raising capital and investment strategies. We are seeing some new strategies and approaches emerging, including the issue and use of bonds. However, with a new Government, a new Chancellor and a forthcoming Budget, changes may continue to affect the landscape. With that in mind there may be some concern to see the first reading of a Private Members Bill on 10th February, with the second reading due to happen on 12th June. The Local Authorities (Borrowing and Investment) Bill is a Presentation Bill (a type of Private Members’ Bill introduced without debate in the House of Commons).  It is one of 41 that Sir Christopher Chope has put forward this session (and the same Bill as he introduced in the last Parliamentary session that failed to complete its passage before the session ended).

In summary it seeks to make provision about the acquisition of land and property by local authorities in England outside their own authority boundaries; to limit the power of local authorities to invest in commercial risk-taking enterprises; to limit public borrowing by local authorities for non-core activities; and for connected purposes.

We will watch with interest!

The Bill coincides with a National Audit Report dated 13 February 2020 that raises issues on councils’ use of the permissive prudential code, in light of the acquisitions being made in the sector.

The Report raises questions about the extent to which the Department and HMT can rely on the prudential framework in its present form to support value-for-money decision-making in the current legal and financial context. It calls to strengthen the framework oversight and develop methods for more timely, flexible and targeted intervention when required.

More pressure is likely to continue on the potential impact and the approach that councils take to borrowing and investment.  If you are looking for a possible solution, we are currently advising on bond issues which can offer an alternative.




Where next for leisure centre facilities?

Investment in leisure facilities is back in the spotlight (Nearly two thirds of leisure centres in need of urgent investment) with latest figures from Sport England highlighting the dire state of the public leisure estate across the country. Many leisure facilities built more than three to four decades ago are no longer fit for purpose. In the meantime authorities are grappling with the need to source capital investment to support health and wellbeing duties.

Leisure being a discretionary service and as a result, has received a limited amount of investment over recent years.  Historically, leisure services tend to have been operated in-house, but since the 1990s local authorities have increasingly sought to make significant savings through outsourcing via an alternative service delivery vehicle, and service restructuring to manage and operate these services.

Jeremy Hunt’s reflection on the Health & Social Care Act 2020 illustrates the need for there to be a central mechanism to facilitate health and social care integration. The link between public health prevention and reducing the pressures on acute healthcare provision is well understood, however, funding the prevention agenda is yet to be addressed at scale.

In our experience, local authorities continue implement a broad range of structures (ranging from design, build, operate and maintain contracts to the establishment of leisure trusts) to seek to drive investment and improve the level of service provision. Indeed, the use public private collaboration within leisure and culture is well trodden path for many authorities. The potential for larger scale collaboration between authorities to take advantage of the economies of scale needs to be consideration. Investment is required from the public sector as well as the wider economy in order to drive improvement on a national scale.


Publications & Guidance

The new public health role of local authorities
Department of Health | Updated January 27, 2020

This note sets out the Department’s vision for public health in local government and the new legal arrangements. The original note outlined arrangements designed to allow local authorities to have confidence in the director of public health appointments they make, and to build on their own good practice while meeting national requirements.



Building a new housing approach
The MJ | February 6, 2020 [Subscription only]
The rise in council-led housing companies, and the lifting of the Housing Revenue Accounting borrowing cap in 2018 has heralded a new era in building for local authorities.

The Royal Town Planning Institute has published a practice advice note on how local authority planners can support delivery and ensure applications are properly scrutinised.

Temporary accommodation industry worth £1.2bn
LocalGov | February 4, 2020
An investigation by Housing charity Shelter found that the amount of money being paid to private accommodation providers has nearly doubled in the past five years, from £490m in 2013/14 to £939m in 2018/19. The number of homeless households living in private temporary accommodation has only increased by 46%, which suggests that the charge to councils has risen disproportionately.

Number of schools commissioning mental health support “doubles”
LocalGov | February 3, 2020
A survey published by school union NAHT has revealed that the number of schools in England providing support for students’ emotional and mental wellbeing has risen from 36% to 66% since 2016.

Flagship £25m regeneration project rescued
The MJ | January 31, 2020 [Subscription only]
Basildon Borough Council has successfully rescued a major regeneration project following the collapse of its construction contractor. The East Square contract to build a 10-screen cinema and six restaurants will now go to McLaren Construction.

Mets set to benefit overall from funding review
LGC | January 31, 2020 [Subscription only]
Metropolitan districts are set to benefit from the government's fair funding review overall, expert analysis obtained by LGC suggests.  This is contrary to recent claims that they would lose as more affluent county council areas gained.

The Local Government Association responds to the reintroduction of the Environment Bill
LGA | January 30, 2020
Responding to the reintroduction of the Environment Bill to Parliament today, the Local Government Association’s Environment spokesman said:

“To help councils increase recycling rates, residents need to recycle as much as they can at home, manufacturers need to use packaging that is fully and easily recyclable and government needs to ensure producers pay the full cost of recycling packaging. More importantly, manufacturers need to reduce waste at the point of source to stop unnecessary and unrecyclable material becoming an issue in the first place

Enfield closes care company
The MJ | January 30, 2020 [Subscription only]
Services will now be run in-house after the council found that the company that was established in 2016 to provide adult social care services had failed to generate sufficient commercial income.

Funding per pupil to “increase”, PM says
LocalGov | January 30, 2020
Local authorities will be required by law to make sure every school receives the full amount of the minimum levels of funding pledged for each pupil, the prime minister has announced.

New legislation presented to Parliament today means that every secondary school has been guaranteed at least £5,000 per pupil next year, and every primary school at least £3,750 per pupil, rising to £4,000 the following year

A strong future for SEND services
LocalGov | January 29, 2020
Describes how two non-IT people delivered a successful SEND digital transformation project for the Bi-Borough of Westminster City Council and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. The vision of the project is to increase the efficient use of resources to deliver against statutory requirements by reducing the administrative burden on our staff, in turn releasing more time to focus on engaging with children, young people and their families.

Hertfordshire’s growing gains
The MJ | January 28, 2020 [Subscription only]
The Hertfordshire Growth Board involves the county’s 10 district and borough councils, as well as the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Board. The Board’s main aim is to respond to major challenges facing the county in the future by providing effective place leadership and governance, and being the single point of contact regarding the delivery for their place ambitions with central government.

Cyber Central transformation
The MJ | January 28, 2020 [Subscription only]
Cyber Central is the working title a new high-tech community based in Cheltenham. It aims to bring together a cyber business park with research and development opportunities, residential homes and a range of leisure and community facilities, all on one site. It will build on the existing business and academic eco-system that has grown up around the area to provide services for the Government’s intelligence and security operations.

LGA responds to IPPR report on digital inclusion
Local Government Association | January 24, 2020
The LGA believes that councils are at the heart of their communities and making sure that everyone can benefit from the digital revolution is key and councils are trying to embed digital inclusion into the heart of everything they do.  As part of the LGA’s wider sector-led improvement offer, our Digital Inclusion Programme is helping councils to reach out and provide a vital service for residents who don’t have access or confidence to use digital.

Nearly two thirds of leisure centres in need of urgent investment
Local Government Association | January 23, 2020
New figures from Sport England, show that up to 63 per cent of sports halls and swimming pools are more than 10 years old. Nearly a quarter of all sports halls and swimming pools have not been refurbished in more than 20 years. The LGA is calling on the government to use the forthcoming Budget to introduce a £500 million funding pot for councils to renovate sports facilities.

Reading appoints leisure operator on 25 year contract
The MJ | January 22, 2020 [Subscription only]
Reading Borough Council have awarded Greenwich Leisure Ltd a contract to run their leisure services. The £40m investment includes designing, building and operating the council’s service.

Revolutionising mental health
LocalGov | January 22, 2020
Southwark is the first local authority in the country to make a commitment: to deliver 100% of the mental health needs of children and young people in the borough.

Rethinking the tech skills gap in local government
LocalGov | January 13, 2020
Local government in the 2020s is digital. Yet, according to research by Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), 40% of public sector organisations still do not have the right skills in place to adapt to ongoing digital transformation. The research states that skills shortages in the public sector are inhibiting the government’s capacity to adapt and are therefore putting halting the government’s drive to radically change the way it offers services to citizens through digital transformation.

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Place & Growth

HSE to establish a new Regulator 

On 20 January 2020, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick warned that the slow pace of improving building fire safety standards will not be tolerated, and announced proposals for new measures that go further to ensure  safety. The Health and Safety Executive will establish a new regulator “in shadow form immediately”, ahead of a full implementation following legislation.

The new regulator will have responsibility for:

  • implementing a new regulatory regime for higher-risk buildings;
  • overseeing the wider system for regulating safety and performance of other buildings; and
  • increasing the competence of relevant regulators and industry professionals.

The new regulator will be responsible for appointing a chief inspector of buildings and recruiting inspection staff, in addition to the new appointments the changes will also include increasing the responsibility on building owners for ensuring that their buildings are safe.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s report “Building a Safer Future”, published in June 2019, proposes that every building owner must appoint an “accountable person” whose duty will be to ensure that the building is safe during occupation. Such a significant burden means that this role is likely to be difficult to fill, particularly for large land owning entities. Mr Jenrick went further stating that from next month he will start to publically “name and shame” building owners where remediation has not started to remove unsafe cladding from their buildings.

The proposed changes come amidst calls for a new Fire Safety Act to come in to force, which would impose that any building that provides accommodation, such as hotels, hospitals and flats, be fire safety checked irrespective of height. It would also ensure that sprinklers are installed in all buildings that are 11m or higher, as opposed to the current 30m.



Business Rates: Retail Discount 2020/21 – Local Authority Guidance
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | January 27, 2020
This guidance is intended to support local authorities in administering the business rates Retail Discount announced in a Written Ministerial Statement on 27 January 2020. This guidance applies to England only.

See also Business Rates: Pubs Discount 2020/21 – Local Authority Guidance

Cities Outlook 2020: Holding our breath
Centre for Cities | January 27, 2020
The Centre for Cities report urges councils to take urgent action to improve air quality in cities after research reveals that more than one in 19 deaths in urban areas is caused by the pollutant PM2.5, even though the UK currently meets legal limits.

Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 Report: Government Response
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government and Home Office | January 21, 2020
This response sets out the steps that the government is taking to implement the report’s recommendations at pace as well as the wider work it is doing to make building safer.

New measures to improve building safety standards
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | January 20, 2020
The government has committed to delivering substantial changes in building safety. They have established the new Building Safety Regulator within the Health and Safety Executive, to be established immediately. The Housing Minister confirmed that the government will consult on extending the ban on combustible materials to buildings below 18 metres and we will seek views on how risks are assessed within existing buildings to inform future policy.



Combined authority re-defines “affordable housing”
LocalGov | February 4, 2020
The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has introduced its own localised definition of affordable housing, linking the definition to the real world incomes of people in the area rather than to local house prices. The new definition, which has been approved by the WMCA’s Housing and Land Board, is based on local people paying no more than 35% of their salary on mortgages or rent.

HS2: Government review “advises against cancelling” project
BBC News | January 31, 2020
The government's official review into HS2 "strongly advises against cancelling" the project, and says only building one section of the line which will link southern and northern England "doesn't make sense". The project is designed to link London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, cutting overcrowding on the railways and helping to rebalance the UK's economy. However, has faced criticism from both Labour and Conservative MPs for being over budget and behind schedule. The government will announce its final decision on the scheme next month.

Councils to fast track “beautiful buildings”
LocalGov | January 30, 2020
Councils will be encouraged to speed up the planning process for ‘beautiful buildings’ through a new ‘Fast Track for Beauty’ rule.  This proposal is part of the Government’s plans to ensure well-designed and high quality homes are common place and will promote health, well-being and sustainable growth.  The Living in Beauty report also calls for the planting of millions of trees and zero-carbon homes being built as standard within the next five years.

Environmental Bill to give councils “clear framework” to tackle pollution
LocalGov | January 30, 2020
Local authorities will have a clear framework for tackling air pollution with the introduction of the Environment Bill, according to the Government. The Bill, which returned to Parliament today, will ensure the environment is at the heart of all policy making.

Devolution talks underway in Leeds
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | January 29, 2020
Treasury Minister Simon Clarke will convene a meeting with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to discuss a deal that would see the region to take control of extra powers and funding from Westminster, giving them more responsibility over local services. He will be joined by Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry and the leaders of Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield Councils

Rough sleeping programme gets £115m funding boost
LocalGov | January 28, 2020
Funding for the Rough Sleeping Initiative will be increased by 30% this year to enable councils to deliver up to 6,000 new bed spaces.  Councils will also be able to use their share of the £115m funding boost to create 2,500 support staff to help vulnerable rough sleepers gain access to specialist mental health or addiction services.

Government pledges £500m to bring back historic rail lines, improving connectivity for communities across the country
Department for Transport | January 28, 2020
Long-isolated communities across the country will benefit from better rail connections that will level-up regional economies and boost access to jobs and education, thanks to a £500m fund to kickstart the restoration of lines closed more than 50 years ago.  To launch the scheme to reverse some of the cuts made in 1963, the government is also giving funding to develop proposals for re-opening two lines in Northumberland and Lancashire.

Brighton considers becoming a “car-free” city
LocalGov | January 28, 2020
Brighton & Hove City councilors are looking into the possibility of the city becoming ‘car-free’ by 2023.  The local authority’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee has requested a report that explores the feasibility and costs of developing a car-free city.

Nearly half of councils unsure of their carbon footprint, research finds
LocalGov | January 28, 2020
ECA’s freedom of information request found that 43% of local authorities do not measure all the energy used in their council-owned buildings.  Although 49 of the councils surveyed said they are aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030, 11 of these do not currently

Grenfell refurbishers knew cladding would fail, Inquiry told
The Guardian | January 28, 2020
Emails disclosed to the public inquiry have revealed that the architect, builders and fire engineer who worked on the disastrous Grenfell Tower refurbishment knew the cladding system would fail in a fire more than two years before 72 people were killed

Welsh government announces £90m package to revive “struggling” town centres
LocalGov | January 27, 2020
The Welsh government has announced a £90m investment package to revive struggling town centres across the country.  Around £36m of the Transforming Towns programme will go towards financing town centre regeneration projects, which could bring in a total investment of almost £58m.

Local authorities will gain access to £13.6m to help them take enforcement action to bring empty buildings and land back into use. Coastal towns will also get £2m.

So you’ve declared a climate emergency – now what?
Rob Whitman | CIPFA | January 24, 2020
Discusses the challenges arising from climate change, such as targets to be carbon neutral, opportunities for local government to take a greener approach to financial decision making, and the creation of more sustainable procurement processes.

Unique new housing vision for Lambeth
Lambeth Council Press Release | January 23, 2020
The future of housing services for more than 60,000 residents in Lambeth are set for a new direction after Lambeth Council signed a joint agreement with all 10 housing associations operating in the borough.  The Lambeth Housing Partnership ‘Memorandum of Understand’ was signed on Monday, January 20, and is the first of its kind in London. It aims to find more cost-effective and efficient ways of providing housing services, as well as addressing a range of issues including building new homes, tackling homelessness, improving safety on estates and boosting youth opportunities

Approval given for council’s licensing scheme
LocalGov | January 22, 2020
The Government has approved a large-scale selective licensing scheme in Waltham Forest.  The five-year scheme will apply to all private rented properties in 18 out of 20 of the borough's wards, and will enable the council to intervene to raise housing standards and reduce anti-social behavior.

Council chiefs call for help with £700m gap in bus fare scheme
LocalGov | January 20, 2020
Local authority leaders have called on the Government to help them support bus routes as the distance local buses travel drops to lowest level since the mid-1980s.  The LGA argues that an increase in fares – up 71% since 2005 – and a £700m annual funding gap for the concessionary fares scheme are contributing to the decline in services and bus usage

Council prepares to approve £306m investment strategy
LocalGov | January 20, 2020
Oldham Council is set to approve a multi-million pound investment strategy that will help them deliver 2,000 new homes in the town centre.

Manchester becomes “early adopter” of Hackitt Review
LocalGov | January 20, 2020
Manchester City Council has joined Birmingham City Council, Wandsworth Borough Council and Camden Borough Council to drive forward the recommendations to improve building and tenant safety

Councils losing £250m a year through business rates avoidance
LocalGov | January 17, 2020
A new survey by the LGA has found that eight in ten councils stated that they do not have sufficient power to tackle the problem. The LGA wants tougher legislation to close loopholes and reduce rates avoidance, as well as legal powers to enter and inspect non-domestic properties to verify information relevant to billing.

Government announces £8m cash boost for vibrant new communities
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | January 14, 2020
The Rt. Hon Esther McVey MP has announced that Communities across England are set to benefit from thousands of new, better-designed homes thanks to an £8m cash boost.

A total of £6m will be allocated to help new locally-led garden towns and villages’ progress plans to deliver up to 200,000 new homes.  An additional £1.9m will be given to councils in England to support new neighbourhood plans, allowing communities to get involved and have their say on the types of homes that are built and where.



Local Authorities (Transport Powers) Bill 20202
House of Commons | First reading January 29, 2020

A Bill to empower local authorities to introduce Workplace parking Levies with immediate effect and to impose penalty charges for moving traffic contraventions

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Governance & Reorganisation

Devolution is a hot topic

Devolution, devolution, devolution – firmly back on the menu since the start of the year. Meetings have taken place with government ministers in Leeds in relation to a deal for West Yorkshire, Leaders from Barnsley, Doncaster, Sheffield and Rotherham have agreed to work towards a devolution deal for South Yorkshire, and pressure is building to the West in Lancashire and Cumbria with calls to central government for options for cross county boundaries to be considered. Those not already in discussions with neighbouring authorities about the potential for devolution might want to commence (or recommence) discussions ready for the government’s proposed white paper due later this year.

The other topic on the minds of Councils is again addressing the inevitability of funding shortfalls - with rises in council tax and additional precept for adult social care being proposed, as well as continuing raids on reserves and increases in borrowing. This is despite central government’s provisional settlement being heralded as “the biggest multi-billion pound spending increase for councils in a decade”, not to overlook of course that central grants to local authorities have been cut by 60% over the last decade.



Local Government Finance Report 2020 to 2021
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government | 6 February, 2020
This report sets out the aspects of the settlement which will require specific approval by the House of Commons, including the amount and basis of distribution of the revenue support grant in 2020 to 2021.

Northamptonshire county council: fourth commissioners’ report
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government | January 28, 2020
Commissioners’ fourth report setting out the work they continue to carry out to sustain a balanced budget at the council and to support the new shadow authorities.

High Speed Two: A progress update
National Audit Office | January 24, 2020
This is the NAO’s fourth report, and examines whether the Department and HS2 Ltd have protected value for money in their stewardship of the programme so far, and the risks to value for money in the future. The report assesses:

  • the progress of the programme since we last reported in 2016;
  • why the schedule is delayed and forecast costs have increased; and
  • the risks that the Department and HS2 Ltd must manage.



Councils warn of tax rises in struggle to balance books
Financial Times | February 5, 2020
97% of Councils looking to raise council tax and fees and charges, as well as implement further cuts to services in order to make ends meet.

Borough seeking unitary status sparks spending row
LocalGov | February 3, 2020
A row over council spending has broken out between a county council and a borough authority that is seeking unitary status. The leader of Basildon BC’s Labour administration, has written to his Conservative counterpart at Essex CC to raise ‘serious concerns’ that the borough was ‘not being prioritised’. This was a day after Basildon councillors voted in favour of preparing a business case for unitary status.

West Midlands towns set up boards to unlock £3.6bn of funding
LocalGov | January 31, 2020
Newcastle-under-Lyme and Kidsgrove are forging ahead with plans to unlock millions of pounds of Government investment designed to give towns a boost.  Two new boards have been set up to develop proposals for ‘Town Deals’, which ministers say will be supported by a £3.6bn fund.

The boards are a partnership of public and private sector bodies, with council representatives joining leading figures from business, education, the Local Enterprise Partnership and the voluntary sector.

Devolution talks underway in Leeds
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government | January 29, 2020
Talks have begun in Leeds between government ministers and local leaders on a devolution deal for West Yorkshire.

Grant funding to local authorities
National Audit Office | January 27, 2020
This study is part of the National Audit Office’s programme of work on the financial sustainability of local authorities and focuses on the structure of the grant funding that central government provides to them.

Labour councils set to lose under new funding formula
PublicFinance | January 27, 2020 [Register for free access]
According to the LGA’s Labour Group  under the government’s new fair funding formula will result in cash being funnelled to shire counties. Metropolitan boroughs could lose almost £300m in adult social care funding.

Calls for further devolution to include cross county boundary options
Lancaster City Council Pres release | January 24, 2020
Lancaster City Council, South Lakeland District Council and Barrow Borough Council have built a strong partnership, including the designation of Morecambe Bay as an Arts Council Cultural Compact, following a joint bid last year.

All three council leaders now say there is the potential to go further, in the event that the Government considers local government reorganisation and the devolution of further powers.  They have written to Rt. Hon Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, calling for options that cross county boundaries to be considered.

This follows similar letters from the leaders of Lancashire and Cumbria County Councils and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, on the topic of local government organisation and devolution in Lancashire and Cumbria.

“Risky” Councils set to struggle to access PWLB alternatives
Room 151 | January 23, 2020
Industry experts believe that the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) could remain the only option to access borrowing for councils with poor credit ratings. Councils with known funding requirements are advised to now assess all funding options to find the best fit and the lowest costs of funds.

National Audit Office releases draft Code of Practice 2020
Accountancy Daily | January 21, 2020
The NAO has published the final draft of the new Code of Practice 2020, confirming more robust narrative reporting requirements.

Councils losing £250m a year though business rates avoidance
LocalGov | January 21, 2020
A new survey by the Local Government Association (LGA) found eight in 10 councils said they do not have enough power to tackle the problem. The LGA believes that councils require new legal powers to enter and inspect non-domestic properties to verify information relevant to billing and to request information from ratepayers and third parties.

Kettering to create town council
LocalGov | January 20, 2020
A new town council is to be created as part of local government reorganisation in Northamptonshire. Kettering BC will vote on a reorganisation order at a meeting in April that would create a town council covering Kettering in April 2021, alongside the new North Northamptonshire authority

Work to start on devolution deal for South Yorkshire
Public Finance | January 16, 2020
Leaders from Barnsley, Doncaster, Sheffield and Rotherham have agreed to work towards a devolution deal. A deal will go out for public consultation later this year following a mayoral combined authority meeting at the end of January.

Lancashire set to be first borrower from UK Municipal Bonds Agency
Room 151 | January 15, 2020
Room151 understands that the first issue is set to have a duration of five years, and will be a floating-rate note worth £250m to £300m, linked to the SONIA rate. SONIA is replacing the previous benchmark LIBOR rate after it was the centre of a manipulation scandal a few years ago.

Commercial income could be excluded from council funding calculations
Room 151 | January 14, 2020
According to a senior official working on the Fair Funding Review, the government is considering the exclusion councils’ commercial income from calculations on how much funding they receive from central government.  Stuart Hoggan, deputy director for local government finance at the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), said that the department is accelerating technical work on the review following the general election.

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Contract Management

Are you linking your Climate agenda with your Procurement processes?

The public sector is one of the largest buyers of goods and services in the economy – its procurement and contract management strategy are therefore a major factor in tackling the climate emergency. 

In local government, the procurement bill for most authorities amounts to hundreds of millions of pounds annually. According to the Local Government Association (‘LGA’), authorities spend more than three-quarters of a billion pounds on energy alone.

Their collective spending power, therefore, has the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions, increase sustainability in communities and places and maximise other co benefits, whether environmental, social or economic, including the development of more innovative and energy-efficient products.

In one of the latest series of articles focusing on climate emergency we look at the matters to consider both in the procurement stages and how existing contract can be reviewed to impose new green target and requirements, including through exiting continuous improvement obligations or through implementing a variation to the contract.

Exit day has also been and gone and the UK is now in a transition period until 31 December 2020 (unless extended) and negotiations will begin on the future UK-EU relationship.   References in contracts in relation to interpretation and territory will need to be kept under review to ensure that the wording refers to the correct laws or geographical areas.  But in practice, for those of us who work with, follow or advise on the public procurement rules, it is pretty much business as usual – at least during the transition period.  This includes continuing to advertise above EU threshold contracts in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). Susie Smith summarises the position here and the Cabinet Office has updated its note on post-Brexit public procurement:



Kier takes over interim Birmingham contract
LocalGov | February 4, 2020
Kier has been brought in to manage the 15-month interim highway services contract in Birmingham after Amey's failed PFI deal in the city.  Kier Highways will be taking on the city’s traffic operations, planned and reactive maintenance, inspections and winter services from 1 April 2020 to 29 June 2021. The contract is expected to be signed in late February.

Bath council takes back adult social care provision after repeated strikes.
Somerset live | January 21, 2020
Adult social care services are coming back under council control in Bath and North East Somerset after a protracted pay dispute. 

Scottish Councils sign £700m contract to “transform waste”
LocalGov | January 16, 2020
The 25-year Clyde Valley Residual Waste Project will see up to 190,000 tonnes of black bag waste diverted from landfill and converted to low carbon energy on an annual basis.

Union calls for Sanctuary Care homes to be brought “back in-house”
LocalGov | January 14, 2020
The union Unite is urging local authorities who have contracts with Sanctuary Care to bring them ‘back in-house’ after a criminal investigation was launched into one of its care homes. The union advises all local authorities who have contracts with Sanctuary Care to bring them back in-house and for Sanctuary bosses to improve pay and conditions for staff, which is not only the right thing to do but necessary to improve standards

Council saves £1m using AI to repair roads
LocalGov | February 4, 2020
Blackpool Council has carried out a successful pilot using AI technology to detect potholes and other damage via space satellite image capturing.  Since the summer the Council has filled 5,145 potholes and saved over £1m compared to using traditional methods.  It will now be the first local authority to roll out the use of AI technology to improve its road maintenance efficiency.

Local government finance settlement 2020 to 2021
MHCLG | February 6, 2020
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government published Local government finance report 2020 to 2021 (as applicable to England) on 6 February 2020. The report sets out the aspects of the settlement which will require specific approval by the House of Commons, including the amount and basis of distribution of the revenue support grant in 2020 to 2021.

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Deprivation of liberty – a change in law and a new code of practice

In October 2020, the Mental Capacity (Amendment) Act 2019 (‘the Act’), will bring into force the new Liberty Protection Safeguards (‘LPS’), replacing the current Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (‘DoLS’) regime. The aim of the new law is to give better protection to people who face losing their liberty because they lack the mental capacity to make decisions about their care. As the Act does not provide details of how the LPS will work, the Government will be producing a Code of Practice before the Act comes into force. The Code is expected to be issued in Spring 2020 and so there will only be a short time for authorities to prepare and effectively introduce reforms.

In short, the new regime will still require assessments that a person lacks capacity and has a mental disorder. In addition, the responsible body will need to assess that the measures taken are necessary and proportionate. A broader range of organisations, now called Responsible Bodies (including NHS Trusts, CCGs and local authorities), will need to demonstrate that is has consulted with a set list of persons regarding the arrangements and it will need to have arranged a pre-authorisation review by a professional that is independent of the person’s day-to-day care. In certain situations the pre-authorisation review will need to be completed by an Approved Mental Capacity Professional (‘AMCP’).

What’s new?

  • CCGs and NHS Trusts will have the power to authorise deprivations of liberty
  • Authorisations can apply to any setting and be made for 16-17 year olds
  • Care home managers could have a greater role in obtaining authorisations
  • AMCPs will have a crucial role

The timeframe between the issue of the Code and the law coming into force will be short so we recommend that authorities should be making early decisions on the roles of assessors and pre-authorisation reviews. Authorities will also need to appoint AMCPs and decide whether to buy in the services or appoint staff.  supervision and monitoring regimes may need to be developed to support care home managers. If procedures are not implemented properly, there is a risk of a person’s human rights being infringed. According to the latest NHS figures (2018-19) practitioners completed more than 200,000 DoLS applications but there are more than 130,000 cases left unfinished.

With no statutory definition of ‘deprivation of liberty’ within the Act, what is contained in the Code will be critical and authorities will have the opportunity to respond to the consultation document. There is still much debate about the increased responsibilities being placed on care home managers, and Responsible Bodies will want to ensure that the Code properly protects not only residents but also health and care professionals and staff.

If you would like guidance and assistance to prepare for the new regime please contact Simon Lindsay.



Council forced to raid reserves for £863,000 following successful Amazon business rates appeal
Room 151 | January 30, 2020
After a successful business rates appeal by online retailer Amazon, Cannock Chase District Council has had to take £863,000 from reserves to balance its budget this year.  A report to the council’s cabinet this month said that Amazon’s appeal was successful on three grounds – the original rating based on rental value, a survey of the building, and the impact of a ratings tribunal decision that ruled that raised chipboard decking should not counted as a mezzanine floor in the rating calculations.

Daventry District Council fails to tackle industrial noise complaint properly
Local Government & Social care Ombudsman | January 29, 2020
Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman report describes how homeowners on a new housing development in the Daventry area have been plagued by excessive noise from a nearby industrial estate because the district council has not done enough to investigate their concerns. The Ombudsman’s report found the council’s decision to close its noise investigation was not made properly

Appeal launched to prevent new Catholic school in Peterborough
Peterborough Telegraph | January 28, 2020
A City council cabinet member for education signed off on the controversial primary school yesterday (Monday), prompting three councillors to immediately call the decision in (formally challenge it). A large number of local residents feel the council has failed to either inform or consult them properly.

Council made “serious unsubstantiated” allegations about asylum seeker
Local Gov | January 23, 2020
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman conducted an investigation following complaints about Sandwell Council from a vulnerable woman seeking asylum. She had complained about the support received from the council and was being represented by a not-for-profit organisation. It was alleged that the council had barred her representative from meetings with the council, even threatening to call the police if the representative did not leave on one occasion. Link to see full report

Prosecutions of local authorities by the Care Quality Commission
Local Government Lawyer | January 17, 2020
In December 2019, the Care Quality Commission brought its first prosecution against a local authority when Derbyshire County Council were fines £500,000 for breaching their obligations to provide safe care and treatment.

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Brexit news


European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020
Royal Assent January 23, 2020
An Act to implement, and make other provision in connection with, the agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union which sets out the arrangements for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU.



Placement of looked-after children in EU member states
Department for Education | Guidance updated January 31, 2020
This advice document remains applicable until the end of the transition period, and local authorities should follow this process when dealing with requests from authorities in other EU member states to place a child into a children’s home or with a foster carer within their area.

EU Settlement Scheme: introduction for local authorities
Home Office | January 31, 2020
Advises how to support EU citizens who are applying to stay in the UK, and gives general information on the scheme.



Statement on data protection and Brexit implementation
Information Commissioner’s office | January 29, 2020
The ICO has confirmed that until the end of December 2020 it will be “business as usual” for data protection. They have updated their Brexit FAQs for companies and organisations that offer goods or services to people in the EU.

EU’s funding for UK’s poorest areas “must be matched after Brexit”
The Guardian | January 17, 2020
The Industrial Communities Alliance has said the new shared prosperity fund – designed to replace EU funding to the regions – needed to be at least as generous as the schemes it was replacing.

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Steps to insourcing/outsourcing or setting up Joint Ventures - Understanding your Insurance Liabilities and Indemnities  A CIPFA & Bevan Brittan event
3 March - London

Price: £195.00 excl VAT            CIPFA Network Member Price:  £125.00 excl VAT

This CIPFA Insurance Network workshop in partnership with Bevan Brittan will showcase how insurance and legal teams in public bodies need to adapt to the recent trend to insource previously outsourced services.


Collaborative contracts don’t work…do they? In Partnership with Blake Newport
12 March - Leeds, 4 - 6pm

What is the reality of collaborative contracts? In this session we will discuss the pros and cons – do certain standard terms encourage a more collaborative approach? Do they go far enough? How much is the success of a project dictated by attitude and process and how much is down to the contract terms?

This event will be an excellent opportunity to engage in insightful discussions with a variety of people from a cross section of sectors.


The essential legal briefing roadshow

24 March - London
21 April - Bristol
23 April - Leeds
30 April - Birmingham

An annual update on essential developments across the legal sphere in 2019-2020, designed specifically for in-house lawyers. 

Join our team of experts to hear recent cases and the practical implications for in-house Counsel.  Each session will provide you with an opportunity to pose questions to the panel and share insight with your peers in other organisations.

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