LA Spotlight

What lies ahead for 2020?

A belated Happy New Year.

With the new year we have a new Government with a significant majority that ought to allow it to push through a broader policy agenda. The Queen’s Speech on 19 December 2019 gave an early indication as to what might be expected. We have identified a few issues below that may have consequences for local government (it is not a comprehensive summary) but we will be following progress of these initiatives and forthcoming Budget and legislation.

Social Care Reform
As well as seeking cross party consensus (but we have been waiting for the Green Paper for 2.5 years) there is a positive statement that “The Government is providing councils with an additional £1bn for adults and children’s social care in every year of this Parliament. In addition, the Government will consult on a 2 per cent precept that will enable councils to access a further £500m for adult social care for 2020-21”.

A focus remains on home ownership but with plans to build a million homes over the Parliament, ambitions remain strong. Delivery will be key and how this links to proposals on climate change and energy efficiency is not explained. The standards of and methods of construction and how to ensure these are net zero carbon including their ongoing heat and energy is not outlined. Local government should note renewal of Affordable Homes Programme; a new Shared Ownership model; £10bn Single Housing Infrastructure fund (this is to provide roads, schools and GP surgeries but who gets access to and the right to draw down such funds could be critical and ideally ought to be locally and with councils at the forefront); and a Social Housing White Paper to come.

Business Rates
We await the Budget for more details on funding but there is a proposal for a fundamental review. It is recognised that this may significantly impact on local government, with little comfort beyond considering input from the sector.

The proposal to push for more English devolution may be welcomed. It would be great if any such push; any new powers; any further devolution deals encompass and relate to wider aspects of delivery including for example climate delivery with supporting funding. Within that context, it may be for regions to articulate what they want to deliver. That could be a way of linking some of the range of initiatives. There is reference to “better infrastructure” to “level up and connect every part of the country but no link to National Infrastructure Strategy nor climate emergency issues, and it is worth noting previous commitments to road infrastructure (pothole funds). How these policies and funding link to make places better will be a challenge for local government when interfacing with these various initiatives.

National Infrastructure Strategy
The plan to spend £100bn ought to offer benefit and input to local government but how, where and when and what interface with more possible devolution is to be watched.

The proposed Environment Bill has a focus on air quality and water with biodiversity. There is a suggestion to “increase local powers to tackle sources of air pollution”. That suggests there could be a role for councils. Further references may impact on councils’ existing waste contracts with reference to “seeking a consistent approach to recycling and introducing a deposit return scheme”. There is the proposal for environmental governance but no indication what that means for either imposing obligations or giving powers locally. Reference to “legally binding targets” do not yet target councils with responsibility.

Climate Change
It is stated that the first Budget will prioritise the environment. What that means for councils who have declared Climate Change Emergencies remains to be seen. With funding earmarked. For example £9.2bn for energy efficiency for homes, schools and hospitals what role for councils (in light of previous struggles to deliver Green Deal and get access to ECO cash). Query if this is intended for the new build or retrofit sectors? If retrofit, then who controls; who can bid for, and how can councils get access for its own stock?

The intention to develop electric vehicle infrastructure - so we are always within 30 miles of a charge point, will be an interesting challenge over the road network. Nothing stated as to councils role when many such schemes are already underway.

A new Parliament with new priorities. Many of the major themes in the Queen’s Speech paly to the needs of people and places locally but what funding; powers; obligations; new burdens may find their way to local government will undoubtedly change the lives of residents in the coming years.




New Year: New Strategy – so it would appear?

Will the start of the New Year bring much needed reassurance of financial stability within the local government sector? Well, early indications would certainly appear to do so.

Is this to lead to some revaluation of investment strategies for the next financial year? The development of a robust investment strategy requires a deep dive, not just into the financial stability of an authority but also consideration of the spotlight on effective governance and accountability.

In turn this must take into account substantive concerns raised during the course of 2019 in relation to substantive due diligence of prudential borrowing and the investment strategy.

The climate emergency poses challenges to commercialisation as reflected in West Berkshire’s potential sharp turn of its investment strategy. Fundamentally, this development, highlights the importance or a risk/benefit evaluation of a property based investment strategy, so as to ensure long term sustainability of the enterprise.

The scope of the investment options are vast and extend beyond traditional capital investment strategies in property. However, there would still appear to be ‘untapped’ income streams within an estates strategy much of which depends on geography.


News & Updates

South west launches growth alliance to rival Northern Powerhouse
LGC | January 13, 2020 [subscription only]
South west councils have joined together with LEPS, businesses and universities to call for an economic growth alliance.

CIPFA guidance prompts rethink of unitary’s £100m investment strategy
LGC | January 10, 2020 [subscription only]
West Berkshire Council is considering abandoning its £100m property investment strategy following an increase in the cost of borrowing, new guidance on investments and a shift in priorities after declaring a climate emergency.

Outsourcing boosts recycling rates
The MJ | January 10, 2020 [subscription only]
Outsourced waste collections are achieving higher recycling rates than in-house services, new research has suggested.

Councils are faring well on finance
The MJ | January 9, 2020 [subscription only]
According to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), the vast majority of local authorities are showing no signs of major financial stress.

HMT announcement
Gov.uk | January 7, 2020
Chancellor launches Budget process to usher in ‘decade of renewal’.

LGA announces Behavioural Insights Programme has awarded funding to eight councils
Local Government Association | January 7, 2020
The programme encourages innovation in local public services with the aim of changing behaviour to reduce demand on local services as well as improving residents’ lives.  Behavioural insights is a scientific approach that helps people to make better choices for themselves and society through interventions or ‘nudges’.

CIPFA launches local government Financial Resilience Index
CIPFA | December 16, 2019
CIPFA’s index data tool indicates that whilst the majority of councils are not showing signs of stress, around 10% councils show some signs of potential risk to their financial stability.

Analysis: English councils ramp up charges for services
PublicFinance | December 10, 2019
Council charges for services such as garden waste removal, funeral services and public lavatories have increased above inflation over the last decade, according to The Times.

Pride of place: knitting together investment strategies
PublicFinance | December 6, 2019
Analysis of local authority investment strategies, with particular focus on Warrington Borough Council’s Public Sector Social Impact Fund, as well as Eastleigh Borough Council’s house-building programme and property portfolio.

Future of children’s company hangs in balance
LGC | December 6, 2019 [subscription only]
After overspends on special educational needs, the future of Achieving for Children – the community interest company wholly owned by three borough councils – is to be reviewed by councillors.

Children’s services ‘close to collapse’, says charity chief executive
PublicFinance | December 3, 2019
The chief executive of charity Children England has said that the competitive market place in children’s services has brought the system “close to collapse”.

Council report casts doubt on emergence of competitive PWLB alternatives
Room 151 | November 27, 2019
A report by the London Borough of Haringey has voiced concern that the council lacks alternative options to finance its planned council housing programme following the increase in the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB) lending rate.

‘No evidence’ councils buying shopping centres out of area
Ellandi | November 25, 2019
This news item from shopping centre investment managers Ellandi shares an article from LGC, quoting Ellandi’s own research, which indicates that all shopping centre deals made since 2016 were for shopping centres in councils’ own boroughs.  The majority of these deals were made for regeneration purposes, with investment returns a “secondary consideration”.

Council buys town centre in £43m property deal
LocalGov | November 25, 2019
Knowsley Council acquires Kirby Town Centre for £43.8m, intending to regenerate the area.  This will deliver around £650,000 per year in business rate income.

LGA to draw up funding alternatives amid fears for ‘antiquated’ business rates
LGC | November 22, 2019 [subscription only]
The LGA executive committee has decided to explore a number of options for future funding of councils, in the context of concerns for the long-term future of business rates, and decline of the high street.

Council service spending grows by 1.9%
Room 151 | November 21, 2019
Government figures show that English local authorities’ total service expenditure reached £91.4bn in 2018-19, a 1.9% increase on the previous year and its highest level since 2014-15.

Five councils suffer credit outlook ratings downgrade
The MJ | November 20, 2019 [subscription only]
Moody’s has downgraded the credit outlook from stable to negative for Aberdeen City Council, Cornwall Council, Guildford BC, Lancashire CC, and Warrington Council, following the same downgrading for the national Government’s bond rating.

Councils’ income from business rates rises 5%
PublicFinance | November 20, 2019
PublicFinance reports that income from the levy for English councils rose by 5% in 2018-19 compared to the year before, according to the latest data released by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

A tale of two investment strategies
LGC | November 15, 2019 [subscription only]
Article describing the single workforce model employed by South Hampshire and West Devon BC, and their differing approaches to investment.

CIPFA issues property investment guidance
PublicFinance | November 15, 2019
CIPFA has issued guidance to advise local authorities on what is expected of them when they invest in property. Councils must not borrow more than or in advance of their needs purely in the interest of profit, the institute has warned.

Which councils are best?
IMPOWER | November 13, 2019
This annual report lists the most productive councils in England, defined as outcome value per pound spent.  Leicestershire, East Riding of Yorkshire and Wigan retained the top three places in the rankings.  Calderdale and Oxfordshire are newcomers to the Top 10. York was named the most improved council, followed by Cumbria, then Dudley.

What might your future local library look like?
CIPFA | November 12, 2019
Many people assert that libraries should be kept open, free and fully funded as a public service offering. However, against a backdrop of limited public resources, what does this mean for the future of libraries?

Dementia care costs to nearly treble in next two decades
London School of Economics | November 12, 2019
The cost of social care for people living with dementia will nearly treble by 2040, a report by the Care Policy and Evaluation Centre (CPEC) has found.  The research, which was commissioned by Alzheimer’s Society, shows that by 2040, while the number of people living with dementia in the UK is expected to nearly double (to 1.6 million), the cost of social care is expected to almost triple, increasing from £15.7 to £45.4bn.

Land of plenty: what agricultural land could do for councils
PublicFinance | November 12, 2019
This article looks at “whether county councils have missed a trick in failing to exploit agricultural land that could represent a solid, long-term investment”. 

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Place & Growth

Is your authority ready for carbon neutrality in 2050?

The new decade is a reminder that the deadline for carbon neutrality in the UK is creeping ever closer, and it is clear that climate change mitigation has risen on city leaders’ agendas.

On 10 January 2020, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) released its report on tackling climate change across the West Midlands, which includes a list of 74 potential actions that businesses, councils, residents and WMCA can implement to achieve carbon neutrality no later than 2041.

Actions include:

  • expanding electric vehicle charging points;
  • developing eco-friendly homes; and
  • exploring plans to introduce LED Street lighting.

Works carried out in the region in preparation for the 2022 Commonwealth Games will provide a good foundation with the expansion of the Midland Metro well underway, new and faster bus routes having seen an increase in users and plans are already in place to open up an old railway line.

We anticipate that climate emergency mitigation and the policies being set out now are going play a considerable role in shaping the plans for regeneration and growth in our cities and town centres going forward.

This topic will be discussed further in our ‘Governance – today’s issues, tomorrow’s challenges’ seminar, taking place throughout January.


News and Updates

Oxford councils propose UK’s first Zero Emission Zone
LocalGov | January 8, 2020
Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council have published proposals for a city centre ZEZ to reduce air pollution levels and tackle the climate emergency.

Lifting the borrowing cap – a key report by ARCH, CIH and NFA
ARCH/CIH/NFA | January 3, 2020
This report asked different-sized councils across England what was still stopping them building the homes their local communities need.  Despite the lifting of the Housing Revenue Account "borrowing caps", there are still barriers and constraints.

Further funding and expert support for high streets
MHCLG | December 30, 2019
The Ministry has announced the first 14 of 20 pilot areas to receive support to assist in rejuvenating their town centres, and is also seeking views in a survey on whether an online register of commercial properties would make it easier to bring empty shops back into use.

Britain's railways need to change
Campaign for Better Transport | December 28, 2019
The Campaign for Better Transport published a report, Future of Rail, which outlines a number of recommendations for radical improvement, including devolving management of regional routes to city authorities and sub-regional transport bodies.

West Midlands bus passenger numbers ‘rocket’ by eight million
LocalGov | December 19, 2019
The number of people catching the bus in the West Midlands has increased by almost eight million over the last year, after major investment in the network.  Changes include the introduction of low-fare zones, half-price travel for 16-18 year olds, new payment methods and apps, and investment in highways and junctions.

CCN outlines its post-election priorities, urging government to ‘level up’ and unleash the potential of counties
County Councils Network | December 18, 2019
A post-election analysis from CCN, which represents 36 county local authorities, shows that 43% of the new seats (22 out of 51) won by the Conservatives in England on Thursday are in shire counties, whilst 54 out of the 100 ‘left-behind’ towns identified by the government in its Stronger Towns Fund are in these areas.  County leaders call for their areas to receive a fair share of funding for public services, more investment in economic growth, and an extension of devolved powers to the shires.

Borough eyes community bond to fund green infrastructure
Room 151 | December 17, 2019
West Berkshire Council is considering participation in a pilot project to create a “climate change bond” to fund a green infrastructure project aimed at helping the district to become carbon-neutral by 2030. [A shorter article in The MJ states that the proposal was passed by councillors.]

London councils lack strategies and budget to rollout 5G, research finds
LocalGov | December 10, 2019
Research from Tech London Advocates has revealed that most London boroughs have no strategy for rolling out 5G, and none have budgeted for it.

Talk of the towns: the battle to support ‘left-behind’ areas
LGC | December 9, 2019 [subscription only]
Analysis of the central government response to the issues facing Northern towns, including the motivations behind the future high streets and towns funding streams, and some of the key issues facing town and cities that have been overlooked.

Garden Communities set to deliver over 400,000 homes
LocalGov | December 9, 2019
A report from Lichfields reveals that garden city developments are set to deliver over 400,000 new homes and associated schools, but only 3% of homes have so far been completed and many plans remain in their infancy.

Counting the cost of climate action
PublicFinance | December 4, 2019
As local authorities increasingly declare climate emergencies and aim for carbon neutrality, this article discusses planned projects and meeting the cost of initiatives in the face of continuing cuts to funding.

Urban Voices: UK City Leaders’ Survey 2019
Centre for Cities | December 2, 2019
Overview of the annual survey findings: Climate change mitigation has risen on city leaders’ agendas; Public transport is a priority; Housing supply remains a challenge; Funding and resources are needed; Leaders do not feel supported by the national government.

‘Greta Effect’ catapults climate emergency to the top of the urban political agenda
Centre for Cities | December 2, 2019
Urban council leaders and elected mayors now rank the climate emergency among the most important issues British cities face – but more than two thirds (69%) of council leaders and directly elected mayors blamed insufficient funding as a barrier to action, while almost half (41%) cited deficiencies in national government as an obstacle.

Divided and connected: Regional inequalities in the North, the UK and the developed world – State of the North 2019
IPPR North | November 27, 2019
Key claims made in this report: 2019 has exposed the country’s regional divides more than ever; the UK is more regionally divided than any comparable advanced economy; centralised governance is a major cause of economic problems in all regions; these severe divisions result from our ever-increasing interdependence; more devolution can help the North thrive and support the whole country’s future prosperity.

LGA and Health Foundation launch 'Shaping Places for Healthier Lives'
LGA | November 25, 2019
The Local Government Association (LGA) and the Health Foundation are inviting local authorities to bid for the new Shaping Places for Healthier Lives scheme, which will look to support and promote innovative ways of tackling health inequalities.  Five projects to be chosen in the summer will receive up to £100,000 per year for the next three years, funded by the Health Foundation.

Councils deliver 40% rise in homes with their own cash
Room 151 | November 21, 2019
Analysis of figures released by the MHCLG shows that councils funded the building of 3,069 homes in England during 2018/19 without relying on government grant.

Delivering change — improving urban bus transport
Centre for Cities | November 13, 2019
Buses are critical urban infrastructure, but the number of journeys made on them has declined in almost all cities apart from London for the past few decades.  This report calls for the following changes: Every metro mayor should take up the powers in the Bus Services Act to franchise buses now; government should provide a £50m fund for metro mayors to prepare the assessment for franchising; all cities should be given the power to franchise bus services, not just metro mayors.

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Governance & Reorganisation

What are the governance challenges for 2020?

What challenges lie ahead in 2020? Although it is very difficult to predict where we will be at the end of the decade, we can gain some insight into the shorter term. Following the recent election, Boris Johnson has been given a stronger mandate to plough ahead and “get Brexit done”, although quite how Brexit will impact upon the country still remains to be seen.

The headline figures from the provisional local government settlement make interesting reading, with the government stating that this represents “the biggest multi-billion pound spending increase for councils in a decade”, including £1.5bn of new funding for social care. Despite the welcome increase in settlement, many councils are still looking to increase council tax. However it is to be remembered that broadly speaking any increase above 2% will require a local referendum.

It would seem that the devolution agenda is again a priority, with a key pledge from the conservative manifesto to bring forward an “English Devolution White Paper” later this year, and to bring “full devolution” across England.

In addition to the above, there is also much within the Queen’s speech which will be of interest and potential concern for local government, including proposals on housing, business rates and the environment, and the briefing notes behind the speech make interesting reading for all concerned.

Last but not least, the climate emergency is one which spans across all areas of public life. More and more councils are turning their attention to how they can offset their carbon footprints, invest in green initiatives and bring benefits to their local areas. Councils will therefore want to consider how this agenda can be accommodated during the setting of budgets over the coming weeks. Whether this be by way of allocating funding to pursue clean air zones within city centres, restricting or even banning vehicle use within certain areas, investing in renewable energy sources, or pursuing energy efficient developments and new sustainable ways of providing energy, this is something which we all need to be thinking about. We are advising and assisting multiple clients about how this can be put into action, and you may be interested in our ‘Climate Emergency’ series of updates, the current edition focusing on funding and investment.


News and Updates
Citizens’ assemblies: a new dawn for democracy?
LGC | January 2, 2020 [subscription only]
This article explores the growing interest in citizens’ assemblies, best practice recommendations, how direct democracy can work alongside existing governance structures, and the necessity of managing expectations. David Hutton is quoted in the article.

Provisional local government finance settlement 2020 to 2021
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | December 20, 2019
This collection brings together all documents relating to the provisional local government finance settlement, 2020 to 2021, including the written statement to Parliament, MHCLG press release, and the draft local government finance report itself. Read the LGA’s on-the-day briefing, and see coverage in LGC (subscription only) and PublicFinance.

Brexit - LGA Briefing
Local Government Association | December 19, 2019
The LGA “offer this briefing to highlight the key opportunities and risks for communities and councils in advance of exit day on 31 January 2020”.  Key messages are around the themes: Brexit preparedness; UK Shared Prosperity Fund; Empowering communities; Skills; Inward investment; Empowering local areas.

Queen's Speech December 2019: background briefing notes
Prime Minister’s Office | December 19, 2019
The Queen’s speech was made to both Houses of Parliament, and these notes provide further detail.  Read coverage from LGC and The MJ (both subscription only), and PublicFinance.  The LGA has issued an overall response and separate statements in relation to the national skills fund, exported waste, business rates and education funding.

Government confirms commitment to preventing public institutions setting up their own international boycotts
Cabinet Office | December 19, 2020
A commitment to prevent public institutions from imposing their own international boycotts has been confirmed alongside the Queen’s Speech.  The move will prevent organisations, including local councils, from boycotting countries such as Israel.

Councils agree cross-county collaboration
LGC | December 18, 2019
Councils in Hertfordshire have agreed a memorandum of understanding to aid collaboration on strategic planning for development, infrastructure, transport, climate change, and the economy.

In a nutshell: What the election result means for local government
LocalGov | December 13, 2019
What does the Conservative election victory mean for local government?  This article outlines some key manifesto pledges relating to: devolution; infrastructure and transport; social care and health; towns and cities; housing; children; environment and immigration.

Surveillance Camera Commissioner reminds local councils of regulations
NALC | December 12, 2019
The Surveillance Camera has written to parish and town reminding them of the rules around the use of surveillance camera systems in public places, and the necessity to ensure that legislation such as the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, the General Data Protection Regulations and the Data Protection Act 2018 are observed.

Councillors' guide to handling intimidation
LGA | December 6, 2019
This guide offers “practical steps that you and your council can undertake to protect yourself as a person in a public position”, and covers topics such as how to handle abuse, both face-to-face, letters or online, and the legal and practical remedies, including the nature of the criminal offences involved.

Unitaries consider shift to committee system
LGC | December 4, 2019 [subscription only]
Both Herefordshire Council and Croydon London Borough Council are reviewing governance arrangements and considering whether to move from the cabinet system to a committee or “hybrid” approach.

Survey reveals local government scrutiny is the ‘poor Cinderella’ compared to executive function
Centre for Public Scrutiny | December 3, 2019
Initial results from the Centre for Public Scrutiny’s survey of scrutiny officers and councillors with an involvement in scrutiny revealed that scrutiny officers believe that the majority of scrutiny recommendations in the last year were accepted by local authorities, and nearly two-thirds overall agreed that scrutiny has an impact on the lives of local people.  However, only 31% agreed that there is ‘parity of esteem between the executive and scrutiny.’

Citizens’ jury seeks to put brakes on airport expansion
LGC | November 27, 2019 [subscription only]
A citizens’ jury of 25 demographically representative residents, set up by the Leeds Climate Commission, has made 12 recommendations to the council, including taking control of buses and scrapping the local airport expansion.  The recommendations will be formally responded to at a council meeting in the New Year.

Councillor fined, banned from public office over bogus signature on nomination paper
Local Government Lawyer | November 22, 2019
A councillor in Kings Lynn & West Norfolk was fined and banned from public office for five years after using a bogus signature on his nomination paper for last May’s election.

Leading the fire sector
LGA | November 22, 2019
The purpose of this guide is to provide fire and rescue authority (FRA) members with information on governance arrangements in the fire and rescue sector, and practical advice on how they can apply the principles of good governance – with a particular focus on effective performance oversight and scrutiny.

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Contract Management

How robust are your contract management procedures?

Recent case law has again highlighted the need for robust contract management procedures and adequate training for all personnel involved with the negotiating of contracts. In the case of Athena Brands Ltd v Superdrug Stores Plc,  Superdrug unwittingly committed itself to new contractual terms with a supplier (despite having an established purchase order process in place) creating a liability of close to £1m.

Athena Brands, a Fast Moving Consumer Goods Supplier had been in negotiations with Superdrug over the introduction of a new set of products into Superdrug’s stores. The disagreement between the parties centred around communications between Athena’s brand manager and one of Superdrug’s product buyers. During email conversation over the purchase and introduction of the new products the Athena brand manager sought confirmation that:

“[Superdrug] are placing orders and committing to the year quantity against all lines detailed below…”

The Superdrug buyer replied ““Please go ahead with the below”. The lines below being £1.3m worth of new products to be purchased over the course of a year. Failure of the new products to sell as anticipated led to Superdrug purchasing a smaller amount of the product than expected by Athena leaving it with costs of close to £1m.

Athena asserted that the communication from Superdrug’s buyer was a contractual commitment to purchase the amount of goods included within the Athena email and sought summary judgment for its losses. In defence of the claim Superdrug asserted that:

The emails were not a contractual commitment as it was not committed to purchase any products unless and until it issued a specific Purchase Order and in any event was not bound to issue an alleged minimum quantity;

There was no intention to create legal relations; and the Superdrug buyer had not actual or ostensible authority to commit to such a contract.

Superdrug’s defence was dismissed by the Judge as having no real prospect of success at trial awarding summary judgment for Athena on the basis that:

  • the buyer had been held out as authorised to negotiate trade terms;
  • there was no evidence to suggest that he could not negotiate minimum orders;
  • there was no evidence that his commitment could not bind Superdrug; and
  • there was no doubt that Athena had relied upon the confirmation and was reasonable in doing so.

Whilst relating to private sector organisations, this cautionary tale highlights the necessity of ensuring that both suppliers and staff are aware of who has authority to commit an organisation to a contract and that care must be taken when communicating via email, even when a “No PO, no pay” policy is in place.


News & Updates

Lost in translation: sustainability down the construction supply chain
LocalGov | January 8, 2020
This article considers PQQ sustainability data captured down the supply chain, from public and private sector clients down to raw material suppliers. It considers the types of sustainability information requested at each stage of the supply chain and asks whether they help meet the objective of building sustainable assets.

Annual local government procurement tops £23bn
The MJ | January 3, 2020 [subscription only]
According to data providers Tussell, outsourcing spend by the public sector increased by 17% on the previous year, with a total of £23bn contracts being awarded in 2019.

The Mid-Tier Contract
Cabinet Office/Crown Commercial Service/Government Legal Department | December 18, 2019
This collection page brings together the Core Terms, Mid-tier Award Form and schedules that make up the Mid-Tier Contract for high value, non-complex goods and services.  This is a template contract for high value (under £20m), non-complex goods and services. It is intended for use by procurement specialists and lawyers.

Deal-breaking contract clauses
LaingBuisson Care Markets | December 3, 2019 [subscription only]
In this article, UKHCA policy director Colin Angel examines examples of local authority contracts that are likely to present ‘deal breakers’ for homecare providers.  The author argues that there needs to be greater understanding of the commercial implications of contracts and better dialogue between councils and providers before contracts are finalised and issued.

Carnegie UK Trust launches new Guide to Good Work Procurement
Carnegie UK Trust | December 6, 2019
The new Guide to Supporting Better Work through Procurement is a bite-size guide intended to help public bodies use their procurement powers to develop effective good work procurement strategies and support the provision of ‘good jobs’ in their local area.  The guide is based on two years of regional development work in the North East of England and learning from national examples.

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Asbestos Disease Claims: tracing insurance liability insurers

The statistics about asbestos disease make uncomfortable reading. There are close to 2,500 mesothelioma deaths each year and a similar number due to asbestos-related lung cancer according to the Health and Safety Executive. Asbestos-related diseases have long latency periods after exposure, taking typically 20 to 50 years for symptoms to manifest. The continuing death rates reflect a legacy of widespread use of asbestos in buildings until its use was banned in construction in the 1980’s.

A recent Guardian article announced that 676 schools and academies had been referred to the HSE by the Department for Further Education, for not providing sufficient evidence they were managing asbestos in line with regulatory requirements. Schools are not the only facilities which can be affected.

Courts have fast track procedures for those Claimants with limited life expectancies, due to asbestos-related disease. Liability is often dealt with summarily, with significant interim payments ordered against defendants.

Finding details of employers' liability insurers from the time of employment in the 1960’s or 70’s and persuading insurers to indemnify however is often difficult and time consuming, leaving public authorities wholly or partially uninsured for significant value claims, with no guarantee of recouping those costs.

One client of ours had reported six asbestos disease cases to an EL insurer, which refused to cover them until we intervened on our client’s behalf with new evidence.

If you are having similar experiences, contact Adrian Neale and find out about getting the most out of the Employer's Liability Tracing Office (ELTO) database and how we can help you with insurance tracing and claims handling.


News & Updates

Met loses High Court fight with ombudsman
LGC | December 19, 2019 [subscription only]
Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council has lost a High Court case in which it challenged the report findings of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman in relation to special guardianship allowances.

Court rejects NHS trusts’ claim for millions in business rates relief
Room 151 | December 12, 2019
A High Court judge has rejected a claim by a group of NHS trusts that they should be entitled to business rates relief as charities are.  Had the ruling gone the other way, councils would have faced a bill of £1.5bn in backdated relief. 

Wakefield council ‘overcharging’ cabbies, court rules
LocalGov | December 12, 2019
Wakefield Council has lost its appeal against a decision that the fee it charges taxi drivers for a licence to trade is unlawful.

Council fined £500,000 after death of woman with dementia
LocalGov | December 10, 2019
Derbyshire County Council were fined at Chesterfield Magistrates Court, after admitting they had failed to provide safe care to an 80-year old woman who died a month after falling over at one of their care homes.  There was no up-to-date falls policy, as assessment of needs had not taken place, and there was a shortage of senior staff.

Dispute over empty properties and £10m+ in business rates to go to Supreme Court
Local Government Lawyer | December 6, 2019
Rossendale Borough Council has been given permission to appeal the Court of Appeal’s ruling in Rossendale Borough Council v Hurstwood Properties (A) Ltd & Ors [2019] EWCA Civ 364.  The dispute concerns a lease being granted to a special purpose vehicle for the sole purpose of avoiding business rates on an empty property.  There are similar proceedings pending and the total amount of business rates claimed is around £10m.

Council directly discriminated against couple with Sikh Indian heritage in provision of adoption services, judge rules
Local Government Lawyer | December 6, 2019
A County Court judge has ruled that the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead and Adopt Berkshire directly discriminated against a couple of Sikh Indian heritage in the provision of adoption services, on the grounds of race, when Adopt Berkshire told the couple that they would not progress their interest in adoption.

Court rulings leave councils facing significant compensation bills for water overcharging
Bevan Brittan | December 6, 2019
In Royal Borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames v Moss [2019] EWHC 3261 (Ch), the High Court ruled in favour of a council tenant who accused his local authority landlord of unlawfully overcharging its tenants for their water supplies. The judgment has far-reaching implications for social landlords across the country - including councils and housing associations.

Council fined over £1m after child suffers ‘life-changing head injury'
LocalGov | December 5, 2019
Hampshire County Council has been fined £1.4m after a six-year-old suffered a head injury after climbing on an unsecured street bollard, which subsequently fell to the ground.

Court of Appeal rules as "academic" proceedings on discretionary housing payments and contributions
Local Government Lawyer | December 4, 2019
In Rehoune v London Borough of Islington [2019] EWCA Civ 2142, the court chose not to exercise its discretion to hear an appeal challenging a local authority's policy of requiring recipients of discretionary housing payments to contribute to any shortfall between housing benefit and contractual rent. The court ruled that there was no public interest in hearing the appeal as it was not an exceptional case with wider significance.

London council sues contractors for £130m over ‘fire safety failings’
LocalGov | November 29, 2019
Camden Council is seeking costs from a group of contractors after the Chalcots Estate required evacuation in order to carry out work including the removal of combustible cladding.

Court of Appeal hands down key ruling on nature of 'secure accommodation'
Local Government Lawyer | November 29, 2019
In B (Secure Accommodation Order), Re (Rev 1) [2019] EWCA Civ 2025, the Court of Appeal ruled that  premises used to accommodate a 15-year-old girl became "secure accommodation" within the meaning of s.25(1) of the Children Act 1989, even though they were not designed as such, because of the use to which they were put in her case.

Battle over Cabinet decision to retro-fit sprinkler systems on tower blocks at cost of £19m heads to Court of Appeal
Local Government Lawyer | November 27, 2019
The Court of Appeal has given a local resident permission to appeal a High Court ruling on the lawfulness of a decision by the Cabinet at Birmingham City Council to fund the £19m retro-fitting of sprinkler systems to all the tower blocks it owns.

High Court judge says injunctions against street protests over teaching of “LGBT issues” at Birmingham school must continue
Local Government Lawyer | November 26, 2019
In the case of Birmingham CC v Afsar (No 3) [2019] EWHC 3217 (QB), a High Court judge has ruled that Injunctions restricting street protests over an infant and junior school’s teaching of “LGBT issues” should remain in place.

Court of Appeal rejects appeal by council over timing for review of suitability of accommodation where offer had been accepted
Local Government Lawyer | November 22, 2019
In London Borough of Waltham Forest v Saleh [2019] EWCA Civ 1944, the Court of Appeal ruled that in conducting a review of a homelessness decision under the Housing Act 1996 s.202, the review officer had to reconsider the decision in light of all relevant circumstances at the date of the review, and was not limited to a reconsideration of the facts as they stood at the date of the original decision.

UK government loses supreme court fight over bedroom tax
The Guardian | November 13, 2019
The judgment in RR (AP) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2019] UKSC 52, ruled that applying a 14% housing benefit reduction to RR was a breach of his right to home under the Human Rights Act.  RR’s partner is severely disabled, and the couple need an extra bedroom for her medical equipment.  “The Human Rights Act is an act of the United Kingdom parliament and takes precedence over subordinate legislation such as the regulation in question … This means that incompatible subordinate legislation must simply be ignored.”

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Governance - today's issues, tomorrow's challenges
28 January – Birmingham, 3 - 5.30pm
29 January – Leeds, 9.30 - 12.30pm

We will be hoping the mist clears over Brexit and plan to discuss a range of issues including:

  • A governance round-up;
  • Climate change Emergency resolutions;
  • Member behaviour issues;
  • Information Governance/Social Media;
  • Judicial Review update including consultation and Best Value requirements.

The sessions will last for half a day in or near each of our offices and will cover the latest developments around local authority governance and decision-making including case law, government policy, legislation and what’s on the horizon.


Collaborative contracts don’t work…do they? In Partnership with Blake Newport
3 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.

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