LA Spotlight

How will the Draft Building Safety Bill impact you?

Three years on from the Grenfell disaster, there are still many unanswered questions and issues to resolve over fire safety in tall buildings. This month the Government published draft legislation that it says will provide the ‘biggest improvements to building safety in nearly 40 years’.

The Bill puts in place “new and enhanced regulatory regimes for building safety and construction products, and ensure residents have a stronger voice in the system”. It also encourages a culture of accountability and responsibility amongst developers, property managers, and residents linked to high-rise residential and mixed-use buildings.

A Building Safety Regulator will be at the heart of the new regime, established as part of the Health and Safety Executive.

Together, measures in the draft Building Safety Bill, Fire Safety Bill, and Fire Safety Order Consultation are aimed at improving safety standards for residents of all blocks of flats of all heights, with even more stringent approaches and oversight for buildings in scope.  

Main elements of the Fire Safety Bill include a clarification that the scope of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (‘RRFSO’) ‘includes the external walls of the building, including cladding’ as well as ‘fire doors for domestic premises of multiple occupancy’. This places a legal requirement on building owners to inspect cladding, balconies, windows and fire doors in blocks of flats. All residential buildings over six storeys will be covered by its new fire safety regime, while sprinklers will be required on all buildings above 11 metres.

Where responsibility will lie

When new laws are in place, builders of new residential high-rise buildings or carrying out repairs or refurbishment will need to seek regulatory approval. The three 'gateway' stages will be planning permission, pre-construction and pre-occupation.

The client, principal designer and principal contractor will be required to produce and co-sign a declaration confirming that, to the best of their knowledge, the building complies with building regulations. Once satisfied, the new regulator will then issue a building registration certificate.

An 'accountable person' will have legal responsibility for ensuring that the fire and structural risks in the building are understood, and that appropriate steps and actions to mitigate and manage these risks are taken.

Local authority building control departments will provide a supporting, technical role where required.

Legal concerns

Investors and insurers are alert to the cost of remediation works and unlimited financial penalties that can be imposed if buildings are not compliant with the RRFSO. They require assurance that the appropriate fire safety management systems are in place and regularly audited.

The Government’s Advice Note 14 is aimed at providing clear guidance for building owners on what steps to take with regards to non-ACM materials on the external walls of their high-rise buildings. At the moment the Advice Notice is simply guidance, but it is anticipated that it will eventually become a legal obligation.

The note gives strong guidance to owners of buildings above 18 metres to take “general fire precautions” in their buildings and to make sure that external cladding and insulation wall systems are ‘safe’.

Scale of work required

Key concerns now are that over the coming months, the construction industry and other related sectors will need to act quickly to comply with substantial amounts of new laws, rules and regulations covering fire safety – with potentially large penalties for those who fail to adapt in time.

Furthermore, many social landlords and building owners are unsure about their potential liabilities around the substantial cost of removing combustible cladding and other unsafe materials.

The need to speed up the remediation and certification of high-rise buildings could not be more obvious, but substantial hurdles remain and it is likely that further legislation will be required in due course.

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Delivering Value

Corporate Insolvency & Governance Act 2020 enacted

The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 has introduced a raft of changes to Company and Insolvency laws directed at easing the burden on businesses during the COVID-19 crisis and giving them flexibility to enable them to continue to trade, and promote their chances of survival.

The legislation enacts three main measures, by way of amendments to the Insolvency Act 1986, the Companies Act 2006, and the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014:

The introduction of a statutory insolvency moratorium, to help companies maximise their chances of survival by giving them the breathing space to look at options for rescue while supplies are protected.

The temporary and retrospective suspension of the wrongful trading provisions in the Insolvency Act, to protect companies from aggressive creditor action and to support directors to continue to trade without the fear and threat of personal liability.

The temporary relaxation of filing requirements and the ability to hold virtual general meetings.

The Act has significant implications for local authorities and the arrangements authorities may have with their suppliers, tenants, and other contractors.  Should you or your authority need more support or advice on how the Act may affect your existing contractual relations, do not hesitate to contact us.

Publications & Guidance

Government “blind” to “extreme risks” of investment by cash-strapped councils
Public Accounts Committee | 13 July 2020
The Commons Public Accounts Committee says that some councils have exposed themselves to commercial investments which risk cuts in local services and a big bill for local taxpayers. Financial pressure on local authorities’ budgets, combined with encouragement to invest in commercial enterprises to bring in income, has seen risky investments in commercial property “balloon” 14-fold in three years, mostly funded by new debt. In this period local authorities spent an estimated £6.6bn of taxpayers’ money acquiring commercial property – over 14 times more than in the previous three-year period – with a further £1bn in the first half of 2019-20.  Summary, conclusions and recommendations and full report. And comment from LocalGov.

Local lockdowns: guidance for education and childcare settings
Department for Education | Updated 8 July 2020
What schools, colleges, nurseries, childminders, early years and other educational settings need to do if there's a local lockdown during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This update confirms the circumstances in which holiday, after school clubs, and other out of school settings, can operate in Leicester, and the affected surrounding areas, during the lockdown period.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for children's social care services
Department for Education | 1 July 2020
Advice about coronavirus (COVID-19) for local authorities and their partners to help support and protect vulnerable children. Updated to clarify that all primary and most secondary legislation remains unchanged and that we have made temporary and time-limited amendments to secondary legislation. We have added content on missing children, testing, technology initiatives and social care services for disabled children and young people and their families. We have also revised the sections on court, fostering and adoption to provide further information.

Libraries as a statutory service
Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport | Updated 30 June 2020
This guidance is intended to help councils in England and others in considering library service provision as a statutory service. Updated to include Service Recovery Toolkit.

Managing consultants: A guide for working with consultants in government
Institute for Government | 26 June 2020
Within the many millions spent on consultants in government each year, there are often examples of poor value for money. In some instances, that will be due to the performance of the supplier, but in others it is a result of the management of projects by government. This report draws on advice from current and former consultants and civil servants to provide practical tips for officials managing consultants in government. It does not pass judgment on how the government uses consultants, or whether or not it is a good or bad thing. It does not assess or analyse the approvals process.

Government outsourcing: when and how to bring public services back into government hands
Institute for Government | 18 June 2020
Bringing back services from the private sector to government hands can improve quality, increase reliability, and save money. This report identifies four circumstances in which the government should consider returning a service to the public sector: an unhealthy or uncompetitive market; the need for flexibility to make changes to the service; a lack of government commercial skills to manage an outsourced contract successfully; or a need to improve the service by integrating it with another.


Distribution of £500m Covid funding announced
Local Government Chronicle | 16 July 2020
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has announced how the latest tranche of Covid-19 funding for councils will be distributed.

Revealed: town centres with the biggest ‘super-Saturday’ footfall
Local Government Chronicle | 14 July 2020
Four town centres saw footfall higher than pre-lockdown levels on so called ‘super-Saturday’, analysis from Centre for Cities suggests.

PAC: Treasury borrowing clampdown ‘should not have been necessary’
Local Government Chronicle | 13 July 2020
MPs have accused the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government of “complacency” over the huge rise in council borrowing to fund commercial investments over the past few years and of being “blind” to level of risk this poses to the sector.

Ministry was 'blind' to council investment risks says watchdog
LocalGov | 13 July 2020
Ministers have been blind to the risk of commercial investments by councils, Parliament’s spending watchdog has claimed. Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Meg Hillier, said the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government ‘did not even bother’ to keep track of investments.

Council rejects criticism of investment strategy
PublicFinance | 10 July 2020
Thurrock Council has rejected concerns raised in the Financial Times over its investment strategy, which has seen it borrow more than £1bn from other councils. The report from the FT published in May, raised a number of concerns about the council’s investment strategies, and the extent of scrutiny and transparency surrounding them. In a report presented to an extraordinary council meeting earlier this week, the council defended its strategy, saying the approach has “significantly contributed to the provision of services against a national norm of service reductions and closures”. The report from the council said: “The investment approach to generating income to protect council services, began in 2014 and was supported by the unanimous agreement at full council of a new Investment Strategy in October 2017. “The implementation of this strategy has achieved, and continues to achieve, significant income giving the council the ability to protect services for the most vulnerable in the borough, provide time to reform services, provide additional services that are important to residents, and increase the council’s overall financial resilience.”

Council property investment boom reverses
PublicFinance | 3 July 2020
Council investment in land and buildings has dropped for the first time since 2011-12, according to data from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Provisional outturn figures in the Local Authority Capital Expenditure and Receipts report shows council spending in the segment has fallen from £4.5bn in 2018-19, to £4.42bn in 2019-20. This is the first time the investment figures in this sector has fallen since 2011-12, potentially indicating a slackening in the trend for councils borrowing cheaply to invest in commercial property for yield.

Norfolk County Council has agreed to regular scrutiny of its services for children with special educational needs after the ombudsman found it 'failed' the same boy twice. The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman had previously issued a report in October 2018 after it found the council had failed to provide a

LGA says ‘more is desperately needed’ despite funding package
Local Government Chronicle | 3 July 2020
The package of measures announced by the government to support council budgets is not enough, the Local Government Association has said.

County set to approve £102m waste contract
LocalGov | 29 June 2020
Norfolk County Council is set to approve a new six-year waste management deal with Veolia, worth £102m. If approved, the contract would save the council £2m and 47,000 tonnes of carbon a year. It would mean that no waste from residents would be sent directly to landfill, and all left-over waste being used to generate energy.

High Court gives green light to judicial review challenge over removal of children’s social care safeguards during COVID-19
Local Government Lawyer | 29 June 2020
Children’s rights charity Article 39 has been granted permission for a judicial review of the Department for Education’s removal and dilution of children’s legal protections during the coronavirus pandemic. The proceedings are to be expedited and a High Court hearing is expected to take place on 27 and 28 July. The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 – also known as Statutory Instrument 445 – were laid before Parliament on 23 April and came into force the very next day. The regulations made around 100 changes to 10 sets of children’s social care regulations. The SI is due to expire on 25 September “unless extended”. Article 39 said it had counted 65 losses or dilutions of safeguards for children in care, and children who could come into care.

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Place & Growth

What are the main implications of the Business & Planning Bill?

The Business and Planning Bill 2020 looks to make significant changes to the licensing and planning regimes in England, in order to support economic recovery and growth as the UK recovers from the disruption caused by COVID-19. The Bill was introduced by the House of Commons on 25 June 2020.

The planning amendments are introduced at Part 3 of the Bill. In summary, the reforms set out temporary changes to the law relating to planning in England, as well as new, permanent provisions for certain planning proceedings to be considered by means of more than one procedure. It is intended that the reforms will ensure that the planning system can continue to operate effectively and support the safe construction of new development following the impact of COVID-19.

The main change set out in the Bill is that planning permissions with expiry dates which range from 28 days after the date of enactment of the Bill up until 31 December 2020 will receive an automatic time limit extension to 1 April 2021. Planning permissions which have expired during lockdown (from 23 March 2002 up until the date 28 days after enactment) can also benefit from the extension, provided that they secure additional environmental approval from the local planning authority.

The planning reforms proposed include:

  • Modification of conditions relating to construction working hours, allowing developers to apply to local planning authorities to extend working hours temporarily;
  • Extension of the duration of certain planning permissions. Where a planning permission must be commenced between the date that the provisions comes into force and 31 December 2020, that deadline is automatically extended to 1 April 2021;
  • A separate time extension for planning permissions which have expired between 23 March 2020 and the date the new provisions take effect, subject to a process of environmental approval. Qualifying permissions are granted an extension to 1 April 2021; and
  • There are additional proposed changes in relation to outline planning permissions. The proposed changes extend the automatic extension regime to outline planning permissions and applications for listed building consent. As a result of this change, the procedural structures which the Planning Inspectorate can utilise in determining an appeal are no longer exclusive; it is now possible for the Planning Inspectorate to implement hybrid procedures, whereby (for example) an appeal can be partially dealt with by written representations and partially by a hearing or inquiry. This change should result in potentially new flexible approaches on the part of the Planning Inspectorate, which in turn should have the effect of expediting appeal timetables.


The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Wearing of Face Coverings on Public Transport) (England) Regulations 2020/592
These Regulations require members of the public to wear face coverings whilst using public transport (such as buses, trains, the London Underground, trams, aircraft and water taxis) in England to protect against the risks to public health arising from coronavirus, except in certain limited cases. Coming into force on 15 June 2020.

The Electric Scooter Trials and Traffic Signs (Coronavirus) Regulations and General Directions 2020/663
This instrument is made in order to enable a trial of electric scooters to assess their suitability for use on roads. Coming into force on 4 July 2020.

Publications & Guidance

A new era of social rented housing in England?
House of Commons Library | 13 July 2020
A key focus of housing policy in recent years has been on the overall supply of housing. There is broad consensus on the need to address the long-term under-supply of housing and various measures have been introduced to stimulate housebuilding. While supporting increases in supply, commentators highlight the need to deliver housing that is genuinely affordable to improve living standards and “loosen the grip of poverty.” This paper considers the case for social rented housing; barriers to its development; and prospects for a step-change in supply. It also provides a statistical picture of trends in social housing supply over time and geographically (including total stock, new supply, and sales and demolitions). Full report.

Renewing the transport system to better serve communities across the country
Campaign for Better Transport | 7 July 2020
The effect of Covid-19 on transport has been vast, but as the UK begins the process of recovery, the need for sustainable transport has only strengthened. In its new report, Covid-19 Recovery: Renewing the Transport System, CfBT outlines how the transport system can be transformed as part of a recovery programme to create jobs, tackle social exclusion, improve the environment and people’s health, and aid economic recovery.

COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | Updated 6 July 2020
Guidance for those managing community centres, village halls and other community facilities on safely re-opening multi-purpose buildings. Revised to reflect that multi-use community facilities can now open.

Regulating electric scooters (e-scooters)
House of Commons Library | 3 July 2020
This briefing paper provides an overview of the existing legal framework for electric scooters (e-scooters). It also analyses the arguments for and against legalising e-scooters on UK roads, drawing on the limited evidence from other countries and cities that have sanctioned their use.

Explainer: Local Outbreak Plans
Association of Directors of Public Health (UK) | 30 June 2020
The ADPH has developed this ‘explainer’ about Local Outbreak Plans to support stakeholders, the media and the public in understanding what they are and how they will work.  

A New Deal for Britain
Prime Minister’s Office | 30 June 2020
The Prime Minister has set out the first steps in the strategy to rebuild Britain and fuel economic recovery across the UK. Concentrating on investment in infrastructure and jobs including building homes, the NHS, tackling the skills crisis to mend the gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK, to unite and level up.

LGA responds to Prime Minister's plan to rebuild UK
Local Government Association | 30 June 2020
Responding to the Prime Minister’s plan to rebuild the UK following the COVID-19 crisis, Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “We are pleased the Government has pledged to invest in local priorities such as building homes and infrastructure, boosting connectivity and fixing roads. Local economies are different. Some require greater connectivity; some need to transition to new industries and others are short of affordable housing or adequate infrastructure. Investment in infrastructure will be vital, but with local control over how this funding is spent, councils can play a key role in providing genuinely affordable homes, fixing the nation’s roads, delivering high-speed broadband and high-quality mobile connectivity, boosting local economies, and tackling environmental challenges.”

Re-thinking local
Local Government Association | 30 June 2020
COVID-19 has redefined how we all think about where and how we live. Returning to the old normal is no longer enough. We need to reassess what we want from our local areas, public services, our communities and lives. What does local mean to our communities now? As we begin to look forward and rebuild, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not just recover but to go even further. This Executive summary will form part of a series of think pieces, written by stakeholders and think tanks.

Letter from Minister for Rough Sleeping on funding for emergency accommodation during the pandemic, and support for EEA rough sleepers
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 30 June 2020
Letter to all local authorities in England to update them on funding to support interventions for those placed in emergency accommodation, and support for EEA rough sleepers.

Street works permit schemes
Department for Transport | Updated 30 June 2020
From 1 July 2020, highway authorities must follow this guidance if they choose to operate, vary or introduce a street works permit scheme. The guidance reflects changes to the Traffic Management Permit Scheme (England) Regulations 2007 and the introduction of the street manager digital service for planning and managing roadworks.

Delivery of council housing: a stimulus package post-pandemic
Local Government Association | 30 June 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic will inevitably have a significant impact on the delivery of new homes across England. Whilst many construction sites across the country have now reopened, many remain closed or are operating at reduced capacity and this includes housing associations and councils. It is therefore imperative as part of the response to the pandemic that Government considers what steps, measures and reforms would support councils to work towards delivering a new generation of 100,000 high quality social homes per year. Full report.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Community Infrastructure Levy guidance
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | Updated 30 June 2020
In response to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), MHCLG has published guidance for local authorities on Community Infrastructure Levy matters. This guidance has been updated to explain the operation of the Community Infrastructure Levy (Coronavirus) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020 which were laid on 30 June 2020 and will come into force later in the summer. This guidance will be finalised when the regulations come into force.

Build, Build, Build
Prime Minister’s Office | 30 June 2020
Boris Johnson has announced radical reforms to the planning system. New regulations will give greater freedom for buildings and land in town centres to change use without planning permission and create new homes from the regeneration of vacant and redundant buildings. The government will launch a planning Policy Paper in July setting out the plan for comprehensive reform of England’s planning system.

Homelessness code of guidance for local authorities
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | Updated 29 June 2020
Guidance on how local authorities should exercise their homelessness functions in accordance with the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 from 3 April 2018. Local housing and social services authorities must have regard to this guidance when exercising their functions relating to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Priority need chapter updated to include Covid-19 guidance.

Coronavirus: A ban on evictions and help for rough sleepers
House of Commons Library | 25 June 2020
This briefing paper explains measures the Government has put in place during the coronavirus outbreak to assist households to retain their homes and to enable local authorities to tackle the specific challenges faced by rough sleepers. The paper is being updated regularly to take account of new developments.

The Fire Safety Bill, Committee stage, House of Commons: LGA response
Local Government Association | 24 June 2020
We welcome the introduction of the Fire Safety Bill (FSB) and hope it will be an important step in the right direction. We are concerned about some of the practicalities of the Bill, how it aligns with the building safety proposals the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is preparing, and the costs it may impose on councils and other building owners. Full briefing.

Mayor to consult on relocating City Hall to protect services
Mayor of London | 24 June 2020
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced a consultation on plans for the Greater London Authority to leave the current City Hall building next year and move its headquarters to The Crystal building in the Royal Docks. The move would save the GLA Group £55m over five years and would help the Mayor both to protect front-line services as much as possible from cuts and to invest in jobs, skills provision and other initiatives to aid the economic recovery from Covid-19.

Covid-19 recovery must address climate change – report calls on the Government to invest in indispensable role of local authorities
Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport | 23 June 2020
A new coalition is calling on the Government to support local authorities in delivering climate action. They argue that the UK’s net zero by 2050 target, set by the Government in 2019, can only be reached with the contribution of councils working at the local level.  A blueprint for accelerating climate action and a green recovery at the local level, examining how government can speed up climate action and implement a green recovery from coronavirus, has been published by the coalition of local government, environmental and research organisations.

How local authorities should enforce parking restrictions
Department for Transport | Updated 22 June 2020
Regulations for local authorities on how to approach, carry out and review the enforcement of parking restrictions. Update: Penalty charge notices can now be issued by post when enforcing parking and loading restrictions in mandatory cycle lanes using evidence from an approved camera device

100,000 social homes a year needed as part of COVID-19 recovery - councils warn
Local Government Association | 21 June 2020
The LGA says councils must be given the powers to build thousands more desperately-needed council homes, where they are locally needed and spearhead the national recovery from the virus. In a new report, Delivery of Council Housing – Developing a Stimulus Package Post-Pandemic, the LGA sets out a range of key issues and recommendations to government to deliver a new major building programme of social homes, including:

  • The Government should expand council housing delivery by bringing forward and increasing the £12bn extension of the Affordable Homes Programme announced in the Budget earlier this year, with an increased focus on homes for social rent. 
  • Right to Buy should be reformed with councils able to retain 100 per cent of receipts from the sale of homes under the scheme, the deadline to spend the money from sales should be extended to at least five years, and councils need the power to set the size of discounts locally. 
  • To increase the capacity of the building industry, which will have suffered following coronavirus, a skills and jobs strategy is needed to meet the needs of accelerating a social housing building programme.

Electrical safety standards in the private rented sector: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | Updated 19 June 2020
Guidance setting out how the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 affect landlords, tenants and local authorities. Updated to aid clarity. Changes have been reverted and guidance will be reviewed.

Investigation into remediating dangerous cladding on high-rise buildings
National Audit Office | 19 June 2020
In the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government established the Building Safety Programme “to ensure that residents of high-rise residential buildings are safe, and feel safe from the risk of fire, now and in the future.”

This investigation examines how the MHC&LG:

  • is assuring itself that it has correctly identified all the buildings which fall within scope of the Programme, and that they are being fully remediated;
  • is managing the pace of progress of remediation; and
  • has decided which buildings qualify for remediation funding, and how it has assessed risks outside the scope.

Councils encouraged to open outdoor markets
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 18 June 2020
The MHCLG has written to local authorities to encourage the opening of outdoor markets. Local authorities are encouraged to make use of traffic orders to pedestrianise streets to create more space for outdoor stalls and support temporary markets and outdoor eating.

Reopening High Streets Safely Fund guidance
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | Updated 17 June 2020
Guidance to help local authorities and partners to deliver activities supported through the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund. Updated to provide updated information on websites and Local Authority delivery partners; and an updated Table 1 containing activities that are in and out of scope of the Fund.

Towns Fund: further guidance
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 15 June 2020
This guidance is intended to enable towns to finalise their Town Investment Plans and work with MHCLG to agree their Town Deals.

COVID-19 grant scheme for businesses inequitable and supports fewer businesses in areas with high property prices
Institute for Fiscal Studies | 13 June 2020
A new report from IFS researchers – funded by the Economic and Social Research Council – examines the design of the grant and waiver schemes in terms of how eligibility for support varies across England, and how quickly, and how much, different councils are providing support. It finds:

  • Just a £1 difference in a property’s rateable value can lead to the amount of support differing by up to a full £24,300. This is inequitable.
  • Big differences in the proportions of properties eligible for support in different parts of the country due to interactions between policy design and local property values. This risks the scheme doing less to prevent enduring economic harm in areas with higher property prices.
  • Significant variation in how quickly councils have been able to pay out grants to businesses.
  • Councils will be left with at least £400m of unspent funding, where the cost of grants looks set to come in lower than the government estimated, which government might want to claw back.

New support for reopening and recovery of high streets
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 12 June 2020
The High Streets Task Force has announced new training, expert advice and online resources for high streets in England. This support is open to local councils and all organisations involved with high streets and will include free access to online training programmes, webinars, data and intelligence on topics including recovery planning and coordination, public space and place marketing. The support will form one part of the Task Force’s 4-year programme which will focus on the long-term transformation of town and city centres and helping communities reimagine and revitalise their high streets.


Sunak outlines £3bn green investment package
LocalGov | 8 July 2020
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced £1bn will be made available to improve the energy efficiency of public buildings, including schools and hospitals. The £3bn green investment package also includes a £2bn Green Homes Grant scheme to pay for energy improvements such as insulation for more than 600,000 homes.

Call for £5.5bn to level up access to urban green spaces
LocalGov | 7 July 2020
The prime minister has been urged to invest £5.5bn to 'level up' access to urban green spaces by a coalition of councils, city leaders and charities. New research by Vivid Economics and Barton Wilmore shows that a £5.5bn commitment to green infrastructure could deliver £200bn in physical health and mental wellbeing benefits. It reveals that 295 deprived neighbourhoods are 'grey deserts' with no accessible green space or trees.

Prime Minister promises ‘biggest shake-up of planning system since WW2’
Local Government Lawyer | 30 June 2020
Boris Johnson has announced a major review of planning law as a key component of the government’s economic recovery plan following the Covid-19 pandemic. The prime minister said that the government will launch a planning Policy Paper in July setting out its plan for a “comprehensive” reform of England’s planning system “to introduce a new approach that works better for our modern economy and society”.

Over 80,000 new homes will be lost in one year to Covid chaos
Shelter | 30 June 2020
New analysis predicts the pandemic will see 84,000 fewer homes delivered this year – with overall output dropping from 255,000 last year to just 171,000 homes in 20/21. Without urgent government action, the research carried out by Savills for Shelter, estimates 116,000 construction jobs could be lost by 2020/21 as housebuilding stalls. Under the worst-case scenario, the report also shows the government will fall significantly below its own housebuilding targets, with as many as 318,000 new homes lost over the next five years.  

Councils to prioritise social housing for veterans
LocalGov | 29 June 2020
Councils have been told to give priority to members of the Armed Forces and veterans who have poor mental health when allocating social housing. The new measures will improve access to social housing for those suffering from conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They will also ensure former spouses or civil partners of serving personnel will be given extra support when applying for social housing.

Government appoints Arup-led consortium for £3.6bn Towns Fund delivery
LocalGov | 15 June 2020
The engineering company Arup has been appointed to lead a consortium to help local authorities access the £3.6bn Towns Fund. The Towns Fund looks to support the regeneration of communities that have not benefited equally from UK growth, empowering 100 towns across the country to shape their own futures by granting them access to the necessary resources to plan and manage their public works projects.

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Devolution white paper announced for September

Reorganisation and devolution are very much a hot topic again with councils looking for ways to address the funding crisis which has been exacerbated considerably by the coronavirus pandemic. Minister of State for Regional Growth and Local Government Simon Clarke MP has stated that the government will be releasing a devolution white paper in September which will propose unitarisation of councils as a first step for negotiating mayoral devolution deals in the future. It will be interesting to see how this proposal is met by local councillors and some MPs.

Your views matter – LGA Code of Conduct for Members

The consultation on the draft LGA Code of Conduct for Members is currently open until 17 August 2020 - so there is still plenty of time to contribute to the development of what will hopefully be a more appropriate Code governing member behaviour moving forward, and in lieu of any indication from central government as to when they are likely to respond to the report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life all the way back in January 2019.


The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) Regulations 2020/684
These Regulations require the closure of businesses listed in Schedule 2, to protect against the risks to public health arising from coronavirus, except for limited permitted uses. They also impose restrictions on gatherings both inside and outside, of more than 30 people. The closures and restrictions last until they are terminated by a direction given by the Secretary of State. They also give the Secretary of State power to restrict public access to any public outdoor space. The need for the restrictions in these Regulations must be reviewed by the Secretary of State every 28 days, with the first review taking place by 28th July 2020. The need for any restrictions made in a direction given by the Secretary of State restricting public access to land must be reviewed every 7 days, starting with the seventh day after the direction is issued. Coming into force on 4 July 2020.

Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020
The overarching objective of this Act is to provide businesses with the flexibility and breathing space they need to continue trading during this difficult time. The measures are designed to help UK companies and other similar entities by easing the burden on businesses and helping them avoid insolvency during this period of economic uncertainty. Royal Assent 25 June 2020.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (Fire and Rescue Functions) (Amendment) Order 2020/641
This instrument amends The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (Fire and Rescue Functions) Order 2017. It authorises the mayor of the GMCA to arrange for those fire and rescue functions to be exercised by the deputy mayor for policing and crime. It provides for the police and crime panel to have oversight functions in relation to the exercise of all those fire and rescue functions, whether exercised by the Mayor or by the deputy mayor for policing and crime, and for the police and crime panel to be known as “the Police, Fire and Crime Panel” to reflect its extended remit. Coming into force on 26 June 2020.

Publications & Guidance

Local authority hybrid meetings in the light of the Coronavirus Pandemic
Lawyers in Local Government and the Association of Democratic Services Officers | 7 July 2020
This briefing has been prepared to address the question of local authority hybrid meetings and restrictions imposed by The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No.2) (England) Regulations 2020. It also covers gatherings outdoors. Comment from Local Government Lawyer LLG and ADSO warn on lawfulness of 'hybrid' meetings

A clear case for One Somerset – why one council is better than five
Somerset County Council | 7 July 2020
A new single council for Somerset would put an end to confusion for residents, give greater powers to local communities and free up millions of pounds that can be reinvested in frontline services – that’s according to a new report out today. The business case for One Somerset, published today by Somerset County Council, highlights a number of clear benefits from scrapping all five existing councils and setting up a new single authority.

COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of council buildings: Guidance for those managing council buildings.
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | Updated 6 July 2020
This is guidance for those managing council buildings. It signposts to relevant guidance on a range of different activities that can take place in these buildings, in line with the government’s roadmap to ease the existing measures to tackle COVID-19. Updated to include new guidance on gatherings.

Northamptonshire County Council: lessons learned from the second year of intervention
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 3 July 2020
Report by the Commissioners at Northamptonshire County Council setting out the lessons learned from the second year of the intervention. This report, by the Commissioners, follows on from the equivalent document covering the first year of the intervention and sets how they secured continuing progress at the authority.

Northamptonshire County Council: sixth commissioners' report
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 3 July 2020
Commissioners’ sixth report to the Secretary of State setting out the work they continue to carry out to ensure that the council is prepared for the restructure planned for 1 April 2021.

Comprehensive new funding package for councils to help address coronavirus pressures and cover lost income during the pandemic
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 2 July 2020
Major new support package to help councils respond to coronavirus announced as part of comprehensive plan to ensure councils’ financial sustainability for the future. And response from Local Government Information Unit.

Local authority capital expenditure and financing in England: 2020 to 2021 individual local authority data forecast
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 2 July 2020
Data for compiling the forecast estimates of local authority capital expenditure and financing for 2020 to 2021.

COVID-19 council funding gap widens to £7.4bn
Local Government Association | 1 July 2020
The Local Government Association is calling for the Government to urgently bring forward details of its comprehensive plan to ensure the financial sustainability of councils this year and next.

Financial scrutiny practice guide
Centre for Public Scrutiny & CIPFA | 25 June 2020
Produced by the Centre for Public Scrutiny (CfPS) and CIPFA, this guide provides guidance to England councils and councillors on how they might best integrate an awareness of council finances into the way that overview and scrutiny works.

Long-term recovery from Covid will be ‘seriously hampered’ without a reset of central-local relations
Solace | 25 June 2020
Solace conducted a survey of 112 serving council chief executives and senior directors/managers between 3 June and 19 June 2020, to gain a clearer understanding of our members’ views on tackling Covid-19 and the recovery ahead. Key points include:

  • A call for Central Government to involve councils more in the co-design and co-production of coronavirus recovery plans
  • Nearly half (46%) of council chief executives and senior managers said they were doubtful over their ability to recover their local economies
  • Three-fifths (59%) of senior professionals expressed major doubts about their ability to implement local lockdowns in their areas, while more than a third (37%) had doubts about successfully delivering the Test and Trace programme in their areas
  • More than three quarters (77%) said they were ‘unsatisfied’ about the level of funding being made available to councils to deliver/enforce local lockdowns, with the same number saying they were ‘unsatisfied’ with the information and guidance coming out of central Government

Guide for Audit and Risk Committees on Financial Reporting and Management during COVID-19
National Audit Office | 24 June 2020
This guide aims to help audit and risk committee members discharge their responsibilities in several different areas, and to examine the impacts on their organisations of the COVID-19 outbreak, including on:

  • annual reports;
  • financial reporting;
  • the control environment; and
  • regularity of expenditure.

Each section of the guide has some questions to help audit and risk committee members understand and challenge activities. Each section can be used on its own, although it is recommended that audit and risk committee members consider the whole guide, as the questions in other sections may be interrelated.

The guide may also be used as organisations and audit and risk committees consider reporting in the 2020-21 period when more specific and detailed reporting on the outbreak will be required.

The financial risk and resilience of English local authorities in the coronavirus crisis
Institute for Fiscal Studies | 22 June 2020
Local authorities across the country are among those on the front line of the coronavirus crisis. But geographical differences in demographic and economic structures make different parts of the country more vulnerable to different effects of the crisis – on health, on families and children, and on jobs and incomes. This means the demands and costs facing each LA will change in different ways and at different times. Moreover, differences in the extent to which each LA relies on different revenue sources, and in their financial reserves and commitments, mean they face differing degrees of financial risk and have differing degrees of financial resilience. This report is published alongside a spreadsheet dashboard that collates for each LA in England a series of indicators of coronavirus-related risks. It looks at the extent to which these risks vary and the degree to which they are correlated, focusing on LAs’ revenues and financial resilience. It also briefly discusses the extra funding that central government has made available to them to help them address these risks in the current financial year. And Local Government Association response.

Addressing cultural and governance failings in local authorities: lessons from recent interventions
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | Updated 16 June 2020
This short guide considers lessons about local authority culture and governance that can be learned from recent statutory and non-statutory interventions. It has been developed in response to requests, including from the Public Accounts Committee, for greater transparency for local authorities on the intervention process.

Addressing cultural and governance failings in local authorities: lessons from recent interventions
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 15 June 2020
Lessons about local authority culture and governance that can be learned from recent statutory and non-statutory interventions.

NALC and BHIB release new risk assessment guide for COVID-19
National Association of Local Councils | 10 June 2020
NALC and BHIB Councils Insurance have produced a new guide on risk assessment for COVID-19. The guide features guidance and information to help make risk assessments and directs to useful resources from the government and the Health and Safety Executive, with specific details on how to adapt your risk assessments for COVID-19. The guide also contains two templates designed especially for local (parish and town) councils that will help start risk assessments.

Local Government Association Model Member Code of Conduct Consultation
Local Government Association | 8 June 2020
The LGA is providing this Model Member Code of Conduct for consultation as part of its work on supporting the sector to continue to aspire to high standards of leadership and performance. And comment from Local Government Lawyer.


Race for reorganisation gathers pace in Surrey and Somerset
LocalGov | 10 July 2020
he race towards reorganisation is gaining pace with more plans emerging in Somerset and Surrey. Surrey CC has joined the raft of authorities looking at unitary proposals. A statement from the council leader, Cllr Tim Oliver, said: ‘With increased local powers and the right structural reform for Surrey, I’m confident we will deliver better services, more value for money and a simplified and more accountable system of local government for residents. Somerset has launched a consultation and business case for ‘One Somerset’, which would see the county and its districts scrapped in favour of a single authority after he wrote to the secretary of state at the start of the year mooting plans for a unitary.

Minister: Devolution could assist Covid recovery
Public Finance | 3 July 2020
Local government minister Simon Clarke said the government’s forthcoming devolution white paper will help the country’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking at the Local Government Association conference today, he reiterated the government’s commitment to more unitary authorities and elected mayors, as part of the most “ambitious devolution agenda” in over 70 years. The minister also said that further devolution will help to remove complexity of governance and reduce costs while making space for town and parish councils to be “genuinely empowered”.

COVID funding gap hits £7.4bn, LGA estimates
LocalGov | 1 July 2020
The funding gap created by COVID-19 now stands at £7.4bn, the Local Government Association has said.
Analysis of the June financial returns showed council incurred £4.8bn in extra cost pressures and income losses as a result of the pandemic. The association now estimates the cost to councils will now reach £10.9bn. After the £3.2bn emergency funding provided by Government, and a further £300m from clinical commissioning groups, it leaves councils with the £7.4bn black hole.

Sheffield devolution deal set to be passed by Parliament
LocalGov | 29 June 2020
A new devolution deal for South Yorkshire will be laid before Parliament today, handing new powers and millions of pounds of funding to the region. Sheffield City Region Mayor, Dan Jarvis, described it as a ‘landmark moment’. He said: ‘The journey to reach this point has been long and difficult. I firmly believe it is worthwhile, as it provides leaders in South Yorkshire the opportunity to transform our region. I am confident we will seize this moment to build back better, creating a stronger, fairer, greener economy and society.’

Report highlights governance failings at borough council
Local Government Lawyer | 26 June 2020
South Ribble Borough Council has suffered major failings in its governance with auditors having given ‘no assurance’ over two spending areas and criticised legal service procurement. Leader Paul Foster, who took office in May 2019, said the council’s combined governance report for 2018-19 and 2019-20, debated at this month’s governance committee meeting, “asks the council to recognise that there has been significant failings in the operation of the organisation and that certain individuals have, at times, disregarded controls put in place to act as checks and balances for the authority”. He added: “We’ve been able to get to the bottom of some of the issues that have hung over the organisation for a number of years and we are well on the way to putting these things right.”

NALC renews calls for power to suspend councillors for up to six months
Local Government Lawyer | 23 June 2020
The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has called on the Government to take “urgent action” to introduce a power for local authorities to suspend councillors for up to six months. The introduction of such a power was recommended by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in a report in January 2019 to the Prime Minister on improving ethical standards in local government. NALC has made its call after working with the Local Government Association (LGA) on the development of an updated national model code of conduct for all tiers of local government.

IFS urges government to relax the rules on council finance amid crisis
LocalGov | 22 June 2020
Finance experts have called on the Government to temporarily relax rules that prevent councils borrowing to cover day-to-day spending as they deal with the coronavirus crisis. The latest report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has revealed that, while deprived areas have been badly hit by the virus due to an increase in demand on services, more affluent areas are also struggling due to the sudden drop in income. Councils have said they need a further £3.2bn in funding to support them through the crisis, on top of the £3.2bn they have received so far, but the IFS warns it will be difficult to target funding effectively.

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Contract Management

E-scooter trial begins

COVID-19 has affected society in unprecedented ways. One of the more unexpected effects has been a strong governmental push to advance the legalisation of e-scooters for use on public roads. Whilst this has been on the cards for some time in accordance with the desire to promote greener travel, the COVID crisis has brought the topic to the top of the agenda. As part of a Government trial, it is now legal to use a rental e-scooter on the public road from Saturday 4 July. This will help commuters socially distance and travel in way that is more environmentally friendly than using a car.

Rental schemes for e-scooters are already well established around the world but there are some features of the UK trial that are worth noting. For example in the UK e-scooters are classified as Personal Light Electric Vehicles – meaning they are treated as motor vehicles. As such, users must have a driving licence and the rental operators will need to ensure an insurance policy is in place. The government intends to amend the Driving Licences Regulations to permit people to apply for a provisional licence in order to use an e-scooter, thereby opening up the pool of potential users to those aged 16 or over. E-scooters will be allowed to use the same road space as bikes, meaning they can use the road (other than motorways) and cycle lanes – pavement use is prohibited. Local authorities will be able to prohibit the use of rental e-scooters use in areas where they think their use would be inappropriate.

Local authorities wishing to allow rental e-scooters in their area must submit a proposal to run an e-scooter trial to the Department for Transport for approval. If approved, the trials should commence before the end of August and we have already seen a number of local authorities advertising market engagement opportunities and/or publicising their intention to conduct a competition to find an e-scooter operator. It is up to local authorities to choose the appropriate procurement route – for example some contracts may be entered into directly, others may trigger a requirement to run a regulated competition under Public Contracts Regulations 2015 or the Concession Contracts Regulations 2016 and some authorities may wish to use shorter than usual timescales. E-scooter operators would be well advised to ensure that they are positioning themselves to respond to market testing events and able to respond nimbly to quick procurements, or secure direct awards where this is permitted under the procurement rules.

You can read more on the e-scooter trial.


The Electric Scooter Trials and Traffic Signs (Coronavirus) Regulations and General Directions 2020/663
This instrument is made in order to enable a trial of electric scooters to assess their suitability for use on roads. Coming into force on 4 July 2020.

Publications & Guidance

Value of government Covid-19 contracts exceeds £4bn
Tussell | 4 July 2020
Contract awards related to Covid-19 surged past £4bn in June, with a significant number of back-dated awards published.

Regulating electric scooters (e-scooters)
House of Commons Library | 3 July 2020
This briefing paper provides an overview of the existing legal framework for electric scooters (e-scooters). It also analyses the arguments for and against legalising e-scooters on UK roads, drawing on the limited evidence from other countries and cities that have sanctioned their use.

Guidance on responsible contractual behaviour in the performance and enforcement of contracts impacted by the COVID-19 emergency
Cabinet Office | 30 June 2020
Non-statutory guidance for parties to contracts impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. This guidance was reviewed on 30 June 2020. The original guidance of 7 May will continue to apply and should be read together with the update of 30 June.

Procurement Policy Note 04/20: Recovery and Transition from COVID-19
Cabinet Office | Updated 25 June 2020
This note sets out information and guidance for public bodies on payment of their suppliers to ensure service continuity during the coronavirus outbreak and sets out the need to for contracting authorities to prepare and implement transition plans for an exit from the provision of supplier relief. Updated: banner added to give clarification for state-funded schools and post-16 educational establishments.

Government outsourcing: when and how to bring public services back into government hands
Institute for Government | 18 June 2020
Bringing back services from the private sector to government hands can improve quality, increase reliability, and save money. This report identifies four circumstances in which the government should consider returning a service to the public sector: an unhealthy or uncompetitive market; the need for flexibility to make changes to the service; a lack of government commercial skills to manage an outsourced contract successfully; or a need to improve the service by integrating it with another.

Platform to Business Regulation comes into effect
European Commission | 10 July 2020
The new Platform to Business Regulations (EU2019/1150) came into effect on 12 July 2020. The regulations, which apply in the UK despite Brexit, require online intermediation service providers (such as online marketplaces, software application services and social media services) and online search engines to comply with certain transparency obligations in their dealings with business that use them to sell to consumers. In particular, platforms must include certain information in their terms and conditions, or, for search engines, publish it on their websites. The regulations are intended to change operational practices to provide more transparency and rights for business users. The European Commission published a suite of materials on 10 July 2020 in order to assist businesses to understand the new obligations and how to implement them.


Council to bring housing management back in-house
LocalGov | 10 July 2020
Islington Council is set to bring the management of homes back in-house once its current Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract comes to an end. The PF12 contract with Partners, covering more than 4,000 council homes, is set to end in April 2022. A consultation with local residents has revealed 91% are in favour of the council delivering services directly. The council has now opted to being housing repairs and maintenance back in-house

Construction spend must deliver social value, argues report
LocalGov | 30 June 2020
Construction spend must deliver more ‘tangible social impact’ to support disadvantaged communities post-Covid, according to a new report. Published by the Institute of Economic Development (IED), the report warns there is a ‘high risk of social value becoming too diffuse and lacking focus’. From the Ground Up – Improving the Delivery of Social Value in Construction calls for an immediate step change in procurement, delivery and monitoring impact.

County set to approve £102m waste contract
LocalGov | 29 June 2020
Norfolk County Council is set to approve a new six-year waste management deal with Veolia, worth £102m. If approved, the contract would save the council £2m and 47,000 tonnes of carbon a year. It would mean that no waste from residents would be sent directly to landfill, and all left-over waste being used to generate energy.

Mitie and Interserve Support Services to merge
LocalGov | 26 June 2020
Outsourcer Mitie has proposed to merge with facilities management firm Interserve Support Services by the end of the year in a £271m deal. The combined organisation will become the largest facilities management company in the UK, employing more than 77,500 people.

Inclusive economies: Manchester City Council considering social value in procurement
Local Government Association | 23 June 2020
Manchester City Council has been considering social value in its procurement and commissioning as a way of driving a more inclusive economy for a number of years. In 2015, it increased its social value consideration from 10 per cent to 20 per cent. At the time, there was much debate around the right percentage weighting for social value and many councils applied weightings of just 5 per cent.

Manchester has six social value objectives against which all suppliers of goods, services or work are assessed:

  • promoting employment and economic sustainability
  • raising the living standards of local residents
  • promoting participation and citizen engagement
  • building capacity and sustainability of the voluntary and community sector
  • promoting equity and fairness
  • promoting environmental sustainability.

In 2020, Manchester is trialling an additional 10 per cent – taking its social value weighting to 30 per cent – on highways contracts. The additional 10 per cent is earmarked for environmental value, reflecting the council’s declaration of a climate emergency.

Blackpool Borough Council awarded £1.1m in tram depot construction claim
Local Government Lawyer | 15 June 2020
A High Court judge has awarded Blackpool Borough Council £1.1m in damages in a claim for alleged breaches of contract in relation to the design and construction of a new tram depot. The local authority had, however, been seeking more than £6m for remedial works. The background to the case of Blackpool Borough Council v Volkerfitz Patrick Ltd & Ors [2020] EWHC 1523 (TCC) was that the local authority had, in 2007, secured central government funding for a major upgrade to the tramway system, including the supply of a fleet of modern trams and the construction of a new tram depot at Starr Gate. The council claimed that significant parts of the tram depot as designed and constructed did not meet their intended design life of 50 years and nor were they suitable for the exposed coastal marine environment where the tram depot was located.


Stagecoach East Midlands Trains Ltd & Ors v The Secretary of State for Transport [2020] EWHC 1568 (TCC) (17 June 2020)
The decision by the Department for Transport to disqualify three bidders from procurement competitions for the South Eastern, East Midlands and West Coast Partnership railway franchises has been ruled lawful. The case involves claims by Stagecoach and the West Coast Trains Partnership (which includes Stagecoach, Virgin and SNCF) against the Department for Transport. The claimants challenged their disqualifications from the competitions, seeking damages and other relief, and contested the legality of the awards of the East Midlands and West Coast franchises to Abellio and First Trenitalia. Local Government Lawyer comment.

Essex County Council v UBB Waste (Essex) Ltd [2020] EWHC 1581 (TCC) 
Essex County Council was entitled to terminate a 25-year contract for the processing of household waste where the contractor was unable to pass acceptance tests. The judge held that defects that prevented the plant from passing its acceptance tests arose from the contractor's design and construction failings. Local Government Lawyer comment Judge declares council was entitled to exit 25-year waste processing contract, awards £10m+ in damages.


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Administrative Court quashes Academy Order

In the recent case R (Somerset County Council) v The Secretary of State for Education [2020] EWHC 1675 (Admin) (26 June 2020) , the Council has won a judicial review challenge resulting in the quashing of the decision of the South West Regional Schools Commissioner that a community middle school maintained by Somerset County Council is to become an academy and join a multi-academy trust.

In 2019, the Council carried out a formal review and consultation on the education provision in the Crewkerne and Ilminster areas of Somerset, as a result of the Council’s concerns that South Somerset’s three-tire school system of first, middle and upper schools was unviable. During the review, the Commissioner made an academy order in respect of Swanmead Community School on the basis that the order should not pose an impediment to any restructure resulting from the Council’s review.

The Council challenged the decision on a number of grounds, including that the Commissioner ought to have given further consideration to the impact of the academy order on the ongoing review and the fact that the order “severely curtailed Somerset’s options in terms of the entire re-organisation”.

The Court quashed the Commissioner’s decision to approve Swanmead Community School’s application to become an academy on the basis the decision was unlawful. It held that the Commissioner failed to have regard to the prejudicial impact of her decision upon the ongoing review process and had arrived at an irrational conclusion that there would be no negative impact on the review. The Court also accepted that the Commissioner had not properly assessed the viability of Swanmead Community School and had not given adequate reasons for her decision.

The case is interesting given the inherent difficulty claimants face in seeking to persuade the Court that decisions are ‘irrational’. The Court noted however that the facts of the case are “highly unusual” and the judgment should not be taken as giving “carte blanche” to parties wishing to challenge the making of academy orders generally, or that there was a general duty to give reasons when an application such as this one was approved.


Council wins judicial review challenge over decision by Regional Schools Commissioner to back academy conversion
Local Government Lawyer | 2 July 2020
Somerset County Council has overturned at judicial review a decision by the South West Regional Schools Commissioner that a local middle school should become an academy. In Somerset County Council, R (On the Application Of) v The Secretary of State for Education [2020] EWHC 1675 Mr Justice Fraser ruled against the commissioner in the High Court but said relations between the council and commissioner “seem to have deteriorated” and deplored the amount of litigation in which they had engaged. Somerset argued that the commissioner’s order that Swanmead Community School should become an academy and join the Bridgwater College Trust was wrong as it cut across a council consultation on school provision in the area concerned. It challenged the commissioner on six grounds and the commissioner argued that even if any were succeeded no relief should be granted since the outcome of its decisions would be unlikely to change.

Council persuades High Court judge to quash judgment in default in data breach claim after papers posted to empty office during lockdown
Local Government Lawyer | 2 July 2020
The High Court has quashed a judgment in default awarded against the London Borough of Tower Hamlets because pandemic restrictions had made it impossible to the council to receive the claim concerned. In Stanley v London Borough of Tower Hamlets [2020] EWHC 1622 (QB) Mr Justice Julian Knowles said the council “had not exactly covered itself in glory” by its earlier delays to the process but that it stood a reasonable chance of successfully defending the action, and said the claimant’s solicitor “exercised poor judgment” in posting the claim when the council’s offices had just shut for the pandemic. The claimant sued the council for breach of the Data Protection Act 1998, breach of the General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679), breach of confidence, misuse of private information, and breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

County council in legal action against Health Secretary over ‘ordinary residence’ determination
Local Government Lawyer | 25 June 2020
Worcestershire County Council has started legal action against the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in a dispute over which council should provide after-care services under the Mental Health Act 1983 to someone who has been detained on two occasions. Local Government Lawyer understands that other local authorities are considering joining the proceedings following a series of determinations by the Secretary of State. These determinations were published by the Department for Health and Social Care this week. A Worcestershire spokesperson said: “Worcestershire County Council can confirm that it has issued a claim challenging an ordinary residence determination made by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care in respect of local authority responsibility for the provision of after-care services pursuant to section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983. “The determination creates a level of uncertainty as to the legal position in identifying which local authority is responsible for meeting section 117 after-care duties and is contrary to the Secretary of State’s own statutory guidance on this issue. And Position statement issued by DHSC.

Property owners found guilty over illegal sub-division of building after ten year battle with council
Local Government Lawyer | 25 June 2020
Two joint property owners have been found guilty of illegally sub-dividing a building into seven substandard flats in a prosecution brought by the London Borough of Camden. The case dates back to 2010 when Camden first issued a planning enforcement notice. District Judge Allison was satisfied that both defendants were the freehold owners of the land, that the enforcement notice was lawfully issued and served and that there was a long standing failure by the defendants to comply with it. The council took enforcement action because the residential units did not provide an acceptable standard of living accommodation.

The decision offers a helpful reminder on the importance of good decision making: i.e. taking care not to pre-empt a consultation process; ensuring adequate notice of important proposed decisions is given; and ensuring proper consideration is given to established policy.

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