LA Spotlight

Ideas for maximising social value in the reset and recovery phase

Recent engagement with think tank Localis on their report - Brighten All Corners, has prompted some interesting thoughts in the forthcoming reset and recovery phase for public sector bodies. It was prepared pre-pandemic, but is quite prescient.

The Report argues for a new approach to maximising value from commissioning and procurement perspective, that in a coordinated way may ensure an increased and appropriately targeted return on social value. As we hear from councils that they will be seeking to stimulate their local economy, they will have other priorities too. The pandemic has highlighted a need to further support the young and those where inequalities have been exacerbated, such as through the digital divide. With local businesses needing to be supported too, any tools that may assist councils improving the value of their expenditure is worth considering.

The Localis report has at its heart, the idea of a Community Value Charter. Its creation would build on the good work currently being undertaken with communities and from citizens’ assemblies. Most significantly, it will allow councils to set out their needs as a “defined set of priorities” rather than have bidders present their ideas (which they may be implementing already) or which are not a priority. Offering immediate clarity to bidders about what is important to the council. This idea of “designing, implementing and evaluating socially valuable outcomes through the procurement process” and showing value to residents for the monies being spent, has many potential advantages.

We can see how this tool could be used as a start point for a revision to the approach of social value and to help meet some priorities and encourage locally based providers. We would be happy to discuss further, as we know Localis would too.


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Delivering Value

Commercial property - Forfeiture in the time of COVID

The Government has to date taken some steps aimed at protecting the position of commercial property occupiers by introducing a moratorium on forfeiture action for non-payment of rent and the various amendments made to the Civil Procedure Rules to seek to prevent or delay landlords seeking possession through Court proceedings. The Government has also announced further measures to protect commercial tenants from aggressive rent collection’.

Whilst these provisions protect tenants from landlords seeking to benefit from any adverse impacts of Covid-19, the Government may well have overlooked the practical difficulties its response to Covid-19 may have on tenants seeking to comply with conditions associated with break notices.

The question therefore has to be, in the current climate if a tenant is required to provide vacant possession on a break date (or needs to have complied with a repairing obligation or other potentially onerous condition), as a result of the restrictions imposed regarding Covid-19, does the tenant have to comply with break conditions that are affected or can they be ignored?

These difficulties have arisen due to the restrictions imposed by the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (which are mirrored in Welsh legislation). Whilst the Regulations impose various restrictions on businesses and the public, it is highly questionable whether the restrictions make it legally impossible for a tenant to comply with a break condition (cue the lawyers entering from stage left having academic debates regarding the implications of force majeure, frustration, illegality and a host of other potential avenues of argument). However, what is clear is that the combined effect of the Regulations may well make it almost practically impossible for a tenant to comply with a break condition.

Therefore, where does this leave a tenant with an impending break date? Unfortunately, the answer in all likelihood is: ‘potentially in some difficulty’.

It is well established that conditions in break clauses need to be strictly complied with. The Government has not yet introduced any legalisation which absolves a tenant from having to comply with break conditions, and any tenant with an upcoming break date should seek advice on any break conditions to ensure that they are fully aware of the requirements to satisfy the condition (potentially to the minimum standard required).

Even if it is not illegal for tenants to instruct companies to remove their belongings and/or undertake repairs, these companies may not have sufficient workforce in place (following furloughing or sickness absence), or may not be prepared to risk the health and safety of their staff in the current climate or the potential adverse publicity of continuing to operate when government guidance is ‘stay at home’.

A potential glimmer of hope is that the message from the Government to landlords regarding breaches of commercial rent terms is clear. The Government is seeking to protect commercial tenants during this period and expects landlords and tenants to work together to address issues arising as a result of Covid-19. With this clear message in mind, tenants who find themselves in difficulty complying with a break condition could consider approaching their landlord to discuss the issues and seek a resolution to the difficulties caused by Covid-19, perhaps by requesting a wavier of the requirement to comply with the condition.

Local Authorities have a wide property portfolio and will in all likelihood be both tenants and landlords of commercial property and therefore need to be aware of the difficulties highlighted above.


The Special Educational Needs and Disability (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020/471

These Regulations make amendments to secondary legislation relating to special educational needs and disability in order to provide exceptions to time limits set out in that legislation where they cannot be met because of a reason relating to the incidence or transmission of coronavirus.

Publications & Guidance

Coronavirus: Local authorities’ adult social care duties (the Care Act easements)

House of Commons Library | 6 May 2020

This House of Commons Library Briefing paper provides an overview of changes to local authority duties around the provision of adult social care during the coronavirus outbreak. The Coronavirus Act 2020 provides for a relaxation of local authority duties around the provision of care and support needs. The changes were brought into force on 31 March 2020, meaning that local authorities in England are now able, if they deem it necessary, to adapt their adult social care provision in line with the relaxed duties (referred to as the Care Act easements). The Government has published guidance for local authorities on when they should use the Care Act easements and how they should prioritise adult social care during the coronavirus outbreak. It has also published an ethical framework intended to “ensure that ample consideration is given to a series of ethical values and principles when organising and delivering social care for adults” during this period.

Coronavirus: Update implications for the further and higher education sectors

House of Commons Library | 6 May 2020

This House of Commons library briefing paper gives an update on developments since the earlier paper, Coronavirus: Implications for the further and higher education sectors in England, 17 April 2020 and includes information on the Government support package for universities and students which was announced on 4 May 2020.

Testing available for council workers

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 1 May 2020

All essential workers with symptoms of coronavirus can now be tested. This includes council workers such as those working in social care, benefits payments or with vulnerable people.

Changes to the law on education, health and care needs assessments and plans due to coronavirus

Department for Education | 30 April 2020

Guidance on temporary changes to education, health and care legislation during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Some aspects of the law on education, health and care (EHC) needs assessments and plans are changing temporarily to give local authorities, health commissioning bodies, education settings and other bodies who contribute to these processes more flexibility in responding to the demands placed on them by coronavirus (COVID-19).

Options for councils in supporting leisure providers through COVID-19

Local Government Association | 29 April 2020

This advice note aims to update councils on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on leisure providers operating services and facilities owned and delivered on behalf of councils. It includes options as well as examples of how councils are providing practical support to providers and ensuring facilities are in a position to reopen when social distancing measures are relaxed.

Post implementation review of changes to the local authority capital finance framework

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 27 April 2020

In 2018, changes were made to the capital investment guidance to ensure the framework remained robust and relevant to councils. These changes were intended to improve behaviours over risk and transparency, rather than produce quantifiable changes to borrowing or investment. In 2019, a post implementation review of the changes was undertaken. The review was designed as an impact evaluation looking at technical aspects of the capital framework. The post implementation review evaluates the changes made to the statutory guidance on local authority capital investment in 2018.

Committee launches inquiry on local authority commercial investment

Public Accounts Committee | 20 April 2020

Local authorities have invested in commercial property for a long time, but there has been a recent step-change in the scale of activity. Estimated commercial property purchases for 2013-14 to 2015-16 were £460m; compared to an estimated £6.6bn for 2016-17 to 2018-19. The Committee will question officials from the MHCLG on gaps in commercial skills in local government, and the extent to which the Department formally monitors commercial activity and long-term exposure to risk. The Committee will also ask officials about the Ministry’s response to COVID-19, and what impact the pandemic has had on local government finances.

The NAO’s February 2020 report on ‘Local authority commercial investment’ assesses whether MHCLG has effective oversight of the risks to the financial sustainability of local authorities due to their investments in commercial property. Plus, comment from Public Finance.

Coronavirus: School Academisation should be put on hold during pandemic

Local Government Association | 10 April 2020

Academy conversions should be suspended to help over-stretched councils focus on supporting schools and nurseries to stay open, the Local Government Association says today.

The LGA is concerned that council time is having to be spent on 594 academy conversions in the pipeline, which involve the transfer of staff, assets, including land and property, and financial agreements.

This is undermining council efforts to coordinate sufficient school places for vulnerable children and children of key workers, as well as appropriate space for emergency food and medicine supplies.


UK inflation tumbled to lowest level in four years in April, says ONS

Guardian | 20 May

Coronavirus lockdown and consequent oil price collapse send rate plummeting

PPE procurement

LGC | 19 May 2020

London boroughs have formed a capital-wide partnership to bulk buy personal protective equipment (PPE), in what is believed to be the biggest local government sector collaboration on PPE procurement yet.

COVID-19 Testing

LGC | 19 May 2020

DHSC has committed to working closely with councils on the further expansion of testing for Covid-19

Care homes – Infection Control Fund

LGC | 18 May 2020

Plans for a £600m Infection Control Fund for care homes was first revealed by Boris Johnson at prime minister’s question time

Whiteman warns against public borrowing ‘overreaction’

Public Finance | 12 May 2020

A small number of councils buying commercial property purely to make money should not result in a complete overhaul of CIPFA’s guidelines on investment, chief executive Rob Whiteman has told MPs. Speaking to the Public Accounts Committee, Whiteman said he would welcome some changes to the system, including to CIPFA's Prudential Code for Capital Finance in Local Authorities, but warned against an overreaction.

Two councils sign up to first pooled bond issues from UK Municipal Bonds Agency

Local Government Lawyer | 4 May 2020

Westminster City Council and Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council have confirmed they will participate in one of the first pooled bond issues announced by the UK Municipal Bonds Agency. The UKMBA said the bonds would be the first to fall under the Agency’s new proportional guarantee. “The new guarantee structure ensures that no council can be held liable for all the debts of other local authorities nor be singled out to cover a default by another council. Councils’ liability under the proportional guarantee cease once any debts to the UKMBA have been repaid,” it added.

Council gives green light to UK's first Community Municipal Investment

Local Government Lawyer | 4 May 2020

Councillors at West Berkshire Council voted last week to approve the UK's first Community Municipal Investment, a bond or loan mechanism issued by a council directly to the public. The local authority said individuals both in and outside of West Berkshire would be able to invest “from as little as £5” to support specific projects that align with its declaration of a climate Emergency in July 2019 and its Environment Strategy. These will include projects such as installing rooftop solar panels on a building at Greenham Common and on local schools. The council said that in return for supporting its aims to become carbon neutral by 2030, investors would receive a long-term, low-risk return. 

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Place & Growth

Anti-Social Behaviour on the increase during lockdown

Following the Government’s announcement on 23 March 2020 of a UK-wide lockdown, Local Authorities will have noticed an increase in anti-social behaviour as residents remain on lockdown at home. Whilst reports of criminal incidents have fallen sharply, there has been a significant increase in reports of ASB, with the National Police Chief Council reporting an increase of 59% on the same period last year. Breaches of the Government guidelines in respect of social distancing have also been widely reported, with many breaches taking place in homes and within local communities.

Alongside this and the general challenges of remote working and the inability to visit tenants, we have all had to adapt to deal with an evolving programme of change introduced by legislation (with the Coronavirus Act 2020), amendments to the Civil Procedure Rules and a series of practical and operational responses implemented by HM Courts and Tribunals service, as courts and tribunals continue to function but in a way that respects Government guidance.

The judiciary and the supporting cast of County Court staff are to be applauded for the way in which they have adapted so quickly to the Covid-19 challenges and embraced new technology to ensure that justice can still be dispensed. It is also helpful that ASB Injunctions are being treated as priority cases for the Courts to administer, and early indications are that Judges appreciate that they have a role to play in enabling social landlords to tackle ASB and enforce compliance with Government guidance on managing Covid-19.

Here are our six top tips to ensure effective management of ASB:

  1. Utilise all resources within organisations to ensure that papers can be provided to the Court which are user friendly and easy for a Judge to deal with remotely. At least initially, Judges will be operating outside their comfort zone so the more support we give them, the better;
  2. Maintain good communication with Court staff and work with them, not against them. They are under pressure but will generally want to help and be as supportive as they are able 
  3. Whilst the Courts are sympathetic to social landlords where there are breaches of Government guidance during Covid-19, the evidential thresholds prescribed by statute remain. The need for good evidence remains absolutely key 
  4. Protection of key workers is paramount. Evidence as to how ASB is affecting such individuals tis likely to be persuasive to support the injunction application;
  5. Up to date record keeping and contact details is valuable. Landlords should ensure records on tenants are kept up-to-date so that all available methods of contact can be used to the ease the process of service of injunctions and giving notice of hearings, and
  6. Monitor, maintain and develop safer working arrangements with agencies like the Police, who play a pivotal role when a landlord tackles ASB. Good buy in and a willingness to help from third parties can go a long way when a case needs to be dealt with urgently. Help them to help you.


Non-Domestic Rating (Transitional Protection Payments and Rates Retention) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020/449

This instrument defers the payment of some instalments of the “central share” of non-domestic rating income by billing authorities. This instrument also changes the dates by which billing authorities must make and certify end-of-year calculations required for the business rates retention and transitional protection payment regimes. The Non-Domestic Rating (Transitional Protection Payments) Regulations 2013, SI 2013/106, and the Non-Domestic Rating (Rates Retention) Regulations 2013, SI 2013/452, are amended.

Publications & Guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): letter to social housing residents

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 18 May 2020

Letter from the Minister of Housing setting out the measures that are in place to support social housing residents during the next phase towards reopening society.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Community Infrastructure Levy guidance

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 13 May 2020

In response to the spread of Coronavirus, MHCLG has published guidance for local authorities on Community Infrastructure Levy matters.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – compulsory purchase guidance

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 13 May 2020

In response to the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), MHCLG has published guidance for acquiring authorities on compulsory purchase matters.

Reallocating road space in response to COVID-19: statutory guidance for local authorities

Department for Transport | 9 May 2020

Guidance for local authorities on managing their road networks in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Business rates revaluation postponed

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 6 May 2020

A revaluation of business rates will no longer take place in 2021 to help reduce uncertainty for firms affected by the impacts of coronavirus. Legislation had been introduced to bring the next revaluation forward by one year from 2022 to 2021, but following the recent economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic ministers want to ensure businesses have more certainty during this difficult time.

Business Improvement Districts will receive funding in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 1 May 2020

Business Improvement Districts are set to receive £6.1m in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. BIDs across England will receive support to help cover their day to day costs for the next 3 months. The money will be paid to local authorities and dispersed to Business Improvement Districts (BIDs).

LGA submission to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government: First Homes

Local Government Association | 1 May 2020

Councils want to play a lead role in developing a locally responsive mix of tenures, which includes homes for sale, as well as social homes and other affordable homes for those who are not ready or do not want to buy.

Coronavirus: Businesses without premises and the Small Business Grant Scheme

House of Commons Library | 30 April 2020

The Small Business Grant Scheme has been introduced to support businesses struggling due to the coronavirus. This scheme operates in England and provides a £10,000 grant for businesses that are eligible for the already existing small business rate relief.  Many small businesses are not liable for business rates because they don’t occupy a ‘hereditament’ (a property on the rating list which is liable for business rates). These businesses can’t access the new grant scheme. This Insight sets out the technical background to business rates and valuation, to explain why some small businesses can and can’t access the scheme. 

COVID-19: mitigating impacts on Gypsy and Traveller communities

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 30 April 2020

Lord Greenhalgh, Communities Minister, has written to local authority chief executives to highlight that some members of Gypsy and Traveller communities are likely to be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and may need support in accessing basic facilities such as water, sanitation and waste disposal, to enable them to adhere to public health guidelines around self-isolation and social distancing during the outbreak.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for social landlords on essential moves

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 27 April 2020

Non-statutory guidance to support social landlords with allocations and transfers during the coronavirus outbreak. It has been produced in collaboration with Public Health England to support social landlords in the allocation of social homes. It contains advice on how local authorities and housing associations are advised to consider using existing homes that become available during this emergency.

Coronavirus: social homes may go unbuilt without Right to Buy extension

Local Government Association | 28 April 2020

Desperately-needed new social homes could go unbuilt unless councils are granted an extension to the time they are allowed to spend money from Right to Buy sales, the LGA has warned. Currently, councils are allowed to retain receipts from Right to Buy sales for three years to invest in replacement housing, before they have to return them to the Government if they are unspent. With the building of new homes delayed or stopped altogether by the coronavirus crisis, many councils are concerned that they will not have the opportunity to spend the RTB cash on replacing much-needed homes sold under the scheme.

Deputy Mayor brings together London housing sector to plan recovery

Mayor of London | 28 April 2020

A new taskforce, set up to tackle the challenges Covid-19 poses to the London housing sector, has been established. ‘The Covid-19 Housing Delivery Taskforce’, chaired and convened by Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, Tom Copley, is made up of leaders from across London’s housing delivery sector including councils, construction, unions, and housing associations. The group will consider how the sector can adapt and maintain resilience and also look at specific support needed from Government that would be effective in maintaining housing supply and providing confidence in the market.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for social landlords on essential moves

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 27 April 2020

Non-statutory guidance to support social landlords with allocations and transfers during the coronavirus outbreak. This guidance has been produced in collaboration with Public Health England to support social landlords in the allocation of social homes. It contains advice on how local authorities and housing associations are advised to consider using existing homes that become available during this emergency.

Business to receive almost £10bn in rates relief

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 21 April 2020

Businesses expected to receive almost £10bn in business rate relief as part of the government’s support for the economy during the coronavirus pandemic.

Application of the Building Regulations during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 21 April 2020

Guidance for Building Control Bodies operating in England in relation to: (1) Temporary healthcare buildings and related facilities. (2) General guidance for operating during the current period of social distancing.

Deadline extended for combustible materials consultation amid coronavirus (COVID-19)

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 14 April 2020

This consultation seeks views on the ban of the use of combustible materials in and on external walls of buildings, including building types covered, height threshold, list of exemptions, attachments such as blinds, shutters and awnings, and a proposal to specifically ban the use of metal composite panels in and on the external walls of all buildings. We have extended the deadline for responses to this consultation to 25 May 2020. This deadline was extended by 6 weeks due to the ongoing impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on people and businesses around the country.


Put localism at the heart of recovery, say city leaders

LocalGov | 11 May 2020

Launching a bid to get the Government to take a less centralised approach to the coronavirus crisis, the Core Cities group has put forward proposals that would put local leadership at the heart of the recovery. The group, which represents the UK’s biggest cities, is calling for City Recovery Deals and a Cities Recovery Fund to help to rebuild the economy post-COVID-19.Core Cities chair, Cllr Judith Blake, said: ‘Getting it right in cities, means getting it right for the nation. A centralised, command and control approach to easing lockdown restrictions simply will not work.

CIPFA: 17 years to work through council housing waiting list

LocalGov | 4 May 2020

It could take up to 17 years to re-house individuals and families on the waiting list for council housing, data analysis by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has revealed. Data trends extracted from new CIPFA tools showed that, on average, there were more than 1.2m households on council waiting lists nationally between 2013 and 2018.However, over the same period, the number of council-owned homes reduced by around 84,000 - a reduction of nearly 5% in England alone. The biggest loss of council housing was in family-sized two and three bedroom properties, which also experienced the greatest growth in demand.

Council-owned housing companies increase housing targets in past year

LocalGov | 28 April 2020

The lifting of the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) cap has helped council-owned housing companies increase their new-build housing targets by 70% in the past year, a new survey has revealed. A survey by the National Federation of ALMOs found council-owned companies are planning to build 12,352 homes over the next five years. This is up from 7,267 in December 2018 when the HRA cap had only just been lifted.

Application of the Building Regulations during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 21 April 2020

Guidance for Building Control Bodies operating in England in relation to temporary healthcare buildings and related facilities and general guidance for operating during the current period of social distancing.

Councils handed further relief

Public Finance | 17 April 2020

Councils in England will be able to defer £2.6bn in business rates payments due to be made to government over the next three months, as part of the business rates retention scheme. The government will also bring forward £805m of child and adult social care grant payments. These will now all be paid this month, rather than in three-monthly instalments in April, May and June. MHC&LG press release.


Piechnik v Oxford City Council [2020] EWHC 960 (QB)

The Court ruled that Local authority landlord’s do not have an implied right of access to their right-to-buy long leaseholders. The appeal arises in the context of a long-running dispute between Oxford City Council and Dr Stefan Piechnik in relation to major works carried out by the claimant at a residential tower block in Headington, Oxford. The claimant is the freehold owner of a 15-storey building made up of 85 flats, most of which are used to provide social housing. However, 16 flats have now been sold under the “Right to Buy Scheme”. The defendant maintains that the lease does not give the claimant the right to enter the premises for the purposes of carrying out works of improvement which are not works of repair or maintenance. The defendant's appeal was allowed in part as the lease does not give the claimant the right to enter the premises for the purposes of carrying out works in order to avoid the risk of death or personal injury, or to remedy a state of affairs which is injurious to health.

Arkin v Marshall and another [2020] EWCA Civ 620

These two appeals raise issues about the effect of Practice Direction 51Z ‘Stay of Possession Proceedings—Coronavirus (PD 51Z)’, which was made on 26 March 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The stay on possession proceedings under PD 51Z is ruled lawful and the judge has no power to lift the stay. Comment from Local Government Lawyer.

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SEND: What’s the Plan?

The Department for Education (DfE) has received another critical report relating to support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), this time from the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee (PAC). With many professionals saying the sector is in deep crisis, demands are growing for an urgent plan containing a new approach, more detail and fresh thinking.

In September 2019, the DfE promised a review of current provision. However, the December 2019 election manifesto included little on SEND provision because the focus was on Brexit. The current focus in the context of the Coronavirus Act 2020 is keeping services afloat and the relaxation of timescales. There was some extra money in the Budget for SEND, but the impact of the Budget will be lost under the local authority response to Coronavirus.

The DfE has admitted that many families are struggling, following the introduction of education, health and care plans (EHCPs) in 2014. With no indication of when any further reforms, changes or extra funding might materialise, frustration in the sector is building.

The Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has promised to “take stock” of the system and will, no doubt, be looking closely at a number of other recent reports and reviews, not only from PAC but also the Education Select Committee (October 2019), the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (October 2019) and the National Audit Office (September 2019).

The most recent report from the Public Accounts Committee has stated clearly the areas that the DfE’s review should include, therefore the next move from the DfE has to be to address these points, which include:

  • a set of actions to “secure the necessary improvements” in support for children with SEND, including timescales within which families will see practical changes
  • an explanation of the evidence to support the DfE’s conclusions and quantified goals to measure success
  • how the DfE will develop a better, evidence-based understanding of why there is so much variation between different groups of children in identifying SEND
  • set out the steps it proposes to take to reduce the number of pupils with SEND who are permanently or temporarily excluded from school
  • considering information other than inspection information to get an assessment of the support for children with SEND
  • working with schools and others regarding funding
  • carrying out a systematic analysis of current and future demand for school places for children with complex needs. Mr Williamson has promised to “make sure all families get the support they need so every child, young person and their parents feel extremely positive about their future”. Currently, that ambition is looking hard to achieve, when according to some reports, by 2021 there will be 2,500 too few places in special schools to meet demand.  


Local Government (Coronavirus) (Postponement of Elections) (Wales) Regulations 2020/461

These Regulations postpone certain by-elections which were due to be held during the period from 16 March 2020 to 31 January 2021 in Wales. These Regulations come into force on 5 May 2020.

Local Authorities (Coronavirus) (Meetings) (Wales) Regulations 2020/442

These Regulations make provisions in relation to local authority meetings, and the publication of and access to certain local authority documents in Wales. These Regulations come into force on 22 April 2020.

The Local Government (Coronavirus) (Structural Changes) (Consequential Amendments) (England) Regulations 2020/426

These Regulations amend the Buckinghamshire (Structural Changes) Order 2019 (S.1. 2019/957) (”the Buckinghamshire Order”) and the Northamptonshire (Structural Changes) Order 2020 (S.1. 2020/156) (”the Northamptonshire Order”). The amendments are required due to the postponement of local elections in England, which were due to take place on 7th May 2020, and which have been postponed to 6th May 2021 by section 60 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 (c. 7). These Regulations come into force on 8 May 2020.

The Accounts and Audit (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020/404

In anticipation of the potential disruption to relevant authorities caused by the spread of coronavirus, this instrument amends the 2015 Regulations to extend the deadlines for relevant authorities to publish and make available for public inspection, their annual accounts and supporting documents in relation to the financial year beginning on 1st April 2019. Regulation 2(2) and (3) amends regulations 10(1) and 13(1) of the 2015 Regulations. These amendments extend the deadline for relevant authorities to publish their statement of accounts and supporting documents (together with any certificate or opinion of the local auditor) in relation to the financial year beginning on 1st April 2019, to 30th November 2020. Regulation 2(4) amends regulation 15(1) of the 2015 Regulations. This amendment extends the deadline for relevant authorities to commence the period for the exercise of public rights, so that the relevant period must commence on or before the first working day of September in 2020, in relation to the financial year beginning on 1st April 2019.

Publications & Guidance

Coronavirus: How might devolution in England be affected?

House of Commons Library | 11 May 2020

2021 promises to be a significant year in the development of devolution in England. Is the coronavirus likely to setback those developments? Could Covid-19 provide the impetus to for a more systematic approach to devolution of power to metro-mayors within England? This Insight will explain why 2021 was expected to be such a key date in English devolution and it will examine the potential impact of the coronavirus on that process.

Statutory intervention and inspection: a guide for local authorities

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 7 May 2020

A guide to the use of the intervention and inspection powers in the Local Government Act 1999. This guide describes the powers in the 1999 Act, how they are used and what local authorities can expect in the event of an inspection or intervention.

Coronavirus: Support for local government

House of Commons Library | 4 May 2020

The Government has made several sources of financial support available to local authorities in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Financial support to date includes general support to local authorities to assist them with providing services, and funding to compensate for loss of income due to lockdown restrictions. Mark Sandford analyses some of these key sources.

Changes to local authority powers and duties resulting from the Coronavirus Act 2020

Local Government Association | 22 April 2020

This is a guide to the provisions of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and to new, modified or suspended local government powers and duties applicable to local authorities in England and Wales only.

Extension of statutory audit deadlines for 2019 to 2020

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 22 April 2020

Letter from the MHCLG informing local authority chief executives that:

  • the publication date for final, audited, accounts will move from 31 July for Category 1 authorities and 30 September for Category 2 authorities to 30 November 2020 for all local authority bodies
  • to give local authorities more flexibility, the requirement for the public inspection period to include the first 10 working days of June (for Category 1 authorities) and July (for Category 2 authorities) has been removed. Instead local authorities must commence the public inspection period on or before the first working day of September 2020.

The regulations implementing these measures were laid on 7 April and are due to come into force on 30 April 2020.

Secretary of State’s Annual Report on Devolution 2018 to 2019

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 22 April 2020

This annual report brings together information about devolution agreements reached between government and areas, and financial resources devolved up to 31 March 2019.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): local death management

Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 17 April 2020

Statutory guidance for local authorities in England on Schedule 28 to the Coronavirus Act. Schedule 28 to the Coronavirus Act 2020 introduced new powers for local authorities and government to support the resilience of local death management systems, and step in if they become overwhelmed. This guidance sets out how and when the powers should be used by local authorities.

Coronavirus pushing councils to 'financial failure' without 'cast-iron' Government funding pledge

Local Government Association | 17 April 2020

Coronavirus-led demand pressures and a loss of income risk combining to push councils towards financial failure, the LGA warns today. The LGA, which represents councils in England, is calling on the Government to provide a cast-iron public commitment that it will provide additional funding to fully meet extra costs to councils and compensate for lost income.

Remote meetings protocol and procedure rules

Lawyers in Local Government & the Association of Democratic Services Offices | 17 April 2020

This document is for the purpose of assisting authorities and highlighting changes required to standing orders in consequence of The Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations 2020 No.392 (‘the Regulations’).

More than £14bn from the Coronavirus emergency response fund will go towards public services

HM Treasury | 13 April 2020

More than £14bn from the Coronavirus emergency response fund will go towards public services, including the NHS and local authorities involved in the fight against Coronavirus, HM Treasury confirms.


Fair Funding Review delayed further

Public Finance | 30 April 2020

The government has confirmed a further delay to the Fair Funding Review for councils, due to the disruption caused by coronavirus. The delay to the review was confirmed by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, as it announced the allocation for the latest round of coronavirus funding.

The review will set a new baseline funding allocation for local authorities based on up-to-date needs and resources – but was initially delayed in September 2019 with a consultation then set to take place this summer.

The department said the delay would “allow councils to focus on meeting the immediate public health challenge posed by the pandemic”. 

Whiteman calls on government to better support ‘precarious’ local authorities

Public Finance | 27 April 2020

The coronavirus crisis has exposed the fragility of local authority finances, CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman has told MPs. As the crisis continues, new ways of funding the sector will need to be found if services are to continue to be delivered, Whiteman said – while giving evidence to a housing, communities and local government committee session.

Government confirms extension to accounts deadline

Public Finance | 24 April 2020

The government has written to local authorities to confirm an extension to the deadline for statutory audit, due to the increased disruption caused by coronavirus. The publication date for final audited accounts will move from 31 July for category one authorities and 30 September for category two authorities – to 30 November 2020 for all local authority bodies. The letter stated: “Draft accounts must be approved by 31 August 2020 at the latest. However, they may be approved earlier, and we would encourage councils to do so wherever possible, to help manage overall pressure on audit firms towards the end of the year.”

Some authorities could become ‘financially unsustainable’ due to pandemic

Public Finance | 23 April 2020

The leaders of all six Oxfordshire councils have warned that the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could leave some “financially unsustainable” – and urged the government to provide more funding. In a joint letter to the government and the county’s MPs, the council leaders welcomed the additional £1.6bn allocated to local authorities earlier this week, but warned that without extra funding to cover shortfalls, authorities across Oxfordshire will struggle to cope and some could be “unable to set a legal budget” for 2021/22. They predict county costs resulting from coronavirus could reach £100m.

Districts win in latest allocations

LocalGov | 28 April 2020

Districts have won a significantly higher share of funding in the latest allocations of government cash to help councils cope with coronavirus. It comes after chairman of the District Councils’ Network, Cllr John Fuller, highlighted the importance of his members receiving more funding from the second pot of £1.6bn after his members were hit hard by plummeting income.

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Contract Management

Cabinet Office issues further Guidance Notes on contract management during COVID-19

The Cabinet Office has issued further Guidance Notes to support contracting authorities in how they apply the recommendations for supplier relief due to Covid-19 set out in PPN 02/20 to contracts generally, together with guidance aimed at contracts with suppliers across the construction industry.

The guidance is non-statutory but the message is that  all businesses (including funders) and public authorities are strongly encouraged to follow it so that all parties act “responsibly and fairly” so that “fair and equitable outcomes” are achieved, including to protect jobs and the economy.

All contracting authorities to which PPN 02/20 applies should consider whether they ought to apply the principles set out to all or some of their contracts.

Guidance on responsible contractual behaviour

This guidance on responsible contractual behaviour applies to all contracts which are affected by the COVID-19 crisis.  It is worth noting that this does not override previously issued specific guidance or the Procurement Policy Notes on the Use of procurement cards,   Supplier relief due to Covid-19 and Responding to Covid-19.  

It is also not intended to override specific relief covered by express contract terms.  By this, the guidance means force majeure provisions which provide an “express and clear” allocation of risks around the “effects of global or national public health emergencies or pandemics”.  However, it is rare to see a force majeure clause that is as precise as this, therefore the guidance is likely aimed at contracting parties who are seeking to rely on a more general force majeure clause, potentially to their advantage by relying on the wider impact of Covid-19 to the other party’s detriment.

The general guidance sets out the responsible and fair steps that contracting parties are expected to take (see further paragraphs 14 and 15), these include:

  • Maintaining performance where possible
  • Where that’s not possible, ensuring that the supply chain and markets are preserved and insolvencies and destructive disputes avoided
  • Allowing extensions of time and alternative performance
  • Acting fairly when responding to force majeure claims
  • Agreeing contract changes and variations
  • Resolving “emerging contractual issues responsibly through [alternative dispute resolution]”.
Guidance on Construction Contracts

The Guidance Notes on construction contracts have been prepared to cover existing public contracts for the delivery of works, with the principles intended to apply across all forms of construction contract. 

The purpose of the construction Guidance is to:

  • Support contracting authorities in how they implement PPN 02/20 under existing contracts to provide contractual relief to at risk suppliers (and their supply chain) who have been affected by COVID-19
  • Ensure a supplier does not ‘double recover’ by claiming separate relief from another source of Government financial support on COVID-19 such as under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). Payments under CJRS are for staff who are furloughed and not working. This to ensure that suppliers cannot gain an undue advantage by claiming relief twice for the same hardship.

The FAQs explain that:

  • Contracting authorities should continue to pay suppliers at risk due to COVID-19 on a continuity and retention basis until at least the end of June 2020
  • Any supplier found to have acted fraudulently by claiming under the CJRS (or other COVID-19 support schemes) for workers that are being paid under a public sector contract, may be excluded from future public contracts on grave professional misconduct grounds
  • Contracting authorities should consider the early release of retentions to suppliers on a case by case basis. This could result in significant risk being transferred back to the authority which may be inappropriate or the authority may be unable to bear.  There is no suggestion that retentions or other forms of payment that have been validly withheld (in accordance with the relevant contract(s)) must be released to suppliers automatically as part of any agreed relief.

The Guidance Notes are accompanied by a table setting out options for supplier relief which should be considered alongside the model deeds of variation.  The table outlines each form of relief and the effect on the supplier together with points for consideration by the authority and practical notes on the implementation of each relief.

The Guidance Notes are also clear that any relief granted will need to be agreed in an open and transparent manner and the supplier should provide supporting information to allow the authority to check that the commercial principles are complied with when the relief is given and that any savings that are applied during the relief period are capable of being audited.

In all instances, contracting authorities should seek specific legal advice to ensure that the model deeds are consistent with the contract(s) which they may wish to vary.

Further information about the guidance on responsible contractual behaviour be found here.  Bevan Brittan has also commented extensively on PPN 02/20 and its application:

Publications & Guidance

COVID-19: protecting the local government sector supply chain from fraud

Local Government Association | 20 April 2020

In times of emergency there is a need to respond quickly but to also ensure continued vigilance against the risks of fraud, bribery and corruption. This guidance acts as a reminder of the continuing risks to supply chains posed by fraud and corruption, many of which are exacerbated by emergency circumstances. Joint guidance from the LGA and the CIPFA Counter Fraud Centre.

Brighten all corners: maximising social value in place

Localis | 16 April 2020

The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 was first presented to Parliament a decade ago, enshrining in law the duty of public sector commissioning to pay regard to economic, social and environmental well-being when making procurement decisions. In this time, the incorporation of a social value element into the assessment of public sector contracts has transitioned from a campaigning concern to a statutory requirement and finally to a universally recognised consideration in public sector commercialism. Brighten All Corners is a timely examination of local implementation of the Act with recommendations for a deeper, more meaningful role for social value led procurement in raising local prosperity. Through a series of interviews, roundtable discussions and open survey exercises, the report highlights several issues with the Social Value Act in practice. The crux of these issues is a need for a degree of standardisation, carefully combined with a built-in consideration of local context. We propose a new model of Community Value Charters to meet these challenges.

EU’s Public Procurement Framework

European Parliament | April 2020

The European Parliament's Policy Department for Economic, Scientific and Quality of Life Policies (IPOL) has published a document examining how the EU’s Public Procurement Framework is contributing to the achievements of the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the Circular Economy Strategy. A key finding is that public authorities have not sufficiently taken up the possibilities to use strategic public procurement to introduce sustainable, green, pre-procurement or innovation-focused tools.


Court dismisses procurement and judicial review claims against county council over vehicles contract for being out of time

Local Government Lawyer | 7 May 2020

The Technology and Construction Court has dismissed procurement and judicial review claims over a multi-million pound contract for the supply and maintenance of fleets of tractor cabs and trailers to a council-owned operator of waste processing facilities. The claimant in Riverside Truck Rental Ltd v Lancashire County Council [2020] EWHC 1018 (TCC) is the current supplier to Lancashire Renewables. The existing contract comes to an end in October 2020. In September 2019, the county council commenced the procurement process in relation to a replacement contract for the provision of vehicles from October 2020. Riverside submitted a tender for the new contract but on 29 November 2019 it was told that its tender had been rejected as failing to comply with the terms of the invitation to tender.

Vicariously liable? Depends on the relationship

Bevan Brittan | 28 April 2020

Two recent Supreme Court decisions have helped to clarify the law on vicarious liability and are relevant to both to organisations who use independent contractors and their insurers.

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Vires and entry into commercial contracts

The recent case of SFM v Christ the King College and Isle of Wight Council [2020], concerning the application of the ultra vires doctrine to commercial contracts, will be of interest not only to local authorities but also those contracting with local authorities.

The case concerned a contract for the provision of a new sixth form building, which was to be leased by the claimant to the college for 15 years from 2013 at an annual rent of almost £700,000. In 2017 the college ceased to pay the annual instalments which had become unaffordable. The claimant sued the college for the remainder of the sum due under the contract and added the council as a second defendant on the basis that the college had entered into the contract as the council’s agent by virtue of section 49(5) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, although this interpretation of the legislation was rejected by the Court.

The college successfully argued that the contract was ultra vires, as the college had had no vires to enter into the contract which was therefore void and not binding. More specifically, as the lease was a finance lease rather than an operational lease, the college (as a maintained school) did not have capacity to enter into the contract without first securing the consent of the Secretary of State pursuant to Schedule 1 to the Education Act 2002. Interestingly, the Court found that it was only public law breaches which went to capacity that operated as a private law defence; reliance on other public law breaches including in respect of the school finance scheme, breaches of fiduciary duty and irrationality, were rejected.

The claimant was successful in its alternative claim for unjust enrichment against the college, albeit at an assessment of the market value of the building which was only around one third of the amounts payable under the contract.

This case serves as a reminder of the importance, when negotiating commercial arrangements and entering into contracts, of fully understanding the governance issues relevant to those arrangements given the interplay between public and private law.


Council refused permission to bring judicial review challenge over approval by neighbouring authority of new link road

Local Government Lawyer | 11 May 2020

A High Court judge has refused Luton Council permission to bring a judicial review of Central Bedfordshire Council’s decision to approve an application for a major new link road. Luton had claimed that local plan examination inspectors’ letters calling the plan into question were not properly considered. The planning application was for a new single and dual carriageway road linking the M1 and the A6 near Luton. Luton had wanted to delay the decision to enable the local plan inspectors to view the scheme and make sure Central Bedfordshire Council had fully considered the potential impact of the proposed development on Luton residents and businesses. Mr Justice Jay in the High Court refused to grant Luton permission for the challenge. Responding to the decision, Luton said: "We were disappointed to receive the news that our application for a judicial review against Central Bedfordshire Council’s decision to grant permission for the M1-A6 link road had been refused. Prior to seeking a JR, we had made four objections to the planning application and spoken at the planning committee meetings. "We wrote to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government requesting that they call-in the M1-A6 planning application for his determination, however the Secretary of State declined to call in the application. We do not intend to challenge the decision."

County council threatened with legal challenge over decision to use Care Act ‘easements’

Local Government Lawyer | 4 May 2020

Derbyshire County Council is facing a potential legal challenge over its decision to use the Care Act easements under the Coronavirus Act 2020.Claimant law firm Rook Irwin Sweeney tweeted: “We've sent a letter before claim to Derbyshire CC regarding their decision to operate under the Coronavirus Act easements, which allow LAs not to meet their adult social care duties under the Care Act 2014 during the coronavirus pandemic if specific conditions are met. “It’s very unclear even from Derbyshire County Council's own website when the decision was taken and who will be affected by this decision – serious concern about lack of transparency. ”Rook Irwin Sweeney has instructed Steve Broach of 39 Essex Chambers on the challenge. Derbyshire is one of eight local authorities so far to have notified the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) of their use of the Care Act ‘easements’. Middlesbrough Council was one of the eight but has since returned to full Care Act duties. A spokesperson for Derbyshire County Council said: “To help ensure we can support people to return home from hospital and help the NHS free up beds to care for people who become unwell as a result of the coronavirus, we have to focus our resources on meeting the most serious and urgent care needs. “These temporary changes are designed to help us respond quickly to the pandemic and enable us to ensure Derbyshire’s most vulnerable residents are supported."

Council mounts legal challenge after inspector refuses to endorse Local Plan

Local Government Lawyer | 20 April 2020

Sevenoaks District Council has launched a judicial review challenge after a planning inspector refused to endorse its new Local Plan. On 2 March 2020, the inspector wrote the final report on the examination of the Sevenoaks District Local Plan, concluding that the Plan was not legally compliant in respect of the duty to co-operate. The district council said it strongly rejected this allegation, which surfaced after the first round of the Local Plan hearings in October, seven months after it had submitted the new Plan and supporting evidence to the Inspector. “Within the Local Plan submission there were more than 800 pages of evidence setting out how the council had worked with its neighbours during the production of the Plan. The neighbouring councils and other organisations involved in the development of the Plan supported the council’s evidence and approach on this key matter,” Sevenoaks said. Cllr Peter Fleming, Leader of the Council, said: “Taking legal action is not something we would undertake lightly and demonstrates we are serious about standing up for our residents and our cherished environment, against what we believe is a fundamental failure by the Planning Inspectorate to take account of the weight of evidence in front of them.


R (on the application of Palestine Solidarity Campaign Ltd and another) v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government [2020] UKSC 16

The Supreme Court has overturned government guidance prohibiting the Local Government Pension Scheme from making non-financial investment decisions which were contrary to UK defence and foreign policy. Supreme Court press summary and comment from Local Government Lawyer.

Accessible Orthodontics (O) Ltd v National Health Service Commissioning Board; Accessible Orthodontics LLP v National Health Service Commissioning Board [2020] EWHC 785 (TCC)

The High Court has allowed an application to amend a claim brought under the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/102) (PCR 2015) but rejected an accompanying disclosure application. The proceedings concern two challenges made to awards made pursuant to two procurement processes run by the NHS for the provision of NHS orthodontic referral services. The tendering process, award criteria and issues arising are largely the same in both cases. The proceedings were case managed and tried together.

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Bevan Brittan articles

All Bevan Brittan articles and news

Bevan Brittan COVID-19 Insight Information Hub


Public Procurement Podcast – FAQ No.1  Issues concerning the application of Cabinet Office Procurement Policy Note – PPN 02/20 – Supplier relief due to COVID-19.

Public Procurement Podcast – FAQ No.2  Extension of contracts under PCR 72

Video: Managing disciplinary and grievance processes during COVID-19

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Employment Law Webinar - Managing Workforce Issues in light of COVID-19
Tuesday 16 June, 10.00 - 11.15 

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