LA Spotlight

Exit Cap restrictions to be implemented on 4 November 2020

During the past few weeks, one of the key focusses for local government has been the Restriction of Public Sector Exit Payments Regulations 2020. These are intended to impose a £95,000 cap on exit payments to employees in the public sector. 

The Regulations had been approved by Parliament and everyone was waiting for confirmation that they had been signed by the Minister to know when they would come into force.  That has now happened, meaning the Regulations, and therefore the cap, will come into force on 4 November 2020. 

We are still awaiting the final updated guidance and HM Treasury Directions to accompany the Regulations, which will cover issues such as the circumstances in which the cap may or must be relaxed or waived. 

For all public sector employers the implementation of these Regulations is likely to create uncertainty, not least in relation the impact of the Regulations on exits already planned or in progress, the treatment of which is unclear at this stage.

However, for councils, the timing of the implementation of the cap is particularly difficult. This is because the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s (MHCLG) consultation on changes to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) rules, required to accommodate the cap, is ongoing and will not conclude until 9 November 2020, after the cap comes into effect, but pension strain costs must be counted within the cap.  This will mean that councils could be faced, in certain circumstances, with an obligation under the LGPS rules to make a pension strain payment which exceeds £95,000 to an LGPS Fund to cover the cost of early retirement on redundancy, but, at the same time, the councils are prevented by the Exit Pay Cap Regulations from making that payment. 

We understand that the LGA and other organisations are raising these concerns with MHCLG and HMT.

We will ensure to keep you informed as things develop.


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Delivering Value

COVID19 - Managing risk in an financially uncertain world

High on the agenda in Covid resilience and recovery planning is how services can be configured to manage risk brought by the further uncertainties in funding and demand for services across the landscape. This month’s report from the Auditor General for Wales brings some practical reflections on commercialisation in today’s climate.

Delivering value in the way services are financed, commissioned and provided are all fundamental components for managing risk and reviewing the benefits of commercialization for the community which each authority serves.

The seven building blocks identified by the report illustrate the importance of a whole system approach. Investment is required in strategic planning, workforce management and robust analysis and scrutiny of ventures being presented.

How are the right cultures, skills and systems cultivated to create the optimum environment for commercialization to reap rewards for the wider community and the much stretched budget of an authority?

Investment is required at a strategic level to set a robust strategy to delivering value and then have in place appropriate infrastructure for a consistent and accountability method of delivery. This is a culture and appetite for pursuing the various facets of commercialization at all levels, and certainly a strategy where there is much to gain from sharing the experiences of other authorities having taken these steps.


Re-thinking youth participation for the present and next generation: education to employment
LGA | October 6 2020
Today’s young people face becoming a “lost generation” unless the Government develops a COBRA-style response to boost skills and job opportunities. The LGA believes that the Government needs to use the Spending Review to devolve careers advice, post-16 and skills budgets and powers to local areas. This would allow councils, schools, colleges and employers to work together to improve provision for young people so that they can get on in life.

Domestic abuse capacity building fund for local authorities
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | October 5 2020
Guidance for Tier 1 local authorities to help them plan and prepare for a new duty to provide domestic abuse support in safe accommodation. The Domestic Abuse Bill includes a new duty on Tier 1 local authorities to assess the need for and commission support to victims and their children in domestic abuse safe accommodation in England. Subject to the successful passage of the bill, the new duty will come into force in April 2021.

Improving local bus services in England outside London
National Audit Office | October 2 2020
A NAO report concluded that Bus services had been declining across England for 70 years and the decline continued following deregulation, with only a few local authorities managing to buck the trend. However, government recognises that affordable bus services have public value, and funds around 24% of bus operators’ revenue income. Government has chosen to deliver public bus services via a deregulated market model, and sensibly devolves decisions about supporting services to local authorities, who understand local needs.

£10bn Spending Review investment needed to protect and improve local services
LGA | October 1 2020
The LGA has used its submission to set out the need for the Chancellor to use the CSR to provide an additional £10.1bn per year in core funding to councils in England by 2023/24.

End of life care: guide for councils
LGA | September 24 2020
Councils have a key role to play in helping people to die well and with dignity. This guide sets out how councils in England can play that role. The focus of this guide is adults during the final 12 months of their lives but the general principles also apply to children and young people. End of life care is loosely defined as the last year of life, but accurate predictions are difficult, which makes planning, preparation and embedding good practice important.

Proposed changes to children in need (CIN) and children looked after by local authorities (CLA) outcome statistics
Department for Education | September 24 2020
The Government is requesting user feedback on proposals to change the annual children in children in need (CIN) and children looked after by local authorities (CLA) outcomes statistics based on both the commitment made at the end of the review of children in need to improve the annual CIN and CLA outcomes publications and on previous user feedback.

COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | Updated 24 September 2020
Covers core principles for safely reopening community facilities.

Guidance for schools: coronavirus
Department for Education | Updates September 22 2020
Explains what school leaders, teachers and school staff need to do during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

COVID-19: LGA responds to new package to encourage more to self-isolate
LGA | 19 September 2020
Councils have led the way in supporting residents and businesses through this crisis and will keep playing their part to support the national effort. The LGA believes it is vital that government works extremely closely with councils so they can prepare and have immediate access to data to get support to those people who need it.

Social Care Sector COVID-19 Support Taskforce: final report, advice and recommendations
Department of Health & Social Care | September 18 2020
The taskforce for the social care sector was commissioned, on 15 June 2020. At the time the government formed the taskforce, the Social Care Action Plan had been in place for two months and the Care Home Support Plan had been launched a month earlier. Much work had been undertaken by the government and the DHSC in the preparation and implementation of the Social Care Action Plan and the Care Home Support Plan and therefore progress on both these initiatives was underway among local government and providers.

Recommendations include provision of sufficient PPE to all social care providers (regulated and unregulated settings) free of charge, until at least the end of the current financial year, and that all agency staff should continue to receive weekly testing and agencies should have mechanisms in place to ensure this is done.

274 councils set to receive housing support for vulnerable people
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 17 September 2020
274 local councils will share £91.5m of government funding to ensure interim accommodation and support for the most vulnerable people, including by helping people into the private rented sector, secure interim accommodation such as supported housing, and assess the wider support these people need in order to rebuild their lives. An additional £13.5m fund will be used to enable local authorities to tackle new or emerging challenges.

React, Respond, Renew – Workforce COVID-19 response
LGA | September 16 2020
React, Respond, Renew sets the scene for the workforce having to respond, within an extremely short timescale, to a completely new way of working. It provides a narrative to the shared experience of working through the pandemic in 2020.


Councils need 'right culture, skills and systems' for commercial strategies
LocalGov | October 6 2020
The Auditor General for Wales, has published a report that identifies the seven building blocks for an effective commercial approach. The report states: ‘If the approach to commercialisation is not well managed or does not deliver what is intended, it can also place the council’s financial health at risk. And the more a council adopts a commercial mind-set, the more it pushes beyond its comfort zone and management of risk. 

New review into UK’s transport connections
LocalGov | October 5 2020
The Prime Minister has launched an independent review into transport connections across the UK. The study will examine the feasibility of faster road and rail links to Scotland, new connections between Great Britain and Ireland, upgrades to Welsh railways, and improving major road links such as the A1.

Council leaders call for local track and trace systems
LocalGov | October 2 2020
Five council leaders have written to health secretary Matt Hancock calling for him to fund local public health teams to run the system themselves, rather than private companies Serco and Sitel.

Phelim Mac Cafferty, leader of Brighton & Hove Council, said: ‘The funding instead needs to be urgently handed over to local council public health teams like the one here in Brighton and Hove which is helping keep the transmission level low, despite a decade of savage government cuts.’

Research highlights shortfall in community support hubs
LocalGov | September 30 2020
Research by The Carnegie UK Trust has revealed that over 150 local authorities are not operating community support hubs that provide vital services for vulnerable people. The Trust found that only 241 local authorities have recognisable community support hubs in operation despite local lockdowns rapidly re-merging across the country.

Portsmouth and Norwich win £90m transport cash
Transport Network | September 29 2020
The Transforming Cities Fund has awarded Portsmouth city region almost £56m, and Norwich £32m. Various projects have been put forward.

Charity warns many council websites are still inaccessible
LocalGov | 23 September 2020
The charity Scope has found that nine out of ten of England’s biggest councils have websites with accessibility errors. Its research found issues with confusing layouts, problems enlarging text, poor colour contrasts and difficulties with screen reader accessibility.

Informal childcare exempt from local lockdown rules
LocalGov | 22 September 2020
Councils have welcomed the announcement that informal childcare and other caring arrangements will be exempt from local lockdown restrictions. The Government has confirmed that ‘care bubbles’ will be allowed to be created in areas of intervention to allow families to share caring responsibilities with another household.

Council chiefs call for ‘urgent clarity’ about self-isolation scheme funding
LocalGov | September 21 2020
Local authority leaders have called on the Government to clarify how already over-stretched councils will be reimbursed for the new self-isolation support scheme.

Council chiefs call for ‘urgent clarity’ about self-isolation scheme funding
LocalGov | 21 September 2020
Local authority leaders have asked the Government to explain how already over-stretched councils will be reimbursed for the new self-isolation support scheme.

Councils urged to combine employment support into homelessness services
LocalGov | 21 September 2020
A new paper from the Centre for Homelessness Project has argued that personalised support from councils could help twice as many people stay in employment. The Centre is urging local authorities to provide personalised employment support to stop more people from becoming homeless. It said that this system has proved successful in the US and Europe, with people taking part being twice as likely to maintain employment.

It is calling for Homelessness Employment Pathways to be incorporated into statutory homelessness guidance and for ‘rigorous’ evaluation to test the programme in different context and scale as appropriate.

Government announces £22m rural broadband investment
LocalGov | 14 September 2020
More than £22m of additional funding is being invested into the Government’s broadband voucher scheme to boost broadband speeds in rural English shires and counties.

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Place & Growth

Commercial landlords are now able to advance possession claims

The Government has announced that the ban on forfeiture based on rent arrears and the restrictions relating to the exercise of Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery to enforce unpaid rent on commercial leases will be extended until the end of the year. The stay on possession claims introduced in response to COVID-19 was, however, lifted on 20 September 2020, and commercial landlords will no doubt be keen to progress possession claims.

For those claims brought before 3 August 2020, one of the parties will need to file and serve a reactivation notice before 29 January 2021 (or at least 42 days before an existing trial date) in order to reactivate the claim. The reactivation notice must set out what knowledge the party preparing it has to the effects of COVID-19 on the defendant tenant. If a reactivation notice is not filed and served then these claims will not be listed, heard or referred to a Judge.

A reactivation notice is not required for claims brought on or after 3 August 2020. In these cases, at least 14 days before the hearing the claimant landlord must serve on the defendant tenant a notice setting out what knowledge it has as to the effects of COVID-19 on the defendant.

In both scenarios set out above, confirmation of what knowledge the claimant landlord has as to the effects of COVID-19 on the defendant is required. Practice Direction 55C sets out no further detail on this requirement, so it appears if the party has no knowledge it would be sufficient to simply state this. However, whilst it does not appear to be mandatory to engage with tenants and make enquires it would be advisable to take steps to do so as Judges are likely to be keen to have this information, and without it there is a risk of adjournment.

The Master of the Roll’s Working Group on Possession Proceedings has made it clear that claims for possession should not be re-started (and new claims should not be brought) without first making careful efforts to reach compromise. Given the impending backlog of cases it is not surprising that the Courts will be encouraging settlement now even more than ever. However, there will be cases which cannot be compromised, and commercial landlords may find some comfort in the knowledge that the Courts will be operating a prioritising system, and cases will be prioritised include those involving alleged squatters, illegal occupiers, and cases with alleged extreme rent arrears.


Greener homes, jobs and cheaper bills on the way as government launches biggest upgrade of nation's buildings in a generation
Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government | September 30 2020
Homes, schools and hospitals across England are set to be greener and cheaper to run, thanks to a £3bn plan to upgrade the nation’s buildings.

COVID-19: Guidance for the safe use of council buildings
Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government | September 30 2020 (Last updated Sep 29)
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.

New homes delivered through Permitted Development Rights will have to meet space standards
Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government | September 30 2020
All new homes in England delivered through any Permitted Development Right must meet space standards. This change builds on reforms to ensure these homes provide adequate natural light and follows wider reforms to create a new, simpler planning system whilst raising standards.

£80m boost to towns
Ministry for Housing, Local Communities & Local Government | September 25 2020
Over 100 towns in England will be given up to £1m to kick start regeneration projects and give areas a boost. This funding, which ranges from £500,000 up to £1m per town, will be used to support projects that will make a difference to the area, such as new green spaces, the creation of pop-up businesses spaces, pedestrianising streets to encourage walking or cycling and creating of new community hubs to support those living alone.

Local Land Charges Programme
Land Registry | Last Updated September 25 2020
The Land Registry is working with local authorities to create a national local land charges service that will speed up searches and reduce their cost.

Robert Jenrick's speech on planning for the future
Ministry for Housing, Communities & Housing | September 23 2020
A speech given at the Creating Communities Conference 2020 detailing Robert Jenrick’s proposals for transforming the “broken” planning system. He discusses simplifying the system with the proposed National Infrastructure Levy, building greener and more sustainably, and building beautifully while preserving our heritage and our natural environment.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): safer public places - urban centres and green spaces
Ministry for Communities, Housing & Local Government | Updated 22 September 2020
This guidance provides the owners and operators of public spaces with information and examples of measures that may be undertaken to adapt and manage public spaces in order to help social distancing. This guidance applies in England only and does not impose any legal obligations.

Permitted development rights and changes to the Use Classes Order
Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government | September 18 2020
Key fact sheets on recent permitted development rights and changes to the Use Classes Order. Applies to England.

No Place for placemaking
Town & Country Planning Association | September 2020
A new report from the Town & Country Planning Association (TCPA) says that since 2013 tens of thousands of new homes have been built in England as a result of permitted development rights (PDR), which allow buildings to be converted into homes while bypassing the planning system. The TCPA’s report argues that PDRs and their expansion under this Government threaten the ability of councils to focus on place making. The TCPA concludes that this undermines local democracy, local jobs and the wellbeing of communities.


Planning reforms risk delivery of affordable homes, council chiefs warn
LocalGov | October 7 2020
Local authority leaders warn that communities could have missed out on nearly 30,000 affordable homes in the past five years if proposed Government planning reforms were in place.

Fast-tracked funding to improve school buildings
LocalGov | October 6 2020
The Government has fast-tracked £580m of funding to improve school buildings across England. Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: 'We have worked at great speed to release this additional £560m of condition funding to schools for projects this year to kick-start the economy and transform the buildings so vital for excellent teaching.”

Count your assets: local authorities are making the most of their investments amid Covid-19
Public Finance | October 1 2020
An examination of how local authorities are making the most of their land and property in a post-Covid-19 world.

Teesside mayor announces UK’s first hydrogen transport centre
LocalGov | September 30 2020
The Tees Valley Mayor has announced that Teesside is set to become the site of the UK’s first hydrogen transport centre. The centre will result in the research, development and testing of new hydrogen technologies, including for cars, buses, trains, lorries, boats and planes, and will complement the new Tees Valley Net Zero Innovation Centre.

Councils warn of housebuilding fiasco
LocalGov | 15 September 2020
The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that new government housing targets will lead to a north-south divide in England. The LGA found the proposed new formula will result in the highest percentage increase in new homes in the Midlands and the South, with lower growth rates in northern regions.

LGA statement on Public Account Committee (PAC) report on cladding progress
LGA | September 16 2020
The LGA urges the Government to act on all the Committee’s recommendations without delay. Issues raised in the report around insurance, mortgages and the skills shortage highlight the serious challenges that need to be overcome if all buildings are to be made safe.

Council announces ‘innovative’ nitrate neutral development scheme
LocalGov | 14 September 2020
Concerns over nitrate levels, which harm coastal feeding grounds, have impacted on planning applications for new homes along the Solent coastline. In order to solve this issue, Havant Borough Council has worked with Natural England to develop a way to allow developers to offset the pollution caused by building new developments.

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Governance & Reorganisation

Government’s unitarisation invitation – a mixed message?

In the past few days the Government have issued an invitation to Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset to submit proposals for unitarisation in their respective areas. It stated that this was on account of the proposals in those areas already being at an advanced stage, and that these areas had asked for invitations to be issued. The press release also stated that “the government will not impose a top-down restructuring of local government and will continue to follow a locally-led approach for unitarisation where councils can develop proposals which have strong local support.”

One thing that can be said with a degree of certainty is that mixed messages on reorganisation have been the order of the day so far, and there is now a degree of confusion regarding the Government’s appetite for reform.

Many interpreted the announcements made by Simon Clarke MP (former Minister of State for Regional Growth and Local Government) at the LGA conference earlier this year, as being a clarion call for large scale country-wide reform for local government. However, following the Minister’s resignation, and the postponement of the eagerly awaited white paper on devolution and reorganisation (which has now been put back until the new year at least), there is doubt as to the Government’s intentions around ushering through reorganisation on the same scale or indeed at all.

Many within the sector have also questioned whether in fact now is an appropriate time for reorganisation on any scale, given the current pandemic and the multitude of challenges this is presenting across the board. The tight timescales for submissions to be made (9 November 2020 for initial submissions, with final submissions by 9 December 2020) have also done nothing to alleviate this view, particularly given the need to plough resources into proposals and the uncertainty around what exactly the white paper will contain when it eventually sees the light of day.

In all three of the areas to receive invites, there are also opposing views (often between county on the one hand and districts/boroughs on the other) as to whether there should be one or more unitaries in those areas. In some instances it would appear that alternative proposals are to be submitted by one side of the debate simply because of the intention of the other side to submit their own proposals with which they disagree. The rationale for this appears to be that unitarisation is likely to happen, so if they do not make a submission, the opposing views will come to fruition, or that an omission to make a proposal may be considered to be an endorsement of one that is made. This is clearly unsatisfactory and again can be said to arise from the mixed messages and uncertainty emanating from Government.


New LGSCO guidance on effective complaints handling
Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman | October 8 2020
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has issued new guidance on effective complaint handling for local authorities, offering “practical, real-world advice and guidance on running a complaints system to ensure it is effective and helps improve services.”

COVID-19 and English council funding: what is the medium-term outlook?
Institute for Fiscal Studies | September 24 2020
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found that financial pressures within local government will outstrip additional funding by around £3.1bn this year.

Lessons learned in communicating devolution
LGA | September 15 2020
This report forms part of The LGA’s devolution communications toolkit. It covers opportunities for communicators working within or for devolved areas, as well as some key principles to consider.


Invitations issued for unitary local government
MHCLG | October 9 2020
The Government has issued invitations to Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset to submit locally-led proposals for unitary local government, stating that this is in response to requests from those areas who are also “advanced in their discussions about local government restructuring”.

BCP Council leader announces ‘cabinet plus’
LocalGov | October 7 2020
Cllr Drew Mellor leader of BCP Council has announced a ‘cabinet plus’ approach to decision-making and policy development for the local authority. As leader of the local authority representing Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, he has appointed nine councillors ranging from a new deputy leader to a new COVID resilience, schools and skills lead.

Districts call for withdrawal of PWLB restrictions
Public Finance | October 2 2020
In its submission to the spending review, the District Councils Network said the government has sent councils mixed messages, by encouraging authorities to be self-sufficient, and develop new income streams to replace lost funding.

Comprehensive Spending Review 'should outline £10bn funding' for local authorities
Public Finance | October 1 2020
The LGA has said that the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review should outline £10.1bn in funding for local authorities up to 2023-24 to help meet funding gaps and increased demand on services. In its submission to the spending review, the LGA stated that councils in England could face a funding gap of £5.3bn by 2023-24, just to maintain services at today’s levels.

New unitary to go it alone with mayor free devolution bid.
Local Government Chronicle | September 29 2020
Buckinghamshire Council plans to submit what it claims is a “best in class” devolution proposal to government next month, just five months after becoming England’s newest unitary. It is hoping that despite the government’s rhetoric on wanting to see “more mayors”, devolved powers will not be conditional on forming a mayoral combined authority.

Wirral council introduces new committee system
LocalGov | September 29 2020
Wirral Council has approved plans to move to a committee system of local government. The aim is to introduce a more accountable and transparent way of working and collaborative policy and decision-making.

Council blames COVID-19 restrictions as it rejects petition calling for referendum on having elected mayor
Local Government Lawyer | September 23, 2020
The London Borough of Croydon has cited COVID-19 restrictions to reject a petition calling for a referendum on creating an elected mayoralty. The petitioners believe that the council is hiding behind COVID legislation, using it as an excuse to ignore what a large number of the people of Croydon have demanded.

Leeds City Council faces over £100m funding gap
LocalGov | September 17 2020
Leeds City Council has appealed to the Government for more financial support as it projects a funding gap next year of over £100m.

Somerset councils vote to establish two unitary authorities
LocalGov | September 16 2020
District councils in Somerset have voted for a transformation plan that will see them replaced by two unitary authorities. At full council meetings at Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West and Taunton and South Somerset district councils, 84% of councillors voted to support the proposal.

Council confirms £60m loan for airport
Public Finance | September 16 2020
Luton Borough Council has approved the borrowing of £60m, which it then intends to lend to its wholly-owned London Luton Airport Ltd in an attempt to offset losses resulting from Covid-19.

All West Yorkshire councils back devolution deal
LocalGov | September 11 2020
All five West Yorkshire councils and the Combined Authority have consented to a devolution deal for the region. The deal will now progress to the final stages of the parliamentary process to make it law, after Kirklees Councils become the final council to give the deal its backing.

The deal is expected to generate an additional £1.8bn public investment to the region over the next 30 years, and grant the region more freedom to make local decisions.

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Contract Management

Contracts - taking account of social value

On 24 September, Cabinet Office published PPN06/20  “Taking account of social value in the award of central government contracts”, which launches a new model to deliver social value through government’s commercial activities.

PPN 06/20 applies to “In-Scope Organisations” (Central Government Departments, their Executive Agencies and Non Departmental Public Bodies). It applies to procurements covered by the Public Contracts Regulation 2015, is of immediate effect, and must be used for all new procurements from 1 January 2021. Whilst not directly applicable to local authorities, the guidance is useful for those wishing to take social value into account.

PPN 06/20 requires that social value should be explicitly evaluated in all central government procurement, where the requirements are related and proportionate to the subject matter of the contract. This is a stricter obligation than that set out in the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, which refers to social value being “considered”.

Annex A of PPN 06/20 sets out a social value model. The social value model articulates the areas of priority focus for social value delivery in central government procurement, in the form of policy themes and outcomes. The policy themes are: Covid-19 recovery; tackling economic inequality; fighting climate change; equal opportunity; and wellbeing. Application of the model will be mandatory in central government, ensuring consistency by standardising the process for defining social value - although the PPN notes that commercial teams retain flexibility in deciding which outcomes should be applied to their particular procurement to ensure relevance and proportionality. Evaluation of the social value aspect of bids should be qualitative. The PPN also requires that a minimum weighting of 10% of the total score for social value should be applied to ensure that it carries a heavy enough score to be a differentiating factor in bid evaluation; a higher weighting can be applied if justified.

Detailed guidance on the application of the social value model will be published shortly.

Further, PPN 06/20 notes that procurements related to construction, capital investment and infrastructure projects above £10m should use the social value model priority themes and outcomes in applying the Balanced Scorecard for Growth (PPN 09/16). Guidance on this will be updated and we will let you know when this is published.


Kent councils take back control of housing stock
LocalGov | October 5 2020
Canterbury City Council, Dover DC, Folkestone & Hythe DC and Thanet DC have now taken over the services and most staff provided by East Kent Housing (EKH). This action was taken after a series of health and safety failings were discovered at some of the properties that EKH was managing on behalf of the councils last year.

City council to procure case management system in £240k, five to ten-year deal
Local Government Lawyer | October 2 2020
Portsmouth City Council has announced that it is to procure a legal services document management, file management and time recording software system. The council said: “The purpose of the software system will be to provide a comprehensive, cost effective and reliable cloud and desktop solution.

November deadline looms as LGA co-ordinates legal action against vehicle supplier cartel
Local Government Lawyer | September 24 2020
Councils have until November to initiate actions for potentially millions of pounds worth of damages against vehicle suppliers found in 2016 to have operated a cartel. This is a class action which is being co-ordinated by the Local Government Association on behalf of several local authorities.”

Councils to ‘regularly report’ on efforts to fight modern slavery
LocalGov | September 22 2020
Local authorities and other public bodies which have a budget of £36m or more will be required to regularly report on the steps they have taken to prevent modern slavery in their supply chains. The measure was introduced today by the Government as part of an effort to strengthen the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and ensure that large businesses and public bodies tackle modern slavery risks in supply chains.

Deputy Chief Land Registrar publishes blog on the developing use of electronic signatures 
Gov.uk | October 02 2020
The General Counsel, Deputy Chief Executive and Deputy Chief Land Registrar, Mike Harlow, has written a blog piece for HM Land Registry on the developing use of electronic signatures. This discusses the progress of the adoption of electronic signatures, commenting on the recent widening of the scope of the use of witnessed electronic signatures, adding qualified electronic signatures and digital conveyancing.

PPRS publishes its progress report for 2019/2020
Gov.uk | October 2020
The Public Procurement Review Services has published its latest progress report, highlighting key trends and actions for contracting authorities. Trends in the payment cases investigated include issues with non-payment of invoices, advertisement and evaluation.

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Disputes & Regulatory Support

Essex County Council v UBB Waste (Essex) Ltd (No 3) [2020] EWHC 2387 (TCC)

In September, a costs judgment was handed down in the case of Essex County Council v UBB Waste (Essex) Ltd (No 3) [2020] EWHC 2387 (TCC), a case in which the Council had already successfully obtained damages of over £9m as a result of UBB defective construction of a waste treatment facility.

In May 2012, the Council entered into a 25-year PFI contract with UBB for the finance, construction and maintenance of a biological waste treatment plant in Basildon to process household waste. The construction phase was completed around November 2014 but the facility failed to satisfy the contractual performance requirements. The Council argued that the design and construction of the facility was fundamentally flawed and it was entitled to terminate the contract. UBB denied that it was in breach and the problem was the mix of waste the Council was delivering. UBB also argued that the Council had failed to act in good faith.

The Court overwhelmingly found for the Council and deemed that the facility had been constructed with serious design errors. Whilst he found the contract to be the type of relational contract that implies a duty of good faith, the Council had not acted in breach of that duty. Further, the Council was entitled to terminate.

At the recent costs hearing, the main issue to decide was whether or not there had been a valid Part 36 settlement offer, Part 36 being a procedural mechanism that results in the receiving party being penalised on costs and interest in the even that they do not accept an offer which they fail to beat at trial.

Here, the Council made an offer but there was some dispute on whether the offer was valid as it stated that the “relevant period” (which must not be less than 21 days) was 21 days from the date of the letter. The letter was dated 7 March 2019, but it was not sent to UBB until 8 March 2020. The judge interpreted this to mean that the offer ran from 8 March 2019 and the apparently conflicting dates had no material impact. The court subsequently awarded interest on the judgment sum and costs at the maximum rate of 10% above base rate and criticised UBB for failing to engage in settlement discussions notwithstanding its weak defence.

The decision demonstrates the courts reluctance to invalidate Part 36 offers and serves as a reminder to the importance of giving an offer serious consideration before deciding not to accept.


London borough facing legal action over street closures through experimental traffic regulation order
Local Government Lawyer | September 30 2020
Residents who object to a plan to close streets in Islington to motor traffic have sent the council a pre-action letter warning they will seek judicial review.

Council fails to help care users maintain their homes
Local Government & Health and Social Care Ombudsman | September 24 2020
Hertfordshire County Council has been asked to review its social care practices to ensure it meets its Care Act duties to help people keep their home tidy. An investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found the council routinely telling people it would not fund support to maintain a habitable home, and that they should find the money themselves. This contravenes the Care Act, which states being unable to maintain a habitable home environment is one of the key factors which may negatively affect a person’s quality of life.


R. (on the application of Lochailort Investments Ltd) v Mendip DC | October 2 2020
A developer appealed against the refusal of its application for judicial review of the local planning authority's decision to approve a draft neighbourhood development plan. The appeal was allowed.

Girling v East Suffolk | October 1 2020
East Suffolk Council has defeated a legal challenge over planning permission for replacement facilities at a nuclear power station.

Essex County Council v UBB Waste (Essex) Ltd [2020] EWHC 1581 (TCC) | September 11 2020
A High Court judge has awarded Essex County Council indemnity costs after ruling earlier this year that the local authority had been entitled as of 13 June 2019 to terminate a 25-year contract with UBB for the processing of household waste. The fundamental problem with the project involving the Tovi Eco Park waste disposal facility in Basildon was that UBB had made a number of serious design errors. The Council was awarded more than £10m in damages.

Gathercole v Suffolk County Council | September 9 2020
An appeal against a decision that upheld the county council's grant of planning permission for the construction of a new village primary school. The appellant argued that the county council had failed to have due regard to its public sector equality duty in respect of the effect of aircraft noise from a nearby airfield on children with protected characteristics. The appeal was dismissed as it was highly likely that the planning decision would have been no different had due regard been had to the public sector equality duty.

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ON DEMAND - Insolvency Series :
Company Voluntary Arrangements
Administrations and insolvent liquidations
An introduction to The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020

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WEBINAR - Procurement Series
Procurement Update Part 1
10 November 10.00 - 11.00
Policy developments including:

  • Procurement Policy Notes
  • Outcomes of Modern Slavery Act consultation – and what it means for you
  • Brexit

Procurement Update Part 2 
11 November 10.00 - 11.00
Practical learning from recent ECJ decisions on:

  • Public-public cooperation arrangements
  • How to respond to zero priced contracts

Procurement Update Part 3
12 November 10.00 - 11.00

  • Selection and shortlisting
  • Rules, risks and risk management in selection and shortlisting

WEBINAR - Copyright licensing and the Motion Picture Licensing Company
9 November 2020, 11am

WEBINAR - New year, new immigration system…an overview of the UK’s point based immigration system
20 January 2021, 11am

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