LA Spotlight

How will the changes to the planning regime affect you?

On 1 September 2020, the Government implemented significant changes to the use classes system in England (Use Class Order 1987) through the new Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020.

The Regulations introduce three new use classes (E, F1 and F2). The most significant change is the creation of a new “Commercial, Business and Service” use called “Class E”. This brackets together a wide variety of uses, all of which are now considered to be in the same use class. Planning permission is not required for changes within the same use class. For those local authorities with policies which seek to protect town centre uses or office uses in particular locations, the changes will undermine those policies by allowing developers to sidestep those parts of the planning regime entirely.

The new permitted development rights significantly extend the scope of new development which can be carried out without planning permission. The process of prior approval will have the effect of mitigating some of the most harmful impacts of those developments, but the major practical consequence is that infrastructure contributions can only be sought in relation to the matters approved through the prior approval process.

Taken together, the changes represent a significant shift in control away from local authorities and the communities they represent, into a less regulated environment. Local planning authorities may, therefore seek alternative routes to manage changes of use (including imposing more restrictive planning conditions, or the use of Article 4 directions). Notwithstanding this shift in control, there is a silver lining for authorities, in that the changes may result in increased take-up of otherwise disused units, which in turn may have a beneficial impact in terms of business rates.

The changes are very significant, but they are only the tip of the iceberg for potential planning changes on the immediate horizon. The Government’s current White Paper foreshadows the possibility of swinging changes to the entire planning system over the coming months, including the potential implementation of a consolidated infrastructure levy, and it may well be that further permitted development reforms follow in kind.

For further details please read our Insight or contact our Planning colleagues: Kathryn Lawrance, Dalee Kaur, Matthew Tucker


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Delivering Value

Planning for next year's budget cycle

The pandemic has brought with it long overdue coverage over the need for investment in preventative care and indeed an appreciation of the vulnerabilities across a number of local government services. Where does this leave local authority planning for next year’s budget cycle alongside Covid-19 resilience planning and indeed dealing with the current wave of public health pressures at the frontline, which show little sign of retreat?

Is this an opportunity to drive investment centrally into supporting innovation in public health delivery and indeed take a more long term approach to the yet unsolved crisis of adult social care (Obesity stigma fuelling severe impact on adult social care)?

Building a longer term resilience strategy to delivering value, however, requires a co-ordinated and streamlined approach across all service areas. The priorities of the private and commercial sectors in future investment in property will sit alongside local authority investment in transport and infrastructure, investment in public health is reliant on the long term national policy for safeguarding and prevention… In the depths of the many questions, what is clear here is that we are just scratching the surface at the tools for local economic recovery.

Publications & Guidance

The drivers of collaboration
Local Government Association | 25 August 2020
Delivering an effective response to coronavirus means collaboration between county and district councils is more important than ever. In this report, commissioned before the first outbreak of coronavirus, we have set out the results of our research into the factors which drive collaboration between district and county councils. Full report The drivers of collaboration: working in partnership across local government

Obesity stigma fuelling severe impact on adult social care
Local Government Association | 20 August 2020
Up to a third of adults are predicted to be obese by 2024. The LGA says council care costs are rising as levels of obesity increase with more people living longer in ill-health with multiple and complex needs, requiring costly housing adaptations, specialised equipment and personal care.


Council-owned energy company to close
Public Finance | 4 September 2020
Nottingham City Council’s wholly-owned energy company Robin Hood Energy is to be offloaded. The council confirmed the move as it reached agreement with British Gas owner Centrica for the transfer of its 112,000 residential customers and its 2,600 business customers. A fee for the acquisition by Centrica has not been disclosed. A report from external auditor Grant Thornton said in July that Robin Hood Energy’s losses had risen to £23.1m last year, following a £1.6m loss the year before.

Councils in talks over single workforce
LocalGov | 3 September 2020
Havant BC and East Hampshire DC are in talks over creating a single flexible workforce. Leader of Havant, Cllr Michael Wilson, said the move would build on the ‘successful foundation’ of having a shared chief executive and management team.

LGSS Law announces return to profit
Local Government Lawyer | 2 September 2020
Local authority-owned law firm LGSS Law has reported a return to profit having made a profit of £349,612 in the last financial year, after enduring a “challenging” couple of years. According to the firm, having spent 2019/20 reviewing its practices and processes, it was able to increase turnover by 8.3% and reduce its operating costs by 9.7%. It also reduced the amount owed by its creditors by £2,628,000. According to the firm – which is jointly owned by Cambridgeshire County Council, Northamptonshire County Council and Central Bedfordshire Council – the COVID-19 pandemic led to a workload increase in March 2020 and throughout the lockdown. Early indications are that 2020/21 will be another positive year for the firm, LGSS Law said.

Councils scrapping use of algorithms in benefit and welfare decisions
The Guardian | 24 August 2020
Councils are quietly scrapping the use of computer algorithms in helping to make decisions on benefit claims and other welfare issues, the Guardian has found, as critics call for more transparency on how such tools are being used in public services. It comes as an expert warns the reasons for cancelling programmes among government bodies around the world range from problems in the way the systems work to concerns about bias and other negative effects. Most systems are implemented without consultation with the public, but critics say this must change. The use of artificial intelligence or automated decision-making has come into sharp focus after an algorithm used by the exam regulator Ofqual downgraded almost 40% of the A-level grades assessed by teachers. It culminated in a humiliating government U-turn and the system being scrapped.

District council becomes second authority to join peer-to-peer lending platform
Public Finance | 21 August 2020
A second local authority has signed up to a lending platform enabling it to fund business loans to local firms and build its cash reserves. Forest of Dean District Council will use Folk2folk, a peer-to-peer lending platform that matches local businesses to investors. Folk2folk said its investors typically receive an interest rate of 6.5% on their investments, and it has so far funded more than £360m to British firms, which it said it hopes will support local economies. The economic recovery following Covid-19 requires local authorities to dig deep and support their local businesses as best they can,” said Richard Leppington, cabinet member for finance at Forest of Dean. “One of the ways we can do this is by making funding available to our local businesses over the short and medium term, and we’re excited to be working with Folk2folk to deliver this.”

Council warns of potential breach of statutory duty in relation to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children
Local Government Lawyer | 18 August 2020
The Leader of Kent County Council has warned that the local authority “cannot safely meet our statutory duty” when it comes to its capacity to care for new arrivals of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC). The council said it would be unable to accept new arrivals from today unless the Home Office found a solution to fairly distribute such children to other local authorities.

Council agrees to address its lack of suitable school transport for children with Special Needs
Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman | 13 August 2020
Buckinghamshire County Council has agreed to look at the transport it has available to take children with Special Educational Needs to school, after it left one mother out of pocket when she had no alternative but to take her child to school every day. The Ombudsman’s investigation criticised the way the council handled the appeal, which was delayed. It found there was not enough evidence to support the council’s claimed actions during the delay period.

City council to amend school transport policy following Ombudsman investigation
Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman | 10 August 2020
Coventry City Council has agreed to amend the way it handles appeals about free school transport after the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found its policy did not meet statutory guidelines. The problem was uncovered after a man complained he had not been given a fair hearing when he appealed against the council’s decision not to offer free school transport to his child. When the man complained to the Ombudsman, an investigation found the council was not allowing parents the chance to make verbal representations at the appeal panel stage, and instead would only consider written evidence.

Social care at breaking point in England after 'lost decade' – report
The Guardian | 9 August 2020
Policymakers’ failure to tackle chronically underfunded social care has resulted in a “lost decade” and a system now at breaking point, according to a report. A team led by Jon Glasby, a professor of health and social care at the University of Birmingham, says that without swift government intervention including urgent funding changes England’s adult social care system could quickly become unsustainable.

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Place & Growth

Residential possession – time to be prepared

Residential possession proceedings hit the headlines on Friday 21 August 2020 when it was announced, that the current stay on all proceedings and evictions would be extended by a further 4 weeks. As a result of the latest extension, no eviction (save against trespassers) will take place before 21 September and no possession claims will progress until the stay is lifted. There is of course no guarantee that the stay will not be extended further.

After a stay period of some 6 months, County Court bailiffs will be faced with significant backlogs and the relisting of dates may take many months. Where landlords simply cannot wait for a date, they should consider transferring the matter of enforcement to the High Court.

So what next? Whilst the ways in which the Courts will manage claims post 20 September 2020 are finalised, landlords now have time to seek out further information in order to quickly file reactivation notices (where necessary) and updates to the court on the effect of COVID-19 on Defendants.

For proceedings issued at Court before 3 August 2020 and which have been affected by the current stay, a party must file and serve a “reactivation notice”. This is a written notice which must set out any knowledge that a party has as to the effect the pandemic has had on the Defendant and their dependents. This means that landlords will need to start engaging with Defendants now to seek out this information. In particular, the judges considering possession claims will want to know:

  • How many adults and children currently reside at the premises?
  • What financial effect, if any, has Covid-19 had upon the Defendant or their household, including those who might contribute to their household income??
  • What effect, if any, has Covid-19 had upon the Defendant’s/Defendant’s household’s employment status?
  • Has Covid-19 impacted upon the Defendant’s earnings or otherwise upon their household income?
  • What effect, if any, has Covid-19 had upon the Defendant’s physical health?
  • What effect, if any, has Covid-19 had upon the physical health of any member of the Defendant’s household?
  • What effect, if any, has Covid-19 had upon the Defendant’s mental health?
  • Has Covid-19 resulted in the death of any of the Defendant’s relatives or dependents? 

The Court will want to see that adequate steps have been taken to seek out this information and therefore, now that home visits are being arranged once again, steps should be taken to speak with Defendants via every means reasonably possible. Whilst it is accepted that some tenants will not engage with their landlords, attempts to speak with them should take place in any event.

It will also be sensible to start considering what information should be provided to the court in cases where the landlord feels that possession claim should be given priority, such as serious ASB. Evidence from residents, staff, the police and other agencies may assist with this and therefore, now is a good time to start collating that information.

We can’t be sure that the stay won’t be further extended, but we can be ready to reactivate claims as soon as the stay is lifted and the hard work on that should start now.


Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2020
SI 2020/914. These Regulations amend Schedule 29 of the Coronavirus Act 2020. Schedule 29 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 (“Schedule 29”) modified various statutory provisions with the effect that during the relevant period landlords are required to provide at least three months’ notice of intention to seek possession of housing let under a Rent Act 1977 protected or statutory tenancy, a secure tenancy, a flexible tenancy, an assured tenancy, an assured shorthold tenancy, an introductory tenancy or a demoted tenancy let by a local authority or housing action trust. The provision made by Schedule 29 was to end on 30th September 2020. Regulation 3(2) amends Schedule 29 so that it has effect, in relation to England, until 31st March 2021.

Publications & Guidance

Decarbonising transport
Local Government Association | 3 September 2020
This series of briefing notes, developed with experts from the University of Leeds, will help councils with a practical set of actions they can take forward for decarbonisation. From understanding how to set achievable timescales through to implementing measures that will help people change their travel behaviours. Briefings cover:

Assured tenancy forms: updated
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 2 September 2020
Forms for landlords and/or tenants to propose action relating to tenancy agreements. Form 6a and the notes to form 6a have been changed to remove information that is no longer applicable. These changes, along with changes made on 29 August to form 3, form 6a and the notes to form 6a, have been made in line with new legislation that came into force on 29 August 2020 and should be used by landlords in England up to 31 March 2021.

Coronavirus: A ban on evictions and help for rough sleepers
House of Commons Library | 31 August 2020
This briefing paper explains measures taken by the Government during the coronavirus outbreak to assist households to retain their homes and enable local authorities to tackle the specific challenges faced by rough sleepers. The paper covers the decision to further extend the stay on eviction hearings in England and Wales to 20 September and new notice provisions introduced on 29 August. The paper is being updated regularly to take account of new developments.

Managing pavement parking: consultation
Department for Transport | 31 August 2020
Proposed options to tackle pavement parking at a local authority or national level. This consultation closes at 11:59pm on 22 November 2020.

Secure tenancy forms: updated
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 29 August 2020
Forms for seeking possession of secure tenancies. The prescribed forms that apply to secure tenancies have been changed to reflect the changes to possession procedures in the Coronavirus Act 2020. Updated to reflect changes on notice period requirements.

COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities: updated
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 29 August 2020
Non-statutory guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities in the private and social rented sectors in the context of Coronavirus (COVID-19). This guidance provides advice to landlords and tenants on the provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020, and further advice for landlords, tenants and local authorities more broadly about their rights and responsibilities during the COVID-19 outbreak. Updated to reflect amended regulations and wider government public health advice.

Government advice on home moving during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak: updated
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 29 August 2020
This guidance applies to people moving into homes in England, whether as owner-occupiers, private or social renters. This is national guidance. If local restrictions are in place in your area, please check for local lockdowns guidance. This guidance provides important public health information to ensure that moving home and related activities, such as viewing property, can happen safely. It also applies to custom and self-builders looking to acquire a plot or a property to renovate or demolish. Updated guidance to include information on face coverings, shielding and repossessions.

Ministers call on councils to help deliver digital connectivity ambitions
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 27 August 2020
Government ministers are calling on local councils to help ensure people can access better broadband and mobile connectivity crucial to the UK’s coronavirus recovery. Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman and Local Government Minister Simon Clarke have today written to local authorities setting out how they can help boost gigabit broadband rollout and 5G mobile coverage. The ministers urge councils to follow new government advice on land access and valuations so deals granting access for new infrastructure such as 5G masts and full fibre broadband cabinets on public land can be reached quicker and with reasonable rents attached. Central government has also shared new guidance on the safety and benefits of 5G so councils can give people the facts and tackle disinformation about this revolutionary mobile technology.

Jenrick extends ban on evictions and notice periods
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 21 August 2020
The ban on evictions is extended for another 4 weeks and new 6 month notice periods to be in place until at least 31 March 2021. Renters affected by coronavirus will continue to be protected after the government extended the ban on evictions for another 4 weeks, meaning in total no legal evictions will have taken place for 6 months, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced. And LGA response.

Charging up the green recovery
Local Government Association | 21 August 2020
Timely investment in green jobs could deliver a long-term boost to our economy. Nearly 700,000 direct jobs could be created in England’s low-carbon and renewable energy economy by 2030, rising to more than 1.18 million by 2050. We need to think again about how we support people into those jobs and invest in the critical infrastructure to make the transition. Long term recovery can only be delivered by industries that have a long-term future in a post carbon economy. This guide aims to address how electric charging infrastructure can help us access this green dividend. Many councils have been looking at investing in charging infrastructure and transitions to the vehicle fleet.

LGA launches report to help councils tackle climate change
Local Government Association | 21 August 2020
The LGA, working closely with the Centre for Public Scrutiny, has published a guide to help councils play a leading role in tackling the climate crisis at a local level.  The resource, which sets out 10 scrutiny questions, will help all councils and policymakers to embed the necessary environmental, social and cultural changes that communities need to see to build resilience to respond to climate challenges such as investment strategies and transport plans.

£27bn roads investment to support 64,000 jobs
Highways England | 21 August 2020
Highways England has today unveiled the details of plans for £27.4bn investment in the strategic road network across the country.

Waste management plan for England: consultation
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs | 20 August 2020
We are seeking views on a revised draft Waste Management Plan for England. Under the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011 the Government is required to review the Plan every 6 years. The content of the Plan is determined by the requirements of Schedule 1 to the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011. The Plan provides an analysis of the current waste management situation in England. It is primarily about the quantity of waste there is in England and how that waste is managed. The Plan sets out a summary of current policies, not new policies or announcements. It reflects the policies included in the Government’s Resources and Waste Strategy, published in 2018. Consultation closes 15 October 2020.

Planning for the Future: planning policy changes in England in 2020 and future reforms
House of Commons Library | 20 August 2020
The Planning for the Future white paper published in August 2020, setting out the Government's proposals for "once in a generation" reform of England's planning system, has proved controversial. This briefing from the House of Commons Library examines those proposals and the other planning changes already made during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Legally binding targets to help “build back greener”
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs | 19 August 2020
The Government sets out how it will underpin key environmental commitments with legally binding targets, including for air quality, water, waste and biodiversity. The government will introduce at least one long-term target in four priority areas to drive significant and lasting environmental improvements: cleaner air, cleaner water, less waste and more biodiversity.

Traffic Regulation Orders: identifying improvements to the legislative process in England
Department for Transport | 18 August 2020
Study into the processes and practices, including recommendations for improvement, of making road Traffic Regulation Orders. The recommendations made are planned to be part of a policy consultation, expected in 2020.

Five local authorities announced to trailblaze England’s nature recovery pilots
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs | 14 August 2020
Five pilot areas will test how the recovery of England’s landscapes and wildlife can be driven locally. Cornwall, Buckinghamshire, Greater Manchester, Northumberland and Cumbria local authorities have been selected by the government to help kick-start nature recovery on a countrywide scale. The selected authorities will receive a share of £1m of funding to set up ‘Local Nature Recovery Strategies’ pilot studies to help map the most valuable sites and habitats for wildlife in their area and identify where nature can be restored.

Transport demand management toolkit for local authorities
Department for Transport | 14 August 2020
Help for local authorities in England outside London to manage increased demand on the public transport network.

Funding boost to help communities plan their neighbourhoods
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 10 August 2020
Funding to help communities in urban and deprived areas plan their local neighbourhoods will almost double, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced. Government grants to individual neighbourhood planning groups in both urban and deprived areas will increase to £18,000. This follows funding increasing from £9,000 to £10,000 in May to help with the effects of coronavirus.

COVID-19: outdoor events guidance
Local Government Association | 10 August 2020
There has been some uncertainty about the extent to which outdoor events are currently permitted to take place. This note brings together relevant guidance on outdoor events and provides an overview of the current position.


Four in ten homes granted planning permission go unbuilt, research shows
LocalGov | 4 September 2020
The backlog of unbuilt homes that have been granted planning permission has grown by 100,00 in the last year, new research has revealed. The analysis by Shelter and the House Builders Federation shows that 40% of homes granted planning permission in England go unbuilt. This equates to more than 380,000 homes between 2011 and 2019.

Ombudsman’s new powers take effect including working with the Regulator
Housing Ombudsman | 1 September 2020
New powers in the revised Housing Ombudsman Scheme that takes effect from today will help improve awareness, accessibility and speed of complaint resolution. It also enables the Ombudsman to be more proactive on systemic issues and broadens the basis on which we can refer cases to the Regulator of Social Housing.

Derby council joins campaign for ‘once-in-a-generation’ investment in social housing
LocalGov | 25 August 2020
Derby City Council and Derby Homes have joined a national campaign to make social housing a Government priority in the coronavirus recovery. ‘Homes at the Heart’, organised by the National Federation of Housing, the Chartered Institute of Housing, homelessness charity Crisis, the National Federation of ALMOs, and the Association of Retained Council Housing, will highlight the importance of affordable homes and secure tenancies as key to our national recovery. The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown, which left many people trapped at home and unable to work, has shown more than ever before just how vital social housing is, according to the organisers. The campaign is calling for for a ‘once-in-a-generation’ investment in social housing and has reached over two million people on social media. More than 50 organisations, from NatWest to Save the Children, Wilmott Dixon to Carers UK, have declared their support.

Local authority pension fund invests £150m in rental housing
LocalGov | 25 August 2020
An investment manager for local authority pension funds has invested £150m in private rental housing provider Get Living. The Local Pensions Partnership said they were ‘delighted’ to be contributing to the regeneration of local communities with the investment. Get Living currently manages 2,900 homes and is seeking to expand its portfolio to between 12,000 and 14,000 through new developments. Chris Rule, CEO of the LPP, said that investing in property was an ‘important part’ of the pension funds investment strategy.

Covid-19 impact on receipts revealed
Public Finance | 20 August 2020
Business rate income for local authorities halved in the first quarter, while council tax income stayed steady, according to the first official figures on the impact of Covid-19 on council income. Business rates receipts dropped to £4.2bn between April and June, compared to £8bn in the same period last year, according to new figures from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. However, council tax receipts only dropped by less than 1% year-on-year, from £9.08bn in Q1 of 2019-20, to a little over £9bn in the first quarter this year. Geoff Winterbottom, principal research officer at the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities, told PF that the headline figure for council tax receipts was misleading. Winterbottom said: “The figures contain a hidden loss because there is an average increase in council tax from 2019-20 to 2020-21 of 3.9%. “I suspect the actual decline is greater than it first appears. He estimated that "taking into account inflation, the drop in income is actually around £350m, equating to around 4.6%".

Borough council cites medieval charter to close down new market
Local Government Lawyer | 19 August 2020
Charnwood Borough Council has invoked a medieval charter to protect an 800-year-old market from a new local rival. The council said the royal charter granted by King Henry III still prohibited any other market opening within six and two-thirds miles of Loughborough market, and that the Free Trade Inn Market, in Sileby, was too close. Jenny Bokor, Charnwood’s lead member for Loughborough, said the council had offered a compromise under which five stalls could operate at Sileby as this was too few to legally constitute ‘a market’.

Bokor said: “Whilst the charter is old it is still in force in Loughborough and other charters are still in use around the country, such as Leicester. “The principle of these charters is to stop rival markets setting up in the area and damaging Loughborough Market.

Council secures interim High Court injunction over 100+ acres of Green Belt land
Local Government Lawyer | 18 August 2020
Thurrock Council has this month obtained an interim High Court injunction preventing any further unauthorised development on more than 100 acres of Green Belt land. This follows a court hearing on 6 August 2020 relating to the site, which is north of Buckles Lane and south of Mollands Lane, South Ockendon. The local authority said a consent order was agreed by the involved parties and sealed by the court on 13 August 2020. This will ensure the interim injunction will continue until a trial is heard later in the year to determine if it will be made permanent, it said.


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Governance & Reorganisation

To unitarise or not to unitarise?

To unitarise or not to unitarise, that is the question facing Councils across the country, with a number of areas already at an advanced stage of formulating proposals for submission to government, and battle lines being drawn. However, the ‘resignation’ of Simon Clarke MP for personal reasons on 8 September 2020, who intimated that the forthcoming white paper on devolution and local recovery would be advocating widespread unitarisation as a precursor to further devolution, has raised questions over whether the government are in fact intending to take reorganisation that far. With the white paper allegedly due any time now, we may have some much needed clarity on this soon.

Feeding into the narrative around reorganisation, (and stoking the fires somewhat) the County Councils Network has published a report following a study on their behalf by PwC, which suggests that merging all districts and county councils into single unitaries could save £2.94bn over five years nationally – an attractive figure given the significant pressures on funding for social care and the losses occasioned by COVID-19.

For those not already aware, we would also highlight the setting up of the local government income compensation scheme for irrecoverable and unavoidable losses from sales, fees and charges as a result of COVID-19 in the financial year 2020/21. Guidance on how local authorities can access the scheme has been issued by MHCLG, the link for which is set out below.



The Postponed Elections and Referendums (Coronavirus) and Policy Development Grants (Amendment) Regulations 2020
S.I. 2020/926. This instrument is made under the Coronavirus Act 2020 and the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 to make provision relating to the postponement of the May 2020 elections and other polls due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These Regulations come partly into force on 22 September 2020, and fully on 6 March 2021.

Publications & Guidance

Power in Place: Devolution and Districts Driving Our Recovery
District Councils’ Network | 1 September 2020
Devolution should back the success of districts in delivery. It should not distract from the local recovery effort or reduce delivery capacity through forcing reorganisation into a less local, less agile, less responsive local government pushed by interests wanting county unitary councils everywhere. Local governance is a local matter, places must be free to decide how to organise services and to progress any kind of reform only where there is significant local agreement. Full report.

Thinking about unitarisation and reorganisation
Centre for Public Scrutiny | 26 August 2020
Ed Hammond discusses the rumblings that the expected Devolution White Paper will bring with it plans for structural reorganisation in English local government. 

Remote council meetings: Newcastle City Council
Local Government Association | 25 August 2020
As councils were forced to work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, central government gave councils the ability to host formal council meetings fully remote. A recurring issue for councils is around making voting efficient, accurate and quick as the most popular practice to take votes is by roll call to ensure all councillors present have their voices heard and the democratic services team can record voting patterns. Newcastle City Council has delivered over 40 meetings remotely, running a full council meeting that had 73 of the 74 councillors in attendance on 24 June. It has required IT support and training for councillors to ensure they are getting the most optimum experience at the meetings. The council is leading in the remote voting area of work.

Local government income compensation scheme for lost sales, fees and charges
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 24 August 2020
Guidance for local authorities on how to access the local government income compensation scheme for lost sales, fees and charges as a result of COVID-19. This new, one-off income loss scheme will compensate for irrecoverable and unavoidable losses from sales, fees and charges income generated in the delivery of services, in the financial year 2020/21.


Cabinet votes against trading company proposal despite concerns of monitoring officer over conduct of meeting
Local Government Lawyer | 3 September 2020
Broadland District Council’s Cabinet has voted down a proposal to form a local authority trading company for waste services despite concerns from its monitoring officer about the conduct of the meeting. The company had been proposed to be jointly owned by Broadland and neighbouring South Norfolk Council, which share most services. South Norfolk voted in support of creating the company but Broadland’s cabinet rejected it and will now procure a contractor. Although the papers relating the business case for creating a company were kept private, an open session of the cabinet was asked to vote in favour of going to procurement.

Judy Leggett, portfolio holder for environmental excellence, referred to “associated risks” mentioned in the private report.

New analysis reveals that single unitary councils could deliver £3bn saving over five years and ‘maximise’ the benefits of economic growth and housing policy
County Councils Network | 28 August 2020
The County Councils Network has published new independent evidence on the implications of local government reorganisation in two-tier shire counties ahead of the publication of the government’s ‘devolution and local recovery’ white paper. With councils in shire counties facing billions in rising costs for care services, alongside financial deficits caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, the study from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) shows merging district and county councils in each area into a single unitary council could save £2.94bn over five years nationally. Full report Evaluating the importance of scale in proposals for local government reorganisation.

Three districts table Gloucestershire devolution proposals
LocalGov | 27 August 2020
Three of Gloucestershire’s district councils have proposed creating two unitary authorities in the county. Cheltenham BC, Cotswold DC, and Stroud DC have begun working on the proposals that would see one council covering the east of the county, and another for the western half. A paper is due to go before Cotswold’s cabinet on 7 September, with Stroud and Cheltenham councillors expected to consider a similar proposal soon after. The leaders of the three council have said that reorganisation is necessary for Gloucestershire to ‘unlock significant future investment’ and their proposals would be ‘closer and more connected to the people they serve’. However, they have yet to gain support from Forest of Dean DC, Gloucester City Council, and Tewkesbury BC, or Gloucestershire CC.

Council ‘cannot guarantee’ it will not issue a section 114 notice
Public Finance | 26 August 2020
Croydon Council has said it cannot guarantee it will not issue a section 114 notice this year, amid reports it is seeking permission to use capital resources to fund services. The warning was made during a council overview and scrutiny committee meeting last night, as the committee responded to the council’s financial review published last month. The report, discussed during a cabinet meeting in July, said the council predicts a funding shortfall of £65.4m for 2020-21 as a result of the pandemic.

UK council finances 'hardest hit in Europe, claims Moody's
LocalGov | 26 August 2020
UK local authorities are set to be hardest hit financially by the coronavirus among the five largest European economies says a report from Moody’s Investors Services. The research estimates a shortfall of €77bn for local and regional government across the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy, with Spain and the UK facing the highest fiscal pressures. The report says: ‘Spanish regions and UK local authorities face relatively high spending pressures, moderate expected lost revenues and weak pre-pandemic fiscal performance. It adds: ‘As UK local authorities' pre-crisis fiscal performance was relatively weak, they will face challenging decisions regarding spending cuts or the use of reserve balances to balance budgets this fiscal year.’

The 2020 Guidance on Statutory intervention and Localism
Local Government Lawyer | 21 August 2020
Paul Feild examines recent government guidance on statutory intervention into local authorities, and considers what councils should do to avoid it coming to pass.

Second council launches community municipal investment
Public Finance | 21 August 2020
Warrington Borough Council is set to become the second authority to launch a community municipal investment, following West Berkshire in May. The council said the CMI will launch on Monday, and will seek to raise up to £1m to help fund the development of a new solar farm in Cirencester. A CMI is a bond issued by a local authority directly to the public via an internet-based crowdfunding platform. Investors will be able to pay as little as £5 to support the council project and receive a “long-term, low-risk” return.

Municipal Bonds Agency launches second bond with Lancashire Council
Public Finance | 20 August 2020
The UK Municipal Bonds Agency has agreed a second bond with Lancashire County Council, just six months after approving its first bond in February. The bond is valued at £250m with a 40-year maturity, 80bps lower than the equivalent rate from the Public Works Loan Board, according to the agency. Christian Wall, director at PFM, UKMBA’s management service, told PF that the bond will save the council £73m over the 40-year duration compared to borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board - equal to more than £1.8m savings per year.

LLG calls for introduction of effective sanctions in consultation response on LGA draft Model Code of Conduct
Local Government Lawyer | 19 August 2020
Existing sanctions and those proposed under the Local Government Association’s draft Model Code of Conduct fall below the expectations of complainants, LLG has said. “Sanctions are the single most important issue for LLG to give effect to the code of conduct,” LLG explained in its submission to the LGA's consultation on the draft code. The organisation added that it and its membership strongly supported the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) recommendation for a 6-month suspension. “Without effective sanctions, there is no deterrent and no confidence by those affected to pursue complaints,” LLG said.

Rob Whiteman: Why the Prudential Code should be statutory
Room 151 | 19 August 2020
CIPFA has argued for the Prudential Code to be placed on a statutory footing. Rob Whiteman explains why it is necessary as a measure to “prohibit borrowing for yield” on commercial property. Opinion piece from Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive Officer at CIPFA.

LLG reminds members on operation of ‘6 Month Rule’ as lockdown milestone looms
Local Government Lawyer | 18 August 2020
Lawyers in Local Government (LLG) has issued a reminder to its members on the disqualification of councillors under the ‘6 Month Rule’. Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972 states that a member of a local authority loses office if they do not attend a meeting at least once in any six-month period.

LLG said it was aware of a handful of cases where councillors had been disqualified for non-attendance under this provision. The organisation said: “Given we are fast approaching the six-month point since lock-down, you may well have members who are on the verge of falling foul of this provision.

Councils facing £2bn budget black hole
LocalGov | 18 August 2020
Councils face a budget black hole of £2bn this year due to unfunded coronavirus costs, a new study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found. The report COVID-19 and English council funding: how are budgets being hit in 2020–21? from the IFS said that while loss of income and council tax coupled with extra spending came to £7.2bn, the Government has so far promised only £5.2bn or 4% of councils’ pre-crisis spending. Although many councils have reserves, drawing on them to plug the coronavirus deficit would leave them exposed. The IFS instead proposed targeted extra government grant funding for the councils most in need and a relaxation of borrowing rules.

Council accepts findings and recommendations of Robin Hood Energy governance report
Nottingham City Council | 11 August 2020
Nottingham City Council has accepted the findings of a new report on its governance of Robin Hood Energy, the not-for-profit company set up by the authority to tackle fuel poverty in the city. The Report in the Public Interest is published by the External Auditor. It outlines a number of recommendations for action by the Council including to urgently determine the future of Robin Hood Energy (RHE), with options properly evaluated and risks assessed; review the approach to how councillors are best used and supported on the boards of subsidiary companies and ensure all board members have the required knowledge and experience to challenge the management of the companies. Councillor David Mellen, the Leader of Nottingham City Council, said: “We accept the findings of this report which, despite our best intentions, reveal failures in the Council’s governance of Robin Hood Energy over the several years following the formation of the company. “The report makes a number of recommendations to review our current practice of company governance which we are fully committed to carrying out. Some of the recommendations have already started to be put into place while a review of future options for RHE will be completed shortly. Comment from Local Government Lawyer.


Parish council has sole power to appoint trustees of allotment charities
The High Court has held in Rettendon Parish Council v Hart [2020] EWHC 2221 (Ch) that a parish council was the trustee of two allotment charities with the sole power to appoint trustees.

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Contract Management

Guidance launched on how to access the Government Income Compensation Scheme

As a result of the impact of COVID-19, the Government are due to launch a scheme which will compensate local authorities for irrecoverable and unavoidable losses from sales, fees and charges income that is due to generated in the delivery of services for the financial year 2020/21.

The new scheme is open to and aimed at eligible authorities in England, which have incurred relevant income losses and have been eligible for other COVID-19 related emergency funding. The scheme will require Authorities to absorb 5% of its total eligible losses during this period whilst enabling them to recover 75p in every pound of remaining eligible losses.

As well as being an eligible body, an authority must also be able to show that the losses that it has suffered are relevant for the purpose of the scheme, namely that:

  • the income that has been lost is transactional income from customer and client receipts due to be generated from the delivery of goods and services that was budgeted for in 202/21
  • as a result of COVID-19, the income has been unavoidably lost and will not be recovered in this financial year, and
  • the loss is a net loss following action taken by the authority to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

For a full guide on who is eligible for this scheme, how compensation may be calculated and the dates for calculation of losses please follow this link.

Publications and Guidance

Public Sector Procurement of Food: Inquiry
Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs | 4 September 2020
Public procurement is currently governed by EU rules. After the transition period ends, the UK can change procurement rules, though this will be subject to other agreements, including the future relationship with the EU. The committee wants to hear your view and will welcome submissions from anyone with answers to the questions in the call for evidence. You can submit evidence until Saturday 31 October 2020.

MHCLG procurement pipeline
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 28 August 2020
Information about the status of current and future procurement opportunities. The information presented is for information only and reflects the MHCLG anticipated procurement pipeline.

JCT publishes new articles on contractual issues
JCT| September 2020
The Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) has published three new articles spotlighting contractual issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grants announced for businesses affected by local lockdowns amid COVID-19
GOV.UK | 9 September 2020
HM Treasury has announced new grants for businesses affected by local lockdowns in England.

Government publishes new strategy to kickstart data revolution across the UK
GOV.UK | 9 September 2020
The Digital Secretary, Oliver Dowden, has launched a National Data Strategy which aims to support the use of data in the UK. The strategy sets out five missions: to unlock the value of data across the economy, to maintain a pro-growth and trusted data regime, to transform the government’s use of data to drive efficiency and improve public services, to ensure the security and resilience of the infrastructure on which data relies, and to champion the international flow of data. An open consultation of 12 weeks on the framework of this strategy has also been launched. Views can be submitted until 11:45pm on 2 December 2020.


Government hit with legal challenge over failure to publish contract award notices during pandemic
Local Government Lawyer | 27 August 2020
The Good Law Project and three MPs have launched a judicial review challenge amid claims that the Government has repeatedly failed to lawfully publish contract award notices, in respect of contracts connected to COVID-19, which have been awarded. Law firm Deighton Pierce Glynn said the claimants were challenging the “widespread systemic failure” of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to comply with his duty under regulation 50 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 and Government policy to publish, within 30 days, contract award notices in respect of contracts for goods and services, worth over £10,000.


F P McCann Ltd v Department for Regional Development [2020] NIQB 51
BAILII | case heard 26 June 2020
The High Court of Justice in Northern Ireland has now handed down a detailed judgement on the quantification of damages for loss of a change in a procurement claim.

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Disputes & Regulatory Support

Claimants lose judicial review of SEND obligation downgrade during pandemic

In the recent case of Shaw & Anor, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for Education [2020] EWHC, the claimants lost a challenge to the Secretary of State for Education’s decision to reduce the obligations on local authorities to make statutory educational and health care provision for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (“SEND”) during the pandemic.

The claimants, two disabled children, argued that the decisions “downgraded” the rights of 390,000 children with special educational needs.

The first decision challenged was the enactment of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 which temporarily relaxed various time limits for the completion of steps to be taken in the preparation of Education, Health and Care (EHC) assessments and plans. The claimants also challenged three later decisions by the government to issue statutory notices modifying the duty to secure the provision specified in EHC plans. The effect of these notices was that the duty to secure the making of the provision specified in an EHC plan was replaced for three months by a duty to use “reasonable endeavours” to secure the provision.

The claimants raised a number of grounds of challenge, including breach of the duty to consult and that it was irrational that the Regulations had been laid just the day before they came into force thereby curtailing scrutiny, and it was these two grounds in respect of which permission was granted.

Whilst Mr Justice Kerr acknowledged the disproportionate impact the Regulations had on children with SEND, he had little difficulty in preferring the contention of the defendant that the duty to consult did not arise on the facts given that the question that confronted ministers was how to respond to the emergency. He also noted that the voices of those affected were heard albeit in an informal way and that there was nothing irrational or unfair about proceeding in this way.

As regards the challenge that it was irrational to lay the Regulations before Parliament the day before they came into force rather than allowing 21 days as is convention, the court held this ground of challenge was not justiciable but noted that even if that were case it would not have been accepted that the defendant had acted irrationally.

This challenge is interesting as it may indicate the difficulty claimants will have in seeking to challenge decisions made by public bodies in response to the pandemic. The claimants have indicated their intention to appeal the ruling.


Publications & Guidance

Administrative Court judicial review guide
HM Courts & Tribunals Service | 1 September 2020
Detailed legal guidance on bringing a judicial review case in the Administrative Court. The July 2020 edition reflects legislative and practice changes relevant to the Administrative Court over the last year.


Council mulls legal action over neighbouring authority's road closures
Local Government Lawyer | 1 September 2020
Bromley Council has threatened to take legal action against Croydon Council after temporary road closures have caused displaced traffic to congest Bromley's roads. The Croydon scheme, intended to keep traffic away from residential streets and encourage socially distanced exercise and travel has led to severe traffic problems, according to neighbouring Bromley Council.

Isle of Wight Council takes preliminary steps for legal action over ‘floating bridge’ ferry
Local Government Lawyer | 28 August 2020
Isle of Wight Council has taken pre-action legal steps with suppliers of the island’s ‘floating bridge’ ferry after it spent most of the summer out of action. A council report said the ferry, which connects Cowes and East Cowes, was taken out of service in July for delayed scheduled maintenance, and a major fault with the hydraulic system was identified while undergoing tests prior to returning the vessel to service. It has remained out of use since. The report by Justin Thorne, strategic manager - legal services, said the shipbuilders and their approved contractors had advised the vessel should not return to service as originally planned as this risked further damage. It said: “The council, having received legal advice, consider that a number of the performance issues that the floating bridge has suffered are as a result of the failure of the two companies contracted to design and build the floating bridge to comply with the council’s requirements as set out in its contracts with the companies.”

Court of Appeal refuses council and claimants permission for appeal over Kent stroke services reconfiguration
Local Government Lawyer | 28 August 2020
The Court of Appeal has refused permission to appeal a High Court ruling dismissing a judicial review challenge to a stroke services review in Kent. In March this year Medway Council announced it would be lodging an appeal against Mrs Justice Farbey’s decision which found that a joint committee of clinical commissioning groups had acted lawfully when dealing with health inequalities when they decided the locations of three hyper acute stroke units (HASUs) in Kent.

Government hit by legal challenge over new permitted development rule
Local Government Lawyer | 25 August 2020
A campaign group has launched a judicial review challenge to the Government’s new rules on permitted development, which the Prime Minister’s Office at the time of their launch described as “the most radical reforms to our planning system since the Second World War". On 21 August Rights: Community: Action (RCA) issued a pre-action letter to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. RCA claimed that the new rules had been brought in without proper consultation and without parliamentary debate.

Anti-social behaviour, rough sleeping and injunctions
Local Government Lawyer | 21 August 2020
In a rare occurrence, North Lincolnshire Council recently secured an injunction pursuant to the Anti-social behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 in respect of two rough sleepers. The powers under section 1 of the Act tend to be used exceptionally and many Courts are unfamiliar with them, writes Ben Williams.

Council facing £5m+ claim from construction firm after project stopped during lockdown: report
Local Government Lawyer | 20 August 2020
Northumberland County Council faces a legal claim for some £5.5m after a construction project was shut during the COVID-19 lockdown, it has been reported. The BBC said that construction firm Farrans is claiming the money in losses on the £30m Blyth energy park project, which it was building for council-owned developer Advance Northumberland. Advance Northumberland is understood to have halted work in late March at a point when some construction sites were permitted to keep working. There is a further dispute over whether Advance Northumberland had the authority to make this decision on its own account or should have referred the matter to chief executive Daljit Lally, who is now on extended leave due to an unrelated dispute with council leader Peter Jackson.

Claimants vow to appeal after High Court dismisses challenge over “downgrading” during pandemic of rights of children with SEN
Local Government Lawyer | 19 August 2020
A High Court judge has dismissed a legal challenge to the Education Secretary's decisions to reduce the obligations on local authorities to make statutory educational and health care provision for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities in England during the pandemic. The judgment in Shaw & Anor, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for Education [2020] EWHC 2216 (Admin) followed a two-day hearing in between 29 and 30 July in which the claimants (two disabled children) said the decisions “downgraded” the rights of 390,000 children with special education needs. The claimants say they plan to appeal Mr Justice Kerr's ruling.

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Resource Library

All Bevan Brittan articles and news
Bevan Brittan COVID-19 Insight Information Hub


ON DEMAND - Recent and Proposed Changes in Town Planning

ON DEMAND - Proposed changes to the Mental Health Act

ON DEMAND - Contract Management Webinar

ON DEMAND - Employment Law Webinar

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WEBINAR - COVID-19 Supplier Relief: the transition phase
Monday 28 September; 12.00 - 13.00

WEBINAR - Insolvency Series pt2 - Company Voluntary Arrangements
Wednesday 30 September; 10.00 - 10.45

WEBINAR - Insolvency Series pt3 - Administrations and insolvent liquidations
Tuesday 13 October; 10.00 - 10.45

WEBINAR - Insolvency Series pt4 - Solvent liquidations
Tuesday 27 October; 10.00 - 10.45

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