Net Zero - seeking your views
LA View has for many months been focussed on five themes that clients inform us are relevant to the strategic issues that drive legal activity. We try and highlight key issues as well as law and policy each month. From next month we intend to add another theme on Net Zero. Local government can play a key role in driving a sustainable recovery that meets the needs of local communities and businesses. The effective implementation of policies and initiatives relating to Net Zero (decarbonisation, energy efficiency, renewable energy generation, smart local energy systems, promotion of the circular economy and resource management) can achieve a number of co-benefits including: addressing fuel poverty, increasing comfort and standards of living, improvements to health and wellbeing, stimulate local economic development, boost civic participation, innovation and creativity; enhance sustainable consumption and production; reduce degradation of ecosystems as well as the; achievement of decarbonisation targets.
This involves many facets and trigger points for councils and public bodies, whether implementing governance and decision making; incorporating objectives into wider procurements; seeking funding for new initiatives; ceasing certain activities; managing and reducing the risk of claims and many other matters.
We would be interested to hear from you the issues that are coming across your desks and therefore where we might most usefully provide supporting information in LA View or by way of training, webinars and articles. Please let us know and we would welcome feedback as we add to the content from next month.
Overview quick links
- Delivering Value Chris Harper & Kirtpal Kaur-Aujla
- Place & Growth Rebecca Pendlebury
- Governance & Reorganisation David Kitson & Victoria Barman
- Contract Management Richard Lane & Liz Fletcher
- Disputes & Regulatory Support Olivia Carter & Judith Hopper
- Resource Library
An interim Case for Change
An Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in England (the Review) was launched by Gavin Williamson on 15 January 2021 (with the review commencing on 1 March 2021) led by Josh MacAlister. The Review has an ambitious remit reviewing the whole children’s social care system and asking the question: “How do we ensure children grow up in loving, stable and safe families and, where that is not possible, care provides the same foundation?” Whilst the final report with recommendations for change is expected in 2022, last week saw the publishing of an interim report.
The Case for Change has been met with a varied response with widespread recognition of the challenging and well publicised conditions of severe budget pressures and increased costs of commissioning, for which there is no quick fix solution.
The Review is tasked with a challenging exercise. Whilst, the need for substantive change has been apparent for many years, the timing of the review is crucial in recognising the financial pressures being faced by authorities in the context of the pandemic (Eight in 10 councils forced to overspend on children’s social care).
Local authorities continue to face pressures balancing the books to meet statutory requirements and seeking to understand whether alternative approaches to procurement and commissioning of social care, the establishment of alternative service delivery vehicles or indeed strategic partnering approaches can be utilised as a means of reducing some of these cost pressures. Please do feel free to get in touch with our team if you’d like to discuss alternative structure and commissioning arrangements in further detail.
Publications & Guidance
Public Sector Exit Payments Guidance on Special Severance Payments
HM Treasury | 27 May 2021
This is guidance for public sector bodies on the use of Special Severance Payments. In line with Managing Public Money, this guidance details the criteria that public sector employers should consider before proposing a Special Severance Payment. It sets out the approval process required to authorise a special severance payment and introduces new transparency requirements for annual reporting on Special Severance Payments. See also comment from Local Government Lawyer.
City council censured for complaints response
Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman | 26 May 2021
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has heavily criticised Bristol City Council for failing to provide evidence it had completed recommendations in two separate complaints. Investigations into the complaints, which involved missed bin collections and noise nuisances, were completed in early 2020. In both cases the council accepted the Ombudsman’s decision and its recommendations to put things right for the men who had complained, and to improve its services for other people in the city.
Hampshire to review SEN services following mother’s complaint
Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman | 20 May 2021
Hampshire County Council has agreed to review the resources it has put into its Special Educational Needs team, following a complaint to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. Full report.
Public Finance | 22 June 2021
Birmingham makes ‘great strides’ on financial management
CIPFA report outlines how Birmingham Council has made great strides in addressing the issues that constrained overall financial management capability.
Public Finance | 22 June 2021
Borough to suffer £500,000 hit from leisure centre
Brentwood Borough Council forecasts a half million pound loss at its one of its leisure centres.
Public Finance | 18 June 2021
Council proposes insourcing heating company
Nottingham City Council has proposed insourcing its heating and electrical services company amid fears it would not pay back its debts to the council.
Public Finance | 18 June 2021
Croydon rejects offer for beleaguered property firm
Croydon Council has rejected the first offer to buy its housing subsidiary Brick by Brick.
Public Finance | 11 June 2021
A district council is planning to invest £56m in commercial property outside its boundaries this year, funded through borrowing from other local authorities. Somerset West and Taunton Council already invested £44m in properties in Gloucestershire, Birmingham, Stockton-on-Tees, West Yorkshire and Ayr in Scotland in 2020-21, as part of a £100m commercial investment programme, a council report said. The remainder of the programme will be completed this year, with the authority confirming to PF its intention to fund the acquisitions through loans from other councils.
Waste collection plans to cost £680m a year, councils warn
LocalGov | 11 June 2021
Government plans to standardise kerbside waste collections will cost £680m a year, district councils have warned today. The District Councils’ Network (DCN) said the proposals will create ‘chaos and confusion’ as households could need as many as seven bins each. There would be four separate bins for dry recyclables as well as bins for garden waste, food waste and non-recyclables, said DCN.
Eight in 10 councils forced to overspend on children’s social care
LocalGov | 3 June 2021
More than eight in 10 councils were forced to overspend on children's social care budgets last year due to soaring demand, new research has shown. The Local Government Association (LGA) found that in 2019/20 councils in England had to overspend on children’s social care budgets by £832m. This comes despite councils increasing their budgets by £1.1bn in the past two years. The LGA warns there has been a sharp rise in the need for urgent child protection services in recent years, forcing councils to divert resources away from early intervention and preventative services.
Croydon to scrap property pension plans
Public Finance | 25 May 2021
The London Borough of Croydon is set to drop plans to transfer homes built by subsidiaries into its pension fund to help reduce employer contributions. In 2018, Croydon approved plans to move 346 homes to help reduce its annual employer contributions by 2.5% or £3.5m at the end of their 40-year leases. However, the policy was not adopted, and a reduction in the pension deficit at the council has led to a committee report calling for it to be scrapped.
Covid-19 deepens council companies’ losses
Public Finance | 24 May 2021
North Yorkshire County Council’s companies have forecast losses of more £600,000 in 2020-21 due to the impact of Covid-19 on their performance. The authority had previously budgeted for a £99,000 loss by Brierley Group, a subsidiary which oversees its commercial companies, for 2020-21.However, a report to be discussed at a shareholders committee meeting this week, said that outturn losses last year are expected to hit £640,000.
Councils in England facing funding gaps plan to cut special needs support
Guardian | 15 May 2021
Councils in England, facing a funding shortfall of more than half a billion pounds for educating children with special needs, are planning spending cuts and service reviews, according to figures compiled by the Observer. Campaigners fear children could lose some of their support as local authorities try to clear yawning historical deficits, with government rules stopping them using other reserves to help to fund the special educational needs and disabilities (Send) system.
More than 100 leisure centres could go bust, DCN warns
LocalGov | 13 May 2021
More than 100 leisure centres in England could go bust due to the coronavirus crisis, district councils have warned. A new survey revealed today that one in three district councils expect to be forced to close gyms and swimming pools due to the ‘devastating’ financial impact of the pandemic. One in five councils believe centres will go out of business within the next three months and three out of five within the year.
Torbay proposes £1m ‘green bond’
Public Finance | 12 May 2021
Torbay Council has outlined plans for a £1m community green bond, as it seeks to become the third authority to launch such an investment. The bond would be used to help finance green projects earmarked for council development, including installation of solar panels, a report to be discussed a cabinet meeting next week said.
Business Leases and Security of Tenure – Common Sense Prevails
The contracting out process, which ensures that a tenant will not have security of tenure under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954, is a thorough and well prescribed process. Due to the nature of the rights that a tenant would be electing to forego, a landlord must serve a form of notice which informs the tenant of the consequences of contracting out. In response to the notice, the tenant declares that it understands and wishes to proceed to enter into the lease – the details of which are included in the declaration.
One such detail is the term commencement date. As the contracting out process must be done before the tenant enters into or is bound to enter into a lease, it is common for the tenant’s declaration to refer to the term commencement date as a date to be agreed between the parties, or a date to be determined by reference to an agreement for lease.
In the case of TFS Stores Ltd v Designer Retail Outlet Centres (Mansfield) General Partner Ltd , The Fragrance Shop claimed that any contracting out process that did not refer to a specific date in the tenant’s declaration was void. As the aforementioned method is used as common practice in lease transactions, the potential ramifications of this judgment were vast.
The High Court disagreed with this claim and the Court of Appeal have recently upheld the decision that, provided that the relevant date can be determined by reference to a formula which sufficiently identifies the commencement date, this method did not render the contracting out process void.
Tenants will not be able to use the lack of a specific date as a reason to claim they have security of tenure – landlords can now breathe a huge sigh of relief!
Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021
These Regulations amend the Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) Regulations 2006 (S.I. 2006/1294) (“the Eligibility Regulations”) in order to make a new category of persons eligible for an allocation of housing accommodation under Part 6 of the Housing Act 1996 (c. 52) or homelessness assistance under Part 7 of that Act. They make provision for persons who have limited leave to remain in the United Kingdom under Appendix Hong Kong British National (Overseas) of the Immigration Rules to be eligible for an allocation of housing accommodation or homelessness assistance, if they are habitually resident in the Common Travel Area, and their leave to enter or to remain within the United Kingdom is not subject to a condition requiring them to maintain and accommodate themselves without recourse to public funds. Coming into force on 29 June 2021.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2021
These Regulations extend the period for which the protection from eviction applied in specified cases and revert the operation of the Schedule where it was thought that the landlord should be able to regain possession of the property at an earlier date. The provision made by Schedule 29 was to end on 31st May 2021. Regulation 3(2) amends Schedule 29 so that it has effect, in relation to England, until the 30th September 2021. This has the effect that the notice requirements relating to such proceedings revert to those which had effect prior to the enactment of the Coronavirus Act 2020 (c. 7).
The Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) (England) (Amendment) and Suspension (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021
The Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies: Protection from Eviction) (Amendment) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 amends Schedule 29 of the Coronavirus Act 2020, which introduced emergency measures to delay when social and private tenants can be evicted by requiring landlords to provide longer notice periods of their intention to seek possession. This instrument:
- Extends the ‘relevant period’ in Schedule 29 so that these measures will be in force until 30 September 2021.
- Tapers down the lengths of the required notice periods which are currently at six months to four months from 1 June (and subsequently to two months from 1 August, for some claims brought on the basis of rent arrears).
- Reduces the threshold for what is considered ‘serious arrears’ from where more than six months is owed to where four months or more of rent is owed.
- Maintains ‘egregious’ grounds that have already been returned to their pre COVID lengths at their pre-COVID lengths, and newly return two additional grounds to their pre-COVID lengths (death of a tenant and no right to rent).
- Allows local authorities using specialised tenancies more access to shorter notice periods for egregious grounds.
- It also makes consequential changes to notice period requirements in the prescribed forms for giving notice as modified by Schedule 29.
Coming into force on 1 June 2021.
Publications & Guidance
Thirty towns to share £725m to help communities build back better
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 8 June 2021
Thirty towns in England will share over £700m to boost local economies, create jobs and help build back better from the pandemic. The new Towns Deals range from seaside towns like Hastings and Hartlepool to the historic market towns of Bedford and Bishop Auckland. The money will help grow their local economies, while also carving out new opportunities to reshape the look and feel of their areas.
PM announces new funding for Cornwall to create a G7 legacy for the region
Prime Minister's Office, 10 Downing Street | 8 June 2021
Cornwall will benefit from new investment in its town centres and natural landscape under plans announced by the Prime Minister to create a long-term legacy from the G7 Summit.
Mobile homes fit and proper person test: guidance for local authorities
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 4 June 2021
Non-statutory guidance for local authorities on the implementation and setting fees of the fit and proper person test for the owner or manager of a park home site. From 1 July and by 1 October 2021, all park home site owners must apply to the relevant local authority for themselves or their site manager to be assessed and placed on a register of fit and proper persons. This non-statutory guidance is issued to help local authorities prepare for and implement the test and sets out the details that must be included in an application, the matters the local authority must take into consideration when assessing an application and the decisions the local authority can make.
Funding for projects to make streets safer
Home Office | 3 June 2021
Forty areas have been awarded £18.4m to make streets safer through projects to crack down on neighbourhood crimes like burglary, vehicle theft and robbery. The money, from the government’s Safer Streets Fund, will go towards measures proven to cut crime, including simple changes to the design of streets such as locked gates around alleyways, increased street-lighting and the installation of CCTV.
Assured tenancy forms
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 1 June 2021
Forms for landlords and/or tenants to propose action relating to tenancy agreements. Form 3, Form 6A and the notes to Form 6A have been changed in line with new requirements on notice periods which come into force on 1 June.
Secure tenancy forms
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 1 June 2021
Forms for seeking possession of secure tenancies. These forms have been updated to reflect changes on notice period requirements which came into force on 1 June.
Plan needed to prevent families at ‘cliff-edge’ of homelessness
Local government Association | 30 May 2021
The LGA has set out a six-point plan to protect vulnerable households who could lose their homes when the ban on bailiff evictions ends on May 31 and tackle homelessness in the long-term.
Social rented housing (England): past trends and prospects
House of Commons Library | 28 May 2021
This briefing looks at social rented housing, barriers to development, and prospects for a “step change” in supply, including data on need and supply.
COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 28 May 2021
Non-statutory guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities in the private and social rented sectors in the context of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Guidance updated to reflect 12 May announcement on changes to notice periods and bailiff enforcement.
Boosting the economy through travel
Department for Transport | 27 May 2021
Grant Shapps outlined his vision for the future of transport in the UK on Thursday 27 May 2021 – and said it can power us to become the biggest economy in Europe. In a wide-ranging speech to travel bosses, passenger groups and the media, the Transport Secretary set out an ambitious blueprint for rail, roads and greener travel. At the centre of this vision are plans to ‘level up’ the country by driving jobs and opportunity to the Midlands and North. These include £317m for upgrading rail lines, and recent reforms to improve bus and rail services across the country.
Housing development support for local government projects
Homes England and Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 24 May 2021
Guidance and support for local government to apply for and manage housing projects in England. Updated to include a link to the new delivery partner Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) which replaces the Delivery Partner Panel 3 (DPP3) under the heading 'Building and procurement'.
Town centre regeneration
House of Commons Library | 21 May 2021
The future of town centres and high streets has long been a matter of concern, with the most recent debate in the House of Commons in December 2020. This briefing highlights some of the key trends and discussions.
Councils given funding boost to develop new local design guide for housing development
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 21 May 2021
A new national design code meaning areas are beautiful, well-designed and locally-led is being tested across 14 areas in England.
Social Housing Reform in England: What Next?
House of Commons Library | 19 May 2021
The Government's Social Housing White Paper is intended to deliver transformational change for social housing residents in England. This briefing outlines the measures set out in the White Paper, stakeholder reaction and the next steps.
LGA responds to House of Lords Public Services Committee report on Levelling Up
Local Government Association | 19 May 2021
Responding to a report from the House of Lords Public Services Committee on the Government’s ambition to level up the country, Cllr James Jamieson, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said: “The pandemic has shown that, with the right funding and freedoms, councils can improve people’s lives. It is therefore important that this report recognises that the recovery from COVID-19 needs to include greater powers being given to local councils and their communities".
Leasehold reform in England and Wales: What’s happening and when?
House of Commons Library | 18 May 2021
The Government will reform leasehold tenure and make buying/extending lease agreements “easier, faster, fairer and cheaper”. There’ll be a two-part legislative process. An explanation of what’s known about the reforms and timetable.
£11.6m for Swindon as government funds new road
Department for Transport | 15 May 2021
New access road between Swindon and the planned New Eastern Villages development will provide faster journeys and enable the construction of 4,150 new homes.
Support for renters continues with longer notice periods
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 12 May 2021
Renters will continue to be supported as national COVID-19 restrictions ease, with longer notice periods in place until at least October, Housing Minister Christopher Pincher announced.
A councillor's guide to leading the homelessness sector
Local Government Association | 11 May 2021
This guide aims to provide councillors whether in cabinet, scrutiny or their own wards, with some key information about homelessness and some inspiring examples of action by councils that has made a real difference.
Housing Ombudsman uses its new power to progress residents’ complaints
Housing Ombudsman Service | 11 May 2021
The Ombudsman has published its first report setting out how they have used their new power to issue complaint handling failure orders. They issued 10 orders between January and March 2021 mostly due to unreasonable delays by landlords in accepting or progressing residents’ complaints through their process. The report, which names the landlords concerned, shows that eight out of the 10 orders were complied with, and in two cases the landlords did not comply. Both these complaints were taken into formal investigation. Case studies illustrate how the orders work and their impact, including some resident feedback.
MPs call for councils to be given more powers to tackle ‘land banking’
LocalGov | 10 June 2021
Local authorities should be granted more powers to act where developers are too slow in completing sites they have planning permission for, MPs say. The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has called on the Government to revisit its proposals for reforming the planning system, which involves designating local areas as one of three types of development zone: growth, renewal and protected. The committee’s report says that the MPs are ‘unpersuaded’ that the proposals will produce a cheaper, quicker and more democratic planning system. It also says the proposals lack the ‘necessary detail’.
Cabinet at London borough to consider proposals for £7.88m in repayments to tenants to address water overcharging
Local Government Lawyer | 8 June 2021
The Mayor and Cabinet at Lewisham Council will be asked this week to approve proposals to make refunds to current and former tenants it unknowingly overcharged in respect of water rates due. The move follows the Court of Appeal ruling last year in The Mayor & Burgesses of the Royal Borough of Kingston-Upon-Thames v Moss  EWCA Civ 1381, where Kingston Council was found to be a water reseller under the terms of its agreement with Thames Water. A report to Lewisham’s Cabinet said that Lewisham had a similar agreement with Thames Water for the supply of water to its let properties.
Council wins High Court battle over CIL late payment surcharge
Local Government Lawyer | 2 June 2021
The London Borough of Lambeth has won a High Court case over the validity of notices to developers to pay the community infrastructure levy (CIL) after a judge dismissed a developer’s “circular” argument. In London Borough of Lambeth v Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government  EWHC 1459 (Admin) Mrs Justice Thornton ruled that a planning inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government had erred in finding that Lambeth had no authority to impose a charge on developer Thornton Park (London).
Mayor declares a ‘retrofit revolution’ to tackle the climate emergency
Mayor of London | 2 June 2021
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has declared a ‘retrofit revolution’ in London, announcing a new package of measures that will make buildings more energy efficient and tackle the climate emergency. Led by the Mayor working with London Councils and social housing providers, the ambitious new plans will boost London’s Green New Deal mission and sustain and create new green jobs in the capital.
Councils set out six-point plan to prevent families at ‘cliff-edge’ of homelessness
LocalGov | 1 June 2021
Council leaders have published a six-point plan to help protect vulnerable households from homelessness now that the ban on bailiff evictions has ended. The Local Government Association (LGA) is calling on the Government to monitor the impact of the end of the ban and provide councils with resources to support people to keep their tenancies.
Unfair evictions cost councils £161m per year
LocalGov | 26 May 2021
Ending unfair evictions could save councils £161m a year and reduce homelessness by 9%, according to new analysis. A new report from Generation Rent shows that since April 2018, 68,430 households faced homelessness after their landlord evicted them in retaliation for a complaint or to sell or re-let the property. It estimates that in 2019-20, unfair evictions cost councils more than £161m due to the cost of placing households in temporary accommodation or responding to homelessness cases.
Report calls for greater council powers to protect future of high street
LocalGov | 26 May 2021
Councils and local communities should be given more power to decide the future of their high streets, a new report has argued today. The report, published by Centre for London, calls on the Government to rethink plans to make it easier to turn shops into homes and allow councils to request exemptions where there is a risk to the survival of a local high street.
Councils could be owed “hundreds of millions of pounds" in business rates following Supreme Court ruling
Local Government Lawyer | 17 May 2021
Local authorities could be in line for hundreds of millions of pounds in business rates following last week's landmark Supreme Court ruling, the solicitor who acted for the appellant councils has claimed. However, the solicitor for the respondent companies has in turn suggested that the judgment potentially meant no one was liable for rates.
Treasury to create £26m fund for councils migrating local land charges service to HM Land Registry
Local Government Lawyer | 10 May 2021
The Treasury is to set up a £26m fund for councils as part of its drive to establish a national Local Land Charges Register. In December last year the Government set out its ambition to migrate all local authorities in England and Wales onto the central register by 2025. It claimed the latest fund would make that target more achievable and would “ensure the home buying process becomes quicker and simpler for everyone”. Local authorities who transfer their local land charges data to HM Land Registry’s Local Land Charges (LLC) Register within an agreed timescale will receive transition payments. In addition they will continue to receive existing burdens payments.
Remote meetings – the debate rumbles on
We have previously reported about the government’s call for evidence on remote meetings, which closed on 17 June 2021. The Local Government Association (LGA) has now issued its response (10 June 2021) on behalf of local authorities (and in recognition of the fact that councils across the country have been under significant pressure during the consultation period dealing with local COVID outbreaks, rolling out vaccines, and managing arrivals from amber and red countries, all whilst continuing to provide services) in support of the introduction of non-prescriptive permanent powers to hold virtual and hybrid meetings. The LGA cites a plethora of benefits including:
- Increased attendance by both councillors and residents, ‘levelling the playing field’ for disabled participants or those with caring responsibilities, increasing transparency and reducing barriers to democratic accountability;
- Reduced costs, reduced travel time and reduced carbon footprint with one council estimating a reduction of 6 tons of carbon emissions over the last year;
- Flexibility in times of emergency without an automatic need to rely on delegated officer powers;
- Reduced barriers to diverse and inclusive councils, allowing equal participation and reducing barriers to engaging with public meetings or standing for election.
MHCLG has reported that it has received representations making the case for a permanent express provision for remote meetings, and the government itself supported the position that councils should be allowed to hold virtual meetings.
Given the range of benefits that flexibility would bring, not least reducing inequalities and CO2 emissions and the small matter of increasing transparency and democratic engagement, as well as ensuring continuity in the event of future pandemics, one would hope that this makes its way to the top of the government’s agenda, and soon.
Pending any legislative change, Governance Partner – David Kitson has been working alongside LLG and the Association of Democratic Services Officers (ADSO) to help councils navigate their options, and many of you will have also attended LLG webinars with David to gain further insight. See the LLG and ADSO 12 page guidance note for more information. Please do contact us if we can help you further.
Accounts and Audit (Amendment No 2) Regulations 2021
This instrument corrects an error in the Accounts and Audit (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (S.I. 2021/263) (“the 2021 Regulations”) to apply the extension for local government bodies to publish, and make available for inspection, their unaudited annual accounts and supporting documents to “Category 1” local government bodies alone, rather than to all bodies, i.e. including “Category 2” bodies.
The Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021
This instrument amends the Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (England) Regulations 2003 (“2003 Regulations”) which make provision about the use of capital receipts by a local authority. They include provision relating to sums that must be paid to the Secretary of State derived from the disposal of an interest in housing land (a process known as ‘pooling’). The purpose of the instrument is to:
(a) reduce the frequency of pooling payments from four times a year to once a year
(b) update and rationalise elements of the formula used in the calculation of pooling payments, and
(c) amend provision relating to the interest payable on late pooling payments.
Coming into force on 30 June 2021
Publications & Guidance
Liverpool City Council: Commissioner appointment letters
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 11 June 2021
Copies of the letters confirming Commissioners' appointments at Liverpool City Council. And letter to Lead Commissioner and Chief Executive.
Liverpool City Council: Directions made under the Local Government Act 1999
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 10 June 2021
The Directions made under section 15(5) and (6) of the Local Government Act 1999 in respect of Liverpool City Council. And Explanatory memorandum.
LGA response to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government remote meetings call for evidence, 10 June 2021
Local Government Association | 10 June 2021
Over the past year, councils have conducted all of their council business virtually due to pandemic. Councils have reported that virtual meetings have allowed for critical decision to be made democratically and without delay during this period of emergency. Councils have noted a range of benefits of virtual meetings, which they hope to retain going forward through the option to continue virtual and hybrid meetings as and when it is deemed locally appropriate.
Northamptonshire County Council: final commissioners' report
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 3 June 2021
The final Commissioners’ report confirms that Northamptonshire County Council was in a good position to undergo the restructure on 31 March 2021. It pays tribute to the work of key officers and the leadership of the council in achieving the transformation. The council will cease to exist on 31 March 2021 as a result of local government reorganisation and, as a consequence the statutory intervention came to an end.
Guidance on Remote Meetings: What next for Local Authorities?
Lawyers in Local Government | 25 May 2021
Many questions have been raised following the High Court judgment in relation to the application for a declaration that current legislation permits remote meetings, which was brought by Hertfordshire County Council, LLG and ADSO. In particular, members have been concerned about the scope of the judgment, and what steps can be taken now that the Flexibility Regulations have come to an end whilst adhering to the restrictions and guidance currently in place due to the pandemic, and moving forward, if the roadmap becomes interrupted. The 12 page guidance document produced in association with ADSO and David Kitson from Bevan Brittan is designed to help you navigate the options moving forward for your authority.
Principles of effective regulation
National Audit Office | 25 May 2021
This framework is intended as a useful tool for policymakers and regulators overseeing any given market, sector or regulatory issue. This guide sets out the broad principles of effective regulation, based on our past audits of regulatory frameworks and interactions with departments, regulators and other stakeholders.
Redmond Review response - Changes to the Local Audit (Appointing Person) Regulations 2015. LGA consultation response
Local Government Association | 25 May 2021
While the LGA do not agree with some of the recommendations of the Redmond Review, and others need further consideration, in their response to the review they outlined that a number of quick actions should be taken as soon as possible to have an immediate effect on the audit market.
House of Commons Library | 21 May 2021
This briefing paper explains the status of directly-elected mayors in English and Welsh local government, and the routes to establishing them, including the use of local referendums. It also includes an up-to-date list of elected mayors and statistics on previous referendums.
Local authority financial reporting and external audit: Spring update
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 19 May 2021
In December, the department delivered its initial response to the Redmond Review. The report set out proposed actions to implement the majority of Sir Tony’s recommendations and also made a commitment to provide a full response in the Spring on the options for systems leadership, after further consideration. This report fulfils that commitment, details the actions already taken to implement the Redmond Review recommendations, and also sets out our thinking on the recommendations relating to systems leadership.
COVID-19: Local authority compliance and enforcement grant
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 10 May 2021
Information and guidance on the £30m grant to local authorities for compliance and enforcement activities.
CIFPA amends approach to ESG in treasury management code revision
Public Finance | 14 June 2021
Guidance on the environmental, social and governance of local authority counter-parties will be included in the risk management section of the revised Treasury Management Code, in a switch of approach.
Three arrests in council subsidiary fraud probe
Public Finance | 11 June 2021
Police have made three arrests in relation to the financial management of a company owned by a local authority in the south of England. Kent Police confirmed the arrest of one man and a woman, both in their 50s in Tenterden, alongside another man in his 40s in Rochester. Medway Council asked the police to investigate the operations of its subsidiary, Medway Commercial Group in 2019, after concerns were raised.
Controversial Somerset poll backs district plan
LocalGov | 7 June 2021
A controversial poll on reorganisation in Somerset has come out in favour of a district-based proposal. The district council-organised referendum was highly criticised by the county and the secretary of state last month after a printing error sent voters to a spoof website instead of the county-based One Somerset proposal. Local government secretary Robert Jenrick wrote to the district council leaders over what he described as the ‘serious failure’ that ‘risks undermining the reputation and standing of local government’. Mr Jenrick demanded an apology and an explanation of steps being taken ‘as a matter of urgency’. Announcing the results of the poll today, the councils - Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West and Taunton and South Somerset - said 65% voted in favour of the district-based Stronger Somerset proposals, while 34% opted for One Somerset.
Three councils back Bay unitary proposal
LocalGov | 3 June 2021
The newly elected leaders of three neighbouring councils have backed proposals for a new Bay unitary authority. The leaders of Barrow Borough Council (pictured), Lancaster City Council and South Lakeland District Council have written to the Government arguing a Bay unitary alongside a new North Cumbria authority would be the best model for local government reform in the area.
Dispute between county and districts over local government reorganisation in Somerset heats up as voters directed to spoof website
Local Government Lawyer | 27 May 2021
Somerset County Council has urged residents to ignore a poll organised by district councils as part of a bitter dispute over local government reorganisation. Relations between the two tiers worsened after material issued by the districts was found to mistakenly direct residents to a spoof website with a slightly different name from the county’s One Somerset campaign.
Council tax collection deficit hits £500m
LocalGov | 27 May 2021
Councils will need ‘additional help from taxpayers’ to balance their books, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has warned. The warning followed the release of figures showing an estimated council tax collection deficit totalling £509m for English authorities in 2020-21. According to the data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), Liverpool City Council is facing a deficit of £17.7m, Leeds City Council’s deficit stands at £15.9m and Brent LBC’s also exceeds £15m.
Senior officers threaten defamation action against councillors over remarks at meeting on staff transfer
Local Government Lawyer | 27 May 2021
Two Bristol councillors have said they face defamation actions from senior council officers over remarks made at a meeting considering a staff reorganisation. The BBC has reported that Conservative Richard Eddy and Liberal Democrat Gary Hopkins respectively compared the officers to the Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels and accused them of not telling the truth. Monitoring officer Tim O’Hara is reported to have referred the matter for investigation, but the council refused to confirm this or comment on any other aspect of the case.
£500m scale of Covid-19 council tax hit revealed
Public Finance | 27 May 2021
Government support will not cover the half-billion-pound scale of lost council tax receipts in the year following the outbreak of Covid-19 leaving councils facing service cuts, according to sector figures.
Government announces new local audit leader
Public Finance | 19 May 2021
The government has proposed making the replacement to the Financial Reporting Council the new system leader for local audit, following the Redmond Review. The Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority, announced as a replacement for the FRC last year, will be strengthened with new powers to oversee the local government audit system. ARGA would provide annual reports on the state of local audit and take over responsibility for the updated Code of Local Audit Practice - the guidelines councils are required to follow, the government said today.
District says it would not contest election petition after ineligible voters took part in parish by-election
Local Government Lawyer | 14 May 2021
An error that allowed ineligible voters to vote in a parish council election in North Yorkshire cannot be undone without a court order, the returning officer has said. The case arose in last week’s by-election for Church Fenton Parish Council, where the returning officer was Janet Waggott, chief executive of Selby District Council. It appeared that some voters from another parish who arrived to vote in the simultaneous election for North Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner were mistakenly allowed to vote in the by-election.
Lessons on governance and finance from recent public interest reports
Local Government Lawyer | 14 May 2021
Dr Paul Feild looks at what can be learned from the recent Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 Schedule 7 Public Interest Reports relating to Croydon LBC and City of York. There have been two recent Reports in the Public Interest (RPI) under section 24 and Schedule 7 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 (2014 Act) which have been published which are of interest to local government practitioners from a governance and finance perspective.
Ethics, Transparency and Accountability Framework for Automated Decision-Making
Central Digital and Data Office, Cabinet Office, and Office for Artificial Intelligence | 13 May 2021
Guidance for public sector organisations on how to use automated or algorithmic decision-making systems in a safe, sustainable and ethical way.
Liverpool puts forward improvement plan
LocalGov | 12 May 2021
Liverpool City Council has drafted an improvement plan and letter in response to the Caller report, which called for an intervention in the city. The plan, and covering letter, will go before an extraordinary council meeting on 19 May. In the letter from chief executive Tony Reeves, the council accepts the directions made in Max Caller Best Value Inspection report, which was ordered by secretary of state Robert Jenrick after the arrest of former mayor Joe Anderson.
Slough ‘failed to understand’ reserve risks
Public Finance | 11 May 2021
Slough Borough Council did not understand the risks of low reserve levels, a damning report has said. In a statutory recommendations report to be discussed at an upcoming committee meeting, auditors Grant Thornton said that reserves at the authority fell from £30.9m in 2012-13 to £4.7m in 2018-19. Slough forecast reserve levels of £11.4m at the end of 2020-21, however due to an overstatement of dividends from joint-venture the Slough Urban Renewal Partnership, reserves will drop to less than £4m this year, Grant Thornton said. “There is no evidence that the council has properly understood the risks involved in running down reserves that are ultimately largely earmarked to support its revenue position,” the report said. Slough has been advised to take urgent action to develop a financial plan to “significantly replenish” its reserve levels, to ensure financial stability in the future.
Councillors call for online meetings to continue post-pandemic
BBC News | 10 May 2021
Councillors are calling for a law in the Queen's Speech to allow them to continue online meetings and "serve the best interests of our people". Local authorities adjusted like most organisations during lockdown by moving their gatherings onto apps like Zoom. But the emergency legislation allowing the move ran out on 6 May, leaving councils with Covid safety concerns. The government has launched a consultation on remote meetings to look at potential "next steps".
Sheffield vote for a committee system
SheffNews | 10 May 2021
The people of Sheffield have voted for a new committee model in the city council’s Governance Referendum. It changes the way the council runs, from the current Leader and Cabinet model, to a committee system made up of elected councillors.
Council creates standalone monitoring officer roles as part of new operating model
Local Government Lawyer | 7 May 2021
Slough Borough Council has created a standalone monitoring officer role as it implements a new operating model. The local authority said the move followed the recent conclusion of a consultation exercise on the model and staffing structure. Slough said it “recognises the importance of good governance and this post reflects its commitment to continuous improvement of our governance environment. “This is a critically important role in the council’s leadership team and at the heart of our decision-making environment.”
Procurement Policy Note 06/21: Taking account of Carbon Reduction Plans in the procurement of major government contracts
On 5 June, the Cabinet Office issued an action note explaining how suppliers’ Net Zero Carbon Reduction Plans should be taken into account in the procurement of major Government contracts. The term ‘Net Zero’ refers to the Government’s target in the Climate Change Act 2008 (as amended) of achieving at least a 100% reduction in the net UK carbon account (as against 1990 levels of greenhouse gas emissions) by 2050.
The PPN is accompanied by a suite of documents including guidance on applying the PPN, a technical standard for completion of Carbon Reduction Plans and a list of FAQs. It will take effect for relevant procurements advertised on or after 30 September 2021.
PPN 06/21 applies to all Central Government Departments, their Executive Agencies and Non Departmental Public Bodies. These “in scope” organisations must apply the PPN (taking the action described below) to any contract procured (for goods, services or works) with an anticipated contract value of £5m per annum or above (excluding VAT) unless the PPN is not related and proportionate to the contract.
The content of the PPN will also be of interest to those suppliers bidding for such Government contracts.
The PPN states that in scope organisations should include a selection stage criterion which requires suppliers to provide a Carbon Reduction Plan confirming the supplier’s commitment to achieving Net Zero by 2050 and setting out particular details about their carbon footprint.
The guidance note on adopting and applying the PPN contains standard selection questions which should be used in order to request this information from suppliers (at Annex A) and explains how the responses to these questions should be assessed. A template Carbon Reduction Plan is also annexed to the PPN and the accompanying technical standard provides additional guidance on the reporting requirements.
There is a considerable amount of detail for in scope organisations and suppliers to familiarise themselves with in the lead up to 30 September and the FAQs indicate that the Crown Commercial Service and Confederation of British Industry will be hosting webinars and round tables on the topic.
Key points to note include:
- Given that environmental considerations and carbon reduction will be a factor in the majority of contracts, it is expected that in most cases the PPN will be related and proportionate to the assessment of whether a supplier has the necessary technical ability to perform the contract. In scope organisations will need to document a decision not to apply the PPN.
- The standard selection criteria set out in the guidance to the PPN cannot be amended. They are pass/fail (and information only) criteria. It is not expected that suppliers are scored for these questions or that any comparative assessment is undertaken. As with other selection criteria, it is necessary to verify that the successful supplier meets the criteria prior to award.
- Carbon Reduction Plans will be a standard document used for all relevant procurements. Plans should be published on supplier websites (or be readily available on request) and should be reviewed and updated annually (within 6 months of an organisation’s financial year-end, with board approval) to reflect changes in organisational structure and to take account of the progress made in reducing emissions.
High Court finds award of focus group services contract without competition by government during pandemic was unlawful for apparent bias
Local Government Lawyer | 9 June 2021
Award of £560,000 contract to Public First on recommendation by Dominic Cummings without public notice or competition found unlawful. Whilst there was no finding of actual bias, the decision to award gave rise to apparent bias contrary to principles of public law, having regard to the personal connections between the decision-makers and the directors of Public First.
Publications & Guidance
Procurement Policy Note 05/21: National Procurement Policy Statement
Cabinet Office | 3 June 2021
This Procurement Policy Note (PPN) sets out information and guidance for contracting authorities on the National Procurement Policy Statement (NPPS) which will require contracting authorities to have regard to national strategic priorities for public procurement. See also comment from Local Government Lawyer.
Procurement Policy Note 04/21: Applying Exclusions in Public Procurement, Managing Conflicts of Interest and Whistleblowing
Cabinet Office | 20 May 2021
This Procurement Policy Note (PPN) reminds In-scope Organisations of their obligations in applying exclusions and preventing, identifying and remedying conflicts of interest in public procurement.
Procurement Policy Note 03/21: The Sourcing and Consultancy Playbooks
Cabinet Office | 20 May 2021
This Procurement Policy Note (PPN) sets out guidance on the updated Sourcing Playbook, the new Consultancy Playbook, and associated guidance notes.
Trade: Council agrees its negotiating mandate on the International Procurement Instrument
Council of the EU | 2 June 2021
EU ambassadors today agreed on a mandate for negotiations with the European Parliament on a regulation to create an International Procurement Instrument (IPI), which will help to address the lack of a level playing field in world procurement markets. IPI is a trade offensive tool aiming to provide the EU the necessary negotiating leverage to open up third countries’ procurement markets and ensure access and a level playing field to EU businesses in those markets.
Taking back control of subsidies
Institute for Government | 27 May 2021
As the government prepares to unveil legislation for a UK state aid (or subsidy control) regime – which will regulate around £8bn of subsidies from governments and public bodies to businesses each year – this report sets out how to design a more flexible system than the EU’s to help achieve government objectives like ‘levelling up’ and ‘net zero’.
Combined authority to procure legal services framework agreement worth up to £7.5m
Local Government Lawyer | 1 June 2021
The Tees Valley Combined Authority is to establish a group-wide legal services framework agreement worth an estimated £5m-7.5m over four years. It said the agreement would “provide specialist legal support in a range of disciplines which will be divided into Lots. The closing time and date is 12 pm on 28 June 2021.The contract is expected to start on 2 August 2021 and run until 31 July 2025.
Maya Forstater tribunal appeal
A woman who lost her job after making statements on social medial that people cannot change their biological sex, recently won her appeal against the employment tribunal.
In 2019, Maya Forstater’s contract with the Centre for Global Development (CGD) was not renewed after she was accused of using “offensive and exclusionary” language in tweets opposing the proposed reform of the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to legally self-identify as a particular gender.
Forstater took her case to the employment tribunal arguing that her beliefs that a person's "sex" is a material reality and should not be conflated with gender/gender identity ought to be legally protected under the Equality Act 2010. Forstater’s comments were considered by the tribunal, to determine whether they were manifestations of a philosophical belief which should be protected under the Equality Act.
The tribunal concluded that her belief, being “absolutist” in nature and whereby she would “refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate, even if it violates their dignity” was “not worthy of respect in a democratic society” and was “incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others”. The tribunal held her belief did not, therefore, constitute a ‘protected philosophical belief’.
Forstater appealed the tribunal’s ruling stating that her views should have legal protection, arguing that the implications of the tribunal’s ruling against her were "profound" and, if upheld, those expressing similar views would not be protected by equality law "even though they are undoubtedly serious, cogent beliefs about an important aspect of human life and behaviour". On 10 June 2021, the Employment Appeals Tribunal upheld the appeal, on the basis that the tribunal had erred in law in concluding that Forstater’s ‘gender critical’ views were “not worthy of respect in a democratic society”.
The matter will now be referred to the employment tribunal to determine whether the treatment Forstater complains of, was because of or related to that belief and therefore discriminatory.
The judgment means that, although some beliefs may be seen as “offensive and abhorrent to some”, the potential for offence cannot be reason to exclude a belief from protection under the Equality Act altogether. At the same time, the Employment Appeals Tribunal noted that employers continue to be potentially liable for acts of harassment and discrimination against trans persons committed in the course of employment. Employers will therefore need to be careful to balance these protections in the workplace.
Town council to pay £70k+ over defamatory statements about two councillors
Local Government Lawyer | 21 May 2021
Attleborough Town Council has agreed to pay more than £70,000 in costs and damages after it issued a “profound and unreserved apology” to two councillors who it said it had defamed. A council statement offered the apology to Taila Taylor and Edward Tyrer “for the publishment [sic] of defamatory statements concerning false allegations of both councillors sustaining a ‘campaign of harassment, bullying and intimidation’ on fellow councillors, staff and employees of Attleborough Town Council. We accept that all such allegations were false and wrong”.
PPE contract legal challenge
Department of Health and Social Care | 18 May 2021
Response to a challenge from Good Law Project to the Department of Health and Social Care on whether the government acted lawfully in awarding specific personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts.
Council secures “first of its kind” High Court injunction against residents to stop them living in unsafe house in multiple occupation
Local Government Lawyer | 18 May 2021
Thurrock Council has been granted an interim injunction by the High Court to prevent two residents living in an unsafe House in Multiple Occupation (HMO). The local authority said it is believed to be the first injunction of its kind to be granted in the UK where the injunction has been used to prevent occupation of a property for not complying with a prohibition order.
London borough facing legal action over "failure to act" on harassment outside Marie Stopes Clinic
Local Government Lawyer | 19 May 2021
The Good Law Project and Sister Supporter have threatened Camden Council with legal action over the local authority’s alleged ongoing failure to deal with the intimidation and harassment of women outside the Marie Stopes Clinic in the borough.
Council to pay housing association £117k after errors lead to cancelled land sale
Local Government Lawyer | 6 May 2021
Lichfield District Council is to pay a housing association compensation of almost £117,000 after errors in a land sale. An investigation report found that when the cabinet resolved in 2018 to sell the land to social landlord Bromford it did not have all the relevant information needed to make a proper decision because the public consultation required for the disposal of the public open space land under the provisions of the Local Government Act 1972 had not taken place.
High Court orders urgent trial in claim by Liverpool mayor for indemnity against legal costs
Local Government Lawyer | 6 May 2021
The High Court in Manchester has ordered that an urgent trial take place of the claim by Joe Anderson, the Mayor of Liverpool, that Liverpool City Council are acting unlawfully in refusing to provide him with the same indemnity against legal costs offered to other council members. Landmark Chambers reported that, in giving permission, the judge said: “This is a high profile case which has attracted local and national publicity and the consequences for both the Claimant and the Defendant are far reaching” and that there was “significant public interest in ventilation of full argument”.
High Court upholds use of past residence rule to disqualify housing applicants
Local Government Lawyer | 27 May 2021
The London Borough of Lewisham’s requirement for a local connection in its housing allocation policy is lawful, the High Court has ruled. In Montero, R (On the Application Of) v London Borough of Lewisham  EWHC 1359 (Admin) Mr Justice Henshaw rejected a judicial review case brought by the claimant that her application should have been accepted.
Judge quashes planning permission for development of former hospital site over appraisal of relocation of 500-year-old tree
Local Government Lawyer | 24 May 2021
A Planning Court judge has quashed Tower Hamlets Council's grant of planning permission and listed building consent for residential development of the former London Chest Hospital. The site’s use as a hospital ceased in 2015. It is a Grade 2 listed building, listed in 2016. It also lies within the Victoria Park Conservation Area. The proposal was to build 291 dwellings. In Juden v London Borough of Tower Hamlets  EWHC 1368 (Admin) the claimant, a local resident, applied for judicial review challenge on a range of grounds.
Sir Duncan Ouseley, sitting as a High Court judge, rejected all bar one of these grounds. However, he concluded that ground 4, which raised an issue about how paragraph 175c NPPF had been interpreted or applied in the appraisal of the relocation of the mulberry tree, succeeded.
Legal Challenges to neighbourhood plans and orders: the Supreme Court has the final word
Local Government Lawyer | 21 May 2021
Estelle Dehon and John Fitzsimons set out the lessons that those involved in neighbourhood plan and neighbourhood development order litigation should learn from a key Supreme Court ruling. The Supreme Court has delivered judgment in R (on the application of Fylde Coast Farms Ltd) v Fylde Borough Council  UKSC 17. The case concerned the short point on the interpretation and effect of section 61N of the Town and County Planning Act 1990 which provides for legal challenges to be brought against neighbourhood development orders and neighbourhood development plans. The judgment has provided important clarity concerning the timing of such challenges.
Dispensation from service charge consultation requirements
Local Government Lawyer | 21 May 2021
In Aster Communities v Chapman & Others  EWCA Civ 660 the Court of Appeal has recently considered the circumstances in which the First-tier Tribunal may grant a landlord dispensation from the service charge consultation requirements prescribed by s. 20 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Philip Rainey QC and Robyn Cunningham examine the ruling.
Local authorities win £10m+ Supreme Court battle over business rates
Local Government Lawyer | 14 May 2021
Two North West councils have won a Supreme Court test case over whether they had reasonable grounds for claiming non-domestic (NDR) rates on certain empty properties from the respondent companies. The test cases brought by Rossendale Borough Council and Wigan Council and considered by the Supreme Court in Hurstwood Properties (A) Ltd & Ors v Rossendale Borough Council & Anor  UKSC 16 (14 May 2021) were representative of 55 similar cases in which the value of unpaid rates varied from a few thousand to millions of pounds. The rates avoidance scheme run by the respondent companies involved granting a short lease of the unoccupied property to a special purpose vehicle (SPV), such that the SPV became the “owner” and liable to non-domestic rates liability rather than the respondent company. The SPV was then dissolved or put into liquidation to escape rates liability.
High Court issues key ruling on "Traveller Injunctions" and "persons unknown", criticises suspected procedural breaches and abuse of court procedures in applications for interim orders
Local Government Lawyer | 12 May 2021
There are grounds to suspect that, in a significant number of applications by local authorities for interim injunctions against “Persons Unknown” targeting unauthorised encampments on land, there were material and serious breaches of the procedural requirements and the procedures of the Court – and the Interim Applications Court of the Queen’s Bench Division (Court 37) in particular – have been abused, a High Court judge has concluded. The case of London Borough of Barking and Dagenham & Ors v Persons Unknown & Ors  EWHC 1201 (QB) addressed issues of principle that had arisen as to the legal basis for and scope of so-called “Traveller Injunctions”.
Street traders lose legal challenge over “innovative product” criterion imposed by council
Local Government Lawyer | 10 May 2021
A High Court judge has dismissed a legal challenge brought by street traders over a council's implementation of a regulatory framework that requires stall owners to sell products not readily available on the high street. In Poole & Anor, R (On the Application Of) v Birmingham City Council  EWHC 1198 (Admin), HHJ David Cooke dismissed all five grounds brought by the claimants and said it would be "wholly disproportionate to quash the entire policy". The case was brought by two Birmingham street traders who are the chair and secretary of the Birmingham Street Traders Association (the BSTA), an informal and unincorporated group.
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