LA Spotlight

Budget impact and a few reflections

The main focus of March was the Budget announcement – a tough task ask for Rishi Sunak. The response to the pandemic by local government has been extraordinary and all in the context of unprecedented and continued financial pressures. It was disappointing, however, that there was no mention or indication in the budget of a multi-year spending settlement to allow councils to plan and support their communities as they recover from the pandemic. While it seems there will be no immediate help for councils with pressures on their revenue budgets (and no mention of social care), it was encouraging to hear more details on previous announcements from the Chancellor that will help councils with capital projects and local investment into infrastructure. As councils look to facilitate the growth of their towns and cities and re-imagine future needs arising from climate; changes in the future of work; retail and community spaces, more Town Funds and the launch of the Levelling Up Fund plus the National Infrastructure Bank may be supporting factors, provided monies can flow quickly and minimise repeated applications to Government for pots of money.

However, as others have noted, the need to bid for numerous pots of money geared around central government criteria (rather than local) has not proven to be successful in the past. Further, unless there is a way to accelerate these capital schemes, they will take years to deliver and may leave communities questioning whether levelling up is happening. We await the National Infrastructure Commission Towns and Regeneration with interest. On the broader theme of levelling up it would be good to hear of further investment in skills being a focus rather than just infrastructure.


Overview quick links
Your contacts

Delivering Value

LIBOR for Local Authorities - Transition to SONIA

What should you do now?

Despite the current market disruption, the countdown to the transition from LIBOR to risk-free rates continues

The transition from LIBOR to Sterling Overnight Index Average (SONIA) by the end of 2021 could affect local authorities in their capacities as lenders, borrowers and investors. The Working Group on Sterling Risk-Free Reference Rates recommended that there are clear contractual arrangements included in all new and refinanced LIBOR-referencing loans to facilitate conversion ahead of the end of 2021 through a switch mechanism or agreed process of negotiation. As important for local authorities is the need to address historic facilities that are likely to have inappropriate switch language and will require collaboration and ultimately variation to effectively update.

Local authorities will need to understand and address how the change from LIBOR will affect both their own facilities and those granted too or from LA Companies. In order to understand your exposure you need to review existing contract terms and financial products that may have the LIBOR rate.

  • Examples of arrangements local authorities should be reviewing are:
  • existing loans from banks and funders
  • on-lending into subsidiaries, joint ventures and registered providers (amongst others)
  • PFI and PPP financing agreements
  • commercial contracts with LIBOR linked default rates
  • bonds and
  • SWAP agreements.

Publications & Guidance

Public Sector Exit Payment Cap
House of Commons Library Research Briefing | 23 February 2021
This paper discusses the Restriction of Public Sector Exit Payment Regulations 2020. The Regulations came into force in November 2020 but were disapplied by the Treasury on 12 February 2021. Full report.

Health and Social Care Bill White Paper
Local Government Association Briefing | 16 February 2021
This briefing summarises the proposals of most relevance and significance to local government. It also provides the LGA’s initial reaction to the proposals along with our policy messages, which may necessarily evolve as discussions on the proposals continue.

The Future of Adult Social Care
County Councils Network | 10 February 2021
A new blueprint for delivering social care in England could help tens of thousands of adults each year who need care and support to live more independent lives – if councils are given the ability to reshape services through the government’s long-awaited reforms.  This is the key finding of a major new report launched today by CCN, Newton and the Association of County Chief Executives (ACCE). It argues strongly that social care should remain being delivered by local authorities rather than giving increased control to the NHS or central government.  Full report and Summary.


NAO: Councils’ finances ‘a cause for concern’
Local Government Chronicle|10 March 2021
Almost a tenth of top-tier English councils are at risk of financial failure due to high funding gaps and low levels of reserves, according to the National Audit Office.

Nottingham offered £35m capitalisation direction
Local Government Chronicle|9 March 2021
Nottingham City Council has been granted permission for a capitalisation direction enabling it to borrow £35m from the government, as it tries to address looming cost pressures of £36m next year.

Croydon set for record-breaking £120m bailout
Local Government Chronicle|8 March 2021
Croydon LBC has been given a £120m capitalisation direction by the government after months of uncertainty, providing the cash-strapped council with the opportunity to put its finances back on course after it was forced to declare two section 114 notices.

Cornwall Council criticised for care cost calculations
Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman | 2 March 2021
LG & SCO is reminding councils that people can spend their money as they wish, within reason, when paying for their own care, after an investigation found faults with the way Cornwall Council assessed a man’s finances. The reminder has come following a complaint to the Ombudsman that Cornwall Council made a number of errors when establishing how much the man needed to pay for his care.

Hackney plans to insource £12m of services
LocalGov | 25 February 2021
Council services in the London borough of Hackney worth nearly £12m every year will be reclaimed from private companies as part of a new strategy to deliver public services in-house rather than outsourcing them. A meeting of Hackney council’s cabinet on Monday approved the plan to transfer more than 360 cleaning, maintenance and parking enforcement staff to council employment by March next year. The model agreed by the local authority sets out the process by which all outsourced contracts will be reviewed according to quality, performance, value for money, and staff terms and conditions to explore whether they can be insourced.

Leap in size of local authority peer lending
Public Finance | 25 February 2021
The local authority peer-to-peer borrowing market grew by 12.5% during 2020, according to government figures. The amount of money lent by councils to other authorities stood at £11.2bn at the end of the calendar year, compared to £9.8bn at the end of 2019. Experts attributed the rise to an influx of cash from central government and a reduction in planned capital programmes due to Covid-19.

Torbay latest council to shelve commercial investment
Public Finance | 23 February 2021
Torbay Council has become the latest authority to shelve its planned commercial investment following PWLB rules changes – scrapping £68m of its planned programme.

Value of council's purchases plummet due to pandemic
Public Finance | 19 February 2021
The value of two retail investment properties purchased by North Somerset Council has dropped by more than £26m in the three years since they were purchased due to Covid-19.

Not enough local scrutiny of Cornwall’s outsourced education services to out-of-school children, Ombudsman says
Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman | 18 February 2021
Cornwall Council will look into the cases of all children not attending school to ensure they are receiving a suitable alternative education, following an investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman. The Ombudsman was asked to investigate, after a boy was not provided with appropriate alternative education for a number of months when he was not able to attend mainstream school because of mental health problems. In Cornwall, alternative education provision for children with health concerns is outsourced to the Wave Multi-Academy Trust and education is provided by the Community and Hospital Education Service (CHES), an academy. The Ombudsman’s investigation found the council did not have enough oversight of the process both schools in the county – including academies – and the council itself must follow when a child is out of education for a period. And comment from LocalGov.

Reading halts commercial property investment programme
Public Finance | 17 February 2021
Reading Borough Council has scrapped plans to add to its commercial property portfolio due to Covid-19 and changes to Public Works Loan Board lending rules. The authority this week published a revised capital programme for 2021-22 which has removed plans for further acquisitions.

Government backtracks on public sector exit cap
Local Government Lawyer | 12 February 2021
The Government has revoked the £95,000 cap on severance payments for public sector employees introduced last November after a review found that the measure had created “unintended consequences”. HMT Directions have been issued to disapply the cap in England until the Restriction of Public Sector Exit Payments Regulations 2020 can be revoked. In new guidance published today (12 February), the Treasury said employers were now “expected” to pay anyone affected by the cap – which was in force from the 4th November 2020 to 12th February – any additional sums that would have paid but for the cap.

Council agrees £89m property drive using internal resources
Public Finance | 11 February 2021
Leicestershire County Council says it could raise £18m of revenue each year to fund services after agreeing an £89m expansion of its commercial property portfolio.

PWLB rule change scuppers council investment strategy
Public Finance | 4 February 2021
West Berkshire Council is to shelve the uncompleted third of its £100m commercial investment plan following the introduction of new restrictions on borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board. The changes are proposed in a revision to the council’s commercial property investment strategy, which has seen the authority borrow £63m from the PWLB to acquire properties since the plan went live in 2017.The council said it paused commercial investment in March 2020, following the announcement of the Treasury review into PWLB lending.

Back to top

Place & Growth

Drainage rights and developers - keep your head above the water!

Drainage rights are crucial to the success of a development, and the recent case of Bernel Ltd v Canal & River Trust [2021] highlights how troublesome these rights can be when they are either not documented or there is insufficient proof that they exist.  The only option for the developer in this case was to claim it had pre-existing rights, but how easy is it to rely on either prescriptive rights or riparian rights to provide drainage for a development?

Bernel Ltd (B) owned a site with planning permission to build nine houses which would need to drain onto neighbouring land owned by Canal & River Trust (the Trust).  B was unable to reach an agreement with the Trust for permission to do this.  An old pipe provided some drainage from the site onto the Trust’s land so B claimed that it had a right to drain on the basis that either:

  • the old pipe could be classified as a culverted natural watercourse, which would enable B to claim a riparian right to drain water into it, or
  • long usage of the pipe would enable B to claim a prescriptive right to drain onto the Trust’s land.

The High Court rejected B’s arguments.  Before a riparian right could be claimed, the court had to be satisfied that the existing drainage arrangements through the old pipe could be regarded as a natural watercourse.  On the facts, the court agreed with the Trust that there was no natural watercourse and no stream of water flowing in a defined channel.  B’s claim to a prescriptive right based on long usage of the pipe to discharge surface and foul water also failed as B was unable to provide sufficient proof of this.

Although the developer was unsuccessful in this particular instance, the High Court provided helpful guidance in relation to making a successful claim for either riparian or prescriptive rights.

Developers will be encouraged by the court’s view that had the old pipe been established as a watercourse, then draining surface water and treated foul water (in accordance with a permit from the Environment Agency) would permit “reasonable drainage operations” on the land.  The developer would then be able to rely on its riparian rights to do this.

It is always advisable to have drainage rights clearly documented, either in a deed of easement or in the deed transferring the title.  But bear in mind the court’s comments in this case, which apply equally to formal rights as well as those claimed by prescription; difficulties can still arise when the identity of land changes or there is a considerable increase in the use of the easement from that which was originally granted.  It will be interesting to see if future cases follow the same reasoning, but one lesson remains clear, developers should check drainage rights carefully to avoid buying land they may not be able to develop.


The Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2021
SI 2021/164. These Regulations renew the provisions in the Public Health (Coronavirus) (Protection from Eviction) (England) Regulations 2021(1) and prevent, except in specified circumstances, attendance at a dwelling-house for the purpose of executing a writ or warrant of possession or delivering a notice of eviction. The Regulations expire at the end of 31st March 2021.

The Local Government Finance Act 1988 (Non-Domestic Rating Multipliers) (England) Order 2021
SI 2021/134. In relation to England, the small business non-domestic rating multiplier is calculated in accordance with paragraph 3 of Schedule 7 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988 for each financial year when new rating lists are not being compiled. Item B in those calculations will be the retail prices index for September of the preceding financial year, unless the Treasury by order specify a lower amount. New rating lists are not being compiled for the financial year beginning on 1st April 2021 (“2021-22”). This Order specifies that for 2021-22 the amount for item B will be 291.

Publications & Guidance

New government campaign to empower social housing residents to raise complaints and make things right
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 5 March 2021
Social housing residents will be helped with improving their living conditions through a new government campaign launched this week. ‘Make Things Right’ will help residents raise complaints if they are unhappy with their landlord and struggling to get problems resolved, with clear advice on how to progress issues to the Housing Ombudsman if necessary.

A voluntary Right to Buy for housing association tenants in England
House of Commons Library Research Briefing | 1 March 2021
The 2015 Government committed to extend the Right to Buy to housing association tenants. An agreement was reached to do this on a voluntary basis. This page outlines what has happened so far. The 2015 Conservative Government committed to extend the Right to Buy to assured tenants of housing associations on a voluntary basis. The Conservative Party's 2019 Manifesto said the voluntary Right to Buy scheme would be maintained. No implementation date for full roll-out has been announced. A large regional pilot scheme in the Midlands was launched on 16 August 2018. An evaluation of the findings was published in February 2021. The Government has said that the impact of the pilot scheme will be assessed before decisions are made on the next steps. This paper provides background on the statutory Right to Buy and commentary on progress in developing and extending it to assured housing association tenants as a voluntary scheme. Full report.

Reopening High Streets Safely Fund guidance
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 1 March 2021
Guidance to help local authorities and partners to deliver activities supported through the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund. Updated to include Version 3 of the guidance and version 7 of the FAQ.

COVID-19 and renting: guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 26 February 2021
Non-statutory guidance for landlords, tenants and local authorities in the private and social rented sectors in the context of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Updated to include link to guidance on the changes to the national lockdown rules from 8 March.

Letting accommodation funded through the Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme: guidance for local authorities and private registered providers
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 23 February 2021
The Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme (RSAP) aims to deliver up to 6,000 units of supported move-on accommodation for rough sleepers over the course of this parliament. The £433m programme includes funding for capital and revenue based longer-term accommodation schemes as well as provision for the support people need to recover from rough sleeping. This investment from central government will bring forward accommodation that forms a long-term national asset which will support efforts to tackle rough sleeping. Tenancies for the homes provided through this programme will be for a maximum of two years (with three years being permissible in certain circumstances) ensuring that this accommodation continues to be available for rough sleepers for many years.

Social housing sales (including Right to Buy and transfers)
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 23 February 2021
This collection brings together all documents relating to social housing sales (including Right to Buy and transfers). This collection provides data related to sales of local authority dwellings and some summary information on sales of registered provider stock (previously known as Registered Social Landlords or housing associations). Updated to include Social housing sales in England: 2019 to 2020.

Business Rates Review Update
HM Treasury | 19 February 2021
The final report of the government’s fundamental review of business rates will now be published in the Autumn. An interim report which will include a summary of responses to the call for evidence will be now be published on 23 March, along with a number of tax documents, consultations and calls for evidences on a wide-range of tax-related issues.

Government plan to transform Oxford-Cambridge Arc into UK's fastest growing economic region
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 18 February 2021
Spatial framework plan will help to create thousands of jobs, drive investment, protect and enhance the environment. A plan to unleash the economic and cultural potential of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, to transform it into one of the world’s premier growth corridors and a world-leader in sustainability, has been announced today. The spatial framework plan will help to create thousands of jobs, drive investment, protect and enhance the environment, and provide the infrastructure across the area – which spans the five counties of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

Coronavirus: Support for landlords and tenants
House of Commons Library Research Briefing | 16 February 2021
This briefing paper explains measures taken by the Government during the coronavirus outbreak to assist households in the rented sector to retain their homes. The paper covers the introduction of extended notice periods and the end of the ban on evictions in England and Wales from 20 September 2020. It has been updated in light of the extended ban on enforcing eviction orders in England up to 31 March 2021.

Housing Secretary extends support for renters during pandemic
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 14 February 2021
Renters will continue to be supported during the ongoing national lockdown restrictions, with an extension to the ban on bailiff evictions.

Environmental tax measures
National Audit Office | 12 February 2021
This report examines how HM Treasury and HMRC manage tax measures with environmental objectives, including the work undertaken to design, monitor and evaluate them. It also explores how the exchequer departments use their resources to manage the relationship between the wider tax system and the government’s environmental goals, including its statutory commitment for the UK to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Full report and summary.

Government to bring an end to unsafe cladding with multi-billion pound intervention
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 10 February 2021
Housing Secretary unveils a 5-point plan which will provide reassurance to homeowners and confidence to the housing market. The Housing Secretary confirmed to the House of Commons that the government will fully fund the cost of replacing unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings 18 metres (6 storeys) and over in England.

The Future of the New Homes Bonus: consultation
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 10 February 2021
This consultation seeks views on the future of the New Homes Bonus, from 2022/23 onwards. It covers a number of options for reforming the programme to provide an incentive which is more focused and targeted on ambitious housing delivery, complements the reforms outlined in the government’s Planning White Paper, and dovetails with the wider financial mechanisms the government is putting in place, including the infrastructure levy and the Single Housing Infrastructure Fund. Duration: 8 weeks from 10 February 2021.

Leasehold and commonhold reform
House of Commons Library Research Briefing | 7 February 2021
This paper considers trends in leasehold ownership, ongoing problems associated with the sector, and Government plans for reform. The 2017 Government committed to legislate in this area "as soon as Parliamentary time allows". The Conservative Manifesto 2019 contained a pledge to “continue with our reforms to leasehold.” There is an intention to legislate in the forthcoming Parliamentary Session to set future ground rents to zero as the first part of "seminal two-part reforming legislation in this Parliament". The paper includes analysis of leasehold transaction data, including constituency statistics.

Decent Homes Standard: review
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 8 February 2021
The Charter for Social Housing Residents: Social Housing White Paper published on 17 November 2020 announced a review of the Decent Homes Standard. The review will be conducted in two parts. Part 1 will run from Spring to Autumn 2021 and will seek to understand the case for change to criteria within the Decent Homes Standard. If the case for change is made, part 2 will run from Autumn 2021 to Summer 2022 and will consider how decency should be defined. We anticipate that our main outcome will be a refreshed Decent Homes Standard.

Guidance to English Energy Conservation Authorities: the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995
Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy | 5 February 2021
Updated guidance to help local authorities in England with 2021 reporting requirements of their plans to support the delivery of energy efficiency improvements to residential properties within their area.


Homes England acquires Harrogate sites to build over 800 houses
LocalGov | 23 February 2021
Homes England has acquired two development sites in Harrogate in a move that the national housing agency hopes will unlock land for over 800 new family homes.

Homes England invites councils to become strategic partners
LocalGov | 22 February 2021
Local authorities have been invited to become strategic partners with Homes England to increase the delivery of affordable housing. The Government's housing delivery agency has opened up its strategic partnerships to local authorities, not for profit registered providers, and for-profit providers and developers. The partnerships would allow councils to enter into a multi-year grant agreement with Homes England rather than applying for funding on a scheme-by-scheme basis.

Supreme Court upholds registration of land in working port as town and village green
Local Government Lawyer | 12 February 2021
An area of concrete in a working commercial port was validly registered by a county council as a town and village green, the Supreme Court has ruled in T W Logistics Ltd v Essex County Council and another [2021] UKSC.

Defra announces £10m fund to drive private sector investment in nature
LocalGov | 10 February 2021
The Government has announced a multi-million-pound fund which aims to help local authorities attract private investment into projects focused on tackling climate change. The Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund, which will be open for applications until 26 March, will provide grants of up to £100,000 to councils and other organisations to help them develop nature projects in England to a point where they can attract private investment.

Back to top

Governance & Reorganisation

Health and Care White Paper - opportunities for Local Authorities

The government’s new Health White Paper published on 11 February 2021 (Integration and Innovation: working together to improve health and social care for all) is an ambitious roadmap for significant reform. It is recognised as a critical part of the government’s Covid-19 recovery plan to remove barriers to integration, tackle transactional bureaucracy, and implement an accountable and responsive system.  

Whilst setting out sweeping reforms and building on work already underway in the NHS’s Long Term Plan, the White Paper recognises the wider footprint of reforms in social care, public health and mental health. The Paper proposes to establish:

  • the Integrated Care System (ICS) health and Social Care Partnerships, which will comprise of local authority, providers and other wider partner input to create the mechanism for supporting integration across health and social care
  • alongside the implied replacement of the Clinical Commissioning, the new ICS NHS Body that will drive the integration agenda within the NHS and be responsible for the day to day to operation of the ICS.

Local government will be particularly interested in how this ICS system of collaboration will facilitate a partner-wide approach to driving transformation.  

The Paper’s Triple Aim of better health and wellbeing for everyone, better quality health services for all individuals, and sustainable use of NHS resources is to be supported by a commitment to place and strong community engagement.

Building therefore, on the NHS Long Term Plan, an ICS will be established across each part of the country. Interesting to review from a local government perspective is how the detailed proposals will be developed and the level of autonomy to develop local solutions for integrated working at ‘place’ level. The importance of ‘place’ in driving needs based systems is critical. Extending the concept of the ‘One Stop Shop’, this has potential to drive a sophisticated approach commissioning and provision.

The White Paper also acknowledges the key role of public health and the pressures facing social care which require wider system reform.

Key to the new statutory framework for local government will be the wider reform of the social care and public health systems that will sit alongside the reform of the NHS and collaboration driven by this White Paper. 

So, what should local government be doing now? As always, the challenge will be finding time and resources to devote to participating in the engagement process with relevant stakeholders. The proposals offer a chance to review local ambitions and take stock of the current relationship with local partners and development opportunities, as well as show case leading examples of innovation at a local level.  

The coming months are a critical time for the reform agenda and the key interfaces for local government, and we will keep you updated as things progress.

Publications & Guidance

Local government finance in the pandemic
National Audit Office | 10 March 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented public health and economic emergency. Local authorities in England have made a major contribution to the national response to the pandemic, working to protect local communities and businesses, while continuing to deliver existing services. The pandemic has in turn placed significant pressure on local authorities’ finances, which in many cases were already under strain going into the pandemic. The financial position of local government remains a cause for concern. Many authorities will be relying on reserves to balance their 2020-21 year-end budgets. Despite continuing support into 2021-22 the outlook for next year is uncertain. Many authorities are setting budgets for 2021-22 in which they have limited confidence, and which are balanced through cuts to service budgets and the use of reserves. Full report and summary. And comment from LocalGov.

Levelling-up Devo: the role of national government in making a success of devolution in England
All Party Parliamentary Group on Devolution | 9 March 2021
The Devolution APPG has today called on the Government to Level-Up devolution and rethink a culture of centralisation that is leaving local areas behind. The influential All-Party Parliamentary Group for Devolution, chaired by Andrew Lewer MBE MP, has produced a landmark report into English Devolution, having heard evidence from local government leaders, national politicians, academics and businesses. The report found that local government rose to the challenge of Covid-19 and now needs more powers to deliver economic recovery and Level-Up the whole country. It sets out a roadmap for reforming the unequal relationship between national and local government so that as a nation we can come together to strengthen our communities and build back better for the future.

Local government and the EU
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 4 March 2021
Guidance to help local councils adapt to new rules after Brexit. Guidance and information has been brought together to help local authorities adapt to new rules now that the transition period has ended.

Local Council Governance Toolkit
Association of Democratic Services Officers | 25 February 2021
ADSO together with the Society of Local Council Clerks and Lawyers in Local Government have produced a Local Council Governance Toolkit to support local council officers.

Proposals for unitary local government in Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 22 February 2021
A consultation on proposals for unitary local government submitted by councils in Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset has been launched by government today. Following a formal invitation from government last October to councils in these areas to submit proposals for reorganisation, the Local Government Secretary has received 8 locally-led proposals for consideration: 4 from councils in Cumbria and 2 each from councils in Somerset and North Yorkshire. Residents, businesses and service providers will have the opportunity to have their say on what will work best for their area. Consultation closes at 11:45pm on 19 April 2021.

Pre-election period of sensitivity
House of Commons Library Research Briefing | 25 February 2021
Restrictions on the use of public resources are in place during the pre-election period before elections and referendums. The Cabinet Office issues guidance for civil servants on their conduct during this period. Full report.

New measures to allow proxy voting in local elections for those self-isolating with coronavirus
Cabinet Office | 23 February 2021
Individuals who need to self-isolate because of coronavirus will still be able to vote in the local elections through new emergency proxy voting measures.

May 2021 elections - note on changes to the nominations process and number of subscribers required for nominations
Cabinet Office | 19 February 2021
This note sets out the numbers of signatures that candidates will need to have obtained for their nominations if standing in local elections, mayoral elections and for Police and Crime Commissioner elections on 6 May 2021 and for any by-elections after that period and up to the end of April 2022.

Funding boost provides councils with certainty to plan for year ahead with £51bn funding package
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 10 February 2021
Local government finance settlement confirmed for next year with councils to share £51.3bn, an increase of £2.3bn.

May 2021 polls delivery plan
Cabinet Office | 5 February 2021
The May 2021 polls will take place in a similar way to previous polls, but there will be differences as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. On 6 May 2021, local polls will take place, including local elections in England and Police and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Wales. This document describes how they will proceed in the COVID-19 context, from announcement to results, and then covers the four major areas that we are addressing:

  • public health and social distancing
  • nominations and campaigning
  • voting
  • the delivery of elections.

LGA statement Local elections and comment from Local Government Lawyer

Election timetable for scheduled local government elections in England
Electoral Commission | 5 February 2021
This timetable covers the following polls taking place on 6 May 2021:

  • local government principal area elections (i.e. district, borough, county, county borough and unitary authority elections)
  • parish council elections
  • local authority mayoral elections in England
  • combined authority mayoral elections in England.

Local Government Finance Settlement 2021-22
House of Commons Library Research Briefing | 5 February 2021
A Research briefing on the final Local Government Finance Settlement 2021-22.

Final local government finance report 2021 to 2022
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 4 February 2021
This report sets out the aspects of the settlement which will require specific approval by the House of Commons, including the amount and basis of distribution of Revenue Support Grant in 2021 to 2022.

Key information for local authorities: final local government finance settlement 2021 to 2022
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | 4 February 2021
Key information for local authorities on the final local government finance settlement 2021 to 2022. This table sets out the key information on the settlement for individual authorities and classes of authorities.


Nottingham approves £35m capitalisation direction
Public Finance | 12 March 2021
Nottingham City Council has accepted the terms of a capitalisation direction allowing it use £35m to spread deficits from its now defunct energy company and implement planned transformation projects.

Croydon given £70m capitalisation direction
Public Finance | 5 March 2021
Central government has given London Borough of Croydon permission to use £70m of capital resources on revenue spending in order to balance its budget – with another £50m likely to follow. The council, which has faced severe financial pressures, confirmed the £70m support for the 2020-21 budget late on Friday night. A letter to the council from communities minister Luke Hall said, that the secretary of state Robert Jenrick is also “minded to approve” a £50m direction for 2021-22.

Councils left seriously underfunded, NAO finds
LocalGov | 8 March 2020
Coronavirus has left local authorities seriously underfunded and facing budget cuts unless the Government can create a long-term financial plan for the sector, a study from the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned. The NAO’s survey found that 94% of respondents from single-tier and county councils and 81% from districts expected to reduce service budgets.

Wirral Council gets £9m capitalisation direction
Public Finance | 5 March 2021
Wirral Council has become the fifth authority to receive exceptional support this year to help meet pressures on its 2020-21 budget. The £9m direction, which allows the council to use capital resources for day-to-day spending, was confirmed in a letter by Matthew Hemsley, head of local government capital at the MHCLG. Wirral joins councils in Peterborough, Luton, Eastbourne and Bexley, which had capitalisation directions approved last month.

Budget 2021: Infrastructure Bank rate to match previous schemes
Public Finance | 3 March 2021
The newly announced UK Infrastructure Bank will offer £4bn of loan to authorities at the same interest cost as local infrastructure rates formerly offered through the Public Works Loan Board.

Leeds approves £87.5m of budget cuts next year
Public Finance | 26 February 2021
Leeds City Council has approved its budget for 2021-22, which will usher in £87.5m worth of budget reductions alongside redundancies and a 4.99% rise in council tax.

London borough changes constitution ahead of reported move to suspend quartet of senior officers
Local Government Lawyer | 11 February 2021
The London Borough of Croydon changed its constitution to resolve a conflict on senior staff suspensions immediately before four such officers were reported to have been suspended. An extraordinary meeting of the financially-stricken council on Monday approved changes needed because of what a report from interim chief executive Katherine Kerswell described as “a conflict between Part 3 (Responsibility for Functions) and Part 4J (Staff Employment Procedure Rules) of the constitution in relation to the authority to make provisional suspension of statutory officers and chief officers should such a situation arise”.

Four councils get emergency bail out deal from Government
LocalGov | 11 February 2020
Four councils that are unable to balance their budgets will receive emergency funding from the Government. The councils - Bexley, Eastbourne, Luton and Peterborough - have been granted the support due to their 'unique circumstances or residual issues'. The councils have each been awarded a Capitalisation Direction enabling them to borrow in order to fund revenue costs.

Covid: Councils warn of budget shortfall for May elections
BBC News | 9 February 2021
Councils in England don't have "anywhere near enough" money to organise elections this May, according to the Local Government Association. LGA chairman James Jamieson told MPs cash-strapped councils faced "substantially higher" costs to make polls Covid-secure.

Lawyers and democratic services officers to seek court declaration on ability to hold remote meetings after 6 May 2021
Local Government Lawyer | 8 February 2021
ADSO (the Association of Democratic Services Officers) and LLG (Lawyers in Local Government) have begun preparations to seek a declaration from the courts that pre-existing legislation means remote attendance at meetings can continue beyond 6 May 2021. The move comes after the two organisations recently obtained counsel’s opinion from James Strachan QC of 39 Essex Chambers in relation to the expiry of the Local Authorities and Police and Crime Panels (Coronavirus) (Flexibility of Local Authority Police and Crime Panel Meetings) (England and Wales) Regulations (No.392) and the ability to continue to hold council meetings remotely past 6 May 2021.

LLG and ADSO have consistently called for the ability of English councils to hold remote meetings to be made permanent.

Parish council that went viral over committee meeting is subject of "multiplicity of complaints"
Local Government Lawyer | 8 February 2021
Cheshire East Council has received a "multiplicity of complaints" regarding the conduct and behaviour of Handforth Parish Council, which was in the spotlight last week when a recording of a chaotic Planning and Environment Committee went viral. Problems at the parish council appear to have been ongoing for some time, however. In an official, but undated, notice to the parish councillors published on Handforth Parish Council's website, the Director of Governance at Cheshire East, David Brown, said that as monitoring officer he had received complaints ranging from multiple complaints about councillors’ behaviour; to fundamental issues of governance and member/officer engagement.

Councils face £1.3bn shortfall on council tax, says IFS
LocalGov | 5 February 2021
Councils face a £1.3bn shortfall in the council tax they were expecting for 2020-21, finance think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has calculated. London and the big cities have been particularly badly hit with the economic downturn, but not hard enough to rebalance the North South divide, the report claims.

Councils propose ‘super-district’
LocalGov | 2 February 2021
Stratford-on-Avon and Warwick DCs have revealed proposals to merge by 2024.

Members at both authorities will be asked to give the green light to unite as South Warwickshire Council by the end of the month. The councils already share heads of service in four departments and have collaborated over a waste collections contract. A report by Deloitte said a ‘super-district’ could produce annual savings of £4.6m after five years and bring economies of scale.

Campaign group fails in legal challenge after council dismissed petition calling for referendum on governance model
Local Government Lawyer | 1 February 2021
A High Court judge has dismissed a judicial review challenge to the London Borough of Newham’s decision to declare invalid a petition seeking a referendum to change the governance model of the council. Newham’s current governance model is the "Mayor and Cabinet" model, which provides for an executive mayor elected by local government electors for a local authority's area. On 18 September 2020 Democracy Newham submitted a petition seeking a referendum to change the council's governance model to a "Leader and Cabinet" model.

Back to top

Contract Management

Procurement Policy Notice 02/21 - what this means for you

The Cabinet Office has published Procurement Policy Note PPN 02/21: Requirements for contracts covered by the WTO Government Procurement Agreement and the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement.

PPN 02/21 applies to all contracting authorities, including Central Government Bodies, Executive Agencies, Non-Departmental Public Bodies, local authorities, NHS bodies and utilities.

The PPN explains the position in respect of the UK's membership of the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) and confirms the ongoing procurement requirements for contracting authorities arising out of GPA membership. It also sets out the actions needed to apply the public procurement rules in the EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA). 

Contracting authorities are required to familiarise themselves with the commitments in the GPA and TCA as set out in the PPN.  The Public Contract Regulations 2015 continue to apply to public procurements following the expiry of the Brexit transition period and the conclusion of the TCA.  Our colleague Jessica Boardman has outlined the impact of PPN 02/21 in relation to the requirements for contracts covered by the WTO GPA and UK-EU TCA in her recent article.  Read more about this here.  

Publications & Guidance

Budget 2021: What you need to know
HM Treasury | 8 March 2021
A summary from HM Treasury of the measures announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak  in the Budget 2021.

Welsh Procurement Policy Note WPPN 01/21: Sourcing steel in major construction and infrastructure projects in Wales
Welsh Government | 8 March 2021
How public bodies should plan for and specify requirements when buying steel - this updates the 2018 PAN of the same name.

Code of conduct for operational PFI/PPP contracts
Infrastructure and Projects Authority and HM Treasury | 24 February 2021
The code sets out the basis on which public sector bodies and their PPP partners agree to identify and make savings in operational PFI and PPP contracts - Updated.

Procurement Policy Note 02/21: The WTO GPA and the UK-EU TCA
Cabinet Office | 19 February 2021
Informs contracting authorities of considerations due to the UK’s membership of the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) and actions required to apply the public procurement rules in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

Launching the Independent Review of Construction Frameworks
Cabinet Office | 9 February 2021
An Independent Review into Construction Frameworks as part of the Construction Playbook implementation. Professor David Mosey of King’s College London will lead an objective, independent review of public sector frameworks.

The Public Sector Contract - Framework Award Form
Crown Commercial Service | 8 February 2021
Framework Award Form for the Public Sector Contract - Updated.

The Public Sector Contract - Call-off order form
Crown Commercial Service | 8 February 2021
Call-off order form for the Public Sector Contract - Updated.

The Public Sector Contract - Framework Schedules
Crown Commercial Service | 8 February 2021
Framework Schedules for the Public Sector Contract - Updated.

New guidance to help contracting authorities fight collusion in public procurement
European Commission | 15 March 2021
The European Commission has published a notice on tools to fight collusion in public procurement and guidance on how to apply the related exclusion ground.


County council issues findings of review after successful procurement challenge by incumbent parking enforcement contractor costs £1.6m
Local Government Lawyer | 26 February 2021
Oxfordshire County Council has published the findings of an external review launched after the existing parking enforcement contractor made a successful challenge to the local authority’s procurement award process. A report due to be presented to a meeting of the authority’s Audit and Governance Committee next week (3 March) showed that the total cost of dealing with Marston Holdings’ claim was £1,607,338.57. Marston Holdings had alleged in June 2019 that the procurement of Oxfordshire’s parking enforcement contract had been undertaken contrary to the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

Health Secretary "unlawfully failed to comply with transparency policy" when procuring PPE: High Court judge
Local Government Lawyer | 19 February 2021
The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care acted unlawfully by failing to comply with the Government’s ‘Transparency Policy’ when procuring PPE (personal protective equipment) during the pandemic, a High Court judge has ruled. In GLP & Others v SSHSC Mr Justice Chamberlain concluded that the first claimant – not-for-profit organisation the Good Law Project – but not the second to fourth claimants – three MPs – had standing to bring the claim.

The government must bring an end to its risky Covid crisis procurement
Institute for Government | 5 February 2021
While there were no good choices at the start of the pandemic, Thomas Pope says the government needs to return to normal competitive processes that offer the best value for money.

Back to top

Disputes & Regulatory Support

High Court rules provision on accommodation to ineligible homeless

A High Court has ruled that local authorities can lawfully provide accommodation to homeless people who are otherwise ineligible for support.Mr Ncube was an asylum seeker from Zimbabwe and a rough sleeper who sought accommodation from Brighton and Hove City Council. The Council did not accommodate Mr Ncube on the grounds he was ineligible for assistance under s185 of the Housing Act 1996, because of his NRPF (no recourse to public funds) status.  

Mr Ncube was subsequently accommodated by the Home Office under s4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 which allows the Secretary of State to provide accommodation where an asylum application has been refused but there is an obstacle to the applicant returning to their country of origin.

As Mr Ncube had been accommodated before the hearing took place, the Council submitted the claim was academic and opposed the idea that the case had wider application. However, Mr Justice Freedman rejected this and noted “it is important the ability or lack of ability of local authorities to assist is considered in this challenge rather than ignored because the Claimant has now been housed elsewhere”.

In noting that the case was important given that a large number of similar cases may arise in the future, the judge proceeded to find that councils do have powers under s.138 Local Government Act 1972 “in the context of an emergency involving danger to life affecting the street homeless, to take action to provide accommodation or secure assistance for them to avert, alleviate or eradicate the effect of Covid-19”, notwithstanding that some recipients may be ineligible for assistance under section 185 of the Housing due to their NRPF status.  

The ruling clarified confusion following government guidance in May 2020 which effectively re-imposed the immigration status it temporarily allowed councils to ignore during the first lockdown. It has now been confirmed that as long as the pandemic continues, councils have the power to house rough sleepers regardless of their NRPF status.


High Court rules councils can lawfully house people with NRPF during pandemic
Inside Housing| 12 March 2021
See above article

Number of judicial review challenges lodged against councils continued downward trend in 2020: Ministry of Justice
Local Government Lawyer | 9 March 2021
The number of judicial review applications received by local authorities in 2020 was down slightly (2.8%) on the previous 12 months, Ministry of Justice data has revealed. Local authorities had 570 applications lodged against them last year, down from 586. The 2019 total was itself down 10% on the previous year. Of the 570 applications made in 2020, 150 have been granted permission to proceed to final hearing (26% of applications) to date. This is significantly fewer than in 2019 (210 out of 586, or 36%).

Council takes legal action against housing associations over standard of homes
Local Government Lawyer | 5 March 2021
Lambeth Council is taking legal action against three housing associations after an internal report claimed they had failed to keep homes up to standard. The London borough said it was looking to protect residents and demonstrate that private landlords and housing associations were not exempt from the “responsibility to make sure that people’s homes are warm, dry and safe”. According to the council, it has had longstanding issues with the three housing associations – Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing (MTVH), Notting Hill Genesis and Optivo.

County council issues findings of review after successful procurement challenge by incumbent parking enforcement contractor costs £1.6m
Local Government Lawyer | 26 February 2021
Oxfordshire County Council has published the findings of an external review launched after the existing parking enforcement contractor made a successful challenge to the local authority’s procurement award process. A report due to be presented to a meeting of the authority’s Audit and Governance Committee next week (3 March) showed that the total cost of dealing with Marston Holdings’ claim was £1,607,338.57. Marston Holdings had alleged in June 2019 that the procurement of Oxfordshire’s parking enforcement contract had been undertaken contrary to the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

Judge gives permission for legal challenge over Cherwell local plan partial review
Local Government Lawyer | 25 February 2021
Cherwell District Council faces a judicial review of its local plan partial review after Mrs Justice Lang gave permission to local campaign group Cherwell Development Watch Alliance (CDWA). The dispute centres on a provision in the plan for 4,400 houses on Green Belt land intended to help meet Oxford City Council’s housing need.

Council faces legal action over cycle lane removal
LocalGov | 25 February 2021
A cycling charity is taking legal action against a council’s decision to scrap a cycle lane introduced during lockdown. Cycling UK has submitted an application for judicial review of West Sussex County Council’s decision to remove the cycle lane along Upper Shoreham Road in Shoreham-by-Sea, arguing that it is ‘irrational and unlawful’. It said that at the heart of its challenge that the council failed to consider the equalities implications of deciding to remove the cycle lane, and in particular did not consider the impact on young people.

High Court strikes out bid by councils to rescind loans from Barclays following 'LIBOR' rigging affair
Local Government Lawyer | 23 February 2021
A High Court judge has struck out claims brought by seven councils and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority for rescission of certain loans with Barclays which they said were affected by the LIBOR rigging affair of 2012. The local authorities’ claims were on the grounds of fraudulent misrepresentation or (in one case) in the alternative for damages for misrepresentation.

Council defeats legal challenge to introduction of detailed emergency planning zone around nuclear weapons site
Local Government Lawyer | 22 February 2021
West Berkshire Council has defeated a judicial review challenge brought by developers in relation to the designation of a 'detailed emergency planning zone' around an atomic weapons establishment.

Council leader urges Secretary of State to intervene after inspectors indicate they will fail Local Plan, threatens judicial review challenge
Local Government Lawyer | 15 February 2021
The Leader of Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council has written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government urging him to intervene after inspectors indicated that they considered it a “very strong likelihood” that they will fail its Local Plan. In the letter Cllr Nicolas Heslop warned Robert Jenrick that in the absence of intervention, “the only other potential recourse open to [the council] would be a legal challenge by judicial review”.

Supreme Court upholds registration of land in working port as town and village green
Local Government Lawyer | 12 February 2021
An area of concrete in a working commercial port was validly registered by a county council as a town and village green, the Supreme Court has ruled. The land in question in T W Logistics Ltd v Essex County Council and another [2021] UKSC 4 lies along the quayside in Mistley port in Essex (“the land”). The appellant, TWL, owns and operates Mistley port. It has been using the land for the passage of port vehicles, including heavy goods vehicles, and the temporary storage of cargo on the quayside. Concurrently with these commercial activities, the land has also been used by local inhabitants for general recreation. The council duly registered that land as a TVG. TWL challenged that registration in the High Court on a number of grounds, all of which were dismissed. The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s decision. TWL appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court (Lady Black, Lady Arden, Lord Sales, Lord Burrows, Lord Stephens) dismissed TWL’s appeal.

Campaigners win permission for judicial review over council decision to relocate 500-year-old tree for housing scheme
Local Government Lawyer | 11 February 2021
Campaigners from the East End Preservation Society have gained permission for a judicial review of Tower Hamlets’s decision to allow housebuilder Crest Nicholson to redevelop the former London Chest Hospital, which involves the relocation of a mulberry tree put at between 400 and 500 years old.

Borough and county councils in row over restrictive covenant and proposed student housing scheme
Local Government Lawyer | 4 February 2021
The threat of a legal dispute between Colchester Borough Council and Essex County Council has emerged over a proposed development for the site of the town’s former bus station.
Essex holds a restrictive covenant on the site limiting its use to local authority purposes and has declined to lift this to allow developer Alumno to proceed with a scheme for student housing, retail and a hotel.

Campaign group fails in legal challenge after council dismissed petition calling for referendum on governance model
Local Government Lawyer | 1 February 2021
A High Court judge has dismissed a judicial review challenge to the London Borough of Newham’s decision to declare invalid a petition seeking a referendum to change the governance model of the council. Newham’s current governance model is the "Mayor and Cabinet" model, which provides for an executive mayor elected by local government electors for a local authority's area. On 18 September 2020 Democracy Newham submitted a petition seeking a referendum to change the council's governance model to a "Leader and Cabinet" model.

Back to top

Resource Library

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


Procurement & Frameworks – answers to the tricky questions!
Employment Update with Hays Recruitment
Reforming the Mental Health Act: Have your say on the White Paper Consultation Questions

Back to top



All forthcoming webinars

LIBOR Transitition - The next steps
Wednesday 14 April: 10.00 - 11.00

Back to top

Our use of cookies

We use necessary cookies to make our site work. We'd also like to set optional analytics cookies to help us improve it. We won't set optional cookies unless you enable them. Using this tool will set a cookie on your device to remember your preferences. For more detailed information about the cookies we use, see our Cookies page.

Necessary cookies

Necessary cookies enable core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility. You may disable these by changing your browser settings, but this may affect how the website functions.

Analytics cookies

We'd like to set Google Analytics cookies to help us to improve our website by collection and reporting information on how you use it. The cookies collect information in a way that does not directly identify anyone.
For more information on how these cookies work, please see our Cookies page.