LA Spotlight

UK Covid-19 Inquiry opens Module 2, investigation into government decision-making

Will you want to be a Core Participant?

This month our focus is on the Covid-19 Inquiry. Preliminary work for Modules 1 and 2 of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry is getting underway. The three Modules announced so far are:

  • Module 1 - Resilience, planning and preparedness across the UK
  • Module 2 - Core political decision making, and
  • Module 3 - Health care system.

The provisional scope of Modules 1 and 2 is broad. The scope of Module 3 has not yet been published. All three Modules are likely to draw in local government in a range of ways, for instance insofar as involved in lock down and public health communications decision making.

We understand that there will be an update on Core Participant applications at the preliminary hearing for Module 1 on 4 October 2022. We may learn more about the process for Core Participant applications for Modules 2 and Module 3 then too.  

Core Participants have certain additional rights during the Inquiry, including receiving e-disclosure, making opening and closing statements to the Inquiry, suggesting lines of questioning to witnesses and applying to question witnesses during hearings.

Any organisations that think they may receive a rule 9 request from the Inquiry for written evidence on specific issues might consider applying for Core Participant status, as should those who wish to be involved in the direct questioning of Central Government. We understand the LGA is likely to apply for Core Participant Status in several modules and has urged local authorities to develop their own communications strategy, particularly if likely to be criticised. Generally speaking, if you have not done so already, this is a good moment to develop a strategy for how you will engage with the Inquiry as whole, since preliminary work is now well underway for two modules.  

Our expert Inquiries team can advise on applying for Core Participant status in the Inquiry, engaging with the Inquiry without becoming a Core Participant, document preservation, evidence production and e-disclosure, reputation management and the myriad of other issues that can arise. Please get in touch with Melanie Carter, Head of Inquiries and Investigations, if you would like to discuss any of the above.


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Net Zero

Government announces Energy Price Guarantee – impact on heat networks

On 8 September the Government announced its intention to introduce an Energy Price Guarantee for families and businesses.

The two-year Energy Price Guarantee is intended to ensure that a “typical household” will save an average of £1,000 a year on their energy bills, with businesses and public sector organisations also expected to receive support over the coming winter.

The Energy Price Guarantee appears also intended to apply to those receiving their heat through heat networks – the announcement states “Those households who do not pay direct for mains gas and electricity – such as those living in park homes or on heat networks – will be no worse off and receive support through a new fund”.

The exact structure and operation of the Energy Price Guarantee fund is as yet unclear. Entities representing the heat network sector, led by the UK District Energy Association, with input from the ADE, Heat Trust, the Property Institute, and the National Housing Federation are meeting to feed in to discussions with BEIS to ensure that the benefits of the fund are delivered rapidly and equitably across the heat networks sector.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of the Energy Price Guarantee, or other aspects of the impact of the current energy crisis on heat networks in more detail, please get in touch with one of our Net Zero legal and commercial specialists Nadeem Arshad or Nathan Bradberry.

Publications & Guidance

OEP written evidence to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill Committee

Office for Environmental Protection | 8 September 2022

‘Levelling Up’ reforms must be handled with care to safeguard environmental protection, warns OEP. Read the full report here.

Defra consultation on the revised Draft National Air Pollution Control Programme – Response from the LGA

Local Government Association | 8 September 2022

The LGA’s recommendations for tackling urgent risks from air pollution based on the themes set out in the revised National Air Pollution Control Programme.

Air quality: policies, proposals and concerns

House of Commons Library | 6 September 2022

A House of Commons Library Briefing Paper on air quality in the UK, including current law and policy, trends in air pollutants and information on the UK Government and devolved Governments' plans and ambitions to improve air quality.

Litter enforcement powers: letter to councils

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs | 26 August 2022

A letter from Jo Churchill MP to councils about the use of enforcement powers to tackle litter.

Designation of National Highways as a relevant public authority

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs | 18 August 2022

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has published the outcome of the consultation on the designation of National Highways as a relevant public authority. Defra has said 87% of respondents strongly supported the designation of National Highways. According to Defra, this will provide a 'clear statutory requirement' for National Highways and local authorities to cooperate to lessen pollution where statutory Air Quality Objectives are not met. Defra has also said it intends on laying a Statutory Instrument (SI) in Parliament designating National Highways later in 2022.

Local air quality management policy guidance | Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs | 18 August 2022

Defra received a total of 168 responses to the Local Air Quality Management (LAQM) policy guidance consultation. On 18 August we published the updated guidance. This guidance sets out what local authorities should do and the legal duties with which they must comply to improve local air quality. The guidance was last published in 2016, this review takes into account the Environment Act 2021 and strengthens the LAQM framework to enable local authorities to take more effective, co-ordinated actions to achieve their air quality objectives and deliver improvements to public health. The review also includes the introduction of new areas for local authority consideration which reflect new research, policies and priorities in the field of local air quality.


Fears for local fracking controls

The MJ | 15 September 2022

Councils fear an erosion of local controls over fracking after the Prime Minister lifted a moratorium on the practice.

UK Government slammed for continued ‘lack of ambition and funding’ for energy efficiency

edie | 12 September 2022

British homes and businesses will continue paying over the odds for energy into the late 2020s due to an ongoing lack of focus on energy efficiency from the Government, new reports are warning.

Government announces Energy Price Guarantee for families and businesses while urgently taking action to reform broken energy market

Prime Minister’s Office | 8 September 2022

Prime Minister Liz Truss sets out decisive action to support people and businesses with their energy bills. Also see: LGA responds to energy bills announcement | Local Government Association

Claimants win judicial review challenge against Environment Agency over water abstraction in Norfolk Broads

Local Government Lawyer | 8 September 2022

The High Court has ruled in a case involving water abstraction that certain European nature conservation laws remain enforceable against the Environment Agency (EA) despite the UK having left the European Union.

Net zero: A whole life view

Local Gov | 6 September 2022

The record temperatures and drought conditions that have hit the UK this summer have been a stark reminder as to why so many local authorities have declared a climate emergency, with the most extreme impacts of climate change becoming more tangible.

Delivering a more flexible and energy efficient workplace

The MJ | 6 September 2022

While many council buildings lay empty due to the pandemic, one of Hertfordshire CC’s main head offices embarked on a much-needed workplace transformation, explains Terri Richardson.

Local government has a central role to play in delivering on net zero

Local Gov | 2 September 2022

There is pressure on all of us to prioritise the climate emergency and this summer’s heatwaves and subsequent drought have served as a stark reminder of the situation we all find ourselves in. This year’s annual progress report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) made for interesting - but not surprising - reading, finding that solid progress continues to lag behind policy ambition when it comes to reaching our net zero target.

Government launches climate change consultation for pension scheme

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 1 September 2022

The government has launched a consultation today (Thursday 1 September) on new requirements for the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) to manage and report on their climate-related risks, including the carbon emissions attributable to their investments. The proposals include a requirement for LGPS authorities to calculate their carbon footprint, and to assess how different temperature rises could affect their assets and liabilities.

Preparing for climate change on the ground

Local Gov | 30 August 2022

With Britain experiencing record high temperatures and prolonged spells of dry weather, the issue of global warming here in the UK has never been more pertinent.

High Court rejects judicial review application over environmental impact of poultry farm expansion

Local Government Lawyer | 25 August 2022

The High Court has refused a renewed application for permission for a judicial review of Powys County Council's decision to approve a planning application for the expansion of an industrial poultry unit in the catchment area of a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).

Ombudsman tells council to refund improperly imposed fines for fly-tipping

Local Government Lawyer | 25 August 2022

Haringey Council should refund nearly £43,000 of improperly imposed fines for fly-tipping, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has said. The Ombudsman said the council’s action had been “not proportionate” and that it had used the wrong part of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to deal with case.

Three million households waiting for £150 energy rebates

BBC News | 24 August 2022

More than three million households in Britain were still waiting to receive a £150 payment to help with energy costs on 1 July, a BBC Freedom Of Information (FOI) request has revealed. Councils were expected to start paying the £150 rebates from April, but have until September to do so.

Drivers to benefit from £20m EV chargepoint boost

Department for Transport | 24 August 2022

Drivers will have better access to electric vehicle chargepoints across the country, through a new pilot backed by £20m of government and industry funding announced today (24 August 2022). Through the innovative Local EV Infrastructure (LEVI) pilot scheme, local authorities and industry will work together to create new, commercial EV charging infrastructure for residents, from faster on-street chargepoints to larger petrol station-style charging hubs.

Walking, wheeling and cycling to be offered on prescription in nationwide trial

Department for Transport, Department of Health and Social Care | 22 August 2022

Social prescriptions, including walking, wheeling and cycling, will be offered by GPs as part of a new trial to improve mental and physical health and reduce disparities across the country, the government has announced today (22 August 2022).

Hertfordshire country and district councils: Energy advice app

Local Government Association | 20 August 2022

Hertfordshire Council partnered with Energy Saving Trust to provide an energy efficiency app, to help residents save money on their bills.

Brighton & Hove City Council: council tax rebate donation scheme

Local Government Association | 20 August 2022

Brighton & Hove Council identified a number of households who said they do not need the energy council tax rebate which is intended to help with fuel bills. In response, they supported the launch of the Brighton & Hove Cost of Living Crisis Appeal, the funds of which will go directly to supporting the most vulnerable households in the area.

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Delivering Value

Delivering affordable homes: the push to reform the Right to Buy scheme

The Public Accounts Committee inquiry is holding its first evidence session on 22 September where it will examine the progress of the Affordable Homes Programme and whether it is supporting wider government commitments, such as achieving net zero.

In advance of the inquiry, the Local Government Association (LGA) has stated that councils need more powers to encourage developers to build more affordable homes. The LGA has also warned that reform to the Right to Buy (RTB) scheme is needed. The RTB scheme was introduced by the Housing Act 1980, with several amendments since then. In brief, it allows most council tenants to buy their council home at a discount. The level of discount has varied under different governments but it currently sits at a maximum of £87,200 across England and £116,200 in London.

The LGA stated that, partly due to Councils being unable to keep all the proceeds from RTB sales, local authorities have only been able to replace around a third of homes sold since 2012. The LGA warns that if Councils are unable to replace homes as quickly as they are sold, there is a risk of pushing more families into renting privately, which will increase spending on housing benefits and exacerbate homelessness.

Whilst the positive impacts of RTB (such as getting families onto the housing ladder) are acknowledged, the LGA states that Councils need the flexibility to set discounts locally and retain 100% of sales receipts to fund the replacement of homes sold under the scheme.

This will inevitably become a more pressing issue as the cost of living crisis puts further pressure on resources. It remains to be seen whether RTB will be reformed. 

For more advice on RTB please contact Richard Stirk or Julie Cowan-Clark.

Publications & Guidance

Local Government Pension Scheme: Fair Deal – strengthening pension protection

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 8 September 2022

The department is reconsidering its approach to Fair Deal in the context of the Local Government Pension Scheme and will take account of representations made in response to the earlier consultation in its next consultation.

New PSA report calls for radical rethink needed to improve safety in health and social care

Professional Standards Authority | 6 September 2022

In a report launched on 6 September in Parliament, the Professional Standards Authority has highlighted some of the biggest challenges affecting the quality and safety of health and social care across the UK today and put forward its recommendations to ensure safer care for all.

Adult social care workforce in England

House of Commons Library | 5 September 2022

An overview of key issues and policy concerning the adult social care workforce in England.

Explaining variation in spending - public health

Local Government Association | 31 August 2022

This analysis seeks to explain why some councils in England spend more on public health than others.

Ombudsman issues guidance on care finance decisions

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman | 25 August 2022

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has issued guidance to councils on the often-complex issue of Deprivation of Capital decisions. Based on lessons from the complaints it receives, the guidance is aimed at financial assessment practitioners in local authorities. It sets out the Ombudsman’s approach to investigating complaints from people whose local authority has decided they have intentionally deprived themselves of capital when assessing how much they should contribute to their care fees.


Children’s care reviewer ‘impatient’ for response

The MJ | 8 September 2022

The author of the independent review of children's social care has said he is ‘impatient’ to hear the Government’s response.

Energy package likely to put more pressure on public finances

Public Finance | 8 September 2022

The Government’s plan to temporarily cap energy bills for households and businesses will likely lead to higher borrowing and increased pressure on public finances, experts have said.

Truss government must focus on local authority resourcing

Public Finance | 6 September 2022

Ahead of the Truss administration taking office, senior figures said that years of austerity meant they could not sustain vital services and accept deep budget cuts. With many councils becoming increasingly reliant on reserves to balance expanding budgets, local authority chief executives urged the government to change the funding landscape.

More than 16 million households receive cost of living council tax rebate

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 1 September 2022

Around 90% of eligible households have received the government’s £150 council tax rebate to help with the cost of living.

Councils cannot allow multiple care home contracts to run in tandem

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman | 1 September 2022

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman is cautioning councils against allowing the care homes they work with to have subsidiary contracts with clients following a complaint about Leeds City Council. The warning comes after it became clear the council had allowed Indigo Care Services Ltd to have a second contract with a woman it had placed in the provider’s Paisley Lodge home.

Supported accommodation – we need strong oversight to make sure young people are safe, secure and doing well

Ofsted | 31 August 2022

Yvette Stanley, our National Director Regulation and Social Care, discusses the progress we have made in our plans for regulating supported accommodation, as we seek to recruit inspectors. 

Councils offered £6,000 to house asylum-seeking children

The MJ | 25 August 2022

The Government has offered local authorities thousands of pounds of funding in an effort to transfer unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) from temporary hotels to long-term care.

Public urged to ‘represent the very best of British community spirit’ and sponsor people from Ukraine

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 24 August 2022

As the people of Ukraine celebrate their Independence Day, the UK government is calling for more people to come forward to help house Ukrainians fleeing the war.

Helping care leavers find their place in the world of work

Children’s Commissioner | 24 August 2022

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza, has written about the experience of care leavers going into the world of work, and announced that the Commissioner’s Office is currently establishing an advisory board to help care experienced young people. The Commissioner has called for all care leavers to receive a full leaving care plan and restated that there should be a stronger focus on stability, reform across health, care and education and improved access to family and mental health support.

Minister pleas for more refugees cash

The MJ | 23 August 2022

Refugees minister Lord Harrington has made a plea to inject more funding into the Homes for Ukraine scheme amid fears sponsors may withdraw. A quarter of the 25,000 households that have taken in refugees have said they are considering ending their involvement after the initial commitment of six months.

Council tax rebate: The hurdles some areas face getting money to residents

Local Government Chronicle | 22 August 2022

The £150 council tax rebate is a bonus for those struggling with rocketing household bills. But an LGC analysis of government figures has found huge differences in the proportion of people reached by councils across England. Steven Downes investigates.

More councils warn cost pressures are biting into budgets

Public Finance | 22 August 2022

A fresh wave of authorities at every level have revealed their budget plans are in tatters due to the huge spike in costs since April.Two authorities in Nottinghamshire - Gedling Council and Ashfield Council – both confirmed they will have to find an extra £1m if a pay deal for staff is agreed at £2,000 per employee.

Children's homes: recruiting staff

Ofsted | 15 August 2022

This guidance explains what providers of children’s homes must do under the law when recruiting and employing staff.

Future of the IFRS 9 statutory override: mitigating the impact of fair value movements of pooled investment funds

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 11 August 2022

This consultation seeks views on the proposals for amending the Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (England) Regulations 2003.

Social care staff to benefit from improved career options and training

Department of Health and Social Care | 10 August 2022

Hundreds of thousands of training opportunities will be available for social care staff to develop their careers over the next three years as part of the government’s £500m support package. This comes as the Workforce Development Fund is confirmed for an additional year (2022 to 2023) offering stability ahead of new and improved training opportunities.

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Place & Growth

Social Housing: Everything you need to know about the Government’s rent cap consultation for 2023-2024

On 31 August, the Government opened its consultation on its proposals for keeping social rents affordable for the twelve months from 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024.

The Government’s proposal is for rent increases to be capped at 5% during that period. Whilst the consultation makes it clear that the 5% cap is the Government’s preference, alternative cap levels of 3% (which would give greater protection to tenants but an increased financial burden on providers) or 7% (which would assist landlords but give less protection to tenants) are also under consideration and those alternatives are also being consulted upon.

There are some exclusions to the proposed rent cap:

  • Low cost home ownership accommodation
  • Intermediate rent accommodation
  • Specialised supported housing
  • Relevant local authority accommodation
  • Student accommodation
  • PFI social housing
  • Temporary social housing
  • Care homes

Each of these accommodation types is described in more detail in chapter 5 of the amended Statement, which should be read in full when considering whether a particular accommodation type will be caught by the cap or not.

The consultation makes it clear that the imposition of a cap will not be accompanied by any relaxation in the obligations imposed on registered providers to keep their properties maintained and safe. Providers will be expected to explore all options available to them to fund works and preserve their financial viability, including exploiting third party sources of funding such as the Building Safety Fund for tall buildings.

In a letter to local authority chief executives on 7 September urging engagement with the consultation, the Regulator acknowledged that the rent cap proposals, even though proposed for a short period, would have a lasting impact on the Housing Revenue Account of affected authorities. The Regulator made it clear in that letter that, notwithstanding this, authorities will need to ensure continued compliance with the regulatory standards and avoid any compromises regarding the safety of tenants or the delivery of essential landlord services. The Regulator concluded by saying that “all providers will need to identify how they can adjust to maintain their viability and support tenants in difficult times”.

Commentators have identified that a 5% rent increase would result in registered providers receiving around £1.3bn less in rental income than they would if no cap was imposed. At a time when all registered providers face a cocktail of unprecedented financial pressures, the financial consequences of a cap will rightly be being given very serious thought by registered providers of all shapes and sizes.

Publications & Guidance

Rogue landlord database reform

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 8 September 2022

As set out in the ‘a fairer private rented sector’ White Paper, published in June 2022, we will introduce a new Property Portal to make sure that tenants, landlords and local councils have the information they need. The portal will provide a single ‘front door’ for landlords to understand their responsibilities, tenants will be able to access information about their landlord’s compliance, and local councils will have access to better data to crack down on criminal landlords. We also intend to incorporate some of the functionality of the Database of Rogue Landlords, mandating the entry of all eligible unspent landlord offences and making them publicly visible.

The Affordable Homes Programme since 2015

National Audit Office | 8 September 2022

This report assesses how effectively the Department discharges its responsibilities for the Programme, and how it oversees Homes England and the GLA. We also examine Homes England’s management of its part of the Programme. We do not assess the GLA’s management of its part of the Programme as it is not a central government organisation that we audit, and the London Assembly instead provides local scrutiny. Unless stated, all data for housing starts and housing completions are as at 31 March 2022. Data for housing forecasts are as at May 2022.

Letter to registered providers: government rent consultation 2022

Regulator of Social Housing | 7 September 2022

RSH has written to registered providers following the launch of a DLUHC consultation on changing the cap on social housing rent increases. The current cap is set at CPI+1%, which is expected to be around 11% in total for 2023-24. The consultation proposes three options for a lower cap on rent rises: 3%, 5% or 7%. The government is also asking whether the lower cap should be applied for one or two years.

Rough sleepers helped to rebuild their lives with new strategy backed by £2bn government support

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 3 September 2022

Thousands of people living on the streets will be given a roof over their heads and tailored support to rebuild their lives under landmark government plans set out today (3 September 2022) to end rough sleeping. The cross-government Rough Sleeping Strategy is backed by £2bn and builds on the significant action already taken by the government, which has driven a 43% drop in rough sleeping since 2019 and rough sleeping has fallen to an eight-year low. As a result, England now one of the lowest rough sleeping rates in the world.

Rural England Prosperity Fund: prospectus

Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs | 3 September 2022

The Rural England Prosperity Fund prospectus provides guidance for eligible local authorities to develop proposals for capital projects. Projects will support small businesses and community infrastructure in rural areas.

The Fund provides rural top-up funding to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) in England.

The prospectus is supported by documents which explain:

  • how the Fund is allocated
  • how the Fund is calculated (methodology)
  • investment priorities: interventions, objectives, outputs and outcomes - available as a list or summary document

Rent setting: social housing (England)

House of Commons Library | 31 August 2022

This paper explains policy developments in relation to setting social housing rent levels in England since 2002. For five years from April 2020 rent increases are based on the Consumer Price Index +1%.

Better flood protections for new homes

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 25 August 2022

New homes will be better protected from flooding following changes to planning guidance, the government has announced today (25 August 2022).

Leasehold and commonhold reform

House of Commons Library | 24 August 2022

This paper considers trends in leasehold ownership, ongoing problems associated with the sector, and Government plans for legislation in the 2023-24 parliamentary session.


Ombudsman stresses importance of complaints in challenging times as 22 complaint handling failure orders issued

Housing Ombudsman | 8 September 2022

We issued 22 complaint handling failure orders in the first quarter of 2022-23, April to June 2022. In 17 cases, landlords complied with the orders and there were five cases of non-compliance.

Analysis: Which areas have benefited from competitive funding pots?

Local Government Chronicle | 8 September 2022

Some of the most financially deprived areas in the country have so far missed out on competitive levelling up funding.

Technical adjustment to the Business Rates Retention system: Consultation

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 2 September 2022

This consultation covers proposals for an updated technical adjustment to the Business Rates Retention (BRR) system in response to the forthcoming 2023 business rates revaluation and transfers from local lists to the central list.

New standards for rented homes under consideration

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 2 September 2022

Millions of renters could benefit from a set of improved standards for rented homes, in the next step of the government’s biggest shake up of the private rented sector in 30 years. The Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities has today (2 September 2022) launched a consultation on introducing a Decent Homes Standard to the rented sector, which would mean landlords are legally bound to make sure their property meets a reasonable standard.

Levelling-Up Committee begins Private renters inquiry, Monday 5 September at 4pm

UK Parliament | 1 September 2022

On Monday 5 September, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee begins the public evidence sessions for its inquiry into Reforming the Private Rented Sector, examining the Government’s proposals set out in its recent White Paper, A Fairer Private Rented Sector.

Exclusive: Hotel accommodation for unaccompanied children ‘at capacity’ as councils told to house more

Local Government Chronicle | 1 September 2022

The Home Office has run out of hotel space for unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) and has halved the amount of time councils have to move those already in hotels out of them, amid growing concerns over a shortage of suitable accommodation.

Social housing rents consultation

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 31 August 2022

We are seeking views on a draft Direction to the Regulator of Social Housing. The Direction would require the Regulator to set a regulatory standard on rents that will apply to Registered Providers of social housing. This encompasses:

  • Private Registered Providers (including housing associations)
  • Local authority Registered Providers (i.e. local authorities with retained housing stock)

Section 197 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 gives the Secretary of State the power to direct the Regulator of Social Housing to set a standard on rent, and about the content of that standard. Once issued, a Direction is binding on the Regulator. We propose to use this power to issue a new Direction to the Regulator on rent. The proposed Direction has been published alongside this consultation.

Rent cap on social housing to protect millions of tenants from rising cost of living

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 31 August 2022

consultation has been launched today (Wednesday 31 August) to invite views from social housing tenants and landlords on a proposed rent cap to understand how best to support households with the cost of living. Under the proposals, a cap on social housing rent increases would be put in place for the coming financial year, with options at 3%, 5% and 7% being considered.

​Development corporation reform: technical consultation

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 31 August 2022

Summary of responses and the government response to the technical consultation seeking views on whether and how legislative reforms might ensure that, in future, where it is appropriate for a development corporation to be used, a fit-for-purpose model exists.

Fast-track planning route to speed up major infrastructure projects

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 30 August 2022

Major infrastructure projects such road improvements and offshore wind farms will be delivered more quickly through a new fast-track planning route, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up Greg Clark announced today (30 August). New powers will mean shorter deadlines can be set for examinations of Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects – speeding up decisions and getting projects built more quickly. The relevant Secretary of the State – for example for Energy, Transport, Environment or Levelling Up – will decide whether to put the shorter deadline in place.

Councils warn of spiralling cost of street lighting and pothole repairs due to increasing energy cost and inflation

Local Government Association | 30 August 2022

Councils are facing massive increases in costs due to spiralling inflation and the increase in energy costs, the Local Government Association (LGA) are warning today.

£1bn COVID grant still to be paid out to businesses

The MJ | 30 August 2022

More than £1bn of the 2021-22 COVID-19 Additional Relief Fund (CARF) had not been paid out by the end of June, the latest figures from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) have shown.

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Governance & Reorganisation

When can a local authority legitimately prohibit members from voting?

An analysis of Spitalfields Historic Building Trust, R (On the Application Of) v London Borough of Tower Hamlets [2022] EWHC 2262 (Admin)

Spitalfields Historic Building Trust (the Claimant) challenged the decision of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (the Defendant) to grant planning permission for the redevelopment of the Old Truman Brewery site at Brick Lane and Woodseer Street, London.

In a judgment handed down on 31 August 2022, the Honourable Mr Justice Morris dismissed the Claimant’s application for judicial review of the Decision.

The Defendant granted planning permission for a mixed use development comprising office, retail, gym and restaurant uses. There were 7,051 objections to the application for planning permission, including a complaint from the Claimant. The principal objections related to concerns of gentrification, effect on community cohesion and causing harm to local businesses and heritage assets.

The Defendant initially considered the application for planning permission at a meeting in April, but deferred the decision until its September meeting. Only those members present at the April meeting were permitted to vote.

Grounds for Challenge
The Claimant alleged that the decision was unlawful for the following reasons:

  1. The Defendant had excluded its Development Committee members from voting if they had not been present at the previous meeting;
  2. Members of the public (including the Claimant) were prohibited from speaking at the Development Committee meeting; and
  3. There was an alleged failure to have regard to relevant policies in a draft neighbourhood plan.

The Defendant was found to have properly followed the required procedures. The High Court dealt with each of the grounds for challenge as follows:

  1. The Court considered that the starting point is that every member of a local authority council or committee has a prima facie entitlement to vote at a relevant meeting. However, in this case, the Council’s constitution lawfully prohibited members of the Development Committee from voting on deferred applications if they had not been present at the previous meeting and these rules were considered to fall within the ambit of Paragraph 42 of Schedule 12 to the Local Government Act 1972 which empowers local authorities to make rules “for the regulation of their proceedings and business”.
  2. The Judge rejected the Claimant’s submission that public speaking should have been allowed at the deferred meeting and accepted the Defendant’s position that its rules provided a general discretion to decide whether or not to permit public speaking. The Judge also considered the fact that the Claimant had already made written and oral representations in advance of the Decision at the previous meeting.
  3. Finally, on the facts, the Court considered that “matters relevant to the proper application of the policies in the Draft Plan were appropriately identified and assessed” and therefore the Claimant also failed on this ground.

The case highlights that local authorities have the discretion to regulate their proceedings and business in the manner that they deem appropriate, and can therefore adopt, in addition to standing orders which are mandatory, discretionary standing orders that (among other things) regulate public involvement and participation in proceedings, and which prohibit members from voting in specified circumstances. That said, the discretion should be exercised cautiously and the democratic implications of any proposed amendment or addition should be fully considered beforehand – standing orders must not be Wednesbury unreasonable, and should therefore only be adopted or amended where there is a clear and rational purpose behind them, and which provides for the better regulation of an authority’s proceedings.

Publications & Guidance

Guidance on Local Authority Meetings during a period of National Mourning

Lawyers in Local Government | 9 September 2022

We have received several queries as to whether meetings of the authority can/should proceed during the period of National Mourning for Her Majesty the Queen.

Guidance for councils on marking the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Local Government Association | 8 September 2022

Councils play a key role in ensuring that local communities can celebrate and commemorate the life of Her Majesty The Queen in a safe and befitting manner.


Proclamation services held for King Charles III

Local Government Chronicle | 12 September 2022

Councils around the country held ceremonies to proclaim King Charles III the new sovereign yesterday afternoon. Following the death of Queen Elizabeth II her son Charles was proclaimed king by the accession council on Saturday.

Local Government Pension Scheme: Fair Deal – strengthening pension protection

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 8 September 2022

The department is reconsidering its approach to Fair Deal in the context of the Local Government Pension Scheme and will take account of representations made in response to the earlier consultation in its next consultation.

Reforming local government exit pay

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 8 September 2022

The department plans to consult further on exit pay arrangements for local government staff and will take account of representations made in response to the earlier consultation in its next consultation.

Government adjusts timing of changes to postal vote handling rules

Local Government Lawyer | 8 September 2022

The Government has deferred changes to the rules on handling postal votes after protests from the Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA) that it would be impossible to deliver both photographic voter identification and changes to the postal vote handling rules for polls in May 2023.

Backroom changes in No 10 boost local knowledge | Public Finance

Public Finance | 8 September 2022

The overhaul of Downing Street’s advisors has boosted public finance and local government expertise.

District considers four-day working week pilot

Public Finance | 6 September 2022

South Cambridgeshire District Council is considering plans for a three-month trial of a four-day working for desk staff, to help improve staff recruitment and retention.

Local government ‘over-centralised’

The MJ | 2 September 2022

The study from the think-tanks Centre for Cities and Resolution Foundation argued local government struggles to deliver positive change because councils and combined authorities do not have the necessary powers and funding to effectively manage their local economies.

Government announces intervention into Thurrock Council

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 2 September 2022

Local Government Secretary Greg Clark has introduced new intervention measures in Thurrock Council to ensure delivery of key essential services.

Further action taken to address failures at Nottingham City Council

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 2 September 2022

Secretary of State for Levelling Up Greg Clark has announced further measures to address failures at Nottingham City Council.

Letter to the Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee regarding the Elections Act 2022

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 2 September 2022

Minister Paul Scully responds to the letter from the Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee regarding progress being made on implementation of the Elections Act 2022.

Government takes further steps to address serious council failures in Slough

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 1 September 2022

The government will expand its intervention in Slough Borough Council after persistent failure to deliver best value for local taxpayers, Minister Scully will confirm today (1 September 2022). A report from the Commissioners submitted in June of this year revealed the Council was facing an “unprecedented” scale of challenge, following years of financial mismanagement, piling debt and poor accounting practices.

Councils hit by two million cyber attacks

The MJ | 1 September 2022

Cyber attacks on councils have increased this year, with the number reaching 2.3 million so far in 2022.

East Midlands local economy to be levelled up with historic billion pound devolution deal

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 30 August 2022

Levelling Up Secretary Greg Clark will sign an historic devolution deal with Derbyshire and Derby, Nottinghamshire and Nottingham.

Former city chief, county chief and leader to appear in court

Local Government Chronicle | 23 August 2022

Four men including two former council chiefs and a county leader will appear in court in October after being charged in connection with a long-running police investigation. Operation Sheridan, which was launched in 2013, was an investigation into allegations of financial irregularity centred on a joint venture between Lancashire CC and Liverpool City Council.

Levelling Up Committee to scrutinise Government’s elections policy

UK Parliament | 22 August 2022

Following the publication of the Government’s “Draft Electoral Commission Strategy and Policy Statement” on 22 August, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee will commence scrutiny of this in September.

New guidance to improve the accountability of the Electoral Commission published

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities | 22 August 2022

On 22 August 2022 the Department for Levelling Up has opened the consultation on new guidance to improve the accountability of the Electoral Commission to UK Parliament. This guidance addresses the concern raised in Lord Eric Pickles’ independent review into electoral fraud, that the current system of oversight of the Electoral Commission is not fit for purpose.

Government election reforms 'unachievable’

The MJ | 11 August 2022

Introducing voter ID and other election reforms ‘appears to be unachievable,’ according to a new Government report. The verdict of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) echoes warnings from the Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA) and Electoral Commission in recent weeks.

Whitehall unit targets council websites

The MJ | 10 August 2022

In the year from 21 June 2021 to 20 June 2022, the Government’s accessibility monitoring team passed reports of 466 issues with the websites or mobile apps of public sector organisations – 301 (65%) from local government – to the Equality and Human Rights Commission or the equivalent in Northern Ireland.

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Contract Management

Landmark procurement case on the use of framework agreements

A new case in the High Court has been causing ripples across the framework market. The High Court handed down a judgement on liability and remedy in Consultant Connect Limited v (1) NHS Bath ICB (2) NHS Gloucestershire ICT and (3) NHS Bristol ICB (Interested Party: Monmedical Limited) [2022] EWHC.

The case related to the defendants decision to award a contract to the interested party using a framework agreement after a product demonstration. The claimant was not a member of the framework agreement.

The defendants had sought to carry out a mini-competition under the framework, having invited a bid only from the interested party. They then had direct negotiations on the commercial terms of the contract before entering into the contract with Monmedical.  

The court made wide-ranging findings of breach including that the direct award was in breach of the principles of equal treatment, that the mini-competition was not real (having tailored the requirements to that bidder), material changes to the pricing methodology under the framework and conflicts of interest.

This case raises a number of key issues in relation to the use of framework agreements including the use of selection tools to whittle down those who are eligible to be considered for a mini-competition and direct award. Local authorities will need to carefully consider the risks in relation to the use of selection tool frameworks and the ability to make direct awards.

For further procurement help and advice, please contact our procurement team.

Publications & Guidance

Procurement Bill Byte 4: New Procurement Procedures

Bevan Brittan | 8 September 2022

This article looks at the new competitive tendering procedures and time limits introduced by the Procurement Bill on 11 May 2022 and concludes by suggesting practical steps contracting authorities may wish to take once the Bill is enacted.

The Sourcing and Consultancy Playbooks

Cabinet Office | 5 September 2022

The Cabinet Office, and Government Commercial Function, has updated the Consultancy Playbook, which provides information on sourcing consultancy services, building on the original version with new and refreshed guidance notes on a range of topics.

The Construction Playbook 

Cabinet Office | 5 September 2022

The Cabinet Office has updated the Construction Playbook with new guidance notes on a range of topics, which include ‘Promoting Net Zero Carbon and Sustainability’, ‘Modern Methods of Construction’, and Public Sector Construction Frameworks.

National Procurement Strategy for Local Government in England 2022

Local Government Association | 30 August 2022

This refresh of the National Procurement Strategy for Local Government in England is launched at a time of many opportunities and pressures on council procurement. We are tasked with delivering both economic and social value to our communities and for levelling up within and between our places. The role of procurement in local government remains pivotal in maximising these opportunities through our supply chains and managing the challenges faced by our sector and our communities.  

Procurement Policy Note 01/22: contracts with suppliers from Russia and Belarus

Cabinet Office | 10 August 2022 

The Cabinet Office has updated the Procurement Policy Note (PPN) 01/22 on contracts with suppliers from Russia and Belarus and the PPN 01/22 frequently asked questions (FAQs) to reflect modifications relating to the Local Government Act 1988 (LGA 1988).


On the road to good governance and procurement

The MJ | 6 September 2022

The Procurement Bill will help councils outsource and allow suppliers and others to better understand authorities’ procurement policies and decisions, writes Tiffany Cloynes.

How is our council cash being spent? 

The MJ | 5 September 2022 

John Tizard puts the case for a review of the effectiveness of local government’s £70bn third party procurement spend.

Mayor pledges to use GLA spending power to create an equal London

London City Hall | 2 September 2022

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has unveiled bold plans to use the £9.5bn combined purchasing power of the Greater London Authority Group to help make the capital greener and fairer for all Londoners.

The Responsible Procurement Implementation Plan will support the Mayor’s commitment to helping small businesses thrive and to achieving net zero for London by 2030, by embedding new requirements in all contracts with suppliers to the GLA Group - which includes Transport for London (TfL), the London Fire Commissioner, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), the London Legacy Development Corporation and the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation (OPDC).

Local government has a central role to play in delivering on net zero

London City Hall | 2 September 2022

There is pressure on all of us to prioritise the climate emergency and this summer’s heatwaves and subsequent drought have served as a stark reminder of the situation we all find ourselves in. This year’s annual progress report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) made for interesting - but not surprising - reading, finding that solid progress continues to lag behind policy ambition when it comes to reaching our net zero target.

Subsidies and Schemes of Interest and of Particular Interest

Department of Business. Energy & Industrial Strategy | 24 August 2022

Respondents were broadly supportive of the government’s proposed approach to defining subsidies and schemes of interest and of particular interest.

Having considered the responses, we propose to make the following changes to the policy proposal:

  • the introduction of a minimum value of £1m for referral of cumulated subsidies to the Subsidy Advice Unit. This will avoid referrals of small, cumulated subsidies, which would not be proportionate to their likely level of market distortion
  • the definition of relocation subsidies of £1m or more as Subsidies of Particular Interest and those below £1m as Subsidies of Interest. This is given the higher risk that they present of distorting competition and causing harm
  • special provisions for the valuation and cumulation of tax schemes and subsidies

The government will lay draft regulations before Parliament which reflect the original policy proposal and the changes noted above. We have provided further details on both in the government response.

It’s payback time Dudley style 

The MJ | 24 August 2022

Dudley MBC spends over £300m a year on goods, services and works – getting the best service and the best value for residents. So far, so blah. How about making contracts meaningful? Hiring local companies where possible? And getting community payback with every procurement? Well, that’s exactly what Dudley MBC is doing.

Social Value: From short-changed to life-changing

Local Gov | 17 August 2022

For many local government organisations, the challenge of demonstrating the social value they deliver is getting harder by the year. New legislation, shrinking resources, and growing scrutiny are all making the process more complex.

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Disputes & Regulatory Support

Food safety and labelling regulations – what you need to know

Food safety regulation has seen a range of far-reaching developments in the past year alone. Given the fundamental role that local authorities play in the enforcement of food safety and standards regulations, a discussion of such developments is key.

New calorie labelling regulations in England
On 6 April 2022, the new labelling regulations (The Calorie Labelling (Out of Home Sector)(England) Regulations 2021) came into force requiring large restaurants, cafes and other businesses covered by the regulations to display calorie information on menus and food labels pursuant to the UK government’s Tackling Obesity strategy. The new regulations make it a legal requirement for qualifying businesses with more than 250 employees to display accurate calorie information on non-exempt food and non-alcoholic drink items prepared for immediate consumption as well as displaying information on daily recommended calorie needs.

The regulations do not currently require calories to be displayed for alcoholic drinks over 1.2% ABV, however the government has announced plans for a separate consultation on mandatory alcohol calorie labelling and so we can expect to see developments in this area going forward.

The new labelling requirements are to be enforced by local authorities in line with existing enforcement activities carried out pursuant to the Food Law Code of Practice. Local Authorities have discretion in how the regulations are enforced. However, Government guidance indicates that enforcement officers are to be encouraged to have initial discussions with businesses regarding non-compliance before serving a formal improvement notice. Further failure to comply will entitle local authorities to impose a fixed monetary penalty of £2,500 or even pursue criminal prosecution if appropriate.

The new regulations only apply to food and soft drinks offered for sale in England, however, the Welsh and Scottish governments have both outlined similar proposals in their consultations on mandatory calorie labelling in the out of home sector.

Allergen labelling regulations in England
There have been equally significant developments with regard to the labelling requirements for pre-packed foods that are prepared and packaged at the same place that they are sold directly to consumers (PPDS). From 1 October 2021, enforcement of The Food Information (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2019 means that any business that produces PPDS food is required to label food with the name of the food and a full ingredients list that highlights any of the 14 allergenic ingredients required to be declared by law.

Local authorities continue to be responsible for enforcement under The Food Information Regulations 2014 and have responsibility for enforcing compliance with the enhanced PPDS labelling requirements. The Food Law Practice Guidance emphasises that local authorities should ensure that enforcement action taken in relation to any non-compliance is “reasonable, proportionate, risk-based and consistent with good practice”. Giving advice and communicating via letter are established approaches to enforcement in the food industry and should be encouraged where appropriate.

If you require further help or advice on this topic, please contact Louise Mansfield.


Housing association awarded £10.8m in High Court cladding case

Local Government Lawyer | 6 September 2022

Housing association Hyde Group has reported that it has been awarded £10.8m in damages and costs in the wake of its legal action over combustible cladding installed on five of its residential towers. In Martlet Homes Ltd v Mulalley & Co Ltd [2022] EWHC 1813 (TCC), the High Court ruled that the housing association could recover its costs from the contractor for expenditures associated with the replacement of cladding on the towers. Martlet Homes Ltd is a subsidiary of Hyde Housing.

Government facing judicial review amid claims it ignored Examining Authority advice before green lighting nuclear power plant development

Local Government Lawyer | 6 September 2022

A campaign group has issued legal proceedings against the Government challenging its decision to allow the Sizewell C Nuclear Power Station to go ahead against the advice of the planning Examining Authority (EA).

Charity threatens Government with legal challenge over sewage plan

Local Government Lawyer | 6 September 2022

The defendant in a long-running planning enforcement case over what has been dubbed “Britain’s biggest man cave” has been committed to prison for six weeks for contempt of court.

Allwyn welcomes Camelot decision to withdraw their appeal 

Allwyn | 5 September 2022

Allwyn Entertainment announces withdrawal by Camelot Entities of legal challenge to Allwyn’s selection as Preferred Applicant for UK National Lottery Licence.

Charity threatens Government with legal challenge over sewage plan

Local Government Lawyer | 2 September 2022

Conservation charity WildFish has sent a pre-action protocol letter to the Government, asking for the Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan, issued on Friday 26 August, to be withdrawn on the basis that it is unlawful.

Councils to seek permission to appeal from Supreme Court after judges allow appeal by claimants over strike out of ‘failure to remove’ claims

Local Government Lawyer | 1 September 2022

Two councils intend to seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court after claimants in two unconnected cases won their appeals over the striking out of their claims in negligence brought against the local authorities arising out of the exercise of their statutory functions under the Children Act 1989. The Court of Appeal ruling in HXA v Surrey County Council [2022] EWCA Civ 1196 concerned a second appeal against the decision of Stacey J (reported at [2021] EWHC 2974 (QB)) to dismiss the claimants’ appeals.

LGPS death grant age limit discriminates, minister warned

Public Finance | 31 August 2022

The government could face another legal challenge over pension rules. The Local Government Pension Scheme advisory board has told levelling up minister Paul Scully that existing benefit arrangements could breach the Equalities Act 2010, owing to the “evolving understanding” of public bodies’ responsibility under the law.

High Court set to hear legal challenge against Department for Transport over kerb heights

Local Government Lawyer | 26 August 2022

The High Court has given permission for a judicial review brought by a visually impaired woman over the Department for Transport's guidance on tactile paving.

Ombudsman tells council to refund improperly imposed fines for fly-tipping

Local Government Lawyer | 25 August 2022

Haringey Council should refund nearly £43,000 of improperly imposed fines for fly-tipping, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has said.

Sent to jail for feeding the pigeons: the broken system of antisocial behaviour laws

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism| 21 August 2022

Mentally ill people are being sent to prison in England and Wales for breaking antisocial behaviour rules that experts say they are unable to follow. They often face their court hearings with no legal representation and can be sent to prison even if their actions are deemed to have caused no real harm.

Data protection claim ends in court ordering claimant to pay majority of council costs

Local Government Lawyer | 19 August 2022

A claimant who sought damages from Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council after a data breach has conceded and agreed to settle the matter by consenting to the council's strike out application and by paying the majority of the council's costs.

Lenient guidelines leading to low fly tipping fines, councils warn

Local Government Association | 18 August 2022

“Magistrates need new sentencing guidelines for fly-tipping, to make court action more worthwhile for councils and in turn, reduce fly-tipping in our communities.”

Council and LEP fall victim to sophisticated £1.1m cyber fraud

Local Government Lawyer | 18 August 2022

A report from the National Investigation Service (NATIS) has concluded that South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) and Luton Council were victims of serious fraud perpetrated by a highly sophisticated international organised crime group, with ties to money laundering and cyber-enabled crime.

Upper Tribunal requires council to secure EHCP for student who is hypersensitive to Wi-Fi signals

Local Government Lawyer | 17 August 2022

The Upper Tribunal has ruled that a council must secure special educational provision for a child who has electromagnetic hypersensitivity and is particularly sensitive to Wi-Fi signals. In EAM v East Sussex County Council (Special educational needs) [2022] UKUT 193 (AAC), on appeal from the First-tier Tribunal, Upper Tribunal judge Jacobs found that the child should be considered disabled by her condition under the Equality Act 2010 and that she required an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

Defendant committed to prison for contempt of court in “man cave” planning enforcement case

Local Government Lawyer | 15 August 2022

The defendant in a long-running planning enforcement case over what has been dubbed “Britain’s biggest man cave” has been committed to prison for six weeks for contempt of court.

Judicial review claim forces council to suspend referendum on neighbourhood plan

Local Government Lawyer | 12 August 2022

A judicial review claim has halted a referendum on a Wiltshire neighbourhood plan days before it was set to take place. The legal challenge launched against Wiltshire Council puts the breaks on the Marlborough Area Neighbourhood Plan, a plan that Marlborough Town Council, Mildenhall Parish Council and Savernake Parish Council have been working on since 2015.

Supreme Court agrees to hear case on environmental impact assessment and downstream effects

Local Government Lawyer | 11 August 2022

The Supreme Court has granted permission to appeal in a key case on planning permissions, environmental impact assessment (EIA) and downstream effects, it has been reported. The appellant, Sarah Finch, had brought a claim on behalf of the Weald Action Group for judicial review of a planning permission granted by Surrey County Council on 27 September 2019 for the retention and extension of the Horse Hill oil well site, near Horley.

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Resource Library

Procurement Bytes Series

Procurement Bill Byte 5: Frameworks and Dynamic Markets

Procurement Bill Byte 4: New Procurement Procedures

Procurement Bill Byte 3: “Musts, mays and considers”; what is the role of discretion in the new regime?

Procurement Bill Byte 2: Direct Award Justifications

Procurement Bill Byte 1: Understanding the notices


What rights do telecommunications operators have to undertake surveys of land?

Care Home Providers: Lessons Learnt From Recent Inquests

Fundamental Dishonesty – recent cases

All Bevan Brittan articles and news

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Events On-Demand

Procurement Bill Q&A
28 September, 11.30am

Recent developments and causation in inquests
11 October, 12.30pm

All forthcoming webinars

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