24/07/2019

LA Spotlight 

The climate change conversation heats up
This month, Bournemouth played host to the annual LGA Conference, enabling over 1,400 delegates to discuss key challenges for the sector. There was increasing discussion on the climate change agenda with over 130 local authorities now declaring a climate change emergency.

The challenge facing all of us is how to support measures and help councils deliver on addressing the emergency and their own objectives, many of which are to be carbon neutral by 2030. As lawyers and advisors we get sight of many initiatives and in the coming months we will be playing back to you examples and ideas of the types of initiatives that we are seeing implemented and that may offer possible solutions to you. These are wide ranging and will include: energy solutions; waste; district heating and other insulation measures and broader sustainability; infrastructure development and in particular use of your assets to drive revenue such as EV charging or 5G networks; streetlight replacement; use of local plans; using commissioning and procurement strategies more effectively; use of contract management and contractual remedies to better enforce; rewilding approaches; engaging the LEP for wider plans and use of natural habitat. The list goes on!

The climate change debate was again the focus for a webinar by LLG, who are undertaking a Climate Change Conference in Bristol later this year. Local government has a key role to play: as a service provider including future housing and infrastructure; as employer; and as a purchaser. This is one subject area which will definitely be on the agenda going forward, and a main focus for all work areas. 

 

 

Commercialisation

Do you pass the social value test?
What is the link between income generation and social value, and more importantly, is there a sector wide understanding of social value? It’s not all about car parking charges (well to some extent, Councils set to make £1bn profit from parking) - local authorities do make a valuable contribution to the social, economic and health and wellbeing of the communities which they serve.

More than six years after the coming into force of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012, the sector is highlighting examples of good practice in commercialisation, linking with the broader economic and environmental health and wellbeing agenda, and indeed actively using this as a media for achieving social value. An LGA report (Profit with a purpose – delivering social value through commercial activity) is a welcomed contribution to such profile raising.

What implications does this have for authorities seeking to generate income and engage in commercial activity? The passing of the social value test will not only in itself generate income to plough back into the public purse, but the mechanism for its implementation will itself be a means of rationalising the business case for such activity in first place. The challenge now for sector is to facilitate this innovation on a widespread basis.

 

Publications & Guidance

Public health risk awareness self-assessment tool
Local Government Association | June 17, 2019
The Association of Directors of Public Health and the LGA have developed a risk tool to support system leaders in local authorities in defining and understanding risk as it relates to public health commissioning, performance, partnership and resource management.

Profit with a purpose – delivering social value through commercial activity
Local Government Association | June 21, 2019
This guidance is structured to take people through a considered approach to ensure that commercial activity drives social value. It gives support in facing the challenge of how to undertake commercial activity and achieve greater value for the public purse in ways that better meet society’s needs and outcomes for people and communities.

NHS Long-term Plan: legislative proposals
House of Commons Select Committee | June 24, 2019
Includes the recommendation that “Local authorities must be part of the decision-making process in order for integrated care systems to be truly place-based and focused on population health. We recommend that additional proposals should be developed that enable local authorities to participate as equal partners in joint committees with clinical commissioning groups and NHS providers.”

Watchdog wants councils to get behind commitment to H&S
Health & Safety Executive | 26 June 2019
Britain’s workplace health and safety regulator is urging local authorities across the country to make a statement of commitment to work with others to improve health and safety standards in the sectors they regulate.

Figures collected by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show failures in the management of occupational health and safety in LA enforced business sectors result in more than 100,000 new cases of ill health, 5000 major injuries and the deaths of around 10 workers each year.

The Local Government Association has endorsed the HSE’s Statement of Commitment

Social care funding: time to end a national scandal
House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee | June 27, 2019
This report states that publicly funded social care support is shrinking, as diminishing budgets have forced local authorities to limit the numbers of people who receive public funding. It recommends that the government immediately spends £8 billion to restore social care to acceptable standards and then introduces free personal care over a period of five years.

Commercial activity given greater prominence in draft CIPFA code
Room 151 | July 1, 2019
CIPFA has amended its draft Financial Management Code for local authorities to give commercial activity greater prominence.  The reorganisation has amended the proposals to recognise the importance of commercial activity in response to consultation concerns made by members.

Government response to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee Report on funding of local authorities’ children’s services
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | July 2, 2019
Contains recommendations to help ensure that every child, no matter where they live, to receive the same high-quality care and support, with the opportunities and the stability to fulfil their potential.

How local and national government can work together to improve health and care
Department of Health and Social Care | July 4, 2019
Speech given by The Rt. Hon Matt Hancock MP at the Local Government Association’s Annual Conference.

Discusses the need for a sustainable long term solution to the funding of social care, and the failure to build to build a cross party consensus to find the best solutions. Factors to consider are health and wellbeing boards, specialist training, better leadership, more control for care users, and use of technology.

 

News

Children being denied advocacy, report warns
LocalGov | June 13, 2019
A report published by the Children’s Commissioner has found that more than a quarter of care leavers’ referrals for advocacy are not being taken forward. Findings showed that many children and young people felt that their wishes and feelings were being ignored, and the reports calls for local authorities to set out a clear strategy to show how advocacy for all eligible children will be delivered.

Report highlights cuts to children’s centres
LocalGov | June 17, 2019
A report published by Action for Children has shown that councils have been forced to reduce spending on children’s centres by almost £100 per child over the past 3 years. The charity has called on the Government to use the forthcoming Spending Review to allocate additional funding to local councils to increase spending on children’s centres.

Charity warns cuts to children’s services “undermine” mental health agenda.
LocalGov | June 17, 2019
The director of policy at The Children’s Society has said that Theresa May’s “new mission” to put prevention at the top of the mental agenda was welcomed, but it was “mostly a re-packaging of previously announced measures”.  The Local Government Association has predicted a funding gap of £3.bn by 2025.

Communities urged to bid for share of Clean Energy Fund
LocalGov | June 19, 2019
The Government has set up a £10m fund to encourage community groups to save on energy bills, cut emissions and make money by selling electricity back to the national grid.

Councils set to make £1bn profit from parking
LocalGov | July 1, 2019
Local authorities in England have predicted that they will make a £913m profit from parking charges this financial year. Analysis by the RAC has revealed that councils have made $% more in profit from parking in 2019-20 than they did in 2018-19 (£877m).

Council chiefs warn of “children’s mental health crisis"
LocalGov | July 1, 2019
Local authority leaders have warned that social services are seeing more than 560 cases of children with mental health disorders every day – an increase of more than 50% in just four years.  The latest figures published by the Local Government Association (LGA) show there were 205,720 cases where a child was identified as having a mental health issue in 2017/18, compared with 133,600 in 2014/15.

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Place & Growth

Smart investment through cultural activities
Art, creativity and culture have been said to change society faster than politics, but what impact can they have on our town and city centres?

The Yorkshire Sculpture International Festival is an example of how a festival celebrating the region’s cultural influence is important, not only because of its’ own intrinsic cultural value, but because it helps create a sense of place that increases community identity and shared experience. Crucially too, it can be an important booster to the local economy generating new revenues for local authorities and business alike through increased tourism, a welcome increase at a time when budgets are exceptionally challenging.

Since Hull was crowned UK City of Culture in 2017 it has experienced impressive economic and social growth as a direct result. The University of Hull released an evaluation of the impact on the city, and found that tourism was on track to generate £300m to the economy and nearly two thirds of business that reported making an investment during 2017 said it was of higher value and brought forward as a result of the City of Culture status.

Investment made to support cultural events can benefit local authorities in terms of higher business rates, increased licensing income, and higher revenues for things such as parking due to increased visitor numbers in the city. A recent report from Core Cities, Cultural Cities Enquiry recognised the importance of smart investment through cultural activities.

At a time when local authorities continue to operate under financial pressure, maximising the value and impact of local cultural events and heritage makes sense on many levels.

 

Publications & Guidance

The Regulator of Social Housing is consulting on changes to its guidance on intervention, enforcement and use of powers.
RSH | 21 June, 2019
The guidance sets out the Regulator’s general approach to intervention and enforcement of registered providers and reinforces the high-level objectives and principles underpinning its approach to dealing with poor performance in a rapidly-changing social housing sector. The consultation runs until 16 August, 2019.

LGA responds to Prime Minister’s housing announcement
Local Government Association | 25 June, 2019
The Prime Minister has called for new design laws to ensure high-quality homes, as well as a pledge for more social housing. The LGA’s Housing spokesman believes that there is a critical need for renewed national leadership on standards for new homes, and that high-quality affordable homes are desperately needed across the country now. Councils need to be able to play a leading role in solving the housing crisis.

Housing for old and disabled people
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | June 26, 2019
Guides councils in preparing planning policies on housing for older and disabled people.

Districts building for the future: The impact of the removal of the HRA borrowing cap
Districts Councils’ Network & the Local Government Information Unit | July 2, 2019
This joint report found that more homes are being built and planned for by more district councils in more locations as a result of the lifting of the Housing Revenue Account cap. It also revealed that additional freedoms for non-stock holding councils could accelerate plans even further.

Local Enterprise Partnerships: progress review
House of Commons Public Accounts Committee | July 5, 2019
The Committee concluded that the Government has “no real understanding” of the impact which the Local Growth Fund had on local economic growth despite investing £12bn of taxpayers’ money. Given the large amounts of public funding that the LEPs manage, there is a clear need for good governance and strong scrutiny. LEPs need to be supported to develop robust local industrial strategies based on economic need of their areas and clearly set out how they will ensure a balance between high and low performing areas.

Leasehold reform: government response to the Select Committee report
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | July 3, 2019
The government is committed to cracking down on unfair practices in the leasehold market, improving

Transparency for existing and prospective homeowners and ensuring that consumers are protected from abuse and poor service – delivering a manifesto pledge.

 

News

Heritage projects given £100m funding boost
LocalGov | June 19, 2019
The National Lottery has announced plans to fund large projects over the next three years totally £100m.

New toolkit launched to help councils go green
LocalGov | 20 June, 2019
The Climate Action Co-Benefits toolkit, has been developed by the sustainability solutions provider Ashden, and proposes community engagement focusing on the co-benefits of climate action for all citizens.

Manchester bolsters regeneration with £25m for joint venture
151 News | 20 June, 2019
Manchester City Council is lending £25m to a development joint venture in which it is a partner, to protect a major regeneration plan.  The city has decided to co-fund a land purchase to enable its Northern Gateway project to go forward.  The project is forecast to deliver up to 15,000 new homes using low-carbon construction and will need supporting infrastructure over the next 20 years.

How councils can transform neglected town centres
LocalGov | 25 June, 2019
Concludes that by working with ambitious private sector partners, there’s an opportunity for local authorities to rethink the way that town centres are designed. Meaningful partnerships offer the opportunity to create futureproof town centres that engage with their surroundings, incorporate attractive public space and form the basis of dynamic and thriving new communities.

Councils build “highest number” of houses since 1990
LocalGov | 25 June, 2019
Drawing on figures supplied by 83 English councils, the Royal Town Planning Institute identified at least 9,000 homes directly created by councils in England in 2017-2018.  Of these new houses, 42% meet the official definition of an ‘affordable’ home and 23% are social.

Kingston looks to set up company to buy £68m of commercial property
Room 151 | 27 June, 2019
The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames have announced plans to set up a property investment company to oversee a planned multi-million-pound investment drive aimed at supporting council services.

In a report to members of the council’s finance and partnerships committee, director of growth Nazeya Hussain said the objective of the company would be to invest £68m in commercial property to “generate long-term revenue income streams” that created “profit for purpose”.

Transformational £394.5m Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal signed off
Northumberland County Council press release | July 1, 2019
Northumberland is to reap major benefits from multi-million pound investment through the Borderlands Inclusive Growth deal.  This follows the announcement of the £394.5 million deal from the UK and Scottish Governments earlier this year.

The Heads of Terms have now been announced which confirm a number of programmes and projects that will be developed and delivered over the coming years.

Smaller rural market and coastal towns across the Borderlands region will benefit from an investment programme to help boost economic activity.  Each town identified will develop a plan for how funding will be spent to support their revitalisation. 

New Task Force to revitalise high streets and town centres
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | July 2, 2019
The High Streets Task Force will be comprised of experts who will provide tailored guidance and advice to local authorities seeking breathe new life into their local high streets and town centres as they battle against changing consumer habits.

Cardiff to invest £1bn in new transport system
LocalGov | July 5, 2019
The transport plan includes a Rapid Bus Transport Network using green and electric vehicles and safe cycle-ways and walking routes linked to bus, rail and tram networks. There will be a new light rail/tram line from east to west connecting major population centres and new suburbs in the west with Cardiff Central.

Multi-million fund to revitalise country’s high streets
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | July 5, 2019
The government has confirmed that over 50 areas across the country – from Cumbria to Cornwall – are going through t the second phase of a multi-million fund that will transform their high streets, making them fit for the future. From improving transport and access into town centres to converting retail units into new homes, the £675 million Future High Streets Fund will help local leaders to reinvent their town centres.

 

Cases

Barlow v Wigan Council
[2019] EWHC 1546 (QB) | BAILII | June 19, 2019
The claimant appealed against a county court decision that a public path in a park was not a highway “maintainable at the public expense” with the result that she had no cause of action against the local authority.

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Governance & Reorganisation

The impact of social media
Intimidation of those in public office continues to be a major concern not just for elected officials but for those who work in the public sector generally, with the LGA recently publishing guidance on dealing with intimidation for Councillors. The major catalyst for the exponential rise of intimidation and harassment is undoubtedly the internet, and in particular social media. We are frequently assisting Councils with how to manage the problems arising and to put measures in place to protect and support those affected, in line with duties towards employees and elected members.

Standards complaints arising from Councillor’s use of social media are also on the increase, with particular difficulties around whether Councillors were acting in their capacity as an elected member when posting content. We still await the government’s formal response to the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s report on local government ethical standards, as the need for a change in the standards regime becomes ever more critical.

 

Local government funding
Local government funding remains a critical issue with the LGA revealing that one in three councils believe that they will run out of funding to provide services in line with their legal duties by 2022/23. The LGiU’s Local Finance Taskforce have also published a report into the sustainability of local government containing stark warnings, with the chief executive of the LGiU stating that “the next prime minister will have 100 days to save local government when he is elected on 23 July.”

 

Publications & Guidance

Code of Conduct for Board members of Public Bodies
Cabinet Office | June 17, 2019
The Code sets out, in a clear manner, the standards expected from those who serve on the boards of UK government departments, non-ministerial departments, executive agencies, non-departmental public bodies, and national public corporations.

NALC (National Association of Local Councils) calls for the Financial Services Ombudsman to cover local councils
NALC | 26 June, 2019
Currently, the financial ombudsman cannot deal with local council financial complaints and NALC this week has backed a call for this to change. NALC will strongly argue to the financial ombudsman that local councils are public bodies in their own right, not subject to common control by billing authorities and raise taxation of their own as independent economic activity.

Financial management Code consultation: Summary of responses
CIPFA (chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy | 27 June, 2019
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) ran a public consultation on the draft Financial Management Code (FM Code) between 20 March and 30 April 2019. The consultation invited respondents to submit their views on driving improvement in financial management for all local authorities in the United Kingdom.

This document summarises the points raised by 59 respondents to the consultation and provides the Institute’s response.

One in three councils fear funding for legal duties will run out within three years
Local Government Association | July 2, 2019
The LGA has revealed the initial results of its survey of council finances ahead of the Spending review. The findings show that 1 in 3 councils fear they will run out of funding to provide their legal duties by 2022/23, and that number could rise to almost two thirds by 2024/2025. The LGA estimates that councils face an overall funding gap of £8 billion by 2025.

Councils can
Local Government Association | July 2, 2019
Conference paper from the LGA 2019 Conference; it sets out the case for a New Localism Settlement for England that empowers councils, to take on greater responsibility for their places.

Local government finance statistics – England (compendium)
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | Updated July 3, 2019
This publication has been designed to collate data published in different statistical releases to create a clear picture of local government finance. The chapters cover revenue and capital income and expenditure, council tax, business rates, assets and liabilities and local government pension schemes.

 

News

Welsh Government to simplify joint working between councils
LocalGov | 19 June, 2019
The Welsh Government has proposed a new form of joint working vehicle called a 'statutory joint committee' The aim is to make it easier for local authorities to collaborate in areas such as planning, transport and economic development. The Welsh Government minister for housing and local government believes that it would reduce set-up costs and provide a body capable of employing staff and holding assets and funding.

Council tax “must be reformed”
PublicFinance | 25 June, 2019
Panellists at an Institute for Public Policy Research event agreed that the system must be overhauled as it increasingly resembles the poll tax.  The IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) was launching  A poor tax: reforming council tax in London, which recommended devolving and reforming council tax in London and introducing a capital-wide council tax benefit system.

Councils save over £1bn by sharing services, council chiefs say
LocalGov | 26 June, 2019
The Local Government Association’s latest shared services map, published today, shows that there are now 626 individual shared service arrangements across the country resulting in £1.34bn of savings. The LGA chairman stated that ‘Councils have embraced efficiency and innovation in a way that is not seen anywhere else in the public sector and these fantastic new figures show they, once again, remain at the forefront of cost-effective service delivery”.

The rise of the “super” parish council
LocalGov | 26 June, 2019
Discusses the transfer recreation and community facilities from Wiltshire to Chippenham Town Council. The rise of so-called ‘super’ parish councils coincides with local government cuts that mean larger authorities are looking to offload assets and services. Justin Griggs, NALC’s head of policy, states that parishes are more than happy to expand their role and assist larger authorities. He believes that they are responding to local need”.

Leader of “fractious” council seeks government help
LocalGov | 28 June, 2019
The leader of Merthyr Tydfil Council has written to local government minister, Julie James, asking for the involvement of an experienced figure to act as an ‘honest broker’ between the lead administration and opposition. The Welsh Government has agreed to appoint two outside experts to help the council tackle its political and financial problems.

Council chiefs call for devolution to rural communities after Brexit
LocalGov | July 4, 2019
The final report from the Local Government Association’s Post-Brexit England Commission argues that many of the challenges facing non-metropolitan communities can only be met by passing down greater powers to local areas. Suggestions include allowing councils to retain 100% of their Right to Buy receipts, as well as giving them the power to set discounts locally. It further calls for the scrapping of permitted development rules and for the full devolution of replacement EU structural funding to non-metropolitan areas.

Councils face losing £5.3bn EU funding in just 18 months
LocalGov | July 5, 2019
Council leaders have warned that more than £5bn in EU regional aid funding will run out in 18 months. The Local Government Association has urged the Government to urgently put in place replacement funding arrangements once the UK has left the EU.

Crisis-hit Northants delivers balanced budget with £4.5 underspend
LocalGov | July 3, 2019
Northamptonshire County Council yesterday announced it had delivered a balanced budget for this financial year, underspending £4.5m. The county council faced a nearly £65m cash shortfall and was issued two Section 114 notices last year, which meant all spending on non-essential services had to be halted.

In order to make up this shortfall, the council introduced a stabilisation plan which included an increase in council tax and cuts in agency staff and highways services.

Council predicts £5.5m budget overspend after a single month
Room 151 | July 5, 2019
Peterborough City Council is forecasting a £5.5m overspend, which is 3/7% of its £150.8 budget for 2019/20. It has been reported that “The main variances being reported within resources are in relation to the shared services savings targets included in the budget, where there is currently no plan in place to achieve these savings.”

London councils call for delay of funding “overhaul” until after Brexit
LocalGov | July 9, 2019
Central London Forward, which represents 12 councils in the capital, has asked the Government to delay the overhaul of how councils are funded until uncertainty over Brexit has diminished. They believe that the Government should instead introduce a one-year spending statement based on current levels of funding plus inflation to give confidence over the next year.

Innovative improvement model to help the council best service its residents
Birmingham City Council | July 9, 2019
As part of its ongoing improvement  process to ensure residents are served in the best possible way, Birmingham City Council is proposing to appoint a number of non-executive advisors.

Cabinet will be asked to approve an innovative model of ‘progressive assurance’ designed by the city council’s leadership team to ensure a relentless and determined focus on improvement. The non-executive advisors (NEAs) will be aligned to the city council's priority areas – waste governance and industrial relations, financial resilience, good governance and cultural change, outcomes for vulnerable adults and children, risk management, and peer support to the corporate management team and cabinet in leading this change and transformation.

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Contract Management

A GDPR warning
The Information Commissioner's Office has announced its intention to fine British Airways £183.39 million in the first flexing of its powers under GDPR.  After a year of uncertainty and negotiation around the inclusion of adequate GDPR provisions and associated limits of liability, this announcement brings the importance of legislating for the worst case scenario back into the spotlight.

This is the first fine the ICO has announced under the GDPR and significantly bigger than its previous largest penalty under the UK data protection regime. Under the Data Protection Act 1998, the ICO could only impose a maximum fine of £500,000, which it levied against Facebook following the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. The ICO acknowledged at the time “the fine would inevitably have been significantly higher under the GDPR”. The new legislation allows the ICO to impose much larger fines, up to a maximum of £17 million or 4% of global turnover. The fine it is intending to impose on BA amounts to 1.5% of its worldwide turnover in 2017.

Whilst the intention inevitably takes into account the severity of the breach and considers the allocation of blame in the data loss event, it highlights the need for data controllers in particular to ensure that the caps on liability do not expose them to unnecessary risk.

With a further announcement of its intention to fine Marriott International Inc more than £99 million following its data breach resulting from a cyber -security event in November 2018, it is clear that the ICO intends to take its new powers very seriously.

 

Publications & Guidance

Rebuilding capacity: The case for insourcing public contracts
APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) | May 2019
Key findings of this research showed that whilst outsourcing had often been driven by promises of savings, austerity had increased the need for further efficiencies, which have in turn become the main drivers to insource services. Insourcing can reinstate the ability for local councillors to decide where resources should go.

Buying things that are over the EU procurement threshold
Department for Education | July 1, 2019
How schools can buy high value things and comply with EU procurement rules, including advertising a contract and running a buying process.

 

News

Amazon awarded £460m in public sector contracts since 2015
LocalGov | June 14, 2019
According to new research a contract awarded to Amazon by a local government purchasing organisation is the largest in the UK public sector.

Suffolk County Council to dissolve care company supporting deaf and blind people
Bury Free Press | June 14, 2019
Suffolk County Council have agreed to dissolve Sensing Change, one of its wholly owned companies which provided specialist care for people with sight or hearing loss. The firm had been subsidised by £934,000 a year from the county council, with the aim that it would eventually became self-financing. This hasn’t happened, and the plan is to transfer care staff back in house to the council.

Leeds strikes deal with government over rising PFI schools costs
Room 151 | June 19, 2019
The Department for Education has agreed a deal with Leeds City Council aimed at protecting other education services from increasing costs on its Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schools contracts. The council has agreed a one-off payment of £1m this financial year to address “increasing and significant funding issues” projected for coming years, with the department making up the rest through future grant payments.

Birmingham to invest £778m to prepare for Commonwealth Games
LocalGov | 26 June, 2019
The Government has confirmed that Birmingham plans to invest £778m to stage the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The funding will be split between central Government which will provide £594m and Birmingham City Council and its’ partners who will contribute £184m.

Birmingham City Council and Amey reach £300m deal
LocalGov | July 1, 2019
Birmingham City Council has reached an agreement with Amey which will allow the outsourcing company to buy its way out of its highways contract for £300m.

The agreement comes after years of difficulties over the 25-year Birmingham Highways PFI contract, which included a five-year legal case in the Appeal Court over the £2.7bn deal.

The judge ruled in the city council’s favour and said that Amey had applied an 'ingenious new interpretation of the contract' to avoid certain repairs.

The future for outsourcing after Barnet formula cracks
Room 151 | July 4, 2019
Barnet Council announced that it had been reassessing its outsourcing deal, and bringing key services back in-house.

The Council leader said that “Our past experiences have taught us that the work required to alter complex contracts, is significant. This is not something the council can enter into lightly, and there must be a compelling business case. We will do that when clearly there is a case – and most importantly, we know that it will enhance service delivery.”

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Disputes

Are your consultation processes legally compliant?
This month a judgement was issued on Buckinghamshire County Council’s decision to close 19 of its 35 existing children’s centres, whilst ensuring their continuing use for early years and community benefit. The remaining 16 children’s centres were to be retained for early years provision, with the buildings being made available for additional use to support families with children aged from 0-19 (or up to 25 for children with special educations needs or disabilities) and were to be renamed “family centres”.

The Council’s decision was taken following a consultation process and the Court noted that their decision had been taken against a background of funding changes imposed by Central Government. The Court noted that the Council wished to focus their increasingly limited resource on supporting the most vulnerable children and their families. Of a total overall early help service expenditure of approximately £9.5 million, the Council had to make a reduction of £3.1 million, because it no longer received any Central Government revenue support grant.

The Claimant challenged the Council’s consultation process on the basis that it had not been carried out at a formative stage and because of an alleged appearance of bias. The Claimant also argued that the Council was in breach of its statutory duties under the Childcare Act 2006 and that it had breached the Equality Act 2010.

The Court found that the Council had carried out a fair consultation before it made the decision, that it took the responses properly into account, and that it complied with all its relevant statutory duties. The claim for Judicial Review was dismissed.

This case is an important reminder that cuts to services are often controversial and frequently lead to legal challenge. It is important to ensure, as per the Council in this case, that all legal requirements are complied with when making difficult decisions, notwithstanding the ongoing financial pressure on local authorities.

 

News

Council apologies for misinforming homeless teenager about their rights
LocalGov | July 5, 2019
Essex County Council has apologised for turning away homeless children from care following a judicial review and has committed to provide better training for its social workers.

Council wins £100k settlement in healthcare provider dispute
Care Home Professional | July 5, 2019
Northamptonshire County Council has received a £100k settlement over a dispute with Shaw Healthcare. The dispute relates to the maintenance and availability of facilities. Plans are in place to amend the existing contract to ensure that services and facilities meet the current and future needs of the council’s care homes.

Court date set for councils’ £2bn tax dispute with NHS Trusts
LocalGov | July 8, 2019
A court date of November 4 has been set for the long-running legal dispute between 45 councils and 16 NHS trusts over rates relief.  NHS hospitals are calling for charitable status and cuts in their business rates tax, which could cost councils and government as much as £2.35bn in tax rebates for mandatory relief dating back to April 2010.

The Local Government Association which is representing the affected councils, believes that NHS Trusts and Foundation Trusts are not charities, and that the applications for rate relief are therefore unfounded.”

 

Cases

Application for injunction concerning protest over sex education
Birmingham City Council v Afsar and others
BAILII | June 18, 2019
Birmingham City Council succeeded on its application for interim injunctions against the defendants, who were engaged in protests outside a primary school. The defendants, who were mainly of the Muslim faith, were opposed to pupils at the school being taught about certain matters relating to sexual behaviour, sexuality and gender. The Queen's Bench Division, in granting the injunctions in a modified form, held that the authority had demonstrated that it would probably succeed at a trial in showing a risk that, unless restrained, the defendants would cause protest or demonstration which was unlawful and actionable. On consideration the court decided that the interim injunctions were appropriate

Somerset County Council fails to complete assessment of woman’s needs
Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman | 21 June, 2019
The Council failed twice in assessing a disabled woman’s needs properly and consider her eligibility under the Care Act 2014.

The Poole Case: Did council owe claimants a duty of care?
Law Society Gazette | 24 June, 2019
The claimants were two children (one of whom was severely disabled) who alleged that the defendant local authority had negligently failed to take the necessary steps to safeguard them. They and their mother were the target of prolonged abuse perpetrated by members of a neighbouring family between 2006 and 2011. The Court of Appeal in CN & GN v Poole Borough Council [2017] EWCA Civ 2185 decided that the local authority owed them no duty of care in these circumstances and they appealed to the Supreme Court. 

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal [2019] UKSC 25
BAILLI | June 6, 2019

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