22/10/2019

LA Spotlight 

Constructive criticism from the Extinction Rebellion
The recent Constructing Excellence housing summit provided a rallying call by the Extinction Rebellion to all players in the housing sector. As a best practice sector, are we really implementing our skills, knowledge, and best practice to make an impact now, rather than waiting for later? If we don’t implement change now, who will?

The nature of the housing sector is ever changing with guidance and best practice models for sustainable development evolving all the time, for example the Code for Sustainable Homes, Building for Life, BREEAM and CEEQUAL. For organisations navigating their way through new build, the challenge is significant. However, the real challenge and arguably the real opportunity for local authorities and registered providers (RPs) in delivering ‘net zero carbon’ is what to do with existing housing stock?

There are those waiting for guidance from central government. For others, there is no time to wait. Both Nottingham City Homes (in Sneiton) and Moat Housing (in Maldon, Essex) have launched pilot retro-fit projects using the EnergieSprong model pioneered in the Netherlands. The next is being led by Devon County Council. Each pilot plans further rollouts. The lessons learned are being shared widely and there are key solution providers like Engie, Melius, and Mi-Space taking this new market seriously.

Local authorities will still need further policy and guidance from central Government on retro-fit, and as always, there is a strong call for further incentives such as subsidies, grants and other benefits. But the key take-away from the summit was that by continuing to collaborate, as with wider regeneration projects, local authorities, RPs and housing organisations can find the key strategic partners they need in the market and can take the first practical steps to ‘net zero carbon’.

We are taking the climate emergency seriously and have advised on both of the first two EnergieSprong pilot projects. If you are a local authority also taking the climate emergency seriously and have, or are looking to declare, prepare, and deliver housing projects to move us toward a more sustainable future, please get in touch.

Complete our climate change survey
With over half of local government declaring a climate change emergency, we would like to know what your authority’s priorities are. Please take a moment to answer a few short survey questions.

- Commercialisation;
- Place & Growth;
- Governance & Reorganisation;
- Contract Management; and
- Disputes & Regulatory Support.

 

 

Commercialisation

Education, Health and Care system requires urgent review
High profile investigations and judicial proceedings into the funding of special educations needs this month are indicative of the depth of the crises in local government funding (Families lose high court challenge over children’s special needs funding/ Dorset council pay-out for autistic boy with no school).

Whilst the Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman has emphasised quite rightly the concern in needing to ensure that the statutory rights of these children are protected (A system in crisis? Ombudsman complaints about special educational needs at alarming level) the EHC system needs urgent review before more families and already stretched local authorities are forced to resort to bringing or defending costly legal proceedings.

Bevan Brittan are pleased to have supported Worcestershire County Council in the launch of its children’s services company earlier this month. Worcestershire Children First (Council launches new children’s company in Worcestershire) delivering social care, education, early help and foster care services. This follows our support on the establishment of similar such alternative service delivery models in Birmingham, Doncaster, Sandwell as well as Achieving for Children.

 

Publications & Guidance

A system in crisis? Ombudsman complaints about special educational needs at alarming level.
Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman | October 4, 2019
The Ombudsman is now investigating more complaints than it has ever done before. In 2018-19 it received 45% more complaints and carried out 80% more detailed investigations about EHC plans than in 2016-17. The Ombudsman said: ““I am now particularly concerned some authorities may be putting in place extra barriers to ration scarce resources, rather than basing support on children’s needs. While I can empathise with the difficulties authorities face, there can never be an excuse for failing to meet the statutory rights of children.”

Statutory guidance for local youth services: have your say
Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport | October 3, 2019
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has committed to review the guidance which sets out the statutory duty placed on Local Authorities to provide appropriate local services to improve young people’s wellbeing.

Three convicted of running an illegal school
Ofsted | October 2, 2019
Local authorities were misled into paying thousands of pounds of public money for children to be educated in an unsafe unregistered school, following Ofsted’s investigation. Ofsted’s Chief Inspector said:
“This case should also serve as a warning to local authorities. Decisions about placements must be made with due diligence. All local authorities should be carrying out the necessary checks to make certain that schools are registered with the Department for Education.”

Plastic waste
House of Commons briefing Paper | September 30, 2019
A House of Commons Library Briefing Paper on plastic waste in the UK, including statistics on plastic waste and information on UK Government and devolved Government plans and ambitions to reduce avoidable plastic waste and examples of voluntary initiatives from the plastics industry, environmental groups and retailers.  Includes ways in which local authorities have been affected by a number of issues, e.g. a recent ban by China on accepting certain types of plastic waste.

Inspection of local authority children’s services framework: implementation review
Ofsted | September 26, 2019
This paper presents the review of the implementation of the inspection of local authority children’s services (ILACS) framework.  This paper details the successes and challenges of the ILACS framework along with the changes that have made to improve implementation and adherence to the framework

Local Government Association responds to YMCA report on youth services spending
LGA | September 25, 2019
Responding to a report by the YMCA on spending cuts for youth services, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, Cllr Judith Blake, said that “This report provides further evidence of the need for adequate funding for councils’ youth services to make sure that every young person gets the support they need to live healthy, safe and fulfilling lives.”

An analysis of 84 local authorities across England reveals that while the average spend on youth services per local authority in 2010 was £7.79m, planned average spend for 2019/20 is just £2.45m – a 69% decline.

Outcome of government consultations on the waste and resources strategy and the plastic packaging tax.
Local Government Association | September 23, 2019
In February 2019 Defra set out proposals for the implementation of a new waste and resources strategy. The LGA consulted extensively with member councils on the proposals and responded to each of the three consultations listed below. On 23 July 2019 the Government published summaries of the consultation responses and set out the next steps for taking the proposals forward.

Schools causing concern: Guidance for local authorities and Regional School Commissioners on how to work with schools to support improvements to educational performance, and on using their intervention powers.
Department for Education | September 2019
This is updated Department for Education guidance on local authorities' and regional schools commissioners' responsibilities in the context of schools and pupil referral units (PRUs) that are causing concern, aimed at assisting them in working with schools to improve educational performance, and on using their intervention powers. Covers areas including the maintained schools "eligible for intervention"; specific powers of local authorities and the Secretary of State in maintained schools eligible for intervention; and academies causing concern.

 

News

Families lose high court challenge over children’s special needs funding
The Guardian | October 7, 2019
Families who launched a landmark legal challenge to the government’s funding of services for children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) have lost their high court case. The families challenged the government’s failure to provide continuing funds to support children with special needs.

Government lawyers argued that the increase in demand was recognised by ministers who had “made it clear” that high needs would be a priority ahead of the 2019 spending review. However, campaigners claim that even with the government announcement of an additional £700m over the next year, there would still be a shortfall of £1bn that needed to be addressed.

Dorset council pay-out for autistic boy with no school
BBC | October 3, 2019
A council must pay thousands of pounds to a boy with autism after he was left without proper education for two years.  The former Dorset County Council failed to find a suitable placement for the boy who was unable to stay in secondary school, an ombudsman's report revealed.  A meeting of Dorset Council's cabinet was told the boy had suffered "life-changing injustice" and his future prospects had been affected.

Councillors have now approved a review of eight other cases.

Council launches new children’s company in Worcestershire
LocalGov | October 2, 2019
A new council-owned company to deliver children’s services in Worcestershire has officially gone live. Worcestershire Children First will deliver children’s social care, education, early help and fostering services for the whole of the county.  The company has been launched as a result of serious failures being found in the council’s services for children in 2017.

Council investigates data breach
LocalGov | September 25, 2019
Isle of Wight Council is investigating a data breach after the delivery of council tax letters containing residents’ personal information.  The authority sent out 51 letters to residents containing the details of another person and officers have gone door-to-door to hand-delivering a second letter explaining the mistake and requesting that the original is not opened

Councils call for new taskforce to tackle climate change
LocalGov | September 25, 2019
Council leaders have proposed setting up a national taskforce with Whitehall departments with the aim of tackling climate change. The Local Government Association (LGA) has offered to coordinate policies to deliver zero net carbon emissions by 2030. The proposal is part of a package aimed at enabling councils to help deal with climate change.  It says they are key to tacking the issue but are being held back by a lack of funding

Corby incinerator: Northamptonshire County Council approves plans
BBC News | September 24, 2019
Plans for an incinerator at a former steel works have been approved despite objections from nearby heritage sites, schools and a councilNorthamptonshire County Council has granted permission for the plant on Shelton Road in Corby. It will burn up to 260,000 tonnes of waste a year. The developer said this could generate enough energy for most Corby homes.  East Northamptonshire Council opposed the scheme on environmental and heritage grounds.

Maidstone’s growth accelerator
LocalGov | September 18, 2019
Maidstone Borough Council have been looking for ways to stimulate local businesses and attract outside investment. The council intervened to compensate for the lack of flexible, good-quality office premises by setting up a pilot business centre, the Business Terrace, where start-up companies could base their operations in one of their own buildings. This has proved very successful and they are looking to develop sector specific, high growth, high skills, high-wage type employment in Maidstone

Full-fibre and 5G could boost council revenue by £10,000
LocalGov | September 13, 2019
New research from the Broadband Stakeholder Group outlines the localised economic benefits of full-fibre and 5G.  The study revealed that if local authorities invested in full-fibre and 5G, they might see an increase of up to 3.2% in new businesses operating in the area.

If reflected in business rates, the researchers calculated, a council could see an increase in gross revenue of over £10,000.

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Place & Growth

Are you gas safe?
Did you take part in Gas Safety Week? The annual awareness campaign provided a reminder of the legal requirement for landlord’s to ensure gas appliances in their rental properties are checked on a yearly basis, by a registered with ‘Gas Safe’ engineer.

The Grenfell disaster and subsequent inquiry by Dame Judith Hackitt have shown the need for landlords to take greater executive responsibility for safety issues. There are several challenges for landlords including gaining timely access to properties, keeping accurate records, and having sufficient assurances that engineers are qualified and carrying out effective maintenance and repair work.

Given the serious consequences for failure to undertake inspections by their due date, we have developed a Gas Safety Toolkit to overcome these difficulties, ensuring appliances can be safety checked before a breach of the Regulations occurs. If you would like assistance or more information on this service, please visit our website.

 

Publications & Guidance

Core Cities UK Group publish research on EU funding replacement
Core Cities UK | September 26, 2019
An analysis by the Core Cities group, which represents the 10 largest UK cities outside of London, concluded that the UKSPF (The proposed UK Shared Prosperity Fund) must be worth at least £4bn a year until 2026 – which is double the current £2.1bn allocated annually through EU structural funds.

The study said the Core Cities – which include Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff – has to convince ministers that the size of the UKSPF should not be determined by previous levels of EU structural funding, but should instead reflect need, linked to the objectives of the industrial strategy and Government plans to reduce economic inequalities.

Climate change: an overview
House of Commons Research Briefing | September 25, 2019
This is a collection of climate change-related briefings and publications. It includes briefings from both Houses of parliament, as well as independent advice.

 

News

Councils attack plans to extend permitted development rules
LocalGov | October 1, 2019
The Government has announced plans to extend permitted development rules to allow developers to convert commercial buildings into homes without planning permission.

However, council leaders are concerned that the plans would prevent them from ensuring new homes are affordable and supported by the correct infrastructure.

The Local Government Association’s planning spokesman, Cllr David Renard, said: ‘Permitted development rules take away the ability of local communities to shape the area they live in, ensure homes are well-designed with the necessary infrastructure in place and have resulted in the potential loss of thousands of affordable homes, as developers are not required to provide any affordable housing.

Ministers promise a national bus strategy
LocalGov | September 30, 2019
The Government has announced a new investment and policy package to improve bus services. The initial £220m funding includes £20m for new bus express lanes in the West Midlands to help make their buses more reliable. A further £30m has been allocated 'directly to local authorities in 2020 to 2021, to help them improve current bus services or restore those that have been lost'.

Council buys waterfront land for £1
LocalGov | September 27, 2019
Liverpool City Council has bought more than 55,000 sq. metres of prime waterfront land for £1.

The Council plans to turn the site at Kings Dock into a tourist and leisure attraction in a multi-million pound development project.  It is buying the plot from Homes England following the endorsement of its 2017 Masterplan and Planning Brief. The remaining development sites on Kings Dock will be transformed into a 'vibrant leisure-based mixed-use destination.'

The right housing in the right place – the councils investing in quality housing
The Guardian | September 24, 2019
It is reported that the lifting of financial restrictions in 2018 has contributed towards a resurgence of council house-building comparable to the 1980s. Smart, environmentally friendly and well-designed homes are now being built in greater numbers by local authorities, with some having set up their own local development companies and their designs praised by industry experts. The LGA has previously estimated that since 2010, councils have lost 60p out of every £1 they received from central government, which would have an impact on such developments, however architects argue that well-built homes do not have to be expensive and can save resources by ensuring people live healthily and well.

Tyndall Carbon Targeter helps local authorities respond to their declared climate emergency
Tyndall Centre | September 23, 2019
Researchers from the University of Manchester and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change have worked together to develop an online tool which is being used by local authorities including Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, to understand their role in meeting the climate change objectives set by the UN.

Whitehall announces £10m boost for coastal communities
LocalGov | September 20, 2019
The Government announced it will provide more than £10m for five towns under its Coastal Communities Fund. The latest places to benefit are Cumbria Coastal Activities Centre in Whitehaven Harbour, the Southwold Enterprise Hub, Dover Soul town centre rejuvenation scheme, an environmental innovation hub at Bournemouth and Poole and Destination Lydney Harbour in Gloucestershire.

Councils urged to apply for £120000 local road fund
LocalGov | September 17, 2019
Local authorities are today being urged to apply for a new grant fund aimed at improving the safety of local roads.  Councils applying to the £120,000 Small Grants Funding Programme will be awarded between £10,000 and £30,000 to support projects aimed at testing ways to improve road safety.

Whitehall launches £95m high street fund
LocalGov | September 16, 2019
Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan named 69 towns across the country where disused historic buildings will be turned into shops, houses and community centres. The aim is to help traditional businesses adapt so that they can compete with online outlets and “breathe new life” into towns and cities.

Housing minister announces £2m for councils and push for 300,000 houses per year
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | September 16, 2019
Esther McVey delivered a speech at the convention for residential property. As well as discussing the MHCLG’s achievements, she announced that the Ministry will investigate expanding shared ownership, rent to buy, right to build and communities to build.

£150m housing scheme to go ahead on former Toys R Us site
LocalGov | September 12, 2019
Housing and new offices are set to go ahead on a former Toys R Us site in Southampton. Southampton City Council are due to discuss the first phase of the £150m scheme when they meet next week.

If approved it will start with 275 residential units in three buildings and a new 70,000 sq. ft. office building opposite the city's central station.  The council believes that the scheme will also act as a catalyst for further investment in the Mayflower Quarter, one of the largest urban regeneration areas in the UK

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Governance & Reorganisation

Uncertainty remains the only certain factor
What might be referred to as an ‘eventful’ few weeks in politics has seen the word “prorogation” enter into mainstream vocabulary, whilst the decision of the Supreme Court underlying the same was ground-breaking to say the least.

The MHCLG have commenced a consultation exercise on their proposals for local government funding in the period 2020 to 2021. The proposals contain a welcome increase in funding, but will this really be enough given the significant pressures on service delivery, in particular around social care? This is not to mention the considerable uncertainty around Brexit – not just whether it will happen, but also what practical impact it will have on local authorities. The consultation (as may the UK’s membership of Europe) ends on 31 October 2019 so make your views count!

The government’s plans were outlined in the Queen’s speech which was delivered on 14 October 2019, and in which it was stated that (among other things) the government would be bringing forward proposals for reforming adult social care, and would continue with the devolution and localism agenda. That is, of course, unless there is a change of government before those plans can be implemented! One thing we can be sure of is that presently, the only certainty is uncertainty.

 

Publications & Guidance

Local government finance settlement 2020=2021 proposals unveiled following biggest funding increase in almost a decade
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | October 3, 2019
This Consultation paper sets out the government's proposals for how to fund local government in 2020 to 2021.Local authorities across England will be encouraged to submit views to the government’s funding proposals for the sector in the next financial year.  The consultation confirms that the Core Spending Power of local authorities is estimated to rise in real terms by 4.3% to £49.1 billion in 2020 to 2021, an increase of £2.9 billion.

Exiting the EU: supplying the health and social care sectors
National Audit Office | September 27, 2019
The NAO has reviewed the Department for Health & Social Care’s (DHSC’s) preparations to make sure the UK has a steady flow of supplies for the health and social care sector when it leaves the EU. The NAO believes that there is still work to be done to ensure that supplies for health and social care ae maintained if the UK leave Europe without a deal.

Local authority capital expenditure and receipts in England: 2018 to 2019 final outturn
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | September 26, 2019
Statistics on the final outturn figures of local authority capital expenditure and receipts in the financial year April 2018 to March 2019. The information is derived from capital outturn returns (COR) submitted by local authorities in England

Public-sector procurement after a no-deal Brexit
Cabinet Office | Updated September 25, 2019
Information for public authorities, businesses and other organisations on the outcome for public procurement policy in a no-deal Brexit scenario. Explains what will change for contacting authorities and entities.

Brexit countdown: councils need overdue EU replacement fund certainty.
Local Government Association | September 23, 2019
The LGA states that without EU replacement funding and wider growth funding certainty post-Brexit, local areas will not able to plan for longer term investment in infrastructure and growth in their local economies. This could result in communities missing out on millions of pounds of additional private investment to support infrastructure projects.

The LGA also believes that Whitehall must not replace Brussels after Brexit. Powers need to be devolved beyond government and rest with local communities.  As part of this wider devolution agenda, the LGA is calling on the Government to put forward a new English Devolution Bill in the Queen’s Speech that would hand widespread powers and funding to local areas across the whole country.

Call for views for independent review into local authority audit
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | September 17, 2019
An independent review is calling for views on the quality and effectiveness of the audit and financial reporting of local authorities in England. 

The review, led by the former President of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance Sir Tony Redmond, was launched in July 2019 to examine the effectiveness of local authority financial reporting and the audit regime. 
It will also examine whether the financial information provided in local authority accounts facilitates scrutiny by local taxpayers and by local press.

 

News

Councils urged to apply for funding from £2m air quality pot
LocalGov | October 4, 2019
The Government has announced the latest round of funding to help local authorities improve air quality across England.  The Air Quality Grant scheme has already awarded more than £61m to a variety of projects aimed at reducing pollution and benefitting schools, businesses and residents.  Local authorities are being encouraged to bid for a portion of a £2m fund to help them install electric vehicle charging points, improve cycling infrastructure and develop local online air quality resources.

Nottingham introduces spending freeze to head off £9m overspend
Room 151 | October 3, 2019
Nottingham City Council is going ahead with a range of in-year spending controls including a hiring freeze and a halt to non-essential spending, to deal with a projected £9m overspend.  The council said that it was committed to balancing its 2019/20 budget but that its’ actions are not being underpinned by the rare step of issuing a section 114 notice halting spending on non-statutory services

Metro Mayors make case for further devolution
LocalGov | October 2, 2019
The M9 group of mayors met yesterday to discuss the impact of devolution so far. They also considered the next steps in pushing the devolution agenda forward.  They welcomed the chancellor’s announcement for a White Paper on devolving more powers to local areas in England and discussed the need for a framework setting out an agreed set of principles for devolution in the future

Javid promises devolution White Paper
LocalGov | September 30, 2019
The Chancellor has announced that there will be a new White Paper to extend more powers to local areas.

Warrington to launch £75m social impact investment fund
Room 151 |  September 26, 2019
Warrington Borough Council has announced that it is creating a social impact investment fund aimed at providing ethical returns on up to £75m of local authority cash.

The authority will work with asset manager Altana Wealth, which will manage assets in areas including social housing, solar/wind energy, community lending initiatives, forestry and electric vehicle charging points.  The council said that all investments will be backed by real assets and deliver a real yield with a long dated duration.

Council passes motion of no confidence in local plan amid concern over impact of climate change on coast
Local Government Lawyer | September 26, 2019
Arun District Council has passed a motion expressing no confidence its own local plan after a change of administration, amid concern at the impact of climate change on the coastal plain. The motion said: “We are compelled, against our will, by government, to build 20,000 new homes on a coastal plain. As councillors, we are required to consider and determine planning applications for 20,000 new homes on this part of the coastal plain in the coming years.”

Climate change goals hinge on funding and powers for local areas
Local Government Association | September 24, 2019
The LGA believes that National climate change targets are unlikely to be met unless councils are given long-term funding, devolved powers and easier access to complex government funding pots. It is calling for the Environment Bill to be reintroduced as part of the Queen’s Speech and for work by the proposed taskforce to include reviewing the Bill to consider any climate emergency actions needed.

Sheffield to hold referendum on “overhauling” governance
LocalGov | September 24, 2019
A Sheffield campaign group - It’s Our City! - has collected over 25,000 signatures, in support of abolishing the city council’s cabinet model and replacing it with the committee system. They believe that the revised system would be more democratic as councillors would have a “meaningful say in making decisions”.

Minister confirms creation of Northampton unitary authorities
LocalGov | September 23, 2019
It has been confirmed that the legislation allowing for the creation of two unitary authorities in Northamptonshire will be in Parliament this autumn. The plan is for the eight existing councils in the county to be dissolved and replaced by two new councils, one for North Northamptonshire and one for West Northamptonshire.

Treasury “wasting money” in funding of local government
LocalGov | September 17, 2019
According to a report by the Institute for Government think tank, the Treasury is wasting money in its funding of local government and needs to have a more place-based focus. The report strongly criticised the way councils have to bid for infrastructure funding through eight different Whitehall departments but backed the move to combined authorities.

It added: ‘Some of the devo deals have shown how accountability can be shifted from national departments, with their separate remits, to local organisations like combined authorities with a remit crossing service boundaries and accountability for economic wellbeing and the state of public services.’

Cuts force councils to slash public health funding by £72m
LocalGov | September 16, 2019
Analysis by the Labour Party has shown that 82% of local authorities plan to slash spending on vital services in 2019/20

Councils consider launch of new regional community bank
LocalGov | September 13, 2019
Liverpool, Wirral and Preston councils are working to drive forward a plan to create an “ethical, council-led” regional community bank. The Community Savings Bank Association, which is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority, is seeking to develop 19 regional community banking models across the UK

Robert Jenrick fast-tracks Midlands Engine growth package
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government | September 12, 2019
The Midlands Engine received a major boost today as Local Government Secretary and Midlands Engine Champion the Rt. Hon Robert Jenrick MP announced the government’s commitment to further devolution deals across the region. The Government will give greater powers to mayors, council leaders and communities and, in doing so, we will ensure that every part of the Midlands sees the benefits of all the prosperity and opportunity we have in the country.

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Contract Management

Are your data sharing agreements ready for a no-deal Brexit?
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has recently released guidance to help small to medium-sized UK organisations prepare for a no-deal Brexit. If you send personal data from the UK to the European Economic Area (EEA) then you will not need to take additional steps to ensure the data continues to flow after Brexit because the UK government has said that transfers to the EEA will not be restricted.

However, if you receive personal data from the EEA, you will need to take steps to ensure that the personal data continues to flow after Brexit. In the majority of cases, this is best done by putting in place a contract between you and your contact based in the EEA on EU-approved terms known as standard contractual clauses (SCCs) which provide for appropriate safeguards when transferring personal data to a third country or an international organisation. The SCCs will need to be put in place before the date on which the UK leaves the EU without a deal. However, if you do not have the power to enter into a binding contract, then the ICO suggests entering into an administrative arrangement that includes enforceable and effective rights for the individuals whose personal data is being transferred. The European Data Protection Board is intending to publish further guidance on administrative arrangements in due course.

If you have an office, branch or other established presence in the EEA, or if you have customers in the EEA, you will need to comply with both UK and EU data protection legislation after Brexit. This means you may need to designate a representative in the EU. 

Finally, it is important to remember to review and update your privacy information and documentation for any changes that will need to be made after Brexit.

 

Publications & Guidance

Local Government finance settlement 2020-21 proposals unveiled following biggest funding increase in almost a decade
Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government and The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP | October 3 2019
Following the Spending Round confirming that councils will receive the biggest year-on-year real terms increase in funding for almost a decade, the government has published a consultation document setting out in greater detail its proposals for how to fund local government in 2020 to 2021.

UK Government First to Pilot AI Procurement Guidelines
World Economic Forum | September 20 2019
Every day, artificial intelligence (AI) is changing how we experience the world. We already use AI to find the fastest route home, alert us of suspicious activity in our bank accounts and filter out spam emails. The UK is now to be the first country to pilot new guidelines for governments covering artificial intelligence (AI) developed by the World Economic Forum (WEF).  The WEF guidelines are to help governments accelerate efficiencies through responsible use of artificial intelligence and prepare for future risks.  They are intended to permit both established companies and start-ups and new entrants to the AI space to compete on a level playing field for government contracts.  The UK governments is to be the first to pilot the guidelines across several departments in a move to show that the government recognises the importance of this technology’s development to both business and the public sector. 

The Government Digital Service and the Office for Artificial Intelligence have published joint guidance on how to build and use artificial intelligence in the public sector.  The guidance looks at how:

  1. To assess if using AI will help you meet user needs;
  2. The public sector can best use AI; and
  3. To implement AI ethically, fairly and safely.
  4. (AI) in the public sector. UK government has published its guide to using AI in the Public Sector to help buyers in the public sector.

Porge publishes report on Public Sector Outsourcing Trends 2018/19
Porge/Public Finance | September 2019
A report published by Porge/Public Finance provides “insight into how the outsourcing of council services fared in 2018-19 and reveal the top five private sector providers across five major markets” (Highways and Transport, ICT & BPO, Waste & Environment, Buildings and Health & Social Care), as well as “identifying some of the other recent big winners coming through the chasing pack”.

 

News

Trafford Council signs £50m property deal
LocalGov | October 3, 2019
Trafford Council and Bruntwood Works have exchanged contracts on a £50m joint venture. This property deal will provide a boost to the borough’s economic regeneration through the purchase of Stretford Mall, Altrincham’s Stamford Quarter Shopping Centre and Clarendon House.

Leader of Trafford Council, Andrew Western, said: ‘Acquiring Stretford Mall will be a massive boost to the area and our residents, with the opportunity for comprehensive redevelopment to also include our Lacy Street site.

Nottingham-based energy supplier fails to pay £9.5m in subsidies
The Guardian | October 1, 2019
Robin Hood Energy, the energy supplier which is owned by Nottingham City Council, has failed to pass on £9.5m in renewable energy subsidies even though they collected them from customers through their bills.

The supplier has already claimed the sum from its customers, to be used to support renewable energy projects, but missed the deadline to pay its share of the money to the industry regulator, Ofgem last month. Ofgem has said the troubled energy supplier could have its supply licence revoked if it hasn’t paid by the end of October.

Councils being charged “shocking” mark-up on IT products
LocalGov | September 30, 2019
A new study has revealed that councils are paying almost four times the recommended mark-up on technology items. Proband’s analysis shoes that councils could have saved more than £30,000 if they had paid the recommended margin of 3%, rather than 11.39% shown in the report.

Two hundred jobs to be transferred as Norwich City Council serves notice on Norse to end £6.75m contract
Eastern Daily Press | September 25, 2019
Norwich City Council has served notice that it wants to run environmental services itself, instead of contracting it out. The jobs of 200 employees who clean Norwich’s streets, keep the parks in good shape will be transferred to City Hall control. That contract, along with others for the maintenance of council houses and buildings and for building surveys, is outsourced to Norse Group, an arms-length company owned by Norfolk County Council. The combined worth of these contracts is £20m.

Think tank reveals outsourcing’s “mixed” record
LocalGov | September 16, 2019
A new report from the Institute for Government, based on 50+ interviews concludes that outsourcing waste collection, cleaning, catering and maintenance services has delivered ‘significant savings and benefits to citizens’.  However, it found a more mixed picture when it came to outsourcing HR, IT, prison and employment services, health and adult social care. Overall, the whole, the private financing of construction and outsourcing of probation had not delivered many benefits.

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Disputes

Vegetarianism: Not a Protected Characteristic
In the case of Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd heard last month, a tribunal found that vegetarianism was not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

Mr Conisbee had brought a claim in the employment tribunal against his ex-employer, alleging discrimination on the grounds of a religion or belief – the relevant belief being vegetarianism. However, the tribunal found that, whilst Mr Conisbee’s belief in vegetarianism and animal welfare was genuinely held and worthy of respect, it was not sufficient to be protected by the Equality Act 2010. This was because it does not concern human life, and – given that vegetarians will have different reason for choosing not to eat meat – vegetarianism lacks the required level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance to amount to a belief.

Whilst this tribunal’s decision is not binding on other tribunals, it provides a helpful insight into how tribunals might approach a discrimination claim based on vegetarianism as a protected belief. Nonetheless, as an ever-increasing number of people choose to adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, local authorities would be wise to make reasonable efforts to accommodate the beliefs of their vegetarian and vegan employees, to mitigate the risk of potential discrimination claims.

Interestingly, in Conisbee, the tribunal contrasted vegetarianism with veganism, stating that the latter did have clear cogency and cohesion, and that the underlying motivation for choosing veganism is fundamentally the same for all vegans. A different tribunal will ruling next week on the very question of whether veganism amounts to a belief for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 in Jordi Casamitjana v League Against Cruel Sports – watch this space!

 

News

Council angered by Hampshire’s CC’s decision to charge for contaminated recycling
LocalGov | October 3, 2019
Fareham Borough Council is seeking legal advice after the county council announced that it would bill local councils for contaminated recycling.  Hampshire County Council has announced that it will start charging district and borough councils if the wrong items end up in recyclable waste.

Glasgow council facing court action over lac of housing for homeless people
The Guardian | October 2, 2019
Charity Shelter Scotland is to launch a significant court action against Glasgow city council. It claims that the council has illegally denied temporary accommodation to homeless applicants thousands of times over the past two years.

Council hit by judicial review challenge over planning permission for site near scheduled ancient monument
Local Government Lawyer | September 25, 2019
Campaigners have launched a judicial review challenge over Folkestone and Hythe District Council’s decision to grant planning permission for development on land adjacent to the Royal Military Canal, a scheduled ancient monument.

Somerset adult learning disabilities tribunal settled

BBC | September 21, 2019
Somerset County Council has agreed to pay Unison £674,000 following a legal challenge over privatising the county's learning disability services.

The case was brought against Somerset County Council and Discovery (part of the Dimensions Group Ltd). Unison argued the council had failed to inform and consult about the impact of the transferral of the services on 1,100 employees.  In a statement, the council said it believed it had "fulfilled obligations in relation to the transfer" but would settle to prevent "a protracted legal hearing with the potential for further action".

Council pauses charging 16-19-year-olds for using school buses after legal threat
Local Government Lawyer| September 19, 2019
North Yorkshire County Council has decided to stop charging 16-19-year-olds who use its school buses after it received a legal challenge from a member of the public over disability discrimination.  The council charged post-16 pupils for using spare seats on school buses provided mainly for younger children.  The practice earned the council £415,000 a year.

Ombudsman criticises Worcestershire County Council’s complaints policy in special educational needs investigation
Local Government & Social care Ombudsman | September 12, 2019
Worcestershire CC has been criticised in the way that it dealt with a mother’s complaint about the lack of education provided for her son, when he became unable to cope with mainstream school. The council failed to issue a new Education, Health and Care plan, with result that the boy missed out on 14 months of education.

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Events

Healthcare Estates Breakfast Briefings
Various dates & topics
Leeds, 8.30am 

Throughout 2019 and 2020, we are running a series of Breakfast Briefings focusing on key themes affecting healthcare estates. Our specialist lawyers will be joined by guest speakers at these engaging and interactive sessions, designed to explore issues of relevance to those involved in healthcare estates, whether in acute settings, in the community or in the provision of mental health or primary care and whether in the NHS or private sector.

 

Procurement Updates Roadshow
Birmingham     4 November 2019
Leeds               5 November 2019
London            6 November 2019 
Bristol              7 November 2019 
£25 

Our popular roadshow will cover legislative and policy developments, including Brexit. There will be a focus on the practical impact on procurement processes of a number of recent UK court decisions. Further details of specific topics to be covered will be released closer to the time.

 

Employment Law Update
Bristol              3 December 2019 
Birmingham     4 December 2019
London            11 December 2019 
Leeds               12 December 2019

The theme will be one that is always popular: recent decisions and developments from case law, government policy and legislation, and what’s on the horizon that employers need to know about.

We will be covering a broad range of relevant issues including working time (holiday pay and obligations to record time); IR35; cases on whistle blowing, disability discrimination, restrictive covenants and collective bargaining; ‘just culture’; and the latest on settled status applications.

Following the formal session, there will be time for discussion and knowledge sharing between the speakers and delegates, enabling an exchange of views and insight into employers’ experiences and practice.

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