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Local Authority round-up 01/04/22

Our Local Authority round up provides brief summaries of topical information on a weekly basis, to keep you aware of the changes and updates relevant to you.

Commercial

£7.5 million domestic abuse funding announced

Home secretary Priti Patel launched the Domestic Abuse Plan this week under which the government will provide £7.5 million over three years to enable healthcare professionals to better identify, refer and support victims and survivors of domestic abuse. Council leaders have welcomed the extra funding and the prioritisation of prevention in the Government’s new plan to tackle domestic abuse. The plan lays out a number of measures for pursuing perpetrators, prioritising prevention and supporting victims. Local Government Association’s Safer Stronger Communities Board, Cllr Mohan Iyengar said “Councils play an integral role in tackling domestic abuse and supporting the provision of services for victims, and the commitment to multi-year funding will help ensure these services are fully embedded within communities. Clarity on when and who the funding will be available to will enable it to be distributed quickly.”

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Public sector organisations urged to review contracts with Russian and Belarusian companies

The Cabinet Office has published a Procurement Policy Note for public sector organisations holding contracts with Russian or Belarusian suppliers and is calling for those organisations to urgently review those contracts in light of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. Where possible they are being advised to switch suppliers to non-Russian or Belarusian suppliers. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay said “Public money should not fund Putin’s war machine. We are asking hospitals, councils and other organisations across the public sector to urgently look at all the ways they can go further to sever their commercial ties to Russia.”

For more information please click here.


Regulatory

Wales relaxes some remaining COVID-19 restrictions

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No 5) (Wales) (Amendment) (No 8) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/388) come into force on 28 March 2022. Of particular interest to businesses, they amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1609) (Principal Regulations), so that there is no longer a requirement for persons to self-isolate if they test positive for COVID-19, or are close contacts of persons who test positive for COVID-19 (but self-isolation continues to be recommended in Welsh Government guidance). Face coverings are no longer required on public transport and in certain public places however, the face covering requirement remains in place for health and social care premises. It is no longer an offence to be involved in organising a large unlicensed music event. As amended by these Regulations, the Principal Regulations continue to provide that no alert level applies to Wales. This means that none of the restrictions and requirements in Schedules 1 to 4 to the Principal Regulations applies (and if future regulations were to move Wales to any of alert levels 1 to 4, the restrictions and requirements in Schedules 1 to 4 to the Principal Regulations could be amended before taking effect). The next three-weekly review of coronavirus regulations will be carried out by 14 April 2022, when the remaining legal measures will be reviewed.

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Free asymptomatic testing to continue for workers in “high risk” settings

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid has announced that NHS workers and those living or working in “high risk” settings will continue to be eligible for free asymptomatic COVID-19 testing beyond 1 April 2022, when free testing ends for the general public. “High risk” settings include care homes, hospices, homecare organisations, homelessness settings, high risk domestic abuse refuges, prisons and immigration centres. Free lateral flow tests will also be sent to people who are at a higher risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. New public health guidance, which is anticipated to include guidance on what employers can continue to do to reduce the risk of workplace transmission of COVID-19, is expected imminently.

For more information please click here.

Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill receives Royal Assent

The Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill 2021-22 received Royal Assent on 24 March 2022, becoming the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Act 2022. The Act is intended to support landlords and tenants in resolving disputes relating to commercial rent arrears that accrued while businesses were forced, by law, to close during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Act ringfences rent debts built up as a result of mandated business closures and introduces a new binding arbitration process to resolve disputes relating to those protected rent debts, where landlords and tenants have not been able to reach agreement. Business Minister Paul Scully said “Landlords and tenants should keep working together to reach their own agreements where possible using our Code of Practice to help them, and we’ve made arbitration available as a last resort. Tenants who can repay their rent debts in full, should do so, and when they cannot, landlords should try to share the burden, so we can all move on.”

For more information please click here.

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International Trade

UK launches negotiations for updated free trade agreement with Canada

On 24 March 2022, the UK and Canada formally launched negotiations for an updated free trade agreement (FTA), which will build on the existing UK-Canada Agreement on Trade Continuity (TCA). The TCA was agreed during the UK-EU transition period and largely replicated the terms of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The UK government has also published a document setting out its objectives for the negotiations, its response to the public consultation on the negotiations and an assessment of the potential economic impact of the updated FTA. The document indicates that the government will, among other things, seek to further reduce or remove Canadian tariffs and related non-tariff barriers for UK goods, uphold UK standards on food safety, public health, animal, plant and human health and animal welfare, further reduce barriers for temporary business travel between the UK and Canada and further facilitate the recognition of professional qualifications. It will also seek to agree enhanced digital trade provisions, including to support the free flow of data while ensuring that protections for personal data are maintained, secure fair and transparent access for UK businesses to the Canadian telecommunications market and ensure that the agreement does not include an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism.

For more information please click here.


Planning and Housing

Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) and Persons subject to Immigration Control (Housing Authority Accommodation and Homelessness) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 come into force

The Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) and Persons subject to Immigration Control (Housing Authority Accommodation and Homelessness) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/339) (2022 Regulations) came into force on 22 March 2022. The 2022 Regulations amend the Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/1294) (2006 Regulations) to ensure that certain persons in the UK who were residing in Ukraine immediately before 1 January 2022, but who left as a result of the conflict in Ukraine and have been granted leave in accordance with immigration rules made under section 3(2) of the Immigration Act 1971, are eligible for an allocation of housing accommodation and for housing assistance. It also exempts persons leaving Ukraine in those circumstances who are not subject to immigration control, but are usually subject to a habitual residence test, from the requirements of that test. The 2022 Regulations also amend the Persons subject to Immigration Control (Housing Authority Accommodation and Homelessness) Order 2000 (SI 2000/706) enabling housing authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland to provide housing accommodation and housing authorities in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to provide homelessness assistance to those classes of persons detailed above. The changes introduced by the 2022 Regulations will align the allocation of social housing and homelessness assistance regimes with the policy objectives of the government’s Ukraine Family Scheme and “Homes for Ukraine Scheme.”

For more information please click here.

£4 million Community Housing Fund announced

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has announced funding of £4 million under the Community Housing Fund. The funding will be available to community groups to help them build over 1,200 new affordable homes in their local areas by funding a range of the costs which will be incurred in the process. This could include the cost of administration, legal advice, design work and planning applications amongst others. The Community Led Homes Partnership will manage the grant programme, assessing all applications and administering the grants. Housing Minister Stuart Andrew MP said “Community led housing is a great way to ensure local housing needs are met by putting local people in the driving seat. It is about residents playing a leading and lasting role creating genuinely affordable homes which regenerate and restore pride in communities.”

For more information please click here.


Upcoming webinars

Reintegrating into the physical workplace – Have we forgotten how to behave?

Join our panel of experts, Paul Deemer (Head of Diversity and Inclusion at NHS Employers), Jiten Patel (Director of Diversync Limited) and Caroline Shafar (Partner and Joint Head of Healthcare Employment) on 7 April 2022 at 12.30pm to explore the impact of these issues and what employers should be doing to reintegrate staff back into a workplace that is respectful of one another.

For more information or to book your place please click here.

If you have any questions about the issues raised in this update, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

 

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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