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Local Authority round-up 02/07/2021

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

Government provides additional £250 million for adult social care

The Government is providing an extra £250 million to help protect people in adult social care from COVID-19. The funding includes £142.5 million for the Infection Control Fund and £108.8 million for COVID-19 testing. The money can also be used by care homes to pay staff who are isolating, ensure staff only work in one care home where possible, pay for extra staff cover and recruit additional staff if needed. Minister for Care Helen Whately said “We are keeping up our support for social care through the pandemic. This new funding will help care services continue to protect those they look after and their staff from this cruel virus.”

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Government encourages support of temporary “pop-up” commercial authorised camping sites

In December 2020, the government introduced a temporary permitted development right that allows for the temporary use of land as a commercial campsite for up to 56 days, without the need to apply for planning permission. The government would like to see more businesses taking advantage of this opportunity over the summer and is encouraging local planning authorities (LPAs) to take a flexible and proportionate approach to the enforcement of planning controls, including restrictions through planning conditions on existing campsites, which may limit the temporary extension of commercial campsites for leisure use over the holiday season. These provisions do not remove the legal requirement for campsite licences but LPAs are encouraged to expedite new applications for licences to help support the surge in demand for staycations whilst international travel is subject to restrictions. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said “I’m asking councils to support the extension of pop-up campsites for tourists and not let red tape get in the way of a great British summer. The measures will help holidaymakers make the most out of the beautiful seaside towns and countryside this country has to offer. Greater campsite capacity over the summer months will boost our tourism and hospitality industries and support the communities that rely upon visitors in their area.”

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Further £300 million available under Culture Recovery Fund

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has announced that the final £300 million of the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) is now available to support organisations in need of urgent funding as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The funding is to help arts, heritage, cultural and creative organisations to reopen and plan return to full capacity once restrictions are lifted. Mr Dowden said “This round of funding will provide a further boost to help organisations build back better and ensure we can support more of those in need – safeguarding our precious culture and heritage, and the jobs this supports.”

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Regulatory

Councils issue £1 million in penalties against businesses for breach of Covid restrictions

A report published by the Manifesto Club, ‘From ASBOs to Covid Marshals – Are councils becoming too much like the police?’ has revealed that councils have issued 1,201 penalties to businesses for violating Covid business restrictions with a total value of £1,076,820. The report states “These large numbers of penalties undermine local authorities’ role as supporting the public during this unprecedented health crisis.” The report calls for the council enforcement role to be limited to specific areas, and that enforcement be subject to greater legal and governmental controls to ensure that public legal powers, and the public funding used to finance them, are directed in the public interest, stating that “local authorities have been increasingly released from legal and governmental checks on how powers are used.”

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International Trade

Northern Ireland Protocol ruled to be lawful

The High Court in Belfast, has ruled that the Northern Ireland Protocol is lawful. This follows a challenge by a group of unionist politicians in judicial review proceedings who claimed that it was unlawful because it conflicts with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the Acts of Union. The judge rejected the challenge on all grounds, finding that the Withdrawal Agreement Act, which includes the protocol, does conflict with the 1800 Acts of Union in respect of free trade between Britain and Northern Ireland but that this was not unlawful as the relevant parts of the Acts of Union are “impliedly repealed” by the Withdrawal Agreement Act, meaning that the more recent legislation automatically overrides the older laws.

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New UK-wide subsidy control system announced

The Subsidy Control Bill which was introduced to Parliament this week will replace EU-wide state aid rules, which require member states to seek approval for government assistance to firms. Under the new legislation, devolved administrations and councils will be empowered to decide if they can issue subsidies by following UK-wide principles which will allow them to provide quicker and more flexible support to UK businesses. They will however be prohibited from awarding subsidies that will result in the relocation of jobs and economic activity from one part of the UK to another. UK Business Minister Paul Scully said “The UK’s new bespoke subsidy system will be simple, nimble, and based on common-sense principles – free from excessive red tape. Our modern regime will support the UK government, devolved administrations in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, and local authorities in swiftly and strategically supporting our economic recovery while ensuring a consistent, level playing field for subsidies across the entire country.”

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Planning and housing

Two new planning apps announced

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced the launch of two new planning apps on 30 June which will allow people to apply for planning permissions in a bid to simplify the application process. One of the new apps asks a series of questions which determines whether the plans meet local and national requirements and a certificate can then be downloaded which shows that the plans are permitted development in order for the building work to proceed. The second has been launched to help council planning officials manage permitted development applications. Mr Jenrick said “We want to speed up the planning process, to help families make improvements to their homes more quickly. These apps are a step towards a planning system that is transparent, efficient, and end-to-end digital – saving time and money for developers, architects and homeowners, and letting planners focus on the merits of applications rather than chasing paperwork.”

For more information 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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