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Local Authority round-up: 08/10/18

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.


Conservative party conference focusses heavily on Brexit

Of all of the issues discussed at the Conservative party conference, the complexities surrounding Brexit and the proposed strategy to adopt during negotiations featured most prominently.  In particular, the conference highlighted the continued disagreement over the suggested ‘Chequers plan’ with the former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson describing it as a “cheat to the electorate”.  However, despite not referring to the plan by name, the Prime Minister explained that she was determined to achieve a “free trade deal that provides for frictionless trade in goods” whilst also explaining that pursuing “our own visions of the prefect Brexit [could lead to] no Brexit all”.

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Dominic Raab warns EU to “get serious”

With less than six months to go until Brexit day, the UK is yet to reach an agreement with the EU. Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Dominic Raab said: “if the EU wants a deal, they need to get serious.” Furthermore, if the EU insisted on trying to “lock us in via the back door” of its customs union and single market, the UK could be left with “no choice” but to leave without a deal. However, in such a situation, Mr Raab finds it hard to believe that the EU would “seek to punish Britain in such a crass and counterproductive way.”

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Briefing paper looks at Brexit ‘unknowns’

The House of Commons Library has published a briefing paper discussing some of the main ‘unknowns’ surrounding the Brexit process and the withdrawal agreement that is currently being negotiated with the EU. The paper covers areas such as the UK’s future relationship with the EU, the Irish border question, free movement of people, food and farming, and international and defence relations. Whilst some of the ‘unknowns’ flagged up in the first Brexit Unknowns briefing paper in November 2016 have now been somewhat or largely clarified, others are still unknown or largely unknown. Possibly the largest unknown is whether there will be a withdrawal agreement at all.

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Confederation of British Industry (CBI) calls for “pragmatism before politics”

Following an informal meeting of EU leaders in Salzburg on 19 and 20 September 2018, the CBI has called for both the UK Government and Parliament to “change tack and break the stalemate in negotiations.” The CBI emphasised that with only six months until the Article 50 deadline is reached, employers and employees alike need to see “constructive dialogue” with “pragmatism coming before politics.” The CBI’s statement also presents a reminder that following the conclusion of the Conservative Party Conference, there will only be two weeks until the October EU Council Summit, where the Government intends to finalise and formalise the withdrawal agreement.

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Statistics reveal financial cost of Brexit

Analysis conducted by the Centre for European Reform (CER) on the cost of Brexit up until June 2018 reveals that Brexit is costing the public £500 million a week. According to the analysis, the UK economy is already 2.5% smaller than it would have been if the UK had chosen to remain in the EU. Public finances have been dented £26 billion year, more than half of the defence budget – this translates to a penalty of £500 million a week. The CER’s model also suggests that if Britain had not voted to leave, the deficit would be down to just 0.1 GDP, and in turn the austerity drive in place since 2010 would be all but complete.

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Tees Valley signs off £4.6 million fund for metals project

The mayor of the Tees Valley Combined Authority has signed off a £4.6 million investment which will bring a revolutionary metals project to the North East. The investment will allow for the development and manufacturing of speciality alloy metal powders, which are used in 3D printing and car parts manufacturing, in Redcar. The overall cost of the scheme is £9.8 million, with almost £4 million deriving from Liberty and the CASCADE project, a Research and Development initiative funded by the UK Government and led by Liberty.

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Theresa May announces £840 million public transport investment

Theresa May has announced a £840 million investment in public transport links as part of the £1.7 billion Transforming Cities Fund. Mrs May confirmed that Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, the North East, Norwich, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Sheffield, Stoke-on-Trent and West Yorkshire will all bid for a share of the funding. The fund is already delivering major improvements in England, including Beeline Cycle Network in Greater Manchester. Over the next four years, the new allocation of funding will be used to improve transport links in city regions, linking travel to work areas, increasing access to jobs and helping ensure that businesses have the infrastructure they need to thrive.

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Government unveils reform to the Apprenticeship Levy

An extra £90 million of Government funding has been announced to ensure that the Apprenticeship Levy provides people with the skills they need to succeed. The extra funding will enable employers to invest a quarter of their apprenticeship funds on people working for businesses in their supply chain – boosting the number able to benefit from high-quality apprenticeship training. In the following weeks, the Government will set out a process to seek views on the operation of the levy after 2020 to ensure it supports the development of the skilled workforce businesses need for the new economy.

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Wolverhampton launches ‘Retail Revival’ partnership with eBay

The City of Wolverhampton has launched a 12-month partnership with eBay to help small retailers start up or expand their online presence. The ‘Retail Revival’ partnership will provide small retailers with a one-on-one support and training to create a personalised eBay shop, offer a free one-year premium store subscription, and provide promotional support. Welcoming the new initiative, City of Wolverhampton Council Leader, Councillor Roger Lawrence said: “I’m delighted a global brand like eBay has chosen to work with us on an initiative which is the first of its kind in the UK.”

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‘Insufficient financial controls’ enabled fraudster to steal £2 million from council

A report into the conviction for fraud of a contractor of Barnet Council has revealed how the authority failed to prevent a £2 million theft case. Former council worker Trishul Shah diverted money from Barnet Council for fake property transactions between 2016 and 2017 while working on joint outsourcing venture led by Capita. The report identifies that there were ‘insufficient financial controls’ in place in the outsourced finance and regeneration services and that the council did not have sufficient oversight. The council has since been working with Capita to ensure that immediate actions have been taken to increase controls through revised procedures and processes.

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Local Government Association (LGA) publishes its Autumn Budget Submission

The LGA is calling on the Chancellor to use the Autumn Budget to tackle the immediate funding crisis, as well as setting the scene for the forthcoming Spending Review to deliver a sustainable funding settlement for local government. The plea follows an announcement by the LGA that main Government grant funding for local services will be cut by a further £1.3 billion in 2019/20, despite many councils already struggling to balance their books, facing overspends and having to make in-year budget cuts. As part of the submission, the LGA has mapped the likely impact of a further year of central Government funding cuts and growing demand on the local services provided by an average upper-tier council.

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Government agrees principles to tackle modern slavery

The UK Government has agreed four high-level principles to tackle modern slavery in global supply chains. The principles were announced at the United Nations General Assembly and aim to tackle the issue in both public and private sector procurement supply chains. The principles, which were developed with the US, New Zealand, Canada and Australia, are set out at a high level and therefore do not provide any specific details. However, they relate to public procurement, the private sector, recruitment policies and practices and harmonisation and sharing information.

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LGA calls for mandatory display of food hygiene ratings

The LGA is calling on the Government to empower councils by extending the mandatory display of food hygiene ratings to England, including to online businesses. Councillor Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “With more people ordering takeaways online or on their phone, it should be mandatory for businesses in England to display food hygiene ratings on their menus online and on ‘apps’ as well as in their premises.” In doing so, the LGA argues that this would improve consumer confidence and raise standards, but also reduce the need for, and therefore cost of, enforcement action by councils.

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Planning and housing

One Public Estate (OPE) launches new housing funding window

On 28 September OPE launched a new funding window which invites both new and existing OPE partnerships to apply for a £15 million funding boost to enable the public sector to work together to support building new homes. This new funding round will see the programme place particular emphasis on one of the most pressing domestic policy priorities: increasing housing supply. The invitation to apply outlines the full support available through the programme; with the basic details form to be completed by partnerships to accompany OPE applications. The closing date for final applications is 30 November 2018.

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Combined Authority Board launches ‘ambitious’ housing strategy

The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Board have agreed what they describe as a “bold, innovative and ambitious” housing strategy to deal with the shortage of homes in the area. The authority says it is moving beyond conventional methods of housing delivery in order to build 100,000 additional homes and 40,000 affordable homes by 2037. This will involve schemes such as Community Land Trusts discounted market homes priced at £100,000 at first sale and mechanisms such as Land Value Capture. Overall, the Combined Authority’s aim is to create a revolving fund that will outlast the £170 million programme and help to meet the longer-term target.

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Driverless vehicles could free up 80% of car parking land, report suggests

A report published by a design and consultancy firm has concluded that driverless vehicles could lower the need for private vehicle-use and free up over 6,300 hectares of land in London alone, which equates to enough space to build the equivalent of 180,000 new homes. The report argues that a national Connected and Autonomous Vehicles ‘revolution’ could in fact allow for the reclamation of up to 80% of space currently allocated to car parking in every city, which could then be used for much needed housing. However, the report prompts local authorities to consider how their cities can best adapt now to exploit the potential benefits of driverless technology in the future.

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New law calls on landlords to have ‘HMO’ licenses

From Monday 1 October 2018, landlords across the country will have to hold a licence for Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) and failure to do so could mean paying back a years’ worth of rent. The new law amends the 2006 regulations made under the Housing Act 2004 and states that a licence is required for HMOs of any size where there are five or more people forming two or more households where facilities are shared – thereby removing the three-storey criteria under the previous law. Landlords have suggested that the extra licensing costs will result in rents having to be increased, and some expecting to reduce the number of rooms they rent out.

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Upcoming seminars

As you may well know we run a programme of seminars on a wide range of topics. Listed below are those seminars coming up which we feel may be of interest to you. Please click on the links for further information and to book your place. You can see our full programme of upcoming events by clicking here.

Housing Managing Law School – Autumn Term

This will be the twelfth semester in our series of Law Schools and the Autumn term will bring with it a brand new programme, with our experts covering up to the minute topics that you need to know about. The sessions will cover a housing law news round up, GDPR for housing management, the rising cost of disrepair and an ask the experts case surgery and Q&A session.

Wednesday 17th October 2018 (Manchester)

Wednesday 24th October 2018 (Leeds)

Procurement law update

This session is designed to provide you with a unique opportunity to hear first-hand from leading procurement experts who will share their thoughts on the most topical issues of the moment, as well as reviewing the new regulations one year on from introduction.

Thursday 11th October 2018 (Newcastle)

Thursday 18th October 2018 (Newcastle)

Wednesday 7th November 2018 (Leeds)

Thursday 15th November 2018 (Manchester)

Thursday 22nd November 2018 (London)

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.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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