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Local Authority round-up 09/07/21

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

Funding for councils to provide accommodation under Domestic Abuse Act

Under the Domestic Abuse Act, councils will be required to find accommodation for people who have been made homeless through domestic abuse and to give them priority for accommodation. Previously, victims had to be assessed as being ‘vulnerable’ as a result of domestic abuse to be identified as having a priority need however under the new legislation anyone who is suffering from domestic abuse will automatically qualify for support. The government has allocated £1.5 million to councils to ensure they can provide this. In April, councils were also provided £125 million funding for 2021/22 to support their duty to help victims and their children access life-saving support in safe accommodation which will come into force later this year. Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Eddie Hughes said “Today’s change will mean all councils must find accommodation for victims who are homeless as a result of domestic abuse – ensuring they have a safe space to rebuild their lives. This is part of the government’s wide-ranging programme of support for domestic abuse victims under the landmark Domestic Abuse Act.”

For more information please click here.

Consultation on proposed changes to Business rates

The government is consulting on more frequent revaluations for business rates, proposing that they take place every three years (instead of every five years, as at present). The consultation closes on 24 August 2021. The proposals aim to make the business rates system fairer and more streamlined by providing more accurate valuations, increasing transparency regarding calculations and producing valuations that more closely reflect the economy’s performance. This is a standalone consultation, forming part of the government’s fundamental review of the business rates system in England. The government’s final report on the fundamental review is expected in Autumn 2021. The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) usually reviews rateable values every five years, with the next revaluation postponed to 2023. As the changes would compress the VOA’s workload into a three-year period, the consultation sets out various proposals for improving valuation accuracy. The proposals include a new duty to notify the VOA of changes to the occupier and property characteristics (for example, structural alterations, demolition, conversion, division or merger, or a change of use). Ratepayers would also file an online annual confirmation return, confirming the data held for the property is correct which would be submitted through an online portal. It also proposes the mandatory provision of rent and lease information following completion of or changes to the lease. Other information, such as trade and accounts information, would also be collected in the annual return. It also proposes to reforming the appeals system, for example by introducing a three-month window to challenge the compiled list valuation and enabling the VOA to deal with challenges on similar properties as a batch.

For more information please click here.


Regulatory

Step 4 of roadmap set to go ahead on 19 July

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced this week that step 4 of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown is set to go ahead on 19 July, subject to a final review of the data next week, which will see all remaining restrictions being lifted. Social distancing will come to an end meaning there will no longer be a restriction on numbers in gatherings indoors and outdoors and the requirement to wear face coverings will no longer be a legal requirement. All venues which currently remain closed, such as nightclubs, will be allowed to reopen with no capacity limits. The guidance to work from home will also end. Mr Johnson is expected to confirm the lifting of restrictions next week.

For more information please click here.

Subsidy Control Bill introduced to Parliament

On 30 June 2021, the government introduced the Subsidy Control Bill to Parliament. The Subsidy Control Bill sets out the framework for a UK subsidy control regime that meets the UK’s international commitments, particularly the detailed commitments in the subsidies chapter of the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA). Under this framework public authorities must consider seven subsidy control principles before deciding to award a subsidy or make a subsidy scheme and the subsidy or scheme must be consistent with these principles. Certain types of subsidy will be prohibited, or only permitted subject to specified conditions. However, there will be exemptions for certain types of subsidy, including those with a value below £350,000, services of public economic interest assistance below £725,000, natural disasters and other exceptional circumstances, and national and global economic emergencies. There are also transparency requirements relating to the award of subsidies or making a subsidy scheme.

For more information please click here.


Planning and housing

First Homes housing scheme launches

The government’s housing scheme, First Homes, has launched in Cannock, Staffordshire with the first ten houses becoming available, as part of the Government’s pledge to build 300,000 new homes a year.  The scheme has been launched to support local people who struggle to afford market prices in their area, including families and key workers, by providing housing with a discount of at least 30% compared to the market price. The scheme will launch further sites across the country over the coming months with a further 1,500 homes expected to come to market by the end of the year and up to 60,000 First Homes projected to be built across England and Wales by 2029-30. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said “Enabling more people to buy their own home is at the heart of the mission of this Government, and First Homes will offer a realistic and affordable route into home ownership for even more people who want to own their own home.”

For more information please click here.

John Lewis announces property market plans

Department store chain John Lewis has announced plans to build 10,000 new homes for rental over the next few years in order to help address the national housing shortage. The first planned homes, which include studio flats and houses, will be built in the south-east but this could be extended to other sites across the country. The housing developments will include a concierge service and a Waitrose convenience store near the entrance and tenants will have the option of renting properties which have been fully furnished with John Lewis products. Executive director of strategy and commercial development for the John Lewis Partnership, Nina Bhatia, said “As a business driven by social purpose, we have big ambitions for moving into property rental.”

For more information please click here.

Building Safety Bill announced

The Building Safety Bill was published on 5 July 2021 which is aimed at strengthening safety standards for the construction of high-rise buildings and how residential buildings should be constructed and maintained. The Building Safety Bill will introduce a number of reforms, including the establishment of a Building Safety Regulator to hold to account those who are not properly managing building safety risks and ensure there are clearly identified people responsible for safety during the design, build and occupation of a high-rise residential building. It will also give residents more routes to raise safety concerns. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said “This Bill will ensure high standards of safety for people’s homes, and in particular for high rise buildings, with a new regulator providing essential oversight at every stage of a building’s lifecycle, from design, construction, completion to occupation. The new building safety regime will be a proportionate one, ensuring those buildings requiring remediation are brought to an acceptable standard of safety swiftly, and reassuring the vast majority of residents and leaseholders in those buildings that their homes are safe.”

For more information please click here.

Welsh Government to introduce Tenancy Hardship Grant

The Welsh Government is launching a Tenancy Hardship Grant which is designed to support people living in private rented accommodation who have fallen behind on their rent by more than eight weeks between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2021 as a direct result of the pandemic. Rent arrears may be a result of being furloughed and losing income, a reduction in work or needing to claim statutory sick pay when ill with COVID-19. The grant will be administered by councils and will be open to people who are not receiving housing-related benefits. It will replace the Tenancy Saver Loan, which was introduced in December 2020. Anyone who received a loan will have that loan converted to a grant. Eligible tenants can register their interest with their council from 1 July 2021 and grants will be processed from mid-July. If an application is successful, the grant will be paid directly to the landlord on the tenant’s behalf. The grant will not need to be repaid.

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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