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Local Authority round-up 11/02/22

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

£54.1 billion funding announced for councils in England

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has announced a £54.1 billion package of funding for councils to enable them to maintain and improve the services they provide. Over £1 billion of the funding is being provided for social care to ensure councils can improve conditions for carers and those in need. The funding is also being provided to protect residents from excessive council tax increases. Mr Gove said “Levelling up can only succeed if our local partners have the powers and resources they need to help transform their communities. Today’s £54.1 billion settlement represents a real terms increase of more than 4.5% from last year and will make sure councils can improve local services, protect vulnerable people and build back better from the pandemic.”

For more information please click here.

Government announces support for rising energy costs

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has announced that millions of households will receive up to £350 to help with the cost of living following a rise in the energy price cap. All domestic electricity customers will get £200 off their energy bills with the discount automatically being applied by energy suppliers from October. The government will meet those costs but the discount will then be automatically recovered from people’s bills in equal £40 instalments over the next five years from 2023. Homes which are in council tax bands A-D will also receive a £150 rebate on their council tax which will be made directly by councils from April and will not need to be repaid. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “today we recognise the real and growing concerns people have about the cost of living – and once again we are taking action. We are delivering a new package of targeted support to help with the financial pressures felt by families right across the country, with additional help for those most in need.”

For more information please click here.

£174 million funding for councils to help rough sleepers

The government has announced that it will be providing £174 million in funding to councils to enable them to provide 2,900 homes between 2021 and 2024 for rough sleepers through the government’s Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme. The funding will also be used to provide specially-trained support workers for the accommodation to help those housed to tackle mental health issues and substance misuse. Eddie Hughes, Minister for Housing and Rough Sleeping said “I’m delighted to announce this funding for the Rough Sleeping Accommodation Programme, which is supporting people to access housing and, crucially, specialist support to rebuild their lives and become independent again. This government does not just want to make a dent in the number of rough sleepers – we want to end rough sleeping for good, and through innovative programmes like this we’re on track to ensure no one is forced to spend a night on the streets.”

For more information please click here.


Regulatory

England self-isolation rules could be removed by end of February

Currently, anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 in England must self-isolate for at least five days. This requirement, which is contained in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1045), is set to expire on 24 March 2022. However, the Prime Minister indicated the possibility of this date being brought forward if supported by data. On 9 February 2022, the Prime Minister announced his expectation that all remaining COVID restrictions in England, including the self-isolation rules, will be removed before the end of February 2022, provided the “current encouraging trends in the data continue”. The self-isolation rules are to be replaced with guidance, for example, that people who test positive should not go to work. The Prime Minister intends to outline the government’s strategy for living with Covid, when parliament returns after the recess on 21 February 2022.

For more information please click here.


International Trade

Trade Secretary hosts UK-South Korea trade committee

International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan has hosted the UK-South Korea FTA Committee in London this week and met her Korean counterpart, Yeo Han-koo. The meeting was held in order to discuss trade and collaboration in key areas such as digital, the environment and supporting small business. It was also held to lay the groundwork ahead of talks which are expected to take place later this year on agreeing an enhanced trade deal. Ms Trevelyan said “This is our Indo-Pacific tilt in action – strengthening ties with one of the largest economies in the world. From offshore wind to hydrogen, 2021 saw many examples of the growing collaboration between our two nations – particularly on clean growth. I’m excited to build on our existing trade agreement, going even further in areas like technology and services.”

For more information please click here.


Planning and housing

Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill receives Royal Assent

The Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill has received Royal Assent. The Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Act 2022 (LRGRA 2022) will (when it comes fully into force) limit the ground rent chargeable on most new long residential leases to one peppercorn per year, effectively restricting ground rents to zero financial value. It will also prohibit payment of administration charges in relation to peppercorn rents. Subject to exceptions, the ground rent restrictions will apply to leases of dwellings granted on or after commencement of the relevant provisions. The restrictions will not apply to leases granted pursuant to pre-commencement contracts (unless pursuant to an option or right of first refusal). Special rules apply to shared ownership leases and leases that replace pre-commencement leases (such as voluntary lease extensions). Certain types of leases are excepted from the ground rent restrictions which are business leases, statutory lease extensions of houses and flats, community housing leases and home finance plan leases. The LRGRA 2022 will be brought into force at different stages with the main provisions (including the ground rent restrictions) coming into force on a date or dates to be specified by the Secretary of State in regulations. The Secretary of State may appoint different days for different purposes, including for different kinds of leases. The only sections coming into force on Royal Assent are sections 2 and 9 (for the purpose of making regulations) and sections 20-26 (interpretation and other general provisions). The LRGRA 2022 has not been fully commenced because time is needed to prepare regulations. Government Minister Lord Greenhalgh has given a commitment that it will be fully commenced within six months of Royal Assent (except in relation to retirement home leases). The substantive provisions must not come into force in relation to retirement home leases before 1 April 2023. This is intended to give the retirement sector additional time to transition. Trading standards authorities will be able to impose financial penalties of between £500 and £30,000 for breaches. Leaseholders will be able to recover unlawfully charged ground rents through tribunals in England and Wales.

For more information please click here.

Funding announced to improve social housing properties

The government has announced £179 million under its Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund in order to improve energy efficiency in social housing properties. The funding will be used to improve 20,000 social housing properties with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of D. The improvements will include fitting external wall and roof insulation, energy efficient doors and windows, heat pumps and solar panels in a bid to reduce energy bills and reduce carbon emissions. The funding will be provided to councils who will work with social housing provides to make the improvements. 69 projects have already been allocated funding in the first wave and the second wave will launch in the next financial year.

For more information please click here.


Upcoming webinars

Fire and the Building Safety Bill – a developer review

Architects Ryder, engineers and fire safety consultants Hydrock and Ward Hadaway are coming together for a free webinar on Thursday 17th February at 1pm to look specifically at the changes to fire safety standards contained in the Bill, and the impact that this is likely to have for developers, whether commercial, residential, health and local authority estate, or social housing providers. Using the Design / Build / Operate process as our roadmap, we will look from all angles at the changes this will bring, and implications on time, cost and quality for a project. With experts from Ward Hadaway’s construction, housing management and regulatory teams contributing alongside specialist architects and fire safety consultants, it will provide a fully rounded review of this complex but all important topic. Chair Alistair McDonald from Ward Hadaway’s Built Environment team will be putting the questions to our panellists, including some of your own questions submitted during registration or via Zoom’s Q&A feature during the event.

For more information and 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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