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Local Authority round-up 12/08/22

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

Chewing Gum Task Force grant scheme announced

The government has announced additional funding for councils across the UK as part of its High Street Strategy to support the evolution and regeneration of high streets across the country. More than 40 councils are being awarded grants of up to £70,000 under the new Chewing Gum Task Force in order to provide funding to clean gum off pavements and stop it being dropped in order to clean up the streets. Exeter, Birmingham, Sunderland, Swansea, Glasgow and Belfast are among the first winners of funding. Environment Secretary George Eustice said “Littering blights our towns and costs taxpayers money. Working with responsible gum manufacturers, we are now giving councils extra help to clean up our cities and towns. This means we can double down on regenerating our high streets, boosting local economies and levelling up communities across the country.”

For more information please click here.


Regulatory

New guidance published on council littering powers

The Government has published new guidance clarifying the powers that councils have to crack down on littering. The guidance gives councils the power to set stricter litter rules for new hot food takeaways when considering planning applications, including making sure that more bins are installed to reduce rubbish in the surrounding area. Councils can also require businesses to install more anti-litter signs around shops or have staff members pick up litter regularly. Levelling up secretary Greg Clark said “We are empowering councils to make sure new takeaway food businesses are doing their bit to stop rubbish littering our high streets. It is just one of the many ways we are improving the environment and making sure we can all take pride in the local communities we call home.”

For more information please click here.

Local authority’s decision to close day care centre upheld

The claimant (AB) suffered from spastic quadriplegia, learning difficulties, osteoporosis and curvature of the spine. AB had attended the Priors Day Centre in Slough (Priors) for five days a week from 2004 until April 2020, when it was closed during the first COVID-19 national lockdown. On 20 September 2021, Slough Borough Council’s (council) Cabinet made the decision to close certain services including Priors pursuant to a policy to re-model and operate a significantly reduced provider services offer (option two). Alternative options one and three were discounted. AB sought a judicial review of the decision to close the Priors. The High Court dismissed all the grounds of the claim for judicial review and held that:

  • The review process for day care services in its formative stages explored options one and three which were discounted in the report presented in September 2021 containing the recommendations to the Cabinet. The council did not have a preferred option when the report was presented to the Cabinet. That there was a debate about the closure of the Priors and the other care facilities during the Cabinet meeting of 20 September 2021 showed that the consultation took place at a formative stage. The public consultation made it clear to service users that one of the options being considered to be placed before the Cabinet was the possible closure of the Priors.
  • There was no principle in law to the effect that before a council changes the way it delivers services provided to many people it has to assess the needs of each service user and match those needs to available alternative service providers. The high-level decision concerning the closures of services was not so seriously deficient that no rational council could have proceeded to take that decision on the basis of the evidence base that existed.
  • AB’s argument had mutated from a challenge that no care needs assessment had been undertaken into a challenge to the care provision at his alternative care provider. Such a challenge constituted the impugning of the downstream care placement decision relating to AB and was not capable of impugning the decision under challenge.

This decision serves as a useful reminder and analysis of the requirements of a lawful consultation exercise and the scope of a councils discretion when it changes the way it delivers services.

For more information please click here.

Council had power to provide financial support for recreational activities and holidays

The respondents (BG and KG) (who were brothers) had autism, learning disabilities, anxiety and epilepsy. Their mother (SQ) was their main carer, providing 24-hour care. Suffolk County Council’s (council) assessment of their needs included recreational outings and activities, and family holidays. In 2019, the council carried out eligibility assessments under the Care Act 2014 (CA 2014) and the Care and Support (Eligibility Criteria) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/313) (2015 Regulations). In a departure from previous assessments, neither holidays nor recreational activities were assessed as “eligible needs” under the 2015 Regulations. In 2020, the council informed SQ that it would no longer fund the holidays and recreational activities. The High Court quashed the council’s decision. The Court of Appeal dismissed the council’s appeal and made the following points:

  • The provision of recreational activities and holidays for BG and KG would meet two of the eligibility criteria set out in regulation 2 of the 2015 Regulations. These were “(g) developing and maintaining family or other personal relationships” and “(i) making use of necessary facilities or services in the local community including public transport and recreational facilities or services”. The financial support previously provided by the council was not simply a means of paying for BG and KG to take part in recreational activities and to go on holiday, but a means of meeting needs which arose from, and were related to, their physical and mental disability.
  • Their needs were eligible needs which could be met by the provision of goods and facilities, namely financial support in the form of a direct payment under section 8(1)(d) and (2)(c) of the CA 2014.
  • In considering the circumstances of BG and KG, account had to be taken of past traumatic events which meant that they would trust only SQ as their carer. She was the means whereby they were able to access any activities outside the home. The council’s view that SQ was meeting all the brothers’ eligible needs was wrong because it ignored her inability to fund those activities. It was based upon a restrictive and incorrect interpretation of the relevant needs under the CA 2014 and the 2015 Regulations. The council had a power, as a matter of law, to provide financial support for recreational activities and holidays under section 18 of the CA 2014.

For more information please click here.


Planning and housing

New £350 million fund could help communities revive high streets

A new study has called for the creation of a fund that can help local communities takeover empty high street buildings as a record number of shops stand empty. A new report from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University, commissioned by Power to Change, has found that a record 16% of shops on Britain’s high streets are currently empty, and one in every 20 vacant units have been shuttered up for more than three years. The report, titled Community businesses and high streets: ‘taking back’ and leading forward, argues that community businesses contribute to high street regeneration, increasing footfall by offering spaces and services that differ from the traditional retail model. In particular, the report found that community businesses support new and emerging forms of economic activity; slow down and prevent gentrification; create clusters of activity supporting other businesses; create conditions that support high street revitalisation and support the development of policy and funding to better support high streets. In order to make community ownership more accessible, Power to Change called for the creation of a £350 million High Street Buyout Fund. The fund would be designed to act quickly to purchase empty buildings, holding them until communities have the funds and structure to run the building for the long-term. Power to Change is specifically calling on the Government to invest £100 million of Levelling Up Fund money to help capitalise the fund. They argue that this would have the potential to transform over 200 high street properties by leveraging £250 million of private and commercial and social investment against the grant.

For more information please click here.


Upcoming webinars

The Building Safety Act 2022: What do you need to know?

With the introduction of the Fire Safety Act last year and the more recent Building Safety Act 2022, it might feel like the rules and regulations for social housing providers are in a constant state of flux. As such the social housing team at Ward Hadaway would like to invite you to attend a free webinar on 28th September at 12pm, discussing the ins and outs of the Building Safety Act 2022. At this webinar Construction specialist, Neil Williamson, will give an overview of the Act, helping you to understand what it means for registered providers and local authorities. Neil will also offer his keen insight into how these changes will impact new developments and the contractual arrangements that providers will now need to implement. Fire safety and general building safety is always of utmost precedence, and this discussion promises to contain the useful and practical advice, to guide you, our colleagues in the social housing sector, through the recent changes in regulation.

For more information and to book your place, please click here.

Holiday pay update for schools

The Supreme Court recently handed down a judgment on holiday pay which will have significant implications throughout the education sector. Join us on 15th September at 10am where Graham Vials and Tom Shears will look into this judgment in more detail, including what it may mean for schools in terms of historic financial liability and the steps which schools should be considering moving forward in response to this judgment.

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.

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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