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Local Authority round-up – 14/05/21

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

Financial support for councils to migrate local land charges service

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Steve Barclay, has announced a new £26 million fund which will be available to all councils in England and Wales to help them migrate their local land charges service to a national Local Land Charges Register. The government has set a target of all councils migrating onto the central register by 2025 and the funding is to enable this to happen. Councils who transfer to the central register within an agreed timescale will receive transition payments when they meet their schedule milestones. Karina Singh, HM Land Registry Director of Transformation, said “We understand the uncertain economic landscape facing many local authorities and the resourcing issues this creates. In the UK, property remains one of the single largest investments many people make. We want to help buyers get the information they need, in a faster and simpler manner.”

For more information please click here.


Regulatory

Prime Minister confirms Step 3 of roadmap to go ahead

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that Step 3 of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown will proceed as planned on 17 May. This means that with effect from that date indoor hospitality can reopen and indoor entertainment can resume, which includes cinemas, museums, and children’s play areas. All outdoor hospitality can reopen including outdoor cinemas and some larger events will be able to take place such as sports events and concert performances. International travel will also be able to resume however countries will be subject to a traffic light system and testing and/or isolation requirements. Up to 6 people or 2 households will be able to meet indoors and up to 30 people outdoors. Care homes residents will also now be able to have up to five named visitors and two visitors able to attend at once provided they are tested and follow infection control measures. The governments final step, Step 4, which will see all restrictions lifted, is due to go ahead on 21 June, subject to the government’s test for easing restrictions being met.

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International Trade

European Commission recommends against UK accession

The European Commission has formally recommended that the EU should not consent to the UK’s application to accede to the 2007 Lugano Convention on the basis that the Convention is a “flanking measure” of the internal market and for the EU’s relations with the EFTA countries, and it is not the appropriate general framework for judicial co-operation with third countries. The Commission states that the EU’s approach is that the appropriate framework is provided by the multilateral Hague Conventions, such as the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements, to which both the UK and the EU are contracting parties. Following the UK’s departure from the EU on 31 December 2020, the Lugano Convention ceased to apply in the UK. The UK, however, applied to accede to the Lugano Convention in its own right in April 2020. Such accession requires the unanimous agreement of all the other contracting parties to the Convention. Iceland and Switzerland have given their formal consent to the UK’s accession and Norway has also indicated its support. The European Parliament must now also give its view on this issue and we understand that that the Council will make the final decision, by qualified majority voting.

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Planning and housing

Queen’s speech confirms reforms to planning laws

The Queen confirmed in her speech this week that the government will be taking steps to reform the planning system. Under the reforms, councils will use a zoning system to assign ‘growth’, ‘protection’ or ‘renewal’ zones in their local plans. Automatic planning permission will be given in growth areas where developments meet certain criteria in a bid to enable more homes to be built. The Queen said “My Government will help more people to own their own home whilst enhancing the rights of those who rent. Laws to modernise the planning system, so that more homes can be built, will be brought forward, along with measures to end the practice of ground rents for new leasehold properties.”

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Ban on bailiff-enforced evictions to end

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has confirmed that the current ban on bailiff-enforced evictions, introduced as an emergency measure during lockdown, will end on 31 May. However, Housing Minister Christopher Pincher has announced that renters will continue to be supported as longer notice periods will still be required but they will be phased out over the coming months. Whilst temporary notice periods of six months were in place, from 1 June four month notice periods will be required. Subject to the public health advice and progress with the government’s roadmap, notice periods will return to pre-pandemic levels from 1 October. Notice periods in the most serious cases will however remain lower, for example, where there is anti-social behaviour a maximum of four weeks’ notice only will be required. Renters will continue to be supported with living costs, including rent, through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until 30 September 2021.

For more information please click here.

Councils express concern over end to bailiff-enforced evictions

Council leaders have expressed concern over the Government’s decision to end the ban on bailiff-enforced evictions on 31 May. Cllr David Renard, Local Government Association housing spokesperson, said “We recognise that the ban on eviction enforcement, which provided vital reassurance to renters during the pandemic, cannot continue indefinitely. However, councils remain concerned over the potential rise in homelessness households may face, and the pressure this will add to already over-stretched homelessness services. It is vital there is a plan in place to support and protect households to stay in their homes, in as many cases as possible.”

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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