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Local Authority round-up 16/08/19

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.


Jeremy Corbyn to call no-confidence vote

In order to stop a no-deal Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn has said he will seek to call a no-confidence vote at the “earliest opportunity when we can be confidence of success.” Mr Corbyn outlined his plans in a letter, which include “seeking the confidence of the House for a strictly time-limited temporary Government with the aim of calling a general election, and securing the necessary extension of Article 50 to do so,” if the vote of no-confidence is successful. The letter has received mixed responses from MPs, with Change UK’s leader saying that Mr Corbyn “doesn’t even command respect and support from his own party never mind across the political divide” whilst Green MP Caroline Lucas has welcomed Mr Corbyn’s plans but insisted a referendum must be held before any general election.

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Boris Johnson has accused MPs of a “terrible collaboration” with the EU

Boris Johnson has said that the EU has become less willing to negotiate a new deal with the UK due to the opposition to leaving in Parliament and has said that this opposition has increased the likelihood of the UK being “forced to leave” without a deal. The comments by the Prime Minister came during a Facebook event hosted a Downing Street where the Prime Minister said he wants to leave the EU with a deal, but in order to do so, “we need our European friends to compromise.” He added that there is a “terrible kind of collaboration as it were, going on between people who think they can block Brexit in Parliament and our European friends.”

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Philip Hammond accuses Boris Johnson of trying to wreck the chance of a new Brexit deal

Philip Hammond has said a no-deal Brexit would be “just as much as betrayal of the referendum result as not leaving at all” but has expressed concerns that the Prime Minister’s demand for the backstop to be entirely removed from the deal meant a no-deal was inevitable on 31 October. He said an attempt to have the backstop removed in its entirety is a “wrecking tactic” and he does not think the EU will start agreeing to changes to the current withdrawal agreement as any changes could “fragment” the EU.

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No chance of US-UK trade deal if Brexit undermines the Good Friday Agreement

The Speaker of the US House of Representatives has said that the UK’s exit from the EU could not be allowed to endanger the Irish peace deal. Her comments come after John Bolton, Donald Trump’s national security adviser, said the UK are “first in line” for a trade deal with the US. In a statement made on Wednesday, Democrat Nancy Pelosi, whose party controls the House, said whatever form Brexit takes “it cannot be allowed to imperil the Good Friday Agreement, including the seamless border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.”

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House prices fall in south of England because of Brexit uncertainty

House prices have fallen in the south of England for the first time since 2009, Brexit uncertainty is blamed for holding down the property market. According to the Office for National Statistics, this is the first time that average prices had fallen in all three regions of southern England, covering an area extending from Milton Keynes in the north to Lands End in the west and Dover in the east, since September 2009. House price growth across the country has slowed since the Brexit vote in 2016 and the chairman of the estate agent Jackson-Stops has commented that “data makes it clear that continued uncertainty as we creep even closer to leaving the EU without a deal has caused hesitancy in some areas of the property markets.”

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UK could secure trade deal with the US

President Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, has said that the UK is “first in line” for a trade deal with the US. Mr Bolton also said that the US would propose a series of trade deals “very quickly [and] very straightforwardly”, and suggested that deals could be done on a “sector-by-sector” basis, with an agreement on manufacturing made first. Mr Bolton added that the US understood the importance of doing as much as possible as rapidly as possible before the 31 October exit date.

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Legal challenge to prevent Prime Minister forcing a no-deal Brexit has begun

The Court of Session in Edinburgh has agreed to hear arguments from both a group of MPs who want the Court to rule that suspending Parliament to make the UK leave the EU without a deal is “unlawful and unconstitutional” and Boris Johnson, who has repeatedly refused to rule out such a move. More than 70 politicians have put their name behind the move, all who tried to have the case accelerated due to fears that they may run out of time before the UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October. However, Lord Doherty, the judge who will be hearing the case, refused to accelerate the case but agreed to move swiftly, fixing a full hearing for 6 September.

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Preparing for a no-deal Brexit should be “top priority,” says Boris Johnson

In a letter to civil servants, Boris Johnson has said that “preparing urgently and rapidly for the possibility of an exit without a deal will be [his] top priority, and it will be the top priority for the civil service too.” The letter sent by the Prime Minister is similar to a letter sent by Chancellor Sajid Javid to HMRC earlier this month, in which he ordered HMRC to make preparing for no-deal its “absolute priority” and told them its preparations should include helping the public to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, as well as ensuring IT systems are ready and helping businesses with a helpline, and contacting traders directly.

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Sajid Javid announces one-year spending review

In a bid to give Government departments “financial certainty” for Brexit preparations, the Chancellor has announced a one-year spending review. Mr Javid has said the review will assist in getting focused on “our priority,” which is preparing for Brexit. The Chancellor has commented that he is “confident that in [the] spending round, (…) we’ll be able to meet all our priorities, and that certainly means increased focus on the NHS, on police and on schools.” However, Labour’s John McDonnell has said that there are “gaping holes” in the spending plans, with “nowhere near enough” allocated to the NHS, schools or local government.”

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More funding uncertainty for councils

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has missed a self-imposed deadline, forcing it to admit that ‘indicative numbers’ for the amount councils will receive in 2020/21 will not be published before next month’s Spending Review. The lack of clarity means that 8 months before the start of the new financial year, with a £7.4bn funding gap looming for social care, councils have no idea what their funding settlement will be in 2020/21 or beyond.

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Scottish local government to obtain £4.4m for debt recovery and sheriff officer services

Scotland Excel is the centre of procurement expertise for the local government in Scotland. The organisation has announced that it will obtain a new £4.4m framework agreement for the provision of debt recovery and sheriff officer services. Some of the services the organisation expects to be covered under the framework agreement include: debt collection services for council tax, housing benefit overpayments, sales ledger debt collection, sales ledger diligence and penalty charge notices.” The framework will initially run for a 36-month period, with the option to extend for up to an additional 12-month period.

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£5.25m given to local communities and businesses impacted by heavy rain and flooding

£5.25m is to be made available to support the recovery of local communities and businesses affected by the heavy rain and flooding last week. Businesses affected by the Whaley Bridge evacuation will receive up to £100,000 in emergency funding to cover uninsurable costs. This follows a commitment from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to match regional support of £100,000 delivered through the local Business Recovery Fund. Councils dealing with the Whaley Bridge emergency and for flooding in Wainfleet and Richmondshire can apply to have 100% of the money they have spent, above a threshold, reimbursed by the government. Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom has commented that the government is “working with the local authority and partners [of Whaley Bridge] to ensure practical support on the ground.”

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Solar farm generates £1.2m for frontline services

The solar-farm, owned by West Suffolk Council has exceeded expectations and has raised nearly £4m for the council since it started in August 2016. This year alone, the council calculates that the solar farm has generated £560,000 towards the funding of frontline services, which brings the total amount raised in 3 years to £1.2m. Over the last year, the solar farm has generated 12,631MWh of electricity against a target of 11,591MWh, which is enough to power around 3,300 homes and offset carbon dioxide emissions from 1,500 cars.

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Leaders from across the North call for billions to fix ‘creaking infrastructure’

Council chiefs from across the North have called on the Government to commit to multi-billion pound infrastructure pledges that would boost the region’s economic fortunes. The call urges the delivery of a ‘Northern Budget’ which would include a £7bn Northern Infrastructure Pipeline, featuring road and rail projects which could commence in the next 5 years. The budget also includes a call for a commitment to build the £39bn Northern Powerhouse Rail network by 2040 and a request for a £1bn funding boost for Transport for the North over the next 3 years. In response to the call, a spokesperson for the Treasury said the Government was committed to boosting the North by levelling up the regions, through Northern Powerhouse Rail, giving local leaders greater powers, and investing £3.6bn in towns across England.

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North Somerset Council defeats Crown Court appeal over revocation of licence

The council’s licensing committee took the decision to revoke a private hire driver’s licence with immediate effect after the council received complaints of aggression and one of inappropriate language to a female passenger. HHJ Patrick QC, sitting with two magistrates, dismissed the driver’s appeal with costs, concluding that “we have no hesitancy to say” that the council did not get it wrong and that the driver was not a fit and proper person to hold a private hire driver’s licence.

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Councils received 700,000 complaints last year about potholes and other road defects

Research conducted by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) revealed that 700,000 complaints were received by councils last year regarding potholes and other road defects. In addition to this, the research found out that councils paid out more than £1.9m in compensation for vehicle damage. As well as extra funding, the FSB is calling more coordination between utilities companies and councils when roads need to be dug up, and for a simple system for reporting potholes and submitting claims for damage to vehicles. Commenting on the figures, FSB’s national chairman said they “show just how widespread the issue is and it’s clear that the Government and local authorities need to sit up and take notice.”

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Welsh council trials plastic-based substance to fix potholes

Neath Port Talbot Council is trialling a new plastic-based substance to help fix potholes and has found that the alternative method is fast working, produces little waste and is less expensive than the traditional tarmac because the coverage area per tonne was seven times greater. A council spokesman told how in the trial, “a total of 215sq m was repaired in around 2 days using approximately 3 tonnes of material” whereas “if this was done with the traditional ‘excavate and reinstate’ method, this would have taken considerably longer, required approximately 21 tonnes of tarmac and would have produced a similar amount of spoil waste that would have needed tipping off.’

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Planning and housing

Sutton finishes its first programme of new council house building in 3 decades

The London Borough of Sutton has built 93 new council homes for the first time in 30 years. The project was funded thanks to changes in financial regulations which now allow councils to borrow to build council housing. The Deputy Leader of the council commented that “the housing crisis is particularly severe in London and our new programme of council house building recaptures the ambition of 100 years ago and is a tangible example of what we man by Ambitious for Sutton.”

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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.

HR and employment law update

Hear from Ward Hadaway’s employment specialists who will ensure that you are kept up-to-date with the latest developments in employment law.

Thursday 12th September (Newcastle)

Thursday 28th November (Middlesbrough)

Housing Management Law School – Autumn Term 2019

Join us at the next Ward Hadaway Housing Management Law School taking place this Autumn. Autumn term will bring with it a brand new programme where our social housing experts will update you on the most recent news and topics that you need to know about from both a legal and practical perspective.

Wednesday 9th October (Newcastle)

Thursday 10th October (Leeds)

Thursday 17th October (Manchester)

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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