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Local Authority round-up 17/06/22

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

£15.5 million funding announced for councils

The government has announced £15.5 million funding for councils across England to help them to prepare for adult social care charging reforms coming into force in October 2023. The reforms will change how social care is paid for and will protect people from unpredictable care costs across England. The money is therefore being provided to councils to hire additional staff, prepare their workforce and recruit dedicated IT staff to oversee the implementation of the care accounts. Minister for Care, Gillian Keegan said “Our charging reforms will mean no one will have to face unpredictable and often catastrophic care costs and this new funding will help local authorities to implement these vital changes. We’re committed to fair and high-quality care, and this is the beginning of our journey of reform, creating the next step in making our ambitious plans a reality. We’re working closely with local authorities, providers and care receivers to deliver a smooth transition into the new system to end unpredictable cost of care for the public.”

For more information please click here.

Council chiefs urge pensioners to apply for cost-of-living benefits

Council leaders are calling on pensioners who are eligible for Pension Credit to apply for the top-up welfare payment to help with the cost-of-living crisis. Pension Credit provides people who are on a low income and over the state pension age with extra money to help with living costs. The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that only about two-thirds of those eligible for the payment have so far claimed it. The LGA estimates that around 850,000 households are missing out on the extra support. The tax-free Pension Credit payment, which for single pensioners tops up weekly income to a guaranteed minimum level of £182.60, or £278.70 for couples, is also a vital gateway for claimants to be entitled to other related help such as council tax relief, support for dental care costs and the one-off cost of living payment of £650. Cllr Andrew Western, chair of the LGA’s Resources Board, said “Councils want to do all they can to help those most in need, including encouraging anyone who is eligible to receive the benefits they are entitled to and not miss out on essential support which could make all the difference. Increasing Pension Credit uptake will definitely help and open up avenues to other benefits, such as council tax relief and should be part of a wider, longer-term approach to making sure everyone has a decent standard of living.”

For more information please click here.


Regulatory

New regulations will allow more healthcare professionals to sign “fit notes”

The Social Security (Medical Evidence) and Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/630) have been laid before Parliament. These regulations amend existing legislation on statements of fitness for work, or “fit notes”, to expand the category of people who can sign them for the purposes of SSP and social security claims. From 1 July 2022, the Social Security (Medical Evidence) Regulations 1976 (SI 1976/615) and the Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 1985 (SI 1985/1604) will be amended to allow registered nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists to sign these statements. The regulations also insert a definition of “healthcare professional” which includes doctors and the four new professions. It is hoped that this change will make it easier for patients to see GPs by reducing their workloads.

For more information please click here.

Government consults on changes to unit of measurement laws

The OPSS and BEIS have jointly launched a consultation to help inform plans to provide more choice over the units of measurement used in consumer transactions. The consultation is part of the government’s commitment to review the law on units of measurement following the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU). It explains that, because of the UK’s EU membership, metric units are required for most transactions and, while imperial units can generally be used alongside them, imperial units cannot be given more prominence than their metric equivalents. The consultation aims to explore the UK’s appetite to buy and sell more widely in imperial units. The government’s review is focused on domestic, consumer transactions, recognising that metric units remain essential for science and international trade. The consultation invites views from throughout the UK, although it acknowledges that it may not be possible to change measurement rules in Northern Ireland due to the Northern Ireland Protocol. The consultation seeks views from those affected including businesses, trade associations, enforcement authorities, consumers and consumer organisations. It specifically asks:

  • Businesses for opinions on the consequences of having the freedom to sell in imperial measures.
  • Consumers whether using imperial as the only or primary unit of measurement would impact their buying habits.
  • Local Authority Trading Standards for views on the potential impact on their regulatory activity, including any costs or benefits.

The consultation closes at 11.00 pm on 26 August 2022.

For more information please click here.


International Trade

Northern Ireland Protocol Bill introduced

On 13 June 2022, the government introduced the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which will amend the operation of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland to the UK-EU withdrawal agreement (Protocol) in the UK. The Bill, among other things, provides that certain provisions in the Protocol (and related provisions in the withdrawal agreement) do not have effect in the UK, and creates powers for ministers to make further provision. Areas addressed include:

  • The creation of a “green lane” for trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland in goods not destined for the EU, which will not be subject to customs checks.
  • The creation of a dual-regulatory regime for goods in Northern Ireland.
  • Revoking the application of EU state aid rules in Northern Ireland.
  • Ending the jurisdiction of the CJEU under the Protocol.
  • Allowing the government greater freedom to make changes to VAT, excise duties and other taxes in Northern Ireland.

The European Commission responded to the Bill stating that it would consider resuming previously launched infringement proceedings that had been put on hold and starting new infringement proceedings. It also hinted that action might be considered under the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement.

For more information please click here.

DIT publishes guidance on trading under sanctions with Russia

On 8 June 2022, the Department for International Trade (DIT) published guidance on trading under sanctions with Russia. The guidance provides a fairly high-level overview of the scope of the sanctions imposed against Russia under the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (SI 2019/855). The guidance also usefully identifies the prohibition on trading with Russia via a third country and the exceptions which currently exist which are set out in Part 7 of the Regulations. While the guidance is a helpful overview of the current regime, it is clearly not intended to be a substitute for a detailed analysis of whether a sanction applies in relation to a particular trading relationship. The responsibility for ensuring sanctions compliance remains on the company or individual who is engaged in the trade, and as the guidance reminds all, breach of a sanction is potentially a criminal offence.

For more information please click here.


Planning and housing

Government consults on definition of higher-risk building

The government has launched a consultation on what should constitute a higher-risk building under the Building Safety Act 2022 (BSA 2022). The BSA 2022 imposes a more onerous building safety regime on higher-risk buildings. It includes separate definitions of the term “higher-risk building” for the design and construction phase, and the occupation phase of a building (sections 31 and 65, BSA 2022). Both definitions are subject to detailed refinement by secondary legislation. The government has now begun a consultation on that secondary legislation. The consultation proposes defining a higher-risk building during both the design and construction and occupation phases to:

  • Include buildings of at least 18 metres in height or at least seven storeys, which comprise two or more residential units.
  • Exclude secure residential accommodation (such as prisons), temporary leisure establishments (such as hotels) and military premises.

However, the two regimes are not identical. During design and construction, the definition also includes care homes and hospitals, whereas those types of building are expressly excluded from the definition during occupation. The consultation document explains that this is because care homes and hospitals are workplaces during their occupation phase, meaning that all parts of such buildings are subject to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (SI 2005/1541) (RRO 2005), which has its own regime for ensuring that they are safe. (For more information on the RRO 2005, see Practice note, Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005). The consultation also proposes detailed methodologies for measuring the height of a building and how many storeys it comprises. The consultation relates only to England and the definition of a higher-risk building does not relate to buildings included in the leaseholder protection scheme or the government’s building remediation funds. The consultation ends on 21 July 2022.

For more information please click here.

Cladding ban regulations extended

The Building etc (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/603) were laid before Parliament on 1 June 2022 and will come into force on 1 December 2022, affecting England. The new Regulations build on previous secondary legislation, the Building (Amendment) Regulations 2018 (SI 2018/1230), which banned the use of combustible materials in the external walls of certain high-rise residential buildings. Among other things, the new Regulations:

  • Bring hotels, hostels and boarding houses within the cladding ban’s scope.
  • Completely ban the use of the type of metal composite material that was used on Grenfell Tower in the external walls of all new buildings and buildings undergoing building works, regardless of height or use.
  • Brings curtains and slats of solar shading devices within the cladding ban’s scope, with a limited exemption for ground floor awnings.

The government has also amended Approved Document B (Fire Safety) for England, adding new guidance for external walls and balconies for residential buildings between 11 and 18 metres in height. Those amendments will also take effect on 1 December 2022. These latest changes follow a government consultation on expanding the cladding ban that ended in May 2020.

For more information please click here.

Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) and Persons Subject to Immigration Control (Housing Authority Accommodation and Homelessness) (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2022 made

The Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) and Persons Subject to Immigration Control (Housing Authority Accommodation and Homelessness) (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/601) (regulations) have been made. The regulations, which will come into force on 22 June 2022, amend the:

  • Allocation of Housing and Homelessness (Eligibility) (England) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/1294) to ensure that certain individuals in the UK who have limited leave to remain granted in accordance with Appendix Ukraine Scheme of the Immigration Rules and have made their immigration application from within the UK, are eligible for an allocation of housing accommodation and for housing assistance (regulation 2).
  • Persons Subject to Immigration Control (Housing Authority Accommodation and Homelessness) Order 2000 (SI 2000/706) (regulation 3). The amendments will enable housing authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland to provide housing accommodation and housing authorities in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to provide homelessness assistance to those individuals referred to in regulation 2.

For more information please click here.


Upcoming webinars

In House Lawyer series – Legal professional privilege & Dispute resolution clauses

Join us for our webinar on Wednesday 29th June: 12noon – 1pm in which Nichola Evans, Partner, will explore the topic of dispute resolution clauses.

She will discuss:

  • Why are they needed?
  • Resolving disputes whilst staying within the contract.
  • Arbitration v legal proceedings in the courts of England and Wales.
  • Mediation

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

CPD Programme – Employment Tribunals

The final webinar in our CPD Programme focuses on dealing with employment tribunals. This will take place on Tuesday 28th June at 10am.

In this webinar we will cover:

  • Introduction and overview of Tribunals (structure, panel, jurisdictions – types of claims)
  • Responding to a claim/defending proceedings
  • Case management – disclosure and documents
  • Negotiations, ACAS and judicial mediation (including settlement agreements and COT3s)
  • Hearings, judgments, witnesses and evidence
  • Challenging judgments – appeals and reconsideration

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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