Local Authority round-up 17/11/23
17th November, 2023
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.
Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) publishes report on the role of the Local Authority Monitoring Officer
On the 10th November 2023, the LGIU published The Changing Role of the Monitoring Officer. The report is based on research from Monitoring Officers (MOs) from English local authorities.
MOs are appointed under section 5 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 and have a legal responsibility to ensure local authorities satisfy their statutory duties, act within the law and apply relevant codes of conduct.
The report describes local authority MOs as playing a “crucial role that is coming under severe pressure” and identifies two key reasons for this:
- A reduction in local authority funding has limited the resources MOs have for performing their own roles, and for the services they oversee. Salary reductions have undermined the status of MOs within the governance structure of local authorities, and thus made role recruitment and retention more difficult.
- MOs reported that local authorities have limited powers of sanction even when dealing with “proven cases of rule breaking”. This is said to have created a “culture of disrespect and contempt for the rules and the institutional frameworks that govern them”. This has resulted in the role of the MO being increasingly difficult to fulfil directly, and creates a heightened risk of governance failure.
The report emphasises that MOs improve governance and mitigates risks. In the view of the LGIU, MOs should be considered part of a “golden triangle” of senior council officers, and should therefore be in communication with council leaders and party leaders. The report makes clear that were these changes put into effect, the role of MOs would be most effective.
For more information please click here.
Planning and housing
Proposed changes to Renters (Reform) Bill seek to protect the most vulnerable
The Renters (Reform) Bill is subject to proposed changes which seek to protect vulnerable residents and improve the decency and safety of homes for tenants.
The Government has announced potential amendments to make it illegal for landlords and agents to have blanket bans on renting to those who receive benefits or who have children. This is to ensure families are not discriminated against and is a key safeguarding measure for the most vulnerable.
Alongside this, a Decent Homes Standard (DHS) will be applied to the private rented sector for the first time. The new standard will set a clear bar for what tenants should expect from their home, ensuring it is safe, warm and decent.
To enforce this, Local Authorities will be given new powers to require landlords to make properties decent, with fines up to £30,000 or a banning order in the worse cases. Councils will also be given stronger powers to investigate landlords who rent substandard homes, providing them with the tools they need to identify and take enforcement action against the criminal minority. It is hoped that these amendments will help to meet the target of reducing non-decency in rented homes by 50% by 2030.
These amendments are currently being considered at the Committee Stage for the Bill in the House of Commons.
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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