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Local Authority round-up 18/02/22

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.


Newcastle and Gateshead councils call for £23 million to support CAZ roll-out

Councils in the North East are calling for urgent action from the Government to enable a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) support scheme for Tyneside taxi drivers and small businesses to go ahead. As part of their proposals, councils in Newcastle and Gateshead have requested £23 million to provide financial support to taxi drivers, companies and small business people who will need to upgrade their vehicles to reduce their emissions and avoid charges. Newcastle and Gateshead councils submitted final CAZ proposals to Government in October last year but are still waiting for ministerial approval along with details of how much funding will be offered to support those affected. The CAZ, which is due to launch in July 2022, is being implemented in response to a Government legal order requiring steps to be taken to reduce levels of pollution. The CAZ will cover most of Newcastle city centre and routes over the Tyne, Swing, High Level and Redheugh bridges. Charges to enter the CAZ will apply to taxis, vans, buses, coaches and HGVs that don’t meet national CAZ emissions standards. Private cars will not be affected. Cllr Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council, said “We are asking for what we believe is a fair and reasonable level of funding to help businesses on Tyneside avoid Clean Air Zone charges and reduce their impact on our air quality and the environment, which has benefits for us all.”

For more information please click here.

International Trade

UK to strengthen partnership with Australia

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to speak with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week via a secure video call in a bid to agree new measures to strengthen the UK’s partnership with Australia in defence, security, climate and trade. He is expected to announce £25 million for regional projects to strengthen resilience in cyberspace, state threats and maritime security. Mr Johnson said “The UK and Australia are working together to enhance regional security in the Indo-Pacific, drive innovation in science and green technology and boost opportunities for our businesses and citizens. Our nations are forging a new partnership from a historic alliance, fit for the next century and grounded in our shared priorities on security, democracy and free and fair trade.”

For more information please click here.

Planning and housing

Incorrect affordability exercise undertaken in relation to offer of accommodation

The Court of Appeal has held that a council wrongly deemed an affordability exercise in relation to an offer of accommodation to a homeless family to have been conducted properly in the absence of a specific challenge to the figures by the appellant. The appellant was a single parent of four children. She was in receipt of Universal Credit and had lived in London for some 35 years. She presented to the London Borough of Waltham Forest (council) as homeless and was placed in temporary accommodation in London. The council offered the appellant private sector rental accommodation in Stoke-on-Trent. In reaching the conclusion that the property was affordable for her, the council revisited income and outgoings figures which the appellant had provided in 2019. It struck out expenditure on public transport and repayment of debt, which made the property in Stoke-on-Trent just affordable on paper. The appellant requested a review but did not challenge the local authority’s figures. The review concluded that the property was affordable, and a County Court judge upheld that decision. Before the Court of Appeal, the appellant submitted that the council had not made sufficient enquiries and had erred by conducting the affordability assessment on figures which it had updated without her input. The Court of Appeal held that the whole process, including the review, formed part of the council’s discharge of its duty. It could not be said that no reasonable council could have failed to make further inquiries. The appellant had not mentioned the children’s father until the instant appeal, and an appellate court should be hesitant about finding an error of law where the reviewing officer had not been invited to consider a matter that was subsequently relied upon. It also found that the council had failed to prepare a budget by reference to the appellant’s needs, failed to pay due regard to the Homelessness (Suitability of Accommodation) Order 1996 (SI 1996/3204) and the Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities 2018, and had taken a course that would plunge the appellant further into debt. No reasonable council could have concluded that the Stoke-on-Trent property was affordable. Further, the Universal Credit standard allowances were not reflected in the council’s assessment and it had acted unreasonably in failing to make allowance for public transport costs or repayment of the appellant’s judgment debts.

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Government consults on regulations to disapply local connection tests for victims of domestic abuse applying for social housing

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has launched a consultation seeking views on proposals to introduce regulations to enable victims of domestic abuse who need to move to another council district to escape domestic abuse to qualify for an allocation of social housing in the new area. The consultation will also examine how councils in England are making use of the existing legislation and guidance to support victims who wish to move within and across council boundaries. The consultation, Local connection requirements for social housing for victims of domestic abuse, covers current priority given to domestic abuse victims for social housing allocations, social housing allocation qualification criteria for domestic abuse victims, scope of proposed regulations for removing residency requirements and local connection tests for domestic abuse victims who apply for social housing, ensuring a connection between housing allocation and domestic abuse, support for victims across the United Kingdom, exemption from residency and local connection tests for domestic abuse victims across different housing tenures, introducing accompanying statutory guidance alongside proposed regulations and joint working between councils. The consultation runs until 10 May 2022.

For more information please click here.

New measures announced to make industry pay for building safety

Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove has announced proposals which will force industry to pay to remove cladding and protect leaseholders from exorbitant costs. Under the proposals, the government will be able to block planning permission and building control sign-off where developers and product manufacturers have not helped to fix existing properties. This would prevent them from building and selling new homes. The government will also be able to apply its new building safety levy to more developments, with scope for higher rates for those who do not participate in finding a workable solution. The proposals also include new powers for the courts which will allow cladding companies to be sued and subject to fines for defective products. Mr Gove said “It is time to bring this scandal to an end, protect leaseholders and see the industry work together to deliver a solution. These measures will stop building owners passing all costs on to leaseholders and make sure any repairs are proportionate and necessary for their safety.”

For more information please click here.

Calls for bigger fines to be issued to rogue landlords

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has called for bigger fines to punish rogue landlords in order to protect renters in London. He is calling for the government to double available fines up to two years’ worth of the rent which tenants can claim back where their rented accommodation poses a risk of death or serious injury. He has further called for the power to introduce rent controls. Mr Khan said “I want to see tougher penalties for rogue operators and this action can only come from the Government. Poor housing conditions and exploitative rents have an awful impact on both the physical and mental health of tenants and these actions need to have consequences.”

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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