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Local Authority round-up 18/06/21

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.

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Support for councils to tackle Delta variant

Following the government’s announcement that the easing of lockdown restrictions, which was due to go ahead on 21 June, has now been delayed by a further four weeks, the government has announced additional support for some councils to help tackle the Delta variant of coronavirus. Birmingham, Blackpool, Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Liverpool City Region and Warrington councils, who have seen an increase in numbers in the area, will receive additional support including surge testing, tracing, isolation support and maximising vaccine uptake. Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said “We are doing everything we can to stop the spread of the Delta variant, and working with local authorities, we are providing a strengthened package of support in areas where cases of the variant are increasing.”

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£220 million funding for Holiday Activity and Food Programme

The government has announced that is providing £220 million in funding for councils in order for them to run the Holiday Activity and Food Programme which will provide children with food and activities during the school holidays. Parents are being urged to sign up to the programme. Children and families minister Vicky Ford said “Thousands of young people will continue to benefit from the expanded Holiday Activities and Food programme, which the Government is expanding across the whole country with investment of up to £220m. This summer it will continue to provide nutritious food, as well as activities like arts and crafts, sport, and music, to the children who would benefit the most – especially those eligible for free school meals.”

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Regulatory

Independent commissioners appointed to oversee improvements at Liverpool City Council

Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick has appointed independent commissioners to oversee improvements at Liverpool City Council after an independent report carried out in March uncovered multiple serious failures by Liverpool City Council in complying with its Best Value Duty. Failures included mismanagement, serious failures of governance, a lack of scrutiny and regard of public funds and a culture of intimidation at the council. The team of independent experts will now support the council to make rapid changes and will have the power to intervene if they are not satisfied with the councils improvements. Mr Jenrick said “The decision to intervene is not one I have taken lightly, and it reflects the severity of the failings at Liverpool City Council.  The people of Liverpool have been let down badly. They need to know that public funds are being managed properly. A major change is required to give this great city the civic leadership it deserves and the credibility and respect required to attract investment.”

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Welsh COVID-19 regulations eased

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No 5) (Wales) (Amendment) (No 11) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/668) (Regulations) were made on 4 June 2021. They amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1609) (Principal Regulations) with the primary effect being that from 6.00 am on 7 June 2021, the whole of Wales was moved to alert level 1. From that time the restrictions and requirements in Schedule 1 to the Principal Regulations took effect and the Regulations also amend Schedule 1. The key effect of the amendments on businesses is that, from 7 June 2021, various lockdown restrictions were relaxed, including that outdoor events can take place with up to 10,000 people seated or 4,000 people standing for each event, gatherings of 30 people at any outdoor premises, including outdoors in private gardens and regulated premises are permitted and 30 people can attend an indoor celebration of a marriage, formation of a civil partnership or alternative wedding ceremony, or an indoor celebration of the life of a deceased person. Most venues and businesses at level 1 have been able to reopen. However, there are a few types of venues that still cannot reopen, such as ice skating rinks and nightclubs.

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Government announces delay to easing lockdown restrictions

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that Step 4 of the governments roadmap out of lockdown will not go ahead on 21 June as planned and has instead been extended by a further four weeks. This is due to the rapid spread of the Delta variant. The lifting of the final lockdown restrictions are now due to go ahead on 19 July.  Mr Johnson said “now is the time to ease off the accelerator because by being cautious now we have the chance – in the next four weeks – to save many thousands of lives by vaccinating millions more people. And once the adults of this country have been overwhelmingly vaccinated, which is what we can achieve in a short space of time, we will be in a far stronger position to keep hospitalisations down, to live with this disease, and to complete our cautious but irreversible roadmap to freedom.”

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COVID vaccines to be mandatory for care home staff

The Government has confirmed that everyone working in a CQC-registered care home in England will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 under new legislation. This will apply to all care home staff unless they have a medical exemption. It will also apply to anyone required to enter into a care home for work purposes such as healthcare workers, tradespeople, hairdressers and beauticians and CQC inspectors but there will be exceptions for anyone visiting friends and family, under 18’s, emergency services and people undertaking urgent maintenance work. The rules are expected to come into force from October, subject to Parliamentary approval and a subsequent 16-week grace period. Further consultation will also be launched on whether to extend this to other health and social care settings.

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International Trade

Meeting of withdrawal agreement Joint Committee

Following the eighth meeting of the withdrawal agreement Joint Committee, held on 9 June 2021, the European Commission and the UK government issued separate statements. The Joint Committee’s co-chairs European Commission Vice-President Šefčovič and David Frost discussed the outstanding difficulties in the implementation of the withdrawal agreement, in particular in relation to citizens’ rights and the Northern Ireland Protocol. Both parties commended the extensive technical discussions that have already taken place on the Protocol. The UK statement set out the UK’s assessment of the state of play and expressed concern that substantive progress has not yet been made in many areas, including sanitary and phytosanitary/veterinary arrangements, arrangements further to reduce and remove burdens for trusted agri-food traders moving goods for use or consumption in Northern Ireland, and the application of tariff rate quotas for goods entering Northern Ireland. The UK said it would continue to work actively to find solutions, but that if solutions could not be found, the government would consider all options available for safeguarding peace, prosperity and stability in Northern Ireland. The EU statement emphasised that the Northern Ireland Protocol had been agreed by both the UK and the EU: there is “no alternative” to it. The Protocol’s full implementation is a priority for the EU, and the UK now has to choose between fulfilling its legal obligations and genuinely engaging with the EU or continuing along its “less than constructive path”.

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UK-Australia free trade deal agreed

A trade deal between the UK and Australia has been agreed between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison following a meeting which took place in London. The deal is the first to be built from scratch since the UK left the EU. Under the new Free Trade Agreement, British products such as cars, Scotch whisky, biscuits and ceramics will be cheaper to sell to Australia. Farmers will also be protected under the deal by a cap on tariff-free imports for 15 years, using tariff rate quotas and other safeguards. The deal also provides for Brits under the age of 35 to travel and work in Australia more freely. Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss, said “This deal delivers for Britain and shows what we can achieve as a sovereign trading nation. It is a fundamentally liberalising agreement that removes tariffs on all British goods, opens new opportunities for our services providers and tech firms, and makes it easier for our people to travel and work together.”

For more information please click here.


Planning and housing

Revised code of practice for right to rent scheme

A revised Landlord’s Code of Practice (Code) has been published and will come into force on 1 July 2021. From 1 July 2021, EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members require immigration status in the UK, in the same way as other foreign nationals. They can no longer rely on an EEA passport or national identity card to prove their right to rent. The right to rent scheme (Scheme) requires landlords of residential premises to check the immigration status of prospective tenants and other occupiers to ascertain whether those parties have the right to be in the UK under sections 20-37, Immigration Act 2014. The Scheme applies in England only. Many EEA citizens resident in the UK will have made an application to the EU Settlement Scheme and will have been provided with digital evidence of their UK immigration status. They will evidence their right to rent by sharing their immigration status digitally. Other EEA citizens may have another form of leave, held in a physical document, such as an endorsement in a passport or visa. Those documents are included in the prescribed document lists, providing landlords with a statutory excuse against liability for a civil penalty.

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£30 million invested in new homes for rough sleepers

Rough Sleeping and Housing Minister Eddie Hughes MP has announced £30 million in funding in order to provide 200 homes for rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness through a new social investment pilot. £15 million is being provided by the government and will be matched by an additional £15 million in funding from Big Society Capital, a leading social impact investor. The grant will fund the purchase of existing housing from the property market in partnership with local organisations and make them available at Local Housing Authority rent levels to ensure they remain affordable. Mr Hughes said “I am delighted to announce this partnership with Big Society Capital that will see a total of £30 million invested in new homes for rough sleepers. Over 37,000 people have been housed through Everyone In and this social investment pilot will help to provide additional settled accommodation and support to help rough sleepers off the streets permanently.”

For more information please click here.

Commercial eviction ban extended

The ban on landlords evicting firms for unpaid commercial rent is being extended for another nine months to 25 March 2022. The ban, which stops landlords taking tenants to court for non-payment, was due to end on 30 June but has now been extended due to the delay in easing lockdown restrictions. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that the government will introduce legislation in this session to ring-fence outstanding rent which has built up whilst they have been forced to remain closed due to the government’s lockdown restrictions. Landlords and tenants are expected to reach agreements for the unpaid rent moving forward which could include waiving some of the total amount or agreeing a longer-term repayment plan. However, the government has made it clear that where businesses are able to pay then they should do so. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said “Sorting out commercial rent debts will be key to enabling businesses to plan ahead with certainty and ultimately build back better from the pandemic. The new arbitration process will be underpinned by law, providing commercial tenants and landlords with peace of mind that Covid-related rent debts will be settled fairly, and with finality. In the meantime, I encourage landlords and tenants to keep working together to reach mutually beneficial agreements.”

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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