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Local Authority round-up 18/11/22

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

Government funds Blackpool Central project

Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove has announced £40 million government funding for a regeneration project in Blackpool. The Blackpool Central project, a £300 million private sector-led regeneration scheme, faced issues as it did not have sufficient funding to move the Magistrates and County Courts currently situated within the proposed site. Mr Gove has now announced the government will provide the funding to enable the courts to be moved into a town centre location so that the regeneration of the site can go ahead. Mr Gove said “Blackpool is a town full of life, energy, and immense potential but for too long it has been overlooked and its communities undervalued. Our £40 million Levelling Up investment will revitalise this great town by delivering much-needed homes, more jobs and new opportunities for local people.”

For more information please click here.


Regulatory

BEIS statutory guidance on Subsidy Control Act 2022

On 11 November 2022, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published the final version of its statutory guidance on the Subsidy Control Act 2022. The guidance explains the legal obligations on public authorities under the domestic subsidy control regime. It provides a framework for designing and awarding subsidies in a way which is consistent with the Subsidy Control Act. The guidance is designed to help public authorities award subsidies in a way which minimises any negative impacts to competition and investment, as well as promoting the effective and efficient use of public money. The guidance covers the following:

  • Whether the financial assistance to be provided by a public authority is considered to be a subsidy under the new subsidy control regime, including application of the four specific conditions set out in the Subsidy Control Act.
  • The subsidy control principles, including providing a four-part framework to support public authorities to design their subsidies in a way that is consistent with the principles.
  • Exemptions and permitted modifications to subsidies, including Minimal Financial Assistance, and exemptions for measures taken in response to natural disasters and natural or economic emergencies, and for reasons of national security and financial stability.
  • The provisions for public authorities to provide subsidies for Services of Public Economic Interest.
  • The categories of subsidy that are prohibited outright under the regime and the conditions certain subsidies must comply with, including, in particular, subsidies to support ailing or insolvent companies.
  • Application of the energy and environmental principles.
  • Subsidies and Schemes of Interest and Subsidies and Schemes of Particular Interest and referral to the Subsidy Advice Unit within the Competition and Markets Authority.
  • Transparency requirements and measures for the enforcement of the regime, including challenges to the Competition Appeal Tribunal, and misuse of subsidies.
  • Subsidies in primary legislation.

BEIS has also published a quick guide for public authorities to help understand the subsidy control rules established under the Subsidy Control Act and how they apply in practice.

For more information please click here.


Planning and housing

New £20 million fund to stop rogue landlords

Councils are being given access to a £20 million government fund to tackle landlords who exploit the supported housing system at the expense of vulnerable residents. The fund will be used to toughen up the inspection of failing landlords and ensure those who profit through benefit claims but fail to support their vulnerable residents are held to account. Under the new system, poor performing landlords will need to improve and provide better accommodation or face penalty notices of up to £30,000 and banned from operating. Housing secretary, Michael Gove, said “Time’s up for rogue landlords who take money from the taxpayer while exploiting vulnerable people. We are stepping in to help councils crack down on this appalling activity and I will be working closely with Bob Blackman MP on his Private Members’ Bill to deliver tough new laws to end this practice once and for all.

For more information please click here.

High Court quashes planning permission on basis of apparent bias of two members of planning committee

The High Court has quashed a planning permission decision on the grounds that participation in the decision-making by two members of the planning committee gave rise to an appearance of apparent bias. On 8 April 2022, South Somerset District Council (defendant) granted Ilminster Town Council’s (town council) application for planning permission for the erection of five self-contained buildings to store and facilitate the construction of carnival floats. The decision followed a close 6-5 vote by the defendant’s Area West Planning Committee (planning committee) in favour of grant at its meeting on 19 January 2022. The planning committee’s decision was challenged as unlawful by CPRE Somerset (claimant) on the basis that the decision was tainted by apparent bias on the part of its:

  • Chair (Councillor Jason Baker (Councillor B)) who was also a member of the Chard Carnival Committee and, in this capacity, had publicly supported the town council’s planning application. He was also a close affiliate of the South Somerset Carnival Park Committee, which acted as agent for the town council.
  • Vice-Chair (Councillor Brian Hamilton (Councillor H)), who was also Deputy Mayor of the town council, which had made the planning application.

The High Court, Chamberlain J, found that both councillors had been tainted by apparent bias and the decision to grant planning permission was unlawful. Therefore, Chamberlain J allowed the claimant’s judicial review application and quashed the planning permission decision. In doing so, the judge emphasised there was no allegation of actual bias against Councillors H and B and the court’s decision did not reflect adversely on their integrity and professionalism. Both councillors had been entirely open about their interests and had acted upon advice. Local authority officers, when advising members on the application, or otherwise of their local authority’s code of conduct, should give careful thought to how the particular code applies to whatever decision the council is making.

For more information please click here.


Upcoming webinars

Public sector property update

Taking place on the 29th November at 8am, the seminar will feature members of our dedicated public sector property team. They will ensure you are up-to-date with the latest developments and changes affecting property, land and estates in healthcare and the wider public sector. Topics covered will include the latest proposed planning reforms, Building Safety Act, telecommunications issues, case law update and an update on Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022. The Seminar is taking place in person in our offices at Sandgate House, Newcastle.

For more information or to book a place please click here.

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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