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Local Authority round-up – 21/05/21

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.

Commercial

Councils to receive £203 million Rough Sleeping Initiative funding

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that a further £203 million of funding will be provided to councils in order to help more rough sleepers off the streets and into safe accommodation. The funding will be allocated to councils across England and will be used by councils, charities and other local groups to fund additional bed spaces and extra support staff who can provide specialist mental health or additional services and targeted support to help the homeless. Mr Jenrick said “Ending rough sleeping is a personal mission for the Prime Minister and me – and we have made huge progress since he came into No.10, reducing rough sleeping by 43%. To build on this progress, we are making the biggest ever investment under the Rough Sleeping Initiative to provide vital services to those who need it most, as part of our drive to end rough sleeping for good.”

For more information please click here.

English high streets to receive a share of over £830 million

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced that 72 high streets across England will share over £830 million to help them reopen and recover from the pandemic as part of the government’s levelling up agenda. The funding, which will be provided from the Future High Streets Fund, will be allocated to areas to enable them to improve transport links, build new homes and transform underused spaces. A further 57 high streets who will benefit from the funding have also been announced.

For more information please click here.


Regulatory

Council secures injunction against residents to stop them living in unsafe house

Thurrock Council has been granted an interim injunction by the High Court to prevent two residents living in an unsafe House in Multiple Occupation, which is believed to be the first injunction of its kind to be granted in the UK. The residents of the property had continued to live it in after a prohibition order was issued when the house was found to be unsafe for habitation. The injunction has been granted to prevent occupation of the property for not complying with the prohibition order.  Cllr Rob Gledhill, leader of Thurrock Council, said “The residents living in the building were being treated unfairly and were enticed by cheap rent in exchange for not only poor but dangerous living conditions. The council’s swift action meant we were able to ensure they moved out of a dangerous property. This High Court decision could lead the way for other authorities who may find themselves in the same situation to use our judgment as case law.”

For more information please click here.

Councils win court battle over business rates

Councils could be in line for hundreds of millions of pounds in business rates following last week’s landmark ruling in which the Supreme Court concluded that there was a triable issue whether the respondents remained liable for business rates throughout the duration of the leases and held the councils claims should not be struck out. Rossendale Borough Council and Wigan Council brought test cases over whether they had reasonable grounds for claiming non-domestic rates (NDR) on certain empty properties from the respondent companies. Hurstwood Properties, had been using a rates avoidance scheme which involved granting a short lease of an unoccupied property to a special purpose vehicle (SPV), such that the SPV became the ‘owner’ and liable to non-domestic rates liability rather than the respondent company. The SPV was then dissolved or put into liquidation to escape rates liability. Rossendale and Wigan councils claimed that they were entitled to the unpaid business rates from the respondents, either because the lease to the SPV was ineffective to make the SPV the ‘owner’ of the unoccupied property under the Local Government Finance Act 1988 or that the SPV’s separate legal personality should be ignored.

For more information please click here.


Planning and housing

Summer Learning Programme launched to help councils

Homes England is inviting council officers to join a Summer Learning Programme aimed at sharing knowledge on topics ranging from effective project management to principles of market failure in a bid to provide enhanced support for their home-building efforts. The programme will run from 14 to 25 June and is available to book online. Peter Freeman, Chair of Homes England, said “Effective partnerships are essential if we are to build the homes the country needs, so it is vital that we offer accessible tools, skills, funding and people. I’d like to thank our local government colleagues for their input as we’ve developed the capacity centre. I’m confident it marks a real step forward – so please join us on the summer learning programme where we can build deeper and more fruitful partnerships.”

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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