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Local Authority round-up 21/10/22

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

New Chancellor brings forward medium-term fiscal plan measures

The newly appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, has brought forward medium-term fiscal plan measures which were due to be announced by the government on 31 October 2022. Many of these reverse measures laid out in the September 2022 Autumn Statement by the previous Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng. Key points relevant to the public sector include:

  • A review of household and business energy bill support from April 2023, once the Energy Bill Relief Scheme (EBRS) ends. The EBRS is a temporary six-month scheme that is intended to protect businesses and other non-domestic energy users, including charities and public sector organisations, such as schools, hospitals and care homes, from rising energy bills by providing a discount on wholesale gas and electricity unit prices. Discounts will be applied to energy usage initially between 1 October 2022 and 31 March 2023.
  • The government’s reversal of the Health and Social Care Levy and the 1.25% increase in the rate of some National Insurance contributions that took effect from April 2022 will still remain.
  • The introduction of low-tax investment zones will still remain.

The Chancellor also confirmed that to lower debt in the medium term and to ensure that taxpayers’ money is well spent, government departments will be asked to find efficiencies within their budgets. However, concerns have already been raised by those in local government of the likely adverse impact on public services that any further cuts to public spending are likely to cause. Further changes to fiscal policy are expected to be announced on 31 October 2022.

For more information please click here.


Regulatory

MPs say Defra “not doing enough” to help local authorities tackle fly-tipping

The Public Accounts Committee has called on the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) to work with local authorities to set a national framework for tackling fly-tipping. In a report they published, the committee made the recommendation after concluding that Defra “is not doing enough” to support local authorities in tackling fly-tipping. The recommendation came as part of a report into the progress of the Resources and Waste Strategy, which set out plans to eradicate all waste crime in England by 2043. Commenting on fly-tipping in particular, the committee said: “Defra is adamant that it is the responsibility of local authorities to tackle fly-tipping, supported by guidance and powers to impose sanctions that Defra develops and provides. Yet local authorities’ clear duty is to clear fly-tipped waste from land it controls, while investigating fly-tipping or tackling the perpetrators are choices constrained by local authorities’ limited resources; different local authorities show highly variable practice.” In light of the findings, the committee recommended that Defra work with local authorities to set a clear national framework for tackling fly-tipping to set overall expectations and promote good practice “while allowing local authorities the flexibility to respond to local circumstances.”

For more information please click here.


Planning and housing

Council can consider application to register land as village green after Planning Court rejects claims of “trigger event”

Kent County Council can determine an application to register a village green after a High Court judge dismissed a claim from a developer that a ‘trigger event’ had occurred so as to prevent the site from being registered. Mr Justice Holgate was asked by housebuilder Bellway Homes to make a declaration that the local authority had no jurisdiction to entertain the application to register the land at Two Fields, Westbere as a green under the Commons Act 2006. The 2006 Act allowed land used for “lawful sports and pastimes” for at least 20 years to be designated a green, so preventing most forms of development. The Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013 disapplied this right if a ‘trigger event’ occurred including where a development plan document identifies the land in question “for potential development.” Holgate J said “The central issue in this case is whether land included in a ‘green gap’ to which Policy OS6 of the Canterbury District Local Plan applies, is to be treated as having been identified by that plan for potential development.” Bellway in 2019 told Kent it believed a trigger event had taken place with the local plan and the council took legal advice and later appointed leading counsel David Forsdick KC to hold an inquiry who concluded no trigger event had occurred and Bellway then asked the court for a declaration that the right to make an application had ceased. The judge said “Given that the occurrence of a trigger event disapplies the right of a citizen to apply for the registration of a [green], I do not consider that a registration authority’s decision on that issue is to be treated as a matter of judgment reviewable only on Wednesbury principles. The issue whether a development plan identifies land for potential development is a question of precedent or jurisdictional fact.” He further said “Parliament can only have intended to deal with conflicts on issues of this nature which are real. In other words, a realistic, rather than a theoretical, approach should be taken to whether a development plan identifies an area of land for potential development.” Holgate J noted the land concerned lay outside a settlement boundary and the local plan did not suggest any need for development in any green gaps. He said “On any view [the] Policy imposes a relatively strict form of development control. It certainly does not amount to any positive encouragement of development.” He also added that he had reached “the firm conclusion that Policy OS6 does not identify land for potential development. Whether Policy OS6 should be treated as positive or as encouraging development in Green Gaps depends upon taking a realistic, sensible approach to the substance of the policy and its objectives. The policy is concerned to protect land which has been specifically selected for inclusion in a Green Gap because of its vulnerability to coalescence through development, even minor development associated with rural and recreational activities. It does not seek to identify all land within the Green Gaps, or any part of that land, for potential development.” The judge said Kent was entitled to a declaration that the application site did not fall within para. 4 of schedule 1A to the 2006 Act and that it had jurisdiction to determine the application to register a green.

For more information please click here.

Social Housing Regulation Bill

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has announced changes to the Social Housing Regulation Bill which will strengthen the powers of the Regulator of Social Housing to improve social housing standards. Social housing providers will have to ensure that all their staff meet competency standards by ensuring they have the right skills, experience and knowledge to deliver a high-quality service for residents. The new standard will be set out and enforced by the Regulator of Social Housing. The Regulator of Social Housing will also have a legal duty to publish a plan on its commitment to regularly inspect the largest landlords, including details on how often these will happen. Minister for Housing Andrew Stephenson MP said “This Bill marks a revolution in the way we regulate social housing, making sure landlords put things right when they go wrong. For the first time there will be a professional standard that social landlords have to meet, along with increased inspections on the biggest providers. This is a vital step as we deliver on our mission to half the number of poor-quality rented homes by 2030 and level up the nation.”

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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