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Local Authority round-up 24/06/22

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

£7.8 million Woodland Creation Accelerator Fund announced

The government has announced the Woodland Creation Accelerator Fund which will provide councils with £7.8 million in order to train and employ new staff to plan and deliver new woodlands. At least 50 councils in England will receive a share of the funding, with each successful applicant receiving up to £150,000 each. The funding will be used to employ newly trained or currently employed staff as project managers, woodland creation officers, community engagement officers, funding consultants, or specialist advisors, such as landscape architects or archaeologists, who will focus on developing planting plans and applications for capital funding in 2023/2024 and 2024/2025. Sir William Worsley, Forestry Commission Chair, said “By investing in tree planting and woodland creation, local authorities can play a pivotal role in addressing the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. The Woodland Creation Accelerator Fund will help local authorities across England to turn aspirations into actions. This fund will help to increase the number of trained and experienced staff and expand our nation’s much-loved treescapes so everyone can benefit from the social, environmental and economic benefits they bring.”

For more information please click here.


Regulatory

Welsh Government publishes statutory guidance for community and town councils issued under Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021

The Welsh Government has published The Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021: Statutory Guidance for Community and Town Councils, which among others is intended to support eligible community councils in implementing the general power of competence set out in the Local Government and Elections (Wales) Act 2021 (LGE(W)A 2021). On the same date, the Welsh Government published the summary of responses that it had received to the earlier consultation issued on the draft guidance. The statutory guidance covers a number of issues, including:

  • The eligibility conditions that a community council must meet in order to exercise the general power of competence, the boundaries of the power and what happens to the agreements that eligible community councils, which then lose their eligibility, have entered into.
  • Multi-location meetings and what local authorities have to do. The LGE(W)A 2021 included a requirement that all community councils must make and publish arrangements for their meetings to enable individuals who are not in the same place to meet. The minimum requirement is that members are able to hear and be heard by others. While physical meetings in the same location are allowed under the LGE(W)A 2021, local authorities should note that there is a requirement under the LGE(W)A 2021 that participants (that is members of the council and the public and press) are able to join meetings remotely even if physical meetings are the preferred mode. Local authorities must publish these arrangements through standing orders.
  • Other provisions in the LGE(W)A 2021 that impact on community and town councils, including notices of the time and place of meetings of the full council, and which amend the Public Bodies (Admissions to Meetings) Act 1960.

For more information please click here.

New law to allow businesses to supply skilled agency workers to plug staffing gaps during industrial action

The government has announced a change in the law which will allow businesses to supply skilled agency workers to plug staffing gaps during industrial action. Under current trade union laws employment businesses are restricted from supplying temporary agency workers to fill duties by employees who are taking part in strikes. However, the changes brought in by the government will now remove this restriction in order to reduce disruption from strike action and, in addition, the government has also raised the damages cap businesses can claim against a union when a court finds a strike is unlawful. The change in law, which will apply across all sectors, is subject to parliamentary approval but are set to come into force over the coming weeks and will apply across England, Scotland and Wales. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said “Once again trade unions are holding the country to ransom by grinding crucial public services and businesses to a halt. The situation we are in is not sustainable. Repealing these 1970s-era restrictions will give businesses freedom to access fully skilled staff at speed, all while allowing people to get on with their lives uninterrupted to help keep the economy ticking.”

For more information please click here.


International Trade

European Commission responds to UK Bill with infringement proceedings

On 15 June 2022, the European Commission responded to the UK’s Northern Ireland Protocol Bill and the UK’s failure to implement the Protocol by issuing:

  • A reasoned opinion restarting paused infringement proceedings relating to the certification requirements for the movement of agri-food. These proceedings were started in March 2021 but paused in September 2021 to facilitate a negotiated solution between the EU and the UK.
  • Two letters of notice starting formal infringement proceedings relating to the UK’s failure to comply with sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules under the Protocol and failing to provide the EU with certain trade statistics data in respect of Northern Ireland, as required under the Protocol.

The UK government has two months to respond to each of these. If it is not satisfied, the Commission can take further steps including referring the case to the Court of Justice of the EU, which has jurisdiction under Article 12(4) of the Protocol. The Commission also published two position papers providing further details of the possible solutions it put forward for customs and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules in October 2021 to facilitate the movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland under the Protocol. In publishing the position papers, the Commission aims to show that solutions can be found within the Protocol. This directly addresses the UK government’s argument that the Bill is justified in unilaterally disapplying the Protocol in international law under the “doctrine of necessity”. The Commission has not at this stage taken steps to suspend or terminate parts of the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement (TCA), which could in turn see the reintroduction of tariffs and other trade barriers. However, the Commission keeps this possibility open for the future.

For more information please click here.

EFRA Committee reports on impact to farmers of free trade deal with Australia

An Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee has published a report on the food and agriculture provisions of the Australian free trade agreement. The Committee found that there had been missed opportunities in relation to animal welfare, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and environmental standards. It therefore made a number of recommendations regarding future trade agreements (FTA) including that the government should:

  • Adopt a system of core standards, which should make it easier for UK negotiators to get other countries to agree to meet equivalent standards to those in place in the UK. Core standards should be in place before any further FTAs that cover the food sector are agreed.
  • Produce a clear strategy for how it will use the forums created by the UK-Australia FTA to raise standards in the future.
  • Review the way it engages with the relevant sectors and the devolved administrations during negotiations to provide for meaningful two-way engagement.

EFRA noted there was a phased lifting of tariffs on Australian food and after 15 years there would be no limit on imports. The government should therefore monitor the impact on the sector closely over time and intervene as necessary. Additionally, EFRA calls on the government to aid the UK farming and food sector in making up the £278 million loss it estimates the sector will experience as a result of the free trade agreement, by allocating additional support for exports.

For more information please click here.

Free trade negotiations launched between the UK and the Gulf Cooperation Council

Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan launched free trade negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) this week which could see hundreds of Scottish businesses benefit. Ms Trevelyan travelled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to meet with GCC Secretary General, Dr Nayef Falah M. Al-Hajraf, and Saudi Arabian trade minister, Dr Majid Bin Abdullah Al Qasabi to begin trade talks. If successful, it is expected that the trade deal could be worth £1.6 billion more a year to the UK economy as a whole. Ms Trevelyan said “Today marks the next significant milestone in our 5-star year of trade as we step up the UK’s close relationship with the Gulf. Our current trading relationship was worth £33.1 billion in the last year alone. From our fantastic British food and drink to our outstanding financial services, I’m excited to open up new markets for UK businesses large and small, and supporting the more than ten thousand SMEs already exporting to the region.

For more information please click here.


Planning and housing

Draft regulations to amend smoke and carbon monoxide alarm rules published

A draft of the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (draft regulations) has been published. The draft regulations are expected to take effect from 1 October 2022. The draft regulations amend the Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm (England) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/1693) (Smoke Alarm Regulations) to make the following changes:

  • Social landlords will no longer be exempt from complying with the Smoke Alarm Regulations. As such, social landlords must ensure that at least one smoke alarm is installed on each storey of each of the dwellings they let under specified tenancies.
  • Both social and private landlords must ensure that a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm is installed in any room used as living accommodation with a fixed combustion appliance, which includes gas boilers. Gas cookers are expressly exempt. This is a widening of the CO alarm requirement, which currently applies where there is a solid fuel burning combustion appliance. The mandatory licence conditions for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) in England will be amended to reflect this change.
  • Landlords must repair or replace alarms once informed that they are faulty. This duty makes it clear that the landlord remains responsible for repairs to alarms during the term of the tenancy. Residents will remain responsible for testing the alarms and reporting any defects to the landlord.
  • The process for serving remedial notices is amended to require the local housing authority to consider written representations made by the landlord. The remedial notice will be suspended whilst the representations are considered.

For more information please click here.

Government publishes White Paper with various proposals for reform of the private residential sector

The government has published a White Paper A Fairer Private Rented Sector which sets out a number of proposed changes to the private residential sector in England including:

  • Improving the standards of homes and improving local councils’ enforcement powers. There will also be a new Property Portal, providing a single place for information for residential landlords and tenants, and for local authorities.
  • Reforms to dispute resolution procedures, targeting areas where there are unacceptable delays in court proceedings and strengthening mediation and alternative dispute resolution. There will be a new Ombudsman scheme which every private residential landlord must join.
  • Restrictions on residential rent increases in the rented sector, including a ban on rent review clauses, although there are no plans to reintroduce rent controls. Tenants will have better rights to challenge excessive rent increases.

The government intends to prevent “blanket” bans on tenants with children or those who are receiving benefits. There will be a right for tenants to request permission to keep a pet, which cannot be unreasonably refused. Landlords will be able to require pet insurance. The government intends to work with the rental industry to monitor solutions developed to deal with the problem of tenants not being able to use their existing tenancy deposit when moving to a new property. The White Paper reaffirms the government’s intention to abolish “no-fault” evictions under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 and to reform the grounds for possession available to landlords of ASTs under section 8 of that Act.

For more information please click here.

Croydon council to review how it looks after overcrowded families following Ombudsman report

London Borough of Croydon has agreed to review its services to homeless families in temporary accommodation, following a complaint being upheld by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO). A mother who was living in a bedsit with her four children complained to the LGSCO after the council did not do enough to review the suitability of her accommodation or provide additional support. The council has now agreed to apologise to the mother and arrange suitable alternative temporary accommodation for her as well as paying £300 a month from January 2021 to the date it finds her suitable accommodation and £200 to acknowledge the time and trouble in having to complain to the LGSCO. Following this decision, the council has agreed to review its policies and procedures for reviewing the suitability of temporary accommodation along with its policy for referrals between departments when supporting overcrowded families.

For more information please click here.


Upcoming webinars

In House Lawyer series – Dispute resolution clauses

Join us for our webinar on Wednesday 29th June: 12noon – 1pm in which Nichola Evans, Partner, will explore the topic of dispute resolution clauses.

She will discuss:

  • Why are they needed?
  • Resolving disputes whilst staying within the contract.
  • Arbitration v legal proceedings in the courts of England and Wales.
  • Mediation

For more information and to book your place, please click here.

CPD Programme – Employment Tribunals

The final webinar in our CPD Programme focuses on dealing with employment tribunals. This will take place on Tuesday 28th June at 10am.

In this webinar we will cover:

  • Introduction and overview of Tribunals (structure, panel, jurisdictions – types of claims)
  • Responding to a claim/defending proceedings
  • Case management – disclosure and documents
  • Negotiations, ACAS and judicial mediation (including settlement agreements and COT3s)
  • Hearings, judgments, witnesses and evidence
  • Challenging judgments – appeals and reconsideration

For more information and to book your place, please click here.

Global mobility matters

Join Flora Mewies and Roisin Patton on 12 July 2022 at 12pm as they chat about the issues and solutions of global mobility matters. Both of whom support national and international businesses daily, ensuring their workforce can be in the right place at the right time.

At the session we will cover:

  • The new global business mobility visa route that came into play in April 2022 – how this is different from other routes and the benefits for businesses
  • How the impact of Brexit/the end of freedom of movement is impacting our clients.
  • The ways in which you can recruit from overseas
  • Employing staff to work remotely from outside the UK
  • Real world examples – what to avoid and how to manage the process effectively

For more information and to book your place, 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.

This page may contain links that direct you to third party websites. We have no control over and are not responsible for the content, use by you or availability of those third party websites, for any products or services you buy through those sites or for the treatment of any personal information you provide to the third party.

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