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Local Authority round-up 28/10/22

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

Council chiefs warn against ‘devastating’ cuts

The County Councils Network (CCN) has written to the new Chancellor warning him of the ‘devastating’ impact that another round of budget cuts will have on frontline services, particularly when combined with the current inflationary pressures. The CCN said that further cuts to local authority budgets after more than a decade of funding reductions will be ‘worse than austerity’. County authorities in England are currently facing £3.5 billion in inflationary and demand costs this year and next, which is more than double the expected rise, according to a CCN analysis. Rising costs of delivering day to day services due to inflation make up £2.86 billion of this figure, while projected rises in demand for these services are set to add £647 million to costs. In his letter to the Chancellor, Cllr Tim Oliver, CCN chairman and leader of Surrey County Council warned that the Treasury should be under “no illusions on what the impact will be on local services.” He further says “Between 2010 and 2018 local government took the brunt of austerity, with councils seeing their budgets halved. A return to this has set off alarm bells for council leaders, who year after year delivered savings to reduce the national deficit. Considering inflation and demand is set to add £3.5bn to our costs, this would be worse than the period of austerity and devastating for local services. We will be left with unpalatable decisions, with many likely to have to resort to a very basic ‘core offer’ level of services despite this ultimately being a false economy and adversely hitting the most vulnerable in our society.”

For more information please click here.


Regulatory

Council failed to offer support to visually-impaired individual

In March 2020, Leicestershire County Council (council) assessed the complainant (X) as having eligible support needs as a result of being visually impaired. These included in the areas of nutrition, personal hygiene and X using her home safely. However, no further action was taken as allegedly X had refused to proceed due to the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In December 2020, the RNIB contacted the council on X’s behalf seeking social care support for X, and several months later contacted again, highlighting that a care plan had still not been completed following X’s care needs assessment. A second care needs assessment was carried out by the council in March 2021 confirming X’s entitlement to 12 hours of weekly support. A financial assessment was also undertaken however, following a continued lack of communications from the council, the RNIB complained to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO). In January 2022, direct payments for a personal budget to X were finally made following a new care assessment and care and support plan. Following its investigation, the LGSCO exercised its discretion allowing the complaint to be made more than 12 months after the date of the first care assessment due to the circumstances. It also found the council to be at fault and that:

  • There had been significant delay by the council in undertaking X’s re-assessment, preparing her care and support plan, carrying out her financial assessment, and arranging her personal budget payments.
  • The lack of social care support from the council for over 21 months despite awareness of X’s eligible care needs, had caused X injustice. She had frequently burnt herself when cooking, had had several falls and had been unable to socialise during this time which had affected her emotional wellbeing.

On the basis of its findings, the LGSCO made a number of recommendations including paying X £7,220 to recognise the lost services to which she was entitled and a further £2,800 to recognise the distress caused by the lack of social care support and the delay in arranging it. The LGSCO also recommended that the council review its existing processes for preparing care and support plans and those assessments completed between March 2020 and March 2021 to identify where no support was provided despite eligible care needs being identified.

For more information please click here.


International Trade

House of Lords Constitution Committee publishes report on Northern Ireland Protocol Bill

On 20 October 2022, the House of Lords Constitution Committee published a report on the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill 2022-23. The role of the Constitution Committee (Committee) is to examine the constitutional implications of public Bills coming before the House of Lords. The report sets out the Committee’s views on the Bill to assist the House’s deliberations. The report sets out the Committee’s views on the Bill to assist the House’s deliberations. It includes the following points:

  • The principle of parliamentary sovereignty means that, as a matter of domestic law, it is possible for the UK Parliament to enact legislation which breaches the UK’s international law obligations. However, to do so would place the state in breach of its obligations on the international plane and undermine the rule of law.
  • In the Committee’s view, the enactment of the Bill in its current form would clearly breach the UK’s international obligations. The Committee does not accept the government’s reliance on the doctrine of necessity as justification for introducing legislation that disapplies its obligations under international law. The doctrine of necessity is narrowly construed and applicable only in exceptional circumstances, which have not been satisfied in this case.
  • It undermines the rule of law for the UK government to invite Parliament to pass legislation in breach of the UK’s international obligations. Enabling ministers to do this through secondary legislation is even less constitutionally acceptable. The exercise of a regulation-making power, such as that in clause 15(2) of the Bill which empowers the minister to use delegated legislation to disapply international law, risks placing ministers in breach of their obligation under the Ministerial Code to comply with the law, including international law.
  • The Bill would replace provisions in the Northern Ireland Protocol with regulations, in some cases without providing clear guidance in legislation on the content of those regulations. The Committee draws attention to inappropriate delegations of power in the Bill, and recommends the removal of many clauses and the narrowing of some powers.

For more information please click here.


Planning and housing

Levelling Up Committee issues plea for urgent reform of exempt housing sector

The current system of exempt accommodation, a type of supported housing used to house a range of people with support needs, is a “complete mess” and failing too many residents and local communities at the expense of the taxpayer, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee has said. In a report the committee said that it was clear from its inquiry that some residents’ experiences of exempt accommodation were ‘beyond disgraceful’, pointing to a breakdown of the system. The committee’s report calls on the Government to bring forward a series of urgent reforms for the sector to help boost the quality of exempt accommodation and support services. It also calls for action to close the loopholes in the current system which “offers a licence to print money to those who wish to exploit it.” The report recommends that the Government:

  • Introduce compulsory national minimum standards for exempt accommodation, including on referrals, care & support, and quality of housing
  • Give local councils the powers and resources to enforce these standards
  • Require all exempt accommodation providers to be registered
  • Create a National Oversight Committee to join-up existing regulators and mend the current ‘patchwork regulation’ “which has too many holes”
  • Ensure the providers of exempt accommodation for survivors of domestic abuse have recognised expertise to provide specialist support and a safe environment
  • Review the system of exempt housing benefit claims and clamp down on the exploitation of the lease-based exempt accommodation model for profit.

For more information please click here.


Upcoming events

Webinar – Housing Management Law School – Autumn term

The latest Autumn term of our Housing Management Law School will be held online via Zoom on 17th November at 10am. The Law School is free to attend and exists to deliver training to Registered Providers of Social Housing across the country, educating and updating their housing management staff with the essential legal knowledge that they need. As usual during this session, we will feature a roundup of recent pertinent case reports, alongside the regulatory and legislative changes affecting the housing law world. Our revision topic this term is succession in Social Housing: A timely revisit to the succession rules for secure and assured tenancies, the background law, the practical aspects and the all-important paperwork. The hot topic for the upcoming Autumn session is the charter for social housing residents. The social housing white paper was published in November 2020 and promised to improve the safety and quality of social housing, increase transparency of landlords, and provide tenants with an voice. We will look in detail at what the government has done, and proposes to do to meet these commitments.

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

Seminar: 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:

  • Latest Proposed Planning Reforms
  • Building Safety Act
  • Telecommunications Issues
  • Case Law Update
  • Update on Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022

The Seminar is taking place in person in our offices at Sandgate house, 102 Quayside, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 3DX.

For more information or to book a 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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