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Local Authority round-up 30/04/21

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.


Schools to share £1.8 billion for building repairs

The government has announced that £1.8 billion will be available to repair and maintain schools in England. This is a 20% increase in this financial year which the government said was to maintain school buildings and help ensure the condition of school buildings will not hold back any child back from achieving their potential. Councils have been allocated condition funding in accordance with the latest data on their estates. Schools minister Baroness Berridge said “I know teachers and heads are spending every hour of the working day thinking about how they can make sure the students at their schools recover from the impact of the pandemic, and making sure all children and staff remain safe following the welcome return to face to face teaching. Alongside our ambitious rebuilding programme for the schools in the worst condition, this government is making sure every school has the investment and financial support it needs to build back better for its students.”

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Court rules meetings of councils in England must be face to face from 7 May

Meetings held by councils in England under the Local Government Act 1972 must take place in person from 7 May when emergency regulations introduced in the early stages of the first lockdown expire, the Divisional Court has ruled. Lawyers in Local Government, the Association of Democratic Services Officers and Hertfordshire County Council had asked the court to decide whether, on the expiry of regulations made under the Coronavirus Act 2020 providing for council meetings held before 7 May 2021 to take place remotely, it would be lawful for such meetings to continue to be held remotely under pre-existing legislation. Mr Justice Chamberlain ruled that meetings under the 1972 Act must take place with the participants gathering face-to-face at a designated physical location. The court said “The decisions taken at these meetings may have significant legal consequences for third parties. It will often be necessary to decide whether a meeting is quorate or whether a majority of those present has voted in favour of a particular resolution. Questions of this kind can give rise to acrimonious disputes. This makes it important to have certainty about what constitutes attendance or presence at a meeting. Without such certainty, it may be unclear whether a particular decision has been validly taken or not. The differences between the conditions for remote attendance in the 2011 Welsh Measure, reg. 5(3) of the 2020 Regulations and the 2021 Welsh Act provide a vivid illustration of the different ways of deciding what counts as remote attendance. These pieces of subsequent legislation were not, of course, available to Parliament in 1972, but the importance of certainty on these matters would have been obvious even then.”

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International Trade

European Parliament backs UK trade deal

The European Parliament has now ratified the post-Brexit EU-UK trade with MEPs voting in favour by 660 votes to 5, while 32 abstained. The Trade and Co-operation Agreement, which has been operating provisionally since January, can now fully enter into force on 1 May 2021. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “This week is the final step in a long journey, providing stability to our new relationship with the EU as vital trading partners, close allies and sovereign equals.”

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Joint Economic and Trade Committee announced

The UK and Indonesia have announced the creation of a new Joint Economic and Trade Committee following the first round of trade talks. The Committee will help to promote and develop trade, investment and economic cooperation ties and address market access barriers affecting UK businesses trading with Indonesia. The International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss and Indonesia’s Minster of Trade, Muhammad Lutfi, have today also signed a Memorandum of Understanding. Liz Truss said “Today’s agreement sets out our ambitions to strengthen our trade and investment ties, deepen our collaboration across a range of sectors, from financial services and technology to renewables and open new markets for UK businesses. We want to strengthen trade links with like-minded countries like Indonesia who share our belief in democracy and the international rules-based system and help strengthen Global Britain’s dynamic partnerships with ASEAN and Southeast Asia.”

For more information please click here.

Planning and housing

New £150 million ‘Help to Build’ scheme announced

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced new plans which have been supported by over £150 million in government funding in order to make it easier and more affordable for people to build their own homes under a new ‘Help to Build’ scheme. Under the scheme new homes can be made to order or built from scratch, and will benefit small building firms as part of the government’s Plan for Jobs. Mr Jenrick said “Building your own home shouldn’t be the preserve of a small number of people, but a mainstream, realistic and affordable option for people across the country. That’s why we are making it easier and more affordable – backed by over £150 million new funding from the government. The scheme we have launched today will help the thousands of people who’d like to build their own home but who’ve not yet considered it or previously ruled it out. Our plans will help get more people on to the housing ladder, ensure homes suit people’s needs like home working or caring for relatives, whilst providing an important boost to small builders and businesses too.”

For more information please click here.

Housing Ombudsman launches damp and mould investigation

The Housing Ombudsman has launched an investigation after a review of its case data found 55% of cases featured damp and mould over the past two years, with £68,000 of compensation being ordered in the same period. The ombudsman is now calling for evidence to support a thematic investigation which will look at damp and mould and it is aiming to make recommendations to landlords and share best practice. It is seeking evidence submissions from member landlords and their residents, as well as from social housing professionals who feel they can contribute relevant evidence. The call for evidence will close on Friday 4 June 2021.

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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