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Local Authority round-up 30/07/2021

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.

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North East councils receive additional COVID-19 support

From Monday 26 July the government has deployed additional support to the seven councils across Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham, and five councils in the Tees Valley in a bid to slow the growth of COVID-19 variants in the areas. The additional support package will be in place for five weeks and will allow for extra testing to be delivered as well as logistical support to maximise vaccine and testing uptake and further help for local public health campaigns. Public Health Minister Jo Churchill, said “By working in lockstep with local authorities and directors of public health, this additional support should help turn the tide on these growing case numbers and extend the wall of protection that vaccines is creating across the country.”

For more information please click here.

£30 million Changing Places toilets fund now open

The government has announced that the Changing Places toilet fund is now open for applications and is encouraging councils to apply for a share of the £30 million fund. The funding is to be used to install life-enhancing Changing Places toilets (CPTs) in their communities to provide facilities for those who cannot use standard accessible toilets. Ministerial Disability Champion Eddie Hughes MP said “Where people shop, go out, or travel should not be determined by their disability. That’s why the provision of Changing Places toilets is so important for people who cannot use standard accessible toilets. I hope local councils across England will apply for funding to install CPTs so everyone can enjoy the benefits of lockdown easing.”

For more information please click here.


Regulatory

Critical workers temporarily exempt from self-isolation rules

The guidance, NHS Test and Trace in the workplace (applicable in England), was updated on 22 July 2021, to add an exemption from self-isolation for workers in critical services. Separate arrangements are in place for frontline health and care staff. The exemption runs until 16 August 2021, which is the date that fully vaccinated close contacts will be exempt from self-isolation. It only permits the worker to leave self-isolation to undertake critical work and at all other times they should continue to self-isolate. To be eligible, various conditions must be met, with the emphasis being on the exceptional nature of the exemption. The worker must work in critical elements of national infrastructure and their absence would likely lead to the loss or comprise of this infrastructure, resulting in one or both of major detrimental impact on the availability, integrity or delivery of essential services (including significant loss of life or casualties) or significant impact on national security, national defence or the functioning of the state. In addition, the worker must be at least 14 days post-final vaccine dose and named in a letter received from a government department. Permission to attend work is contingent on following certain conditions agreed by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). Workers who test positive or develop symptoms are not eligible and should continue to self-isolate. Sectors covered by the exemption include energy, civil nuclear, digital infrastructure, food production and supply, waste, water, veterinary medicines, essential chemicals, essential transport, medicines, medical devices, clinical consumable supplies, emergency services, border control, essential defence outputs, and local government. Critical roles in sectors not specifically listed may be agreed on a case-by-case basis. Employers wishing to make use of the exemption need to contact the relevant government department for their sector with information on the number of workers proposed to leave self-isolation, their roles, the impact of failure to return those persons to work and when that impact will materialise. The exemptions will be agreed on a case-by-case basis daily by the relevant government department, the Cabinet Office and the DHSC. Eligible exempt workers will be confirmed in a letter to the employer together with measures that the employer and those workers must follow.

For more information please click here.


International Trade

EU publishes proposals on Northern Ireland Protocol

The EU has now published proposals for simplifying some aspects of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The European Commission has published two papers one of which relates to ensuring the continued supply of medicines from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Once the grace period ends, Northern Ireland will still be in the EU’s pharmaceutical regulatory system, unlike Great Britain meaning that it will be more difficult and more expensive for Northern Ireland to get medicines from Britain. To resolve this, the EU is now proposing that compliance functions can continue to be performed in Great Britain with certain conditions, including labelling and enhanced enforcement. The second paper which has been published by the EU relates to animals and food including guide dogs, tagging of livestock, taking animals to agriculture shows in Great Britain and permitting the re-import of EU food products which have been stored in Great Britain. The EU proposes that the requirement for Northern Ireland animals which are taken to Great Britain for agricultural shows and are required to stay there for six months before they can be brought home will be removed provided the animals were not staying in Great Britain for more than 15 days and other animal health precautions are adhered to. The EU also said that guide dogs can benefit from an existing flexibility in EU law but it needs a proposal from the UK on how to put that into operation.

For more information please click here and here.

EU pauses legal action against UK

The EU has paused its legal action against the UK for alleged breaches of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The action was started by the EU in March after the UK took steps to change the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol through delayed new checks on food, parcels and pets entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain which was in breach of the agreement. The UK have now published proposals to amend the protocol however the EU has said it is not willing to renegotiate the protocol and has now published its proposals to simplify some aspects of the protocol instead. A European Commission spokesperson said “With regards to the request for a standstill, the commission will carefully assess the new proposals made by the UK, in accordance with the necessary consultation procedures, both internally and with the European Parliament. In order to provide the necessary space to reflect on these issues and find durable solutions to the implementation of the protocol, we have decided at this stage not to move to the next stage of the infringement procedure, started in March.”

For more information please click here.

Changes to wine imports announced

Ministers have announced their intentions to remove VI-1 certification requirements for imported wine which could save wine consumers up to £130 million a year. The current requirement for a VI-1 certificate on all imports of wine into Great Britain would be removed which would save up to 10p on every bottle of imported wine. Food and Drink Minister Victoria Prentis said “Cutting this needless red tape will place our businesses in a stronger position internationally, as they continue to grow, while consumers can raise a glass to great wine from around the world. Great Britain is already a global hub in the international wine trade, supporting many jobs across the country. Ending the requirement for import certificates will strengthen this position and is a clear benefit of now having the freedom to determine our own rules.”

For more information please click here.


Planning and housing

New safe housing pilot for vulnerable rough sleepers

Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing Eddie Hughes has announced the Respite Rooms Trial Programme which aims to fund a safe housing pilot and provide expert support for vulnerable rough sleepers. Under the programme, twelve areas (Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, Birmingham, Bristol, Camden, Hastings and East Sussex, Exeter, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Portsmouth and Westminster) will receive a share of £3.7 million to provide accommodation and expert support for victims of violence and abuse including those who have experienced domestic abuse, sexual assault, rape, physical assault, stalking/harassment, exploitation by other rough sleepers and sex work. The funding will enable them to create 140 bed spaces and support up to 1,100 people at risk of sleeping rough over a 12 month period. Mr Hughes said “Survivors of domestic abuse, sexual violence or physical violence need a safe place of refuge to escape these crimes and rebuild their lives. These respite rooms will provide a safe space and ensure vulnerable people at risk of sleeping rough are supported in safe housing with expert advice and counselling.”

For more information please click here.

Select committee calls on Government to pause any further extensions of permitted development rights pending review

A report by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, “Permitted Development Rights”, has called for the Government to pause any further extensions of permitted development rights (PDRs) for change of use to residential and conduct a review of the role of such PDRs in the wider planning system. The report highlights concern that “some homes built under PDR policy are of poor quality and that recent changes to PDR could undermine attempts to revitalise the high street and the ability of local authorities to plan development and shape communities.” The report’s recommendations include that the Government should pause any further extensions of permitted development for change of use to residential, including the new class MA right, which is due to take effect on 1 August, conduct a review of the role of PDRs for change of use to residential within the wider planning system and explain how it aligns with plan-led development and local democratic involvement and consider amending the prior approval process to require PDR housing to have outdoor private or communal amenity space, and to enable councils to require that PDR housing contributes overall to the delivery of the right mix of housing for their area. In particular, the report recommends that councils be able to prevent the siting of homes in inappropriate locations, such as business and industrial parks.

For more information please click here.

Planning applications made in flood risk areas must be referred

The government has announced that under new guidance published this week, all councils must refer planning applications made in flood risk areas to ministers for approval as part of the Government’s Flood and Coastal Erosion Investment Plan. The government has also said that it is considering applying equivalent rules for planning decisions in areas at risk from surface water flooding in the future. Communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, said “Our planning reforms will ensure that communities across the country know that future developments will be safe from floods. This new guidance will help local communities become more flood resilient by providing local authorities with the right tools to consider how flood risk can be prevented when planning for new homes.”

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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