June 27th, 2024 by James Goudie KC in General

Can a reorganisation/ mergers, involving the transfer of functions between public authorities, constitute a TUPE transfer? No : says the EAT in the NHS case of BICKNELL. This followed the EAT’s decision in NICHOLLS v CROYDON LBC (2019) ICR 542. The purchasing or commissioning  of goods or services not on the market is held not in itself to be capable of constituting an “ economic activity “ within the TUPE definition of a “ business transfer”. If the Croydon Council case is wrong, it requires the Court of Appeal to correct that.


FIOA Exemptions

November 24th, 2023 by James Goudie KC in General

In DEPARTMENT FOR BUSINESS AND TRADE v INFORMATION COMMISSIONER and MONTAGUE (2023) EWCA Civ 1378 the Court of Appeal has ruled that the public interest recognised in two or more different provisions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) exempting information from disclosure should be assessed in combination when determining whether that public interest outweighed the public interest in disclosure. In other words, the Court approved of aggregation.  It rejected the contention that the public interest recognises in each exemption provision should be weighed separately against the public interest in disclosure. Read more »



November 23rd, 2023 by James Goudie KC in General

An Arbitration Bill was introduced ( in the House of Lords ) on 21 November 2023. The Bill when enacted aims to give effect to Recommendations by the Law Commission to amend the Arbitration Act 1996 ( the 1996 Act ). The main provisions of the Bill are : (1) a new rule on the governing law of an Arbitration Agreement : Clause 1; (2) codification of an Arbitrator’s Duty of Disclosure; Clause 2; (3) strengthening of Arbitrator immunity around resignation and applications for removal : Clauses 3 & 4; (4) introduction of a power for Arbitrators to dispose summarily of issues which have no real prospect of success : Clause 7; (5) clarification of Court powers in support of emergency Arbitrators : Clause 8; (6) clarification of Court powers in respect of arbitral proceedings : Clause 9; and (7) a revised framework for jurisdiction  challenges under Section 67 of the 1996 Act : Clauses 10 & 11;


New Acts

October 27th, 2023 by James Goudie KC in General

The following Bills received Royal Assent and were enacted on 26 October 2023

  • Online Safety Act, on which see the 11 KBW Panopticon Blog
  • Worker Protection ( Amendment of Equality Act 2010 ) Act
  • Energy Act
  • Non-Domestic Rating Act, which makes a number of technical alterations
  • Procurement Act, which will replace existing Regulations
  • Levelling-up and Regeneration Act , including provisions in relation to devolution and planning environmental and  housing related reforms
  • Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act


Local Government Reorganisation

March 4th, 2022 by James Goudie KC in General

In R (Cumbria County Council) v SoS (2022) EWHC 388 (Admin) Fordham J. refused to the County Council’s renewed application on a number of grounds for permission to bring Judicial Review proceedings against a decision of the SoS, following Statutory Guidance and consultation, to split the County into 2 unitary authorities. There was no reasonable arguability with a realistic prospect of success.  The Statutory Guidance was not an unlawful departure from Government policy in relation to “minimum population size”. Nor had the SoS acted unlawfully with respect to the possibility of a Mayoral Combined Authority, the strengths and weaknesses of an East/West proposal and a single unitary proposal, or consistency with his North Yorkshire decision.


Houses in Multiple Occupation: December 2021

December 9th, 2021 by James Goudie KC in General, Housing

In Palmview Estates v Thurrock Council (2021) EWCA Civ 1871 the Court of Appeal consider the “reasonable excuse” defence in Section 75 (2) of the Housing Act 2004. There is a defence if, viewed objectively, there is reasonable excuse for having control of or managing a HMO without a licence. The reasonable excuse must relate to the activity of controlling or managing the HMO without a licence.



Can remote licensing hearings continue?

April 29th, 2021 by philipkolvin in General

Article written by Philip Kolvin QC for Local Government Lawyer.

Philip Kolvin QC asks whether the High Court’s decision that remote local authority meetings cannot continue without new legislation applies to licensing committee hearings.

Read more »


S 114 – (3) PWLB terms

November 26th, 2020 by Peter Oldham QC in Capital Finance and Companies, General, Judicial Control, Liability and Litigation, Local Authority Powers

Unlinked to any particular LA’s situation, the Government consulted earlier this year on revised Public Works Loan Board lending terms and guidance. The background was LAs’ involvement in the commercial property market as a means of increasing income, which had been the subject of much controversy over the years.  The extreme financial pressures now faced by LAs as a result of the pandemic brings this issue into particular focus. Yesterday (25th November 2020) the Treasury published its response to the consultation, and it can be found here.

As the consultation response explains:-

“In recent years a minority of local authorities have borrowed substantial sums from the PWLB to buy investment property with the primary aim of generating yield. The National Audit Office estimates that LAs bought £6.6bn of investment property between 2016-17 and 2018-19. The government is clear that this is not an appropriate use of PWLB loans.”

The response explains that from today, 26th November 2020, the PWLB (i.e. the Treasury) will apply a new approach to deciding whether to lend for a proposed project.  These include the following:-

“b) the PWLB will ask the finance director of the LA to confirm that there is no intention to buy investment assets primarily for yield at any point in the next three years. This assessment is based on the finance director’s professional interpretation of guidance issued alongside these lending terms.

c) It isn’t possible to reliably link particular loans to specific spending, so this restriction applies on a ‘whole plan’ basis – meaning that the PWLB will not lend to an LA that plans to buy investment assets primarily for yield anywhere in their capital plans, regardless of whether the transaction would notionally be financed from a source other than the PWLB.”

The response also announces that, now a workable system is in place to ensure that loans will “not be diverted into debt-for-yield activity”, PWLB lending rates from today for new Standard Rate and Certainty Rate loans will be reduced by 1%.

Peter Oldham QC


S 114 – (2) Croydon

November 26th, 2020 by Peter Oldham QC in Capital Finance and Companies, General, Judicial Control, Liability and Litigation, Local Authority Powers

On 11th November 2020, Croydon LBC’s s 151 officer wrote a report to the authority under s 114(3) of the LGFA 1988, which can be found here.  For the purposes of this series of posts, the interesting point is that the Council obtained clarification from CIPFA of the meaning of its guidance of June 2020, which I discussed in my earlier post today.

The s 151 officer’s report explains that in early September she issued a draft s 114 report to the Leader and others in the Council, and also sent it to the MHCLG, the LGA and the Council’s external auditors.  She explains that she did not issue a formal s 114 notice “as the conversations with MHCLG were ongoing”.  As we have seen, this was in accordance with the CIPFA guidance of June.

She reports that, on 6th November:-

“the Chief Executive of CIPFA clarified in a letter to Croydon Council that the modified guidance regarding the issue of S114 notices was as a direct result of costs incurred by the Covid19 pandemic. Croydon’s financial pressures are not all related to the pandemic.”

Stopping there, this clarifies the purpose of the CIPFA guidance of June 2020: that it was directed to pressures arising as a result of Covid. It was not meant to apply to situations where the financial crisis arose for other reasons, or other reasons as well.

The S 151 officer went on to explain that the financial pressures in Croydon also arose because of a misidentification of in-year savings as “new” savings; a greater risk of a group company, Brick by Brick, not making interest and dividend payments; a failure to identify medium term budget savings; and the continued incurring of non-essential costs. She also referred to the October report in the public interest under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 from the Council’s auditors (s 24, Sched 7), which had detailed its deteriorating financial resilience.  She said:-

“I am not seeing the necessary level of pace, urgency or radical options to be presented to members to take decisions upon to give me confidence that the Council can make the level of savings required to deliver a balance budget in year, without external support in the form of a capitalisation direction.”

Peter Oldham QC


S 114 – (1) CIPFA’s approach

November 26th, 2020 by Peter Oldham QC in Capital Finance and Companies, General, Judicial Control, Liability and Litigation, Local Authority Powers

This is the first of a short series of posts about s 114 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988. They look at (1) CIPFA’s approach announced in June 2020, (2) the s 114 notice in Croydon and (3) yesterday’s Treasury response to consultation about PWLB lending terms.

Under s 114(3) of the LGFA 1988:-

114(3)     The chief finance officer of a relevant authority shall make a report under this section if it appears to him that the expenditure of the authority incurred (including expenditure it proposes to incur) in a financial year is likely to exceed the resources (including sums borrowed) available to it to meet that expenditure.

In the light of the pandemic, and its impact on LAs’ finances, CIPFA put out this statement in June 2020 – and note the words “due to COVID-19” which I’ve put in bold, and whose significance I will pick up in my next post:-

“The role of S.114 in the current crisis has been the subject of understandable debate. This statement confirms that the statutory responsibilities of the CFO has not changed. However, CIPFA proposes that there should be a temporary modification to existing guidance in order to create an opportunity, within existing statutory limits, to enable an exploration of what further options and/or financial assistance may be available.

The proposed modifications are as follows:

  • At the earliest possible stage a CFO should make informal confidential contact with MHCLG to advise of financial concerns and a possible forthcoming S.114 requirement
  • The CFO should communicate the potential unbalanced budget position due to COVID-19 to MHCLG at the same time as providing a potential s 114 scenario report to the council executive (Cabinet) and the external auditor

In practice this means it should not normally be necessary for a s.114 report to be issued while discussions with the government that would address the issue are in progress.

It is important to note that this modification does not change the statutory responsibilities of S.151 officers.

Where there is any doubt the CFO should of course revert to the statutory requirements of S.114.”

Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive of CIPFA, was quoted on Room 151 as follows on 23rd June 2020:-

“These temporary changes are designed to facilitate dialogue between local and central government. Prior to these changes, difficult conversations remained both internal and informal, and councils were able to issue notices without involving central government beforehand. Due to current pressures, this can no longer be the case.

The additional breathing room created by these amendments should ensure that more finance directors are able to meet their statutory responsibilities, while avoiding a premature S.114 notice, and the resulting freeze on local spending that inevitably follows.

The modifications do not change the statutory duty of the Section 151 officer. Our hope is that they support local authorities to impress upon government both the urgency of the need for additional funding to deal with the current crisis, as well as the thorny issue of local government funding in its entirety.”

Private Eye ran the following story in early summer 2020:-

“According to a senior figure in local authority finances, the local government ministry feared that if one council issued a S114 notice, many others would swiftly follow. They said that Robert Jenrick’s Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, “…could cope with one or two S114 notices, but they wouldn’t be able to deal with 20 or 30”.”

CIPFA’s guidance was aimed at putting a buffer between LAs and the need to issue a s 114 notice, by strongly encouraging LAs to talk to the MHCLG “at the earliest possible stage”, as those discussions might “address the issue”.  But it made clear that – as was of course the case – this approach did not, and could not, alter the s 151 officer’s duties under s 114.

Peter Oldham QC