Structural and Boundary Changes

December 7th, 2018 by James Goudie QC in Local Authority Powers

The Local Government (Structural and Boundary Changes) (Amendment) Regulations 2018, S.I. 2018/1296, will come into force on 2 January 2019. The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 Part 1 provides for structural and boundary changes in relation to local government areas in England.  These Regulations, made under Section 14 of the 2007 Act, make incidental, consequential, transitional and supplementary provision of general application in relation to the exercise of certain functions for the purposes of, and in consequence of, Orders made by the Secretary of State under Sections 7 and 10 of the 2007 Act.  Part 1 of these Regulations amends Regulations previously made under Section 14 of the 2007 Act.  Part 2 of the Regulations makes provision to specify the dates on which the collection funds and general funds of councils established under a Section 10 Order must be established in accordance with the provisions of the Local Government Finance Act 1988, and modifies relevant provisions of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 to allow those councils, in setting their council tax, to take account of precepts which may be issued by charter trustees which may be established under a Section 10 Order.

 

Suspension of Employee

November 30th, 2018 by James Goudie QC in Local Authority Powers

In Ardron v Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (2018) EWHC 3157 (QB) the NHS Trust was proceeding with a disciplinary hearing, alleging gross misconduct, by way of gross negligence.  The Claimant sought an injunction to prevent the hearing.  Jacobs J dismissed the claim.  His holdings included (paragraphs 116-118) that the Trust had a prima facie case that the Claimant’s conduct amounted to a breach of its relationship of trust and confidence with her.  He held that the absence of a sustainable case on breach of trust and confidence was not demonstrated by the fact that the employee was not suspended and continued to work, when specific monitoring measures had been put in place, the allegations against her had not yet been proved, and the outcome of the disciplinary process was not being prejudged.

 

Pension Increases

November 30th, 2018 by James Goudie QC in Local Authority Powers

The Superannuation Act 1972 confers a general power to establish public sector pension schemes, and make their rules.  However, indexation increases are governed by the Social Security Pensions Act 1975: so held by a Divisional Court in R (BT) v HMT (2018) EWHC 3251 (Admin) at paragraph 156.

 

BREXIT

November 12th, 2018 by James Goudie QC in Local Authority Powers

The Local Government (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018 amend four statutory instruments in the field of local government finance legislation in consequence of the UK’s exit from the European Union. They amend the definition of a “prescribed educational establishment” in the Council Tax (Discount Disregards) Order 1992 (S.I. 1992/548) so that those institutions in the UK continue to be included in this definition after the UK leaves the EU; remove the definition of “prescribed investment” from the Local Authorities (Funds) (England) Regulations 1992 (S.I. 1992/2428), amend the Local Authorities (Contracting Out of Investment Functions) Order 1996 (S.I. 1996/1883) to remove references to qualifications from other member states and amend the definition of “money market fund” in the Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (England) Regulations 2003 (S.I. 2003/3146).

 

Local Government Reorganisation

August 14th, 2018 by James Goudie QC in Local Authority Powers

R ( Christchurch BC ) v SOS for HCLG ( 2018 ) EWHC 2126 ( Admin ) concerned a challenge by the Council to the decision of the SOS to use his power in section 15 of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016 to lay Regulations before Parliament to amend the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 to enable a proposal to reorganise local Government in Dorset which would abolish all the existing Dorset authorities. The challenge failed. The Council argued that the Regulations were ultra vires and unlawful because they were retrospective. The proposal was in existence before the Regulations came into effect. Sir Ross Cranston rejected this argument. He held that there was no vice of retrospectively and no unfairness and that in any event the Regulations are procedural in character and any presumption against retrospectively does not apply. He also found that the claim had not been brought promptly and that there was no justification for an extension of time.

 

Boycotts

June 7th, 2018 by James Goudie QC in Local Authority Powers

In R (Palestine Solidarity Campaign Ltd) v SoS for CLG (2018) EWCA Civ 1284 the Court of Appeal allowed the SoS’s appeal against a declaration at (2017) EWHC 1502 (Admin) that part of his statutory Guidance relating to the Investment Strategy of local authorities administering local government pension schemes was unlawful.  The Court of Appeal ruled that the SoS was within the broad discretion afforded to him by the Public Service Pensions Act 2013 in issuing Guidance on non-financial considerations, including those of wider public interest, such as foreign and defence policy.  Nor was the relevant passage in the Guidance contrary to Article 18 of Directive 2003/41/EC on the activities and supervision of institutions for occupational retirement provision (“the IORP Directive”), which it was common ground applies in relation to the LGPS.  The Guidance included a summary requirement that administering authorities “should not pursue policies that are contrary to UK foreign policy or UK defence policy”, with a fuller statement in the accompanying text that “using pension policies to pursue boycotts, divestment and sanctions against foreign nations and UK defence industries are [sic] inappropriate, other than where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government”. Read more »

 

Public Health

November 11th, 2016 by James Goudie QC in Local Authority Powers

The appeal has been dismissed in National Aids Trust v NHS Commissioning Board and the Local Government Association [2016] EWCA Civ 1100.  NHS England does have the power to commission an anti-retroviral drug for use on a preventative basis for those at high risk of contracting HIV.  The question at the root of the appeal was out of whose budget the cost of medication is to be paid: the budget of NHS England; or that of local authorities.  The answer is NHS England.  This is because it is not a public health function for the purposes of the Health and Social Care Act 2012.  However, it is not possible to draw the dividing line between public health and non-public functions neatly along the lines between the prevention of ill-health and its treatment. There is no simple criterion for defining the boundaries of public health functions in a borderline case.  However, in circumstances where public health functions are not defined and the boundary line between local authority public health functions and NHS non-public-health functions is not clearly drawn in the primary legislation, it is legitimate to refer to where it is drawn in the related secondary legislation.

 

Public health functions

August 2nd, 2016 by James Goudie QC in Local Authority Powers

National AIDS Trust v NHS England (2016) EWHC 2005 (Admin) is a challenge to a decision of NHS England to refuse to consider in its commissioning process an anti-retroviral drug to be used on a preventative basis for those at high risk of contracting AIDS. NHS England argued that it had no power to do so under the governing legislation, the National Health Service Act 2006.

It argued that it did not have power to perform “public health functions” that are carried out by local authorities or the SOS pursuant to their respective statutory powers and duties. NHS England further argued that, pursuant to 2013 Regulations promulgated by the SOS there is now a division of labour between NHS England and local authorities, with the latter assuming responsibility for preventative medicine in relation to sexually transmitted diseases.

The local authorities disagreed. They were represented in the litigation by the LG A. At its core the judicial review was about the allocation of budgetary responsibility in the health field.

Green J concluded that NHS England had erred in law in deciding that it had no power or duty to commission the preventative drugs in issue. It has a broad preventative role and commensurate powers and duties. In any event preventative treatments facilitate and/or are conducive and/or are incidental to the discharge of its broader statutory functions. 

 

Charges for water and sewage services

March 8th, 2016 by James Goudie QC in Local Authority Powers

Newey J described the point in Jones v Southwark LBC [2016] EWHC 457 (Ch) as being one of “considerable importance”.  This was both because Southwark itself had numerous tenants who could be affected, and because it could have implications for other landlords.

The point arose in this way. For decades, Southwark had collected from many of its tenants, including the claimant, charges for water and sewerage services.  These services were supplied to the properties by Thames Water.

The questions raised by the case were, first, whether the Water Resale Order 2006 (“the 2006 Order”) applied to these arrangements, and, second, if it did, whether Southwark had charged its tenants more than was permissible under the 2006 Order. The answers turned, in part, on whether Southwark had been acting as an agent or had been buying and re-selling the services.

The Judge concluded that the relationship between Thames Water and Southwark was not one of principal and agent, but involved Southwark buying water and sewerage services from Thames Water and re-selling them to its tenants; as a result ,the 2006 Order did apply and served to limit what tenants could be charged; and the amounts that Southwark charged Miss Jones exceeded the “maximum charge” allowed under the 2006 Order.

 

Benefit fraud

February 19th, 2016 by James Goudie QC in Local Authority Powers

A DWP Consultation, for response by 31 March 2016, seeks views on a revised “Social Security Fraud Act 2001 Code of Practice on Obtaining Information”. The current Code is from 2002.  The Welfare Reform Act 2007 (Sections 46 to 48) extended local authority investigation powers to enable local authorities to investigate and prosecute fraud against certain DWP benefits alongside offences committed against Housing and Council Tax Benefit. These sections commenced in April 2008 and empower local authorities to investigate and prosecute certain DWP benefits providing there is a linked Housing/Council Tax Benefit claim. The required changes have been incorporated into Appendix 3 of the Code.

The Welfare Reform Act 2012 (Sections 122 and 123) extended the definition of social security benefits to include tax credits and child tax credits, for the purposes of Sections 109A (Authorisations for investigators) and Section 109B (Power to require information) of the Administration Act, when investigating benefit offences. These Sections commenced in April 2013, therefore tax credits and child tax credits are treated as social security benefits and are subject to those provisions and the revised Code.

Other amendments due to operational changes in the DWP have been incorporated into the Code, mainly the creation of DWP’s Fraud and Error Service, which will enable a single fraud investigation to be undertaken to investigate all social security benefits, including those currently administered by local authorities and HMRC. The reference to local authority powers in the Code is relevant whilst individual local authorities still have Authorised Officers or investigation staff undertaking social security benefit fraud investigations. Once a local authority benefit investigation team transfers into DWP that local authority will no longer be bound by the Code.

There are changes to the layout of the Code, with the aim of making it clearer and simpler to use. This includes the introduction of five new appendices providing the more detailed information on who can be required to provide information, examples of the type of information that may be requested, when and about whom may Authorised Officers require information, details to be included in requests for information, and contact details

The Code outlines the important safeguards that exist and penalties against misuse of the powers, including confidentiality, security and data retention arrangements, and legal professional privilege.