Public Sector Equality Duty, Localism Act, Rating & Standards

April 16th, 2012

 Surrey County Council conducted a review of its Library Service.  This culminated in a Report to the Council’s Cabinet.  The Recommendations in the Report included that there should be consultation about a community-partnership approach at selected Libraries.  The Report stated that such an approach would require skills new to the Service.  Specific reference was made to the need for training.  Following the consultation period, the Cabinet, having considered a further Report, described as a “progress update”, decided that Library provision in certain areas should be delivered via a community-partnership model whereby Libraries would be staffed by volunteers.  This decision was successfully challenged by judicial review in R (Williams) v Surrey County Council [2012] EWHC 867 (Admin).  Wilkie J held that the Council had breached its duty in s149 of Equality Act 2010 by failing to consider a relevant matter, namely the nature and extent of the equality training needs of the volunteers and the way in which such needs might be met.  By the time of the ultimate decision there must have been a significant amount of material which would have put flesh on the bare bones of the earlier conclusion that a change of this magnitude would require significant training of volunteers, particularly in respect of equality duties.  However, there was nothing in the later Report beyond a repetition that training would need to be provided.  What should have been included was the nature and extent of the equality training needs of volunteers which had emerged from the consultation with community groups and the way in which these training needs might be met.

The Supreme Court decision in McDonald v Kensington and Chelsea RLBC is now reported at [2012] LGR 107.

Localism Act

Note the Localism Act 2011 (Commencement No 5 etc) Order, SI 2012/1008 (C.32), bringing into operation various provisions of the Act on 4 April, 3 May, 4 May and 31 May 2012 and 31 January 2013; the Local Authorities (Arrangements for the Discharge of Functions) (England) Regulations, SI 2012/1019, enabling arrangements to be made for the discharge of functions, which are the responsibility of a local authority executive, by another local authority or an executive of another local authority, and enabling a local authority to make arrangements for the discharge of its functions, which are not the responsibility of an executive of that authority, by the executive of another local authority; the Local Authorities (Committee System) (England) Regulations, SI 2012/1020, specifying functions which cannot be delegated by a committee system local authority and therefore must be carried out by the full council of that authority, and dealing with overview and scrutiny committees within committee systems of local authorities; the Local Authorities (Overview and Scrutiny Committees) (England) Regulations, SI 2012/1021, giving such Committees power to obtain information from relevant partner authorities, and requiring executives of local authorities to exclude confidential information when publishing their responses to reports and recommendations of such Committees; the Overview and Scrutiny (Reference by Councillors) (Excluded Matters) (England) Order, SI 2012/1022, specifying descriptions of matters that cannot be referred to an overview and scrutiny committee by a member of the authority who is not also a member of the committee; and the Localism Act 2011 (Local Authority Governance Transitional Provisions) (England) Order 2012, SI 2012/1023.

Rating

Note the Non-Domestic Rating and Business Rate Supplements (Deferred Payments) (England) Regulations, SI  2012/994.

Standards

CLG has published an illustrative text that councils can, if they choose, use as a basis for their new Local Code of Conduct.

On “official capacity”, as distinct from political capacity, see the FTT Decisions on 4 April 2012 in Councillor Tambourides v Barnet LBC Standards Committee, Case No: LGS/2011/0573, and Councillor Abbas v Tower Hamlets LBC Standards Committee, Case No: LGS/2011/0574.

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