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105 Town Hall regulations that should be scrapped

Hammersmith and Fulham Council has sent the Government a rather long list of bureaucratic burdens that we propose should be lifted.

If the changes were made we estimate the council would save a minimum of £500,000 or £200 million across the country. Nine million council officer hours a year would be saved across Britain not counting the millions of hours that residents and business spending on dealing with the red-tape their end.

The list has 105 items and ideas came from an array of sources - not just from our Council officers past and present but also charities, business groups, social workers, teachers, independent experts and ordinary local residents. Some of the regulations we want to scrap are esoteric - others are very boring. Sometimes we are endorsing a demand for deregulation already made elsewhere - we are adding our voice to the chorus. On others we are proposing something for the first time.

While the list is long it is not remotely comprehensive. I think we could have included some more examples of requirements for pointless consultation exercises also some more on the obstacles to starting new schools. But the project became a bit like painting the Forth Road Bridge. We thought we really should get our initial thoughts sent in and then offer the Government a further batch later.

Naturally there will be hearty agreement about cutting red tape in general but differences of opinion about the specifics. For instance a few of the items below originated from the Local Government Association. But the LGA is constrained by consensus - not least seeking to speak for Labour as well as Conservative councils. So our list can be rather bolder than one sent in by the LGA. It makes sense for individual councils to make their own representations.

Anyway here is our list:

1. Sustainable Community Strategy.

All areas are required to have a community strategy which expresses the priorities for an area. The production of such as strategy should be at the discretion of the local authority and its partners.

 2. Local Area Agreements.

There is a statutory requirement to negotiate Local Area Agreements with Government. While the council is of course willing to work with the Police and Health etc to improve the area, this should be developed locally, not imposed from above.  The current system is prescriptive and bureaucratic which only adds cost rather than value.

3. National Indicators.

While CAA has been abolished it is unclear whether there will be any ongoing requirement to measure performance against any of the National Indicators. While these require considerable work to collect and report, they do generate useful performance information which the council uses to monitor service performance and compare this with other Authorities.

Review the National indicators so that only those useful to the majority of councils are collected on a compulsory basis (for benchmarking purposes); others should be discretionary.

4. EU / UK Public Procurement Regulations & TUPE Regulations.

ODPM Circular 03/2003 contained a Code of Practice on Workforce Matters in Local Authority Service Contracts.  The Code is guidance rather than strict legislation but is followed in almost all Local Government contracts let since this date.  Where there was a TUPE transfer the Code sought to protect new employees who joined the workforce when working alongside ex-local authority workers on less favourable salaries, terms and conditions.  The intention was to prevent new recruits being hired "on the cheap" thereby creating a "two tier" workforce. There is little scope for amending either the Public Contract Regulations or TUPE Regulations as they transpose EU legislation into UK law. The TUPE Regulations are not public sector specific and apply to all sectors within the UK. However, there is scope for making changes to the guidance and code of

5. Charging and Trading: Section 94 & 95 Local Government Act 2003.

These provisions fetter the Council's ability to act commercially. We can charge for discretionary services but we cannot year on year make a profit. In theory this means if the income is double expenditure in year one the service should be free in year 2. On the other hand if we wish to trade with the public/private sector in an area of expertise for profit we can only do so through the process of setting up a company with the attendant expense. The provision also affect the council’s ability to generate income from advertising and restricts building control income. Scrap the requirement and leave to local authority discretion.

6. Local Democracy Economic Development and Construction Act 2009
(general duty provisions).

This is contains a variety of micro-managing and unnecessary statutory duties including:-

  • A duty to promote the understanding of the Council's functions and democratic arrangements, how the public can take part, how to become a member and what members do.
  • A duty to promote the understanding and knowledge of lay justices.
  • A duty to have a statutory scrutiny officer
  • The statutory guidance on the duty to respond to petitions on councils. This simply serves to standardise best practice. It is estimated that imposing this burden on councils is likely to cost the
    government in the region of £5m.

Scrap the requirements and leave to local authority discretion.

7. Remove all guidance on how to implement statutory duties.

Guidance on how to implement statutory duties should be withdrawn. The judgement in relation to the LAML case has demonstrated that it has no legal force. It simply provides cover for lazy drafting of primary legislation. General Statutory guidance can be very useful especially when primary legislation is not clear but it should not be necessary.

8. Requirement to include information about organisational efficiency savings on the face of council tax bills.

Councils agree with the principle of transparency and sharing this information but compelling them to publish information in this way is not the best way to achieve this outcome. Councils should be free to provide this information in a way that they saw fit to communicate effectively with local people Government has to date spent £10m funding this requirement.

Allow for local decisions to be made locally on dissemination.

9. Secretary of State consent.

There are a large number of provisions in primary legislation requiring councils to seek consent of Secretary of State for actions and decisions. For example this includes six separate sets of provisions in relation to some aspects of social housing finance and management alone.

Councils are better placed to make judgements about local circumstances and are subject to multiple accountabilities – through the ballot box, via the Audit Commission, the Local Government Ombudsman and judicial review.

The number of statutory provisions requiring councils to seek ministerial consent should be established and significantly reduced.

10. Burdens created by government relating to grant conditions and oversight.
These are rarely consistent and often disproportionate to risk. For example the cost of providing detailed ‘assurance’ by the Audit Commission on 28 different types of grant claim to certify that the grants were applied to the purposes for which they were intended found that:

  • Nine required no adjustments at all -checking this incurred a cost of £1.25m to the tax payer;
  • For a further nine grants the fees charged by the commission to check was higher than the adjustments necessary – this cost the tax payer £12m;
  • In eight cases the total adjustments were less than 0.5% of the total grant claimed – at a cost of £12m to the tax payer;
  • In only one case were the adjustments substantial in absolute terms and in relation to the cost of the audit.

We would like to see a more proportionate approach to assessment duties on local authorities.

11. Remove the requirement for Equality Impact Assessments and gender equality schemes.

There are numerous equality laws which impose the burden on councils of conducting impact assessment for policies and services. 

The coalition government is proposing to remove the requirements for both equality impact assessments and gender equality schemes from April 2011.

12. Employment Relations: Dispute Resolution.

Regulations for dismissing employees are excessively bureaucratic. Business is being faced with an excessive number of claims for unfair dismissal in Employment Tribunals – often in situations where the ex-employee’s performance or behaviour was clearly below the standard required.

Simplify the employment process, wherever possible taking it out of the complex legal process.

13. Employment Relations: Unfair Dismissal.

The processes associated with terminating employment are hugely complex. In cases where the employee’s performance is demonstrably well below what is required, it should be possible to dismiss the
employee in a shorter time period and without the full complement of rounds of discussion that are currently required.

Find a way of simplifying the system, especially in cases where the employee’s performance is undeniably below-par.

14. Cabinet Key Decisions – Access to Information.

Remove the requirement in the Local Government (Access to Information)(England) Regulations 2000 which prevents cabinet members discussing a key decision with officers present within 28 days of that decision being taken. This causes unnecessary delays and serves no useful purpose.

15. Statutory Sick Pay.

The complexity of the SSP system makes an excessive amount of extra (non-productive) work.

Simplify the SSP system.

16. Remote Working Regulations.

A modern economy needs more flexible home and remote working and the rules currently in place are more onerous than is necessary or desirable.

One way forward would be to remove employers' responsibility for health and safety for office workers remotely. While office-based workers can be monitored, but this requirement is not reasonable for remote workers.

17. Freedom of Information.

Review the FOI process, which requires massive resources to administer to the timescales and requirements set out by legislation. 

18. Local Development Framework.

It is of course important to regulate planning, but the LDF is complex, over-prescribed and places a huge and expensive burden on local authorities in terms of the development of strategies and plans and consultation and inspection. This adds to the cost of development.

We need more autonomy and fewer stages of central approval.

19. Sustainability appraisal of LDF documents.

The arrangements currently made for sustainability assessment are unnecessarily complex and often tend to generate long, turgid documents that add little to the process. There is also the risk of overlap with Equality Impact Assessments and other non-statutory assessments, eg Health Impact. One regime would be more appropriate.

The requirements could be substantially simplified, with the level of detail commensurate with the complexity of the document. Simply include as an appendix of evidence as part of the LDF and not a document in its own right.

20. Evidence base for LDF documents.

Planning policy should be underpinned by solid evidence, but the evidence base needs to be proportionate.  Certain aspects of it (such as strategic housing market assessments) have got out of proportion to the added value they bring to policy.

The range and detail of evidence requirements needs to be revisited, especially, in a situation where local planning authority budgets are under extreme pressure.

21. Binding Inspector's report.

Inspector's Reports should not be binding. Local authorities should be able to disagree provided proper planning reasons are given. This is what happens with the Mayor of London’s London Plan – why not with Core Strategies?

22. Supplementary Planning Documents

These are over regulated, requiring two stages of consultation.

Consultation should be for local planning authorities to decide subject to meeting a basic minimum.

23. Annual Development monitoring reports.

These are supported, but is all the detail required in them strictly necessary?

Reduce level of detail.

24. Local Development Schemes.

These tend to be unnecessarily detailed when a much simpler document (that is, “this is what we are going to do and this is when we will do it”) is all that is needed. The approval process is also unnecessarily long winded.

Simplify requirements.

25. Local Development Framework Statement of Community Involvement.

Is it necessary for this document to be subject to Regulations setting out how it should be prepared?

Remove regulations concerning how this is prepared.

26. Submissions accompanying planning applications.

A considerable quantity of information is required as part of the previous Government’s validation checklist. Some improvement resulted from new guidance introduced in March 2010, but at the same time this reduced the flexibility to correct any problem of missing information after registration. There must be scope to reduce this burden further, without prejudicing the processing of the application.  Additional burdens are also being created, especially for smaller‐scale applications, by the growing nature conservation requirements relating to protected species.

Reduce further the extent of information required to accompany planning applications as appropriate to scale and nature of application.

27. Local newspaper advertising: Remove the requirement to advertise planning applications in local papers.

Some dozens of statutes require the publication of notices, each contains its own clause and not all provisions are the same. The London Borough of Camden when granted an exemption on this duty saw an 80% reduction in advertising and publication costs from £30,000 to £5,700 through using other means to advertise planning applications. The savings have been channelled into education and dissemination programmes for planning particularly in disadvantaged groups.

Remove the requirements to advertise in newspapers and require or allow publication on council websites.

28. Multiple regulatory regimes.

There are a number of areas (Houses in Multiple Occupation are one in which the government has recently taken an interest) where planning controls operate alongside other regulatory regimes (either within the local authority itself or in other agencies, such as the police).

Investigate scope for simplifying or unifying these regimes, to the mutual benefit of the regulators and those who are regulated.

29. References of planning applications to central government:

There are currently many planning applications which are required to be referred to central government or the Mayor for London. These could potentially be reduced and simplified. With regard to the Mayor:

  • Increase the referral limit on housing developments from 150-500 homes;
  • Increase the referral limit on tall buildings (outside central London and not on the riverside) from 30 to 60 metres (20 storeys).

30. Statutory Consultation with Other Agencies.

There is potential for dropping or significantly reducing the requirement to consult national agencies, such as Natural England ,the Environment Agency and quangos (eg CABE) on planning applications where there is already local specialist input duplicating their advice. However, some controls are necessary especially in relation to heritage, as not all local authorities can provide equivalent level of heritage expertise.  English Heritage provides high quality advice with economies of scale.

Reduce need for consultation with some agencies / quangos.

31. The Prior Notification Procedure.

Within the General Permitted Development Order certain classes of Permitted Development are subject to the Prior Notification Procedure, such as agricultural permitted development, telecommunication masts etc. This additional process adds significantly to confusion in the local community without seeming to add any value. If the Prior Notification Procedure were deleted then the Permitted Development system would be simpler and easier for the public to understand. If this were to happen then development would either require planning permission or be permitted development. Prior Notification does not add value but leads the public into the belief that they can raise the full range of planning objections to a scheme, as if it were a planning application that was being considered.

Remove prior notification procedure.

32. Tree Preservation Orders – Serving Notice for New TPOs.

Abolish statutory requirement to serve notice and a copy of the Provisional Order by recorded delivery on owners and occupiers of all adjoining land when making new Tree Preservation Orders - this can often cost thousands of pounds per TPO in urban areas where the land on which the tree is situated is bordered by apartment blocks or high density housing. The costs are disproportionate to the amenity preserved and many residents who are consulted are not directly affected by the tree and complain about the money wasted on consulting them.

Abolish statutory requirement to serve notice and a copy of the Provisional Order by recorded delivery on owners and occupiers of all adjoining land when making new Tree Preservation Orders.

33. Conservation area consent.

Amalgamate with need to obtain planning permission as suggested in draft Heritage Protection bill, subject to unauthorised works remaining a criminal rather than civil offence.  Public are currently confused by two separate consent regimes and often apply for CAC when they need planning permission.

34. Make Freedom of Information Act and  the Environmental Information Regulations Consistent.

This legislation covers the same issue yet if information is "environmental" a different and inconsistent set of exemptions apply which are generally more favourable to the public body. Hours can be wasted arguing which piece of legislation should be applied.

Make the information regulations consistent.

35. Land Disposal Consents.

In view of the current emphasis on property disposals, the whole area of Secretary of State (and in some cases Charity Commission) consent to dispose and the complexities of the various general consents for particular types of disposal are ripe for review, with a view to getting rid of as much of the disposal consent regime as possible and letting councils take responsibility for what they want to keep or dispose of and the price at which they do so (subject only to their general fiduciary duties).
Review the consent to dispose regulations

Short of completely removing the need for consent, the financial levels should certainly be reviewed to provide more flexibility to Councils.

36. Traffic and Environmental Signage.

The aim of parking and traffic signage is to convey the nature of parking and traffic restrictions to the motorist in a manner that is consistent and as easy to understand as possible without causing excessive street clutter. The main legislative details are laid down in the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 which have evolved since their original predecessors in the 1950s. The Regulations are supported by various detailed guidance Chapters in the Traffic Signs Manual published by the DFT.  The style is to be extremely prescriptive in terms of appearance, wording, dimensions and positioning.

There is provision for the DFT to agree exceptions but this is normally only ever granted where the particular proposed local parking or traffic rules cannot be clearly explained through the use of existing prescribed signage.

The DFT is already currently conducting a major review of the legal requirements in relation to traffic signage. This review started in 2008 with the following aims:

Explore the scope for moving to a less prescriptive system, allowing more flexibility to highway authorities for some categories of signs. A less regulated system would allow highway authorities to have more flexibility – this should encourage more innovative traffic management solutions, but there is a careful balance to be struck between flexibility and consistency to ensure signs can be clearly understood by road users. Examine how best to avoid over-provision – known as sign clutter – which has road safety implications and can be inefficient and unsightly.

Explore the scope for moving to a less prescriptive system, allowing more flexibility to highway authorities for some categories of signs.

Examine how best to avoid over-provision.

37. Remove the statutory guidance on the economic assessment duty on councils.

This seeks simply to standardise best practice and should be withdrawn immediately. This should also remove the requirement to publish Work and Skills Plans within the economic assessment. This is unsuitable as a statutory imposition and should be removed immediately.

Like all of the needs assessments, this should simply be a collection and analysis of a consistent evidence base; and not something we need 40/50 pages of guidance.

38. Tackling Noise Nuisance.

The time taken to tackle noise nuisance effectively is seen by the community as being too long. This is because the time taken to comply with legal requirements is excessive i.e. establish evidence, prove the offence, and take action before equipment may be seized, thus it does not allow local authorities or the police to take immediate action to stop a noise which is keeping residents awake or causing significant community nuisance and annoyance).

A simplified process for taking action to stop a noise.

39. 20mph zones.

Currently all local authorities are required by law to make all 20mph zones self-enforcing by implementing traffic calming measures such as speed bumps, chicanes or road narrowing. In some instances, this requires minor roads that are little longer than 50 metres and which don’t have a road casualty or speed problem, to have traffic calming measures installed to the meet the current legal requirements. This is often viewed by residents as unnecessary, disproportionate and a waste of money.

The SCA proposals from Southwark and Redcar and Cleveland propose actions to reduce this burden and provide greater local flexibility.

40. Licensing Authority Licensing Policy Statement.

Remove the requirement to produce a licensing policy statement.  Need greater flexibility for when the policy review takes place.

Abolish the requirement for the policy statement.

41. The current national rules which dictate what councils can charge for planning and licensing applications.

An example is the implementation of the Licensing Act 2003.  The fee package in the Act sets the level of fees to allow licensing authorities recovery of their legitimate administration, inspection and enforcement costs, while at the same time achieve arrangements which are fair to businesses.  It didn’t give licensing authorities the freedom to set local fees at a level that would allow them to recover the real costs of implementation.

We would like to see this requirement removed.

42. Requirement for triennial reviews of local licensing policies.

This is an unnecessary and costly exercise and could be put aside, given that local authorities have the power to review at any time if circumstances permit.  The BBPA and the LGA have recently written jointly to the Licensing Minister to request the deregulation of this particular aspect of the Licensing Act 2003.

43. Events Licensing for community and school events.

The Licensing Act 2003 requires all events involving music or sale of alcohol to have a licence - the requirements are oppressive for small fundraising events organised by Charities or other non-commercial organisations.  As most do not have a Personal Licence holder or the premises (such as village halls, churches) do not have Premises Licences the organisers are required to complete in triplicate a 10 page form, most of which is irrelevant.  This form must be submitted to the local authority & police for vetting on each occasion at a cost of £21 a time.

Exemptions should be applied for serving alcohol for community events, street parties, school fetes, Church/charity events. Currently local community halls only permitted to have a maximum of 12 TENS (temporary Event Notices) this number should be increased. Give greater flexibilities to councils as to how they run their licensing function so they can exempt community organisations from being subject to licensing requirements and regulations.

44. License for Tables and Chairs outside restaurants and cafes.

There is unnecessary duplication involved between planning and licensing control procedures for the control of tables and chairs outside restaurants and cafes. This should be simplified.

45. Live Music Exemption.

The Lord Clement-Jones’ Live Music Bill recommended an exemption for small businesses from licensing requirements for live entertainment for all events attracting an audience of fewer than 200. The Environmental Protection Act legislates for dealing with loud music in any case.

Exempt businesses from licensing requirements for live music for all events attracting an audience of fewer than 200.

46. Entry to Licensed Premises.
A licensee, who has a personal license should be permitted to act as his own “enforcer” i.e. the cost of employing a certified Door Supervisor can be prohibitive for small pubs.

Remove the requirement for certified Door Supervisors.

47. Display Ban on Tobacco Sales.

The previous government had legislated to require retailers to hide tobacco products for sale in their shops (a measure known as the “display ban”). The display ban regulations have not yet been implemented and the Public Health Minister has stated that the government is deliberating on the way forward in line with both Parties’ pre-election statements The NFRN and its members have strongly opposed this idea since it was first proposed.   The display ban would impose damaging and costly burdens on struggling small shops.

The refitting of tobacco shelving units to comply with the very complex regulations would cost about £1000 per shop on average (including materials, labour and installation charges but excluding ongoing maintenance and replacement costs). With an average profit margin of 5% on the product, this means every retailer has to sell £20,000 worth of product in order to raise enough funding to become compliant.

Reverse the legislation banning the display of tobacco products by retailers.

48. Requirement to Advertise in Newspapers.

The requirement to advertise licensing applications and variations in local newspapers in addition to on-site notices is a bureaucratic obligation that is unnecessary and ineffective in eliciting responses from residents.  Placing such advertisements incurs unnecessary cost for businesses, and we therefore propose that the requirement should be reviewed and repealed.

Requirements should be repealed. Can use Council website.

49. Special Licenses.

We should abolish the requirement for special licences for tattoo ear piercing, electrolysis and acupuncture. These are not required outside London. They duplicate the Health and Safety at Work Act. Abolish special licensing requirements in London for these types of business.

50. Online Alcohol Sales Licensing.

Currently, on line sales of alcohol (including any alcohol included with or given away with other goods) must be licensed in the same way as an off license or supermarket.

Revise the licensing regulations that relate to on line businesses.

51. Planning Inspectorate.

The activities of the Planning Inspectorate need curtailing.  If a planning application is turned down, an appeal can be launched by the aggrieved party. However, the Inspectorate appoints someone who knows nothing about the area and his/her opinion takes precedence of that of the local planning authority.  Even though the Inspectorate employs someone to do quality control of its decisions, it appears not to carry out any quality control. The decision making on planning matters should be taken locally wherever possible.  It would also reduce costs because local Councils have to bear the cost of the Inspectorate.

52. Stop Whitehall from providing model byelaws for local councils.

Local councils have lost control to draft byelaws that are relevant to specific localities because the model byelaws provided by Whitehall have effectively become requirements rather than examples.

53. Stray Dogs.

Stray dogs prove a costly drain on resources, this coupled with the administration element, proves a burden on our resources. We have to use a contractor to undertake this work, which is not cost effective.

If possible this mandatory process would be more suitable for the RSPCA but we appreciate it is passing a financial responsibility on to that organisation.

54. Reform Sunday Trading Laws.

Provide businesses with the flexibility to operate on Sundays.

Abolish restrictions on Sunday trading.

55. Abolish Annual parking reports.

The Traffic Management Act (TMA) 2004 places a requirement on local authorities to produce an annual report about their enforcement activities and should cover the financial, statistical and other data (including any civil parking enforcement targets.)

Scrap the requirement and leave to local authority discretion.

56. Local Transport Plan.

Remove the requirement to produce a local transport plan.

57. Freedom of Information Act and  Environmental Information Regulation Requests.

Whilst the intention of these regulations was probably honourable, the sorts of request often being received in relation to Waste Management are, in the majority, clearly originating from commercial enterprises(probably in direct competition with the council) seeking to obtain financially sensitive information about commercial issues connected with the council’s trade waste activities. These take up an inordinate amount of officer time to rebut and if we are ultimately forced to provide the information requested, this has the potential to damage the council’s profitability at a time when every bit of income we can generate is important.  The private sector do not have to bear this unfair burden.

Amend the regulations to exclude enquiries that are purely commercially driven.

58. NI 192 The percentage of household waste recycled or composted.

The way in which LAs are currently required to report on this PI mitigates against Urban Inner City boroughs such as Hammersmith & Fulham. This indicator currently comprises two sub-indicators: NI 192a for dry recycling and NI 192b for green waste and / or kitchen organics. 

Data from the two, although collected separately, must be amalgamated for the purposes of reporting the PI.  However urban inner city boroughs such as Hammersmith and Fulham, have relatively few gardens compared with outer London and rural boroughs, meaning that (a) the availability of organic household waste for composting is very limited; and (b) the cost per tonne of collecting it is enormous.

When the performance of such urban boroughs is compared with their suburban and rural equivalents, the comparison is wholly inequitable and unfair because the quantity of compostable material available within the suburban and rural boroughs is so much greater and easier / cheaper to collect than in the inner cities.

The current two sub-indicators should be made into separate PIs in their own right.  This at least would enable fair comparison between boroughs on the dry and compostable elements of the household waste being produced.

Consider scrapping the “Household” based indicator altogether and base any future indicators on “Municipal” waste, which would be easier and more accurate to collect in every way.

59. Building Regulations - Local Acts.

Local Acts.  The majority of these have now been incorporated into national building regulations. The main one in London is Section 20 of the London Building Acts. This causes confusion with Clients when the come to Approved Inspector for Building Regulations and then an application is made to the Local Authority. Again most items are in the Building Regulations or could be.

Approved Document D  This document is hardly ever used as most insulation does not include Urea formaldehyde

Approved Documents K, M and N could be combined into one document and M often overrides the requirements of the other two.

Approved Document P If only registered electricians were allowed to carry out work this document could be removed.  Section 20, London Building Acts Scrap Section 20 of the London Building Act and incorporate any important regulations into the national building regulations.

CLG are launching an exercise to identify what changes are needed to ensure the Building Regulations continue to operate effectively in the future.

60. Building Regulations - L and F.

Building control regulations Part L and Part F are contradictory and should be scrapped. Part L stipulates making buildings as air tight as possible (for instance discriminating against sash windows.)  Yet Part F insists on vents.

Consolidate Part L and Part F in order to remove this contradiction. The Government has recently amended these Parts of the Act, to come into force in October 2010 as part of the Government’s Carbon Reduction Strategy.

61. Housing Needs Assessment (Strategic Housing Market Assessment)

Planning policy should be underpinned by solid evidence, but the evidence base needs to be proportionate.  Certain aspects of it (such as strategic housing market assessments) have got out of proportion to the added value they bring to policy.
LAs should have more control over the HMA and be able to define the evidence base for themselves. The SHMA could (and should) be just an appendix of the evidence used in the LDF and not a document in its own right.

62. Homelessness Strategy.

A statutory requirement exists to produce a multi agency strategy for tackling homelessness.

Production of such a strategy should be at LA discretion.

63. Right To Evict Squatters.

At present if a householder leaves a window open, squatters can get in and can legally occupy a house until an expensive High Court order has been obtained. This can take weeks or months.

If a small landlord is doing up a property and builders leave a window or door open to bring building materials in or let paint fumes out the same applies.

In 99% of cases squatters move into property that would genuinely be owner or tenant occupied. It is very rare for property owners to genuinely be unaware of property that they own (the GLC famously forgot to transfer some expensive Council stock to London Boroughs but that is rare).

Councils spend thousands protecting houses and flats with steel shutters and even security guards while they repair them and wait for new tenants to move in. Sometimes tenants have to give notice on places they are leaving. Sometimes parts have to be ordered, or there are not enough decoraters / plumbers etc to fix a flat instantly. This can result in a property sitting empty of weeks, but that is not long in the context of a 10 or 20 year tenancy.

Change the law so a High Court order is unnecessary. If a house already has an occupant or building work is in progress, give the owner the owner or tenant the right to call the Police and regain the property the very same day, subject only to proof of identity, eg Debit Card checked against Electoral Register.

64. Cutting SI 653 The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) (Amendment) Order 2010 .

This requires planning permission for properties occupied by three or more people not all related. This is largely unenforceable will be ignored in most places. Overall it tends to discourage landlords from providing low cost affordable housing accommodation.

Scrap the requirement for planning permission by this Order.

65. LA Core Return.

Scrap the LA core return- the profiling of who the properties are let to. This data is of no benefit. We can do this at a local level without submitting the return.

66. Specific housing consents.

There is a plethora of circumstances where councils must seek consents to do anything outside a relatively rigid regulatory or statutory framework.

As examples:

  •  To provide ancillary/compatible facilities on council housing estates (tenants' halls, nursery schools, health facilities, shops, offices for voluntary agencies): Sections 12 and 15 Housing Act 1985.
  • To sell surplus HRA dwellings at public auction without the risk of having to relinquish to central government 75% of the net sale proceeds: Regulations 12 and 14 Capital Finance and Accounting
    (England) Regulations 2003.
  • To exceed the "RTB" discount level on council house sales (even voluntary sales: Consent A4 General Housing Consents 2005).
  • To improve terms and incentives under particular initiatives such as the Social HomeBuy scheme
     Sections 12 and 15 Housing Act 1985

Review the requirements for consents in some cases giving greater flexibility to the council.

67. Tenant Services Authority (TSA).

The disbandment and the immediate deregistration of local council landlords from regulation by the TSA (regulator for social housing).   

The coalition government intends to abolish the TSA. This is fully supported.

68. Regulation of Registered Social Landlords (RSLs).

The RSL Sector want to see the end of regulation (ie TSA) leaving only the attention to governance and financial viability for those in receipt of grant. RSLs would also like to determine the types of tenure they offer, and rent levels especially for working tenants.

69. Housing Allocations Policy.

Allow councils greater autonomy to devise their own allocations policy for social housing, remove the ‘reasonable preference’ criteria, and permit councils to discharge their homelessness duty by placing people in satisfactory accommodation.

Review housing allocations policy to give councils greater freedom to devise their own allocations policy for social housing.

70. Choice Based Lettings.

Remove the requirement on councils to implement this web based system which gives applicants a deceptive impression of choices available and leads to continual disappointment.  Instead permit councils to develop their own systems for lettings and transfers.

Abolish the mandatory web based  lettings system and given councils discretion to develop their own systems.

71. Register of Licensed Homes in Multiple Occupation (ROLHMO).

Since 2006, councils have been required to submit a monthly return to government on the licensing of housings in multiple occupation. The return originally contained 69 data sets; a hugely excessive and unnecessary requirement given that the only information required (if any) is the number of licence applications received and how many have been approved or refused.

Shorten the ROLHMO and make the return less frequent, or scrap it all together.

72. DWP Housing Benefits guidance manual.

The DWP’s Housing Benefit guidance manual, updated in July 2009, comprises four parts (A-D), as well as an introduction to the guide, Eight pages of abbreviations and a 10 page glossary. In total, the guide is 1,300 pages long.

Reduce the prescriptive advice given by DWP.

73. Rough Sleepers Strategy.

Local Authorities are required to produce this strategy, which should be produced at the discretion of the local authority.

Scrap the requirement and leave to local authority discretion.

74. The Children and Young People’s Plan.

Remove the requirement to produce this plan.

75. The Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum and targets.

The DOE Website states that the Early Years Foundation Stage is the: "Resource providing the statutory framework for setting the standards for learning, development and care for children from 0–5 years. The framework aims at laying a secure foundation for future learning through learning and development that is planned around the individual needs and interests of the child."

It is in fact an incredibly prescriptive curriculum for babies and toddlers.

The need for Key Workers is also questionable. It is bureaucratic and encourages children to stick to one teacher when they should be open-minded about learning from different teachers.

There is currently a review of the EYFS which should clarify requirements. 

76. Statutory duty to undertake a childcare sufficiency assessment.

Duty to complete and publish an assessment every three years and refresh annually. The work informs the sufficiency duty in the childcare act which is to provide as far as practicable sufficient childcare for working parents and for parent with children with SEN/Disabilities.

It makes sense for us undertake an assessment of the current market but we should be able to do it in a way that is meaningful for the authority, local residents and relevant to our work, not to have to respond to central government requirements to cover defined areas.

77. Local Education Regulations

Research for the Local Government Association has shown that in the last 10 years, more than 1,000 separate pieces of legislation affecting schools have been passed: that is a new piece of primary or secondary legislation every two school days over that period.

An indication of the burdens being placed on teachers and governors is also given by a guide to the law for school governors, which all new school governors receive. The guide itself stretches to 250 pages, but it also contains web links to the regulations and guidance which governors and teachers need to be familiar with. If all these links were followed, an extremely conscientious new governor would have to digest nearly 5,000 pages of central government regulation and guidance.

78. Schools Workforce Census.

The School Workforce Census return is a statutory requirement focusing on staff data for teachers and support staff with contracts or Service Agreements of one month or greater.

Scrap the annual workforce census.

79. Reduce the statutory minimum size of the Fostering Panel and the Adoption Panel.

Most Council decisions are made by smaller groups.  Give discretion in size of fostering panel.

80. Inspection of foster carers.

Where a looked after child is placed with long term foster carer on the presumption that it is a permanent arrangement, we should end the requirement for annual inspections. There should only be an inspection if there is some evidence of difficulty. Annual inspections should cease on the basis that a child should be allowed to settle into fostering arrangements with minimal disruption.

81. Frequency of inspection of fostering and adoption service.

Where a fostering or adoption service is judged good or outstanding by Ofsted it should not be subject to another inspection in three years time, as at present, but in five years time. 

Increase the period to five years for services judged as good or outstanding.

82. Independent Review of Determinations (adoption & fostering) Regulations 2009.

Given the poor economic climate for Local authorities coupled with the vested interest in the Independent Review Mechanism run by BAAF to encourage foster carers to seek independent determination in regards to their fostering status, it is our view that this independent mechanism introduced in April 2009 should be either scraped or fundamentally overhauled.

It will cost local authorities £2,227 for each case to be heard and inevitably more and more foster carers will seek this particular avenue when they have a dispute about their fostering registration with their approving agency. This chosen opportunity is determined primarily by two factors, one being the local authority foots the costs and secondly the IRM are on the whole not upholding Agency Decision Makers professional views particularly in relation to deregistering foster carers. BAAF clearly have a vested interest in not siding with local authority decisions, as a consequence of this foster carers would chose not to use them and therefore BAAFs funding would be significantly affected in this area.

If a local authority has to attend 13 IRM panels In a year which is clearly possible for some larger local authorities this overall cost could have alternatively paid the salary of an experienced social worker for a year. The £2,227 is only part of the cost for local authorities as they have to send 2 members of staff representing the agency on the day of the panel which is unlikely to be a local venue for most local authorities.

Review the independent review mechanism.

83. Independent Reviewing Officer for Children in Care.

Scrap the requirement to have Independent Reviewing Officers [for children in care], along with Independent Visitors, and reduce the care planning requirement down to one plan [no separate Personal Education Plan, Placement Plan etc.]

84. Youth Service.

Scrap the requirement upon the Youth Service for there to be any curriculum requirements or inspections. Abolish all requirements. Local systems for monitoring performance and quality standards are sufficient.

85. Children in Need Census.

The current version of the CiN census is a case-level return which has huge and very costly implications for LAs in terms of data cleansing etc. The simplest alternative would be to return to the old form of social care data collection which the CiN census has replaced, where the LA simply returned the overall outcomes for indicators back to the DfE, with the proviso that these could be audited for accuracy at any

Return to a simpler form of data collection.

86. Serious Case Reviews (Death of children in cases of suspected neglect).

Regulation 5 of the Local Safeguarding Children Boards Regulations 2006 requires LSCBs to undertake reviews of serious case. These reviews are known as Serious Case Reviews (SCRs). ‘Chapter 8’ of Working Together to Safeguard Children sets out the purposes of and processes for undertaking SCRs. SCRs are undertaken when a child dies (including death by suspected suicide), and abuse or neglect is known or suspected to be a factor in the death and the case gives rise to concerns about the way in which local professionals and services worked together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. This includes inter-agency and inter-disciplinary working. 

The current requirements of Serious Case Reviews concerning the tragic cases of children who die as a result of abuse or neglect are ineffective while being hugely expensive. A large number of management reviews are required but add little of value. The Serious Case Review regulations should be overhauled so that any useful lessons can be learnt as soon as possible and that the process does not cause more harm than good by diverting resources used for safeguarding children.

87. Child Death Overview Panels.

'Chapter 7' of Working Together to Safeguard Children sets out the procedures to be followed when a child dies. There are two interrelated processes for reviewing child deaths (either of which can trigger a serious case review):

  • A rapid response by a group of key professionals who come together for the purpose of enquiring into and evaluating each unexpected death of a child.
  • An overview of all child deaths (under 18 years) in the local safeguarding children board (LSCB) area(s), undertaken by a panel.

Child death overview panels (CDOPs) are responsible for reviewing information on all child deaths, and are accountable to the LSCB Chair. CDOPs may serve more than one LSCB. Child death review processes became mandatory in April 2008, though LSCBs have been able to implement these functions since April 2006.

The annual report of our three borough panel’s activity identified four deaths for which a review was necessary; of those one had implications for services but it was deemed that no action could be taken on publishing information on such small numbers. Ch 7 Working together to safeguard children. The requirements for Child Death Overview Panels should be completely revised so that the process can be simplified. Children will be better protected as a result.

The Government proposes in its Health White paper that Councils employ Directors of Public Health. These are experts who will be well placed to have the overview of child deaths in their area.

88. Youth Justice Board National Standards and Performance Improvement Framework.

The Performance Improvement Framework includes a range of elements that monitor YOT practice and performance. As part of the framework, YOTs are required to submit a Youth Justice Strategic Plan and a Capacity and Capability (C&C) Self-Assessment. 

2004 Performance framework should be retained as it is a useful tool but the Youth Justice Plan should be produced at local discretion, so this requirement should be repealed.

89. Annual Children’s Services Assessment by Ofsted.

Services are monitored through an inspection process and an annual Children’s Services Assessment is issued of each council's children's services.  The assessment should be scrapped because it is based on
measures of process and arbitrary judgements about the respective weighting of inspections. We recognise the need for inspections to take place to make sure that children are protected but they too must be focussed on things that matter, not just counting beans.

The Annual Children’s Services Assessment should be scrapped.

90. Inspection of Children’s Centres by Ofsted.

The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 amends the Childcare Act 2006, recognising in statute for the first time Sure Start Children’s Centres. The Act also introduces a duty for Ofsted to conduct inspections of children’s centres. The Act contains a number of regulation-making powers relating to the inspection.

The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 and The Children’s Centres (Inspections) Regulations 2010 should be suspended or scrapped altogether pending the outcome of the review of Sure Start.

91. Schools Admissions Code.

The Schools Admissions Code contains requirements which should be at the local authority’s discretion, eg: "Local authorities must refer an objection to the Schools Adjudicator if they consider, or are made aware of, any admission arrangements proposed by any other admission authority that are unlawful, that do not comply with the mandatory requirements or guidelines in this Code, or that appear to be unfair, unclear and subjective or encourage social segregation.

Also: "If parents request copies of information that local authorities and school governing bodies publish free of charge in a version translated in to a language other than English or produced in Braille or audio tape, this must be provided free of charge."

Streamline the Schools Admissions Code.

92. Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PHSE).

Take PHSE off the national curriculum. This should be left to schools.

93. Citizenship on the National Curriculum.

Streamline National Curriculum. Scrap requirement to teach “global dimension” lessons defined as “global citizenship, conflict resolution, diversity, human rights, interdependence, social justice, sustainable development, values and perception”.

94. DOE  Achievement and Attainment Tables.

Overcomplicated DOE league tables in which important, basic info gets lost among the dross.

Simplify the achievement and attainment tables.

95. Section 52 (LA / school) budgets).

Too much detail in Section 52 (LA/school) budgets.

Simplify the  statement of budgets.

96. The Joint Strategic Needs Assessment.

Councils produce this jointly with Primary Care Trusts. These can become huge documents that are meant to inform commissioning choices. A move to personal budgets in social care and health will result in these central planning documents becoming less relevant. 

It should be scrapped. The point of the JSNA is to determine local priorities for health and wellbeing and identify commissioning intentions at a local level.

Like all of the other needs assessments though, this should be the routine analysis and collection of a common evidence base and something we do as a matter of “good business intelligence” and local priority setting.

Providing evidence behind local priority setting should suffice.

97. Smoking Ban Signage.

These Regulations require “no smoking” signs to be placed at each entrance to a smoke-free premises.  The national ban on smoking in all public places was well publicised by Government and through the media, and we believe that the general public quickly became very aware that it was against the law to smoke in premises such as pubs.

Three years on, the ban is very much embedded in our national psyche, and we therefore see no need to continue to replace signage outside premises.  On this basis, we would like to see the Smoke-Free (Signs) Regulations 2007 repealed.

Abolish the requirement for no smoking signs in the entrance to premises.

98. The Crime and Disorder Strategic Assessment.

This would move to regional level under the Mayor’s devolution proposals. It establishes police and local authority priorities. With the advent of directly elected Commissioners, again, this may become less relevant. 

Scrap the requirement to produce an assessment. A local crime assessment should be based on good business practice and intelligence and analysis of data and evidence of crime and ASB.

99. Youth Justice Plan.

Scrap the requirement to produce a Youth Justice Plan. Youth crime should feature in any local crime assessment.

100. Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy.

A statutory requirement exists to produce a multi agency strategy for tackling alcohol harm and abuse including prevention and treatment. Replace with local SMART action plan.

101. Drug Strategy.

A statutory requirement exists to produce a multi agency strategy for tackling drug abuse including prevention and treatment. Replace with local SMART action plan.

102. Hate Crime Plan.

A statutory requirement exists to produce a multi agency strategy for tackling hate crime (crimes with a racist / homophobic / religious or other discriminatory motivation). Replace with local SMART action plan.

103. Reoffending Strategy.

A statutory requirement exists to produce a multi agency strategy for tackling re-offending. Replace with local SMART action plan.

104. Emergency Planning Bureaucracy.

The bureaucracy for emergency planning across London could be cut quite a bit. Currently all boroughs do the same work umpteen different times in various different ways.

Coordinate emergency planning bureaucracy centrally either through the Fire Brigade or GLA.

105. Human Tissues Authority.

Their Directions require establishments to assess their compliance with HTA standards and to undertake an audit of retained material. HTA will then review the compliance assessment information and audit results submitted.  They must assure themselves that licensed establishments in the post mortem sector have robust and reliable systems of traceability and records management and that there is knowledge about the nature and quantity of relevant material stored on the premises.

Remove external compliance inspections. Suggestion is that any quality control could be done by internal audit.


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