We’re making some changes to the All Things that we think you’re going to like. We’ll still be highlighting key developments in the sector and anything you might have missed as a member. Look out for changes in mid-May, but in the meantime make sure to check out our local elections analysis and coverage next week.
Asylum seekers and migrants
The conflict in Sudan is threatening to increase the problems that the government and local authorities are facing in relation to accommodating asylum seekers and international migrants. Immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, has said that it is “likely that very significant numbers of people will leave Sudan in the weeks ahead” and that while this is likely to lead to an increase in the number of people arriving in the UK by boat, the government’s position is that those fleeing should “seek sanctuary in the first safe country”.
Last week the High Court blocked Braintree DC’s attempt to prevent the Home Office from placing up to 1,700 asylum seekers at the MoD’s Wethersfield site in Essex. The council had sought an injunction arguing that planning permission for using the former RAF base should be sought and local people consulted, but the court ruled in favour of the government. Other local authorities are awaiting the outcome of their legal objections to the government’s plans to house large numbers of asylum seekers in their areas without planning permissions.
Data obtained through freedom of information requests from dozens of local authorities suggests that hundreds of asylum-seeking children have been wrongly treated as adults by the Home Office. Two-thirds of children deemed to be adults by the department – 867 out of 1,386 – were later confirmed to be children, according to the data, which is collated in a report by the Helen Bamber Foundation, Humans for Rights Network and Asylum Aid.
This week, with the final deadline for applications for Voter Authority Certificates ahead of the local elections having passed, the news is that only around 60,000 of the estimated 2 million citizens currently lacking valid photo ID have applied for the certificate.
The LGIU briefing on elections issues for local authorities is here and a briefing on the new voter ID laws can be read here. We’ve also provided international insight on how councils are supporting and recruiting poll workers in the face of rising tensions from voter ID to misinformation.
The LGIU England policy round-up for March highlights the trailblazer devolution deals for Greater Manchester and the West Midlands and the English devolution accountability framework.
A new LGIU briefing, published this week, focusses on the potential impact of the Spring Budget on devolution and local economic development.
Retailers including Ocado, Kingfisher and Marks & Spencer have joined the British Retail Consortium (BRC) in urging the government to reconsider “fundamentally flawed” reforms to Britain’s packaging recycling scheme. Under proposed changes to the extended producer responsibility scheme from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, businesses that supply goods with packaging will be fully responsible for the full net cost of dealing with the waste, shifting the cost away from council tax payers.
Transport for London (TfL) has approved nearly 5,000 applications for the £110m Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) scrappage fund since the scheme opened in January. Of the £18m of grants allocated so far, over £13.5m will go toward replacing vans, minibuses, and coaches that breach ULEZ emission rules with cleaner vehicles. A further £4m will be used to remove non-compliant cars and motorbikes from London’s roads.
Several European countries, including Britain, Germany, France, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland and Luxembourg, will launch a wind-power revolution with a tenfold increase in electricity generation by 2050 using massive turbine “islands” built at sea. Energy ministers will agree to quadruple offshore wind power during the next five years, with plans to build the world’s largest network of new offshore wind farms generating electricity in the North Sea.
A new LGIU briefing on clean air in public buildings can be read here.
Housing and planning
Free market or state intervention over holiday lets? Housing Secretary, Michael Gove, has defended his plans to force second-home owners to seek planning permission before renting out their properties as holiday lets, stating that the issue is “a simple one of fairness”. He argued this week that the trend of second homes being turned into “rival hotels” on an “almost permanent Airbnb setting” is taking local housing stock that local people expected to be for them and putting second-home owners using Airbnb at a competitive advantage compared to the owner of a B&B or small hotel. Conservative backbenchers have criticised Gove’s proposed crackdown on holiday homes, with Jacob Rees-Mogg labelling it “misplaced” and Simon Clarke calling it “anti-business”.
A recent LGIU briefing on second homes and holiday lets can be read here.
Developers have claimed that the planning system is the worst it has been for decades, and is preventing tens of thousands of homes from being built each year. Issues including a quasi-ban on building homes around national parks, nutrient and water neutrality rules, and new planning policy changes that make local authorities’ housebuilding targets advisory rather than mandatory, are leading to as many as 45,000 new homes being rejected each year, according to trade association the Home Builders Federation. The group warns that the change in planning policy will lead to a fall in building output of 77,000 homes per year, and believes that the total number of new homes built in the UK could fall to half of last year’s total of 233,000, particularly given the withdrawal of the Help to Buy scheme.
A recent Global Local briefing on housing shortages can be read here.
The LGIU housing and planning update for April can be read here.
Children and education
Government figures show that 8.4% of pupils were absent from school across the week ending 31 March, up from 7% the previous week. This is the highest level since the last week of the autumn term in December 2022, when the rate stood at 14.3%. The figures show an estimated 3.2% of pupils were away from school for unauthorised reasons in the latest week, also the highest since the end of December. Overall, the Department for Education (DfE) figures show the rate of persistent absence so far this academic year is 22.6%. This is the proportion of pupils who have missed 10% or more of their possible school sessions, defined as half a day.
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a steep increase in school absences among children in England. Budget pressures have led to cuts in school support staff, which has resulted in some schools “managing” students out of classrooms or disguising attendance records. Evidence presented to MPs on the Commons education select committee suggests that some parents are now more cautious about sending their children to school with minor ailments as a result of public health messaging during the pandemic. Anxiety and lack of mental health support are cited as key drivers behind the increase in absences. The latest attendance data from the DfE revealed that absences in the spring term this year were still 50% higher than before the pandemic. In 2021-22, more than one in five secondary pupils were “persistently absent” for missing 10% or more of sessions.
This week we published an LGIU briefing on absenteeism which can be read here.
Health and social care
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) has warned that adult social care in England has “run out of road”, and that the coming year will see “the biggest crisis social care has ever faced”. ADASS president Sarah McClinton said millions “are in pain or distress because they aren’t getting the care they need, and family and friends picking up the pieces are being pushed to the edge”. ADASS is publishing a roadmap for the next two years, setting out what is needed to transform care and support in England, from housing options for older people to pay and conditions for care workers.
A recent LGIU briefing on the role of councils in integrated care systems can be read here:
The latest monthly round-up of health and social care issues can be read here.
A new LGIU briefing on social prescribing can be read here.
Arts and culture
A 60ft Damien Hirst sculpture has been unveiled on the banks of the Thames. The Demon with Bowl is his sixth work to be installed on the Greenwich Peninsula, making the riverside one of the best places to see his art. Demon with Bowl takes its place on a public art trail best viewed from an elevated linear park called the Tide. Over the next months and years, a total of eight of Mr Hirst’s works will be installed along the art trail, which also features work from artists such as Richard Wilson, Morag Myerscough, Alex Chinneck, and Allen Jones.
The new Cultural Sector spring round-up can be read here.
A farmer who hired diggers and bulldozers to illegally rip up trees along the banks of a river has been jailed for 12 months. John Price, who had claimed he stripped out trees to protect locals from flooding, admitted seven charges of damaging a stretch of the River Lugg in Herefordshire, including failing to stop pollution entering the water. The judge at Kidderminster Magistrates’ Court described it as “ecological vandalism on an industrial scale”. Mr Price was also told to pay more than £1.2m in court and restoration costs. In the wake of the damage, charges against the farmer were brought by the Environment Agency and Natural England, which said the habitats of otters, kingfishers and trout were also destroyed.
Cleethorpes beach is a popular spot for metal detectorists due to the interesting artefacts that can be found. However, the local council has introduced a ban and threatens fines of £100 for those caught metal detecting. This has caused frustration among local residents, with a petition launched, and the National Council for Metal Detecting is considering taking legal action against North East Lincolnshire Council to overturn the ban. Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones were unavailable for comment.