Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Late night levy

The Home Office will implement new laws this month allowing councils to impose a late-night levy on licensed premises that open after midnight that may result in late-night bars and pubs closing earlier. The charge of up to £4,400 a year is nominally intended to help cover the cost to the authorities of dealing with the consequences of late-night drinking, including violence and disorderly behaviour. About 120,000 premises in England and Wales are licensed to serve alcohol. Some 40,000 are permitted to stay open past midnight.

The Daily Telegraph, (11)

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Thousands march in London

Tens of thousands of people have marched in protest at the government's austerity measures. Labour leader Ed Miliband, among dozens of speakers who addressed crowds at the biggest march in London, received a mixed reaction. Other rallies took place in Glasgow and Belfast. The government says austerity measures are vital to cutting the deficit. Organiser Trades Union Congress (TUC), which said workers and campaigners from across the UK were involved with the demonstration, estimated that more than 150,000 people took part while the Met Police has not released an estimate. That compares with the more than 250,000 people who took part in a London anti-cuts march and rally in March 2011.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Changes to the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)

The Government yesterday laid before Parliament important amendments to the Community Infrastructure Levy.  The Community Infrastructure Levy (Amendment) Regulations 2012 make a series of long awaited changes to the regime to correct a series of unintended consequences.  Likely to be broadly welcomed by the industry, they are, in summary, as follows.

Most significant are changes to the rules for applications made under section 73 of the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act.  Section 73 provides, in effect, for amendments to conditions attached to existing planning permissions, although the result of a successful section 73 application is an entirely new permission.  Under the Regulations as currently drafted, such a consent is treated just like any other planning permission, attracting its own CIL liability.  This means not only that CIL could be paid twice in relation to the same scheme, but in addition that a scheme for which permission was granted before the adoption of a charging schedule by the relevant LPA could, upon amendment under section 73, attract full CIL liability.  These two highly undesirable outcomes are addressed by a series of proposed changes, a summary of which is set out below.
  • Where, following a section 73 application, the resulting permission would be subject to the same CIL liability as the original consent, the chargeable development for the purposes of CIL is the original scheme as if that scheme were commenced.  So there is no additional sum to pay.
  • Where the result of a section 73 consent is a different CIL liability, the chargeable development is the scheme that the developer is currently operating under (i.e. either the original permission or the section 73 consent).
  • Where a section 73 application results in a new chargeable development but CIL has already been paid in relation to the original scheme, the sum already paid may be set off against any new liability.  There is also provision for the repayment of CIL where the new liability is less than the sum already paid.
  • Where a section 73 application results in a new chargeable development in circumstances where the original permission was granted before CIL came into effect, CIL will be payable only if the new development attracts greater CIL liability than the original permission would have attracted.  In such a case the amount of CIL payable will be the difference between the two consents.  Developers should note that there will be no set-off for existing section 106 agreements; this is accordingly an issue to address within the context of the section 73 application.
  • Note that CIL will not be payable at all in relation to a consent granted pursuant to an application to extend the life of a permission under regulation 18 of the Development Management Procedure Order.  In such cases the CIL regime does not apply.  Since the recent extension, by one year, of the period within which such applications may be made, this point carries added importance.
             There are other changes too.  These include the following:
  • There is provision to correct an error in the formula for the calculation of CIL liability in relation to schemes involving the retention of some buildings and the demolition of others.
  • Similarly, other changes will ensure that social housing relief cannot be granted, contrary to the intention of Government, where retained housing is to be used for social housing.
  • There are measures to ensure that planning permission granted under a Neighbourhood Development Order will attract CIL liability.
  • Finally, the Regulations make provision for payment by instalments where CIL is charged by the Mayor but not the relevant London Borough.

These changes will be received with some relief by the industry.  The section 73  issue has been a matter of very real concern, and has been holding up progress on applications where CIL is an issue. 

Quite aside from concerns relating to the philosophy surrounding CIL, other technical issues remain unanswered.  The industry continues to lobby, for example, for a rethink on the rules on vacant buildings.  The current approach fails to acknowledge the difficulties and timescales involved in site assembly, and is damaging to the delivery of schemes.  More fundamental are concerns that CIL is being set by some LPAs at a level that significantly undermines viability.  It remains to be seen whether the Government will treat such threats to economic growth with the seriousness they deserve.
Finally, an interesting question arises in relation to the so-called 'slot-in' application – i.e. a stand-alone application necessary to amend part of an existing permission because the changes in question go beyond the scope of section 73.  It has been suggested by some commentators that in such cases there will be no additional CIL liability.  This is misconceived; in fact slot-in applications will be treated as granting development for separate chargeable developments liable for CIL in their own right.
It is to be hoped that the Community Infrastructure Levy (Amendment) Regulations 2012 will take effect as soon as possible, and in any event by the end of November

source an email.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Benefit changes 'to hit disabled'

Up to half a million disabled people and their families could be worse off under the new system of Universal Credit once it is fully implemented - with some warning that they might be forced out of their homes as a result of the changes, according to a report.
An inquiry headed by former wheelchair athlete Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has said several "key" groups will lose out under the Universal Credit, which will start to replace much of the benefits and tax credits system from next year.
The study used research showing that once the changes are fully in place, 100,000 disabled children stand to lose up to £28 a week, 230,000 severely disabled people who do not have another adult to help them could receive between £28 and £58 a week less and up to 116,000 disabled people who work could be at risk of losing around £40 a week.

source "aol"

Monday, 15 October 2012

No Get Away-Councils set to reveal parking income

Eric Pickles has announced that councils will have to disclose how much money they make from parking charges. He wants to extend the Coalition’s transparency agenda so taxpayers can see how much is raised from every parking zone in England. It is estimated that drivers paid a record £1.3bn in fees last year, a figure Mr Pickles describes as a “huge shopping tax”. It is noted that a recent survey revealed seven out of ten people intentionally avoided shopping areas with extortionate parking charges, while 66% said they would return to the high street if charges were more affordable. The Communities Secretary hopes the move will lead to a revival of town centres.
The Sunday Telegraph,

Monday, 8 October 2012

Welfare cuts expected

George Osborne will today announce moves to cut welfare spending by a further £10bn a year as he warns the Conservative conference that Britain will face continuing economic pain. The planned cuts will be in addition to the reduction in welfare spending of £18bn by 2014 which the Chancellor announced in the Budget in March. As part of the cuts Mr Osborne is expected to announce plans to deny housing benefit to school-leavers who have never worked. Ian Duncan Smith, who had previously expressed misgivings about further welfare cuts, is expected to publicly back Mr Osborne’s proposals. In return, Mr Duncan Smith has secured agreement from the Chancellor not to delay the introduction of universal credit.
Daily Express, 

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Power shortage warning

Britain risks running out of energy generating capacity in the winter of 2015-16, according to the energy regulator Ofgem. Its report predicted that the amount of spare capacity could fall from 14% now to only 4% in three years. Ofgem said this would leave Britain relying more on imported gas, which would make price rises more likely.
Source: BBC News

Right to buy revived

The Daily Mail reports that David Cameron is preparing a policy to revive the right to buy housing scheme for people living in social and council accommodation.
Source: Daily Mail,

Poll tax bombshell predicted

The Times reports that ministers are warning of a “poll tax bombshell” when new rules due next year will mean that low earners will have to pay council tax for the first time. It says that upheaval in the way council tax is administered is likely to see potentially hefty rises for most households. The source of the concern is the decision to cut by 10% the £5bn spent on help with council tax bills for 5.9m low income families and, at the same time, to transfer responsibility for the benefit from central government to town halls, asking councils to design their own systems of support for the vulnerable. Councils are obliged to give pensioners the same level of benefits, and are expected to do likewise for people with disabilities. But people on low incomes who currently receive maximum benefit could have to start paying some council tax, and are expected to see their level of relief sharply withdrawn as soon as they get part-time work. A report on the subject from the Institute of Fiscal Studies says: "The poll tax experience showed how difficult it can be to collect small amounts of tax from low-income households that are not used to paying it”. It is understood that Eric Pickles is in talks with the Treasury to see if there is any extra help to be offered to councils.
Source: The Times,

Monday, 1 October 2012

Build 100,000 More Homes, Ed Balls says

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls today called on the government to use the £4bn windfall from the sale of the next generation of mobile phone licences to build 100,000 new homes.
Ed Balls
Ed Balls said a Labour government would not reverse all of the coalition's spending cuts Photo: Flickr
Balls told the Labour Party conference that this use of the expected returns from selling the 4G mobile phone spectrum should be part of ‘a clear and costed plan to kick-start the economy and get people back to work’. Funding could also be found from the revenue to provide a stamp duty holiday for first-time home buyers. 

In his keynote speech Balls again stated that the next Labour administration would not reverse all of the coalition’s spending cuts. But he also called for cross-party agreement on both future infrastructure developments and reforms to adult social care.

Governments needed to stop avoiding the ‘hard long-term issues we know we haven’t properly faced up to and which transcend parties and Parliaments and where we badly need a cross-party consensus’, he said.

Admitting that ‘successive governments – including our own – have ducked or delayed vital decisions on our national infrastructure’, Balls announced the creation of a commission to build the case for national developments.

Sir John Armitt, who chaired the Olympic Delivery Authority, has been asked by Balls and Labour leader Ed Miliband ‘to consider how long-term infrastructure decision-making, planning, delivery and finance can be radically improved’. Among the issues that will be examined are the rollout of high-speed broadband across the whole of the UK and the nation’s future energy needs.

Armitt will now ‘draw up plans for a commission or process, independent of government, that can assess and make proposals on the long-term infrastructure needs of our country over the coming decades and help build that consensus’, Balls said.

Balls also revealed that the next Labour manifesto would outline a new set of fiscal rules for the next administration that would be monitored by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility.

He told delegates that ‘under Labour there would have been cuts’ and ‘fiscal responsibility is in the national interest’, adding that the next Labour government would not ‘flinch’ from difficult decisions on spending. Its first Spending Review would be a ‘zero-based’ examination of government spending, where all spending is decided from scratch. This is in contrast to the current incremental reviews, where it is decided how much each Whitehall department’s spending will change from the current baseline. Such a review would ‘carefully look at what the government can and cannot afford, rooting out waste and boosting productivity’.

Responding to Balls’ speech, CBI director general John Cridland backed the emphasis on new housing.

He added: ‘The CBI welcomes more action on housing investment, which would give a much-needed boost to growth. But such action must complement continued efforts to reduce the deficit. The two must go together, it cannot be an either/or.’

By Richard Johnstone in Manchester | 1 October 2012
Courtesy of CIPFA