NALC Legal Update

Welcome to the third legal update and the first of 2019

GDPR – commenting on planning applications

Planning applications often contain personal data (as defined by the GDPR/ Data Protection Act 2018). Processing personal data is necessary for the exercise of planning functions, but that does not include a blanket approach to publishing such data on the internet.

Decisions on what information is published online can be a matter for individual planning authorities (LPA). Most LPAs will publish comments with redacted personal data online. However since the introduction of GDPR it has come to our attention that some LPAs are no longer continuing to publish online, and instead are making comments/responses available for inspection at their offices, citing GDPR as the reason for this change in practice.

It is not clear to us how this is any different to redacting personal information online, or how this would be any different for GDPR purposes. However a number of LPAs have decided to do this, for example Coventry City Council, have stated online: "There is no legal requirement for letters to be displayed on our website, however to ensure a transparent process, letters can be made available upon request."

Perhaps this change in practice is due to resourcing issues hence LPAs relying on the GDPR as a reason not to put redacted comments online for inspection. For those councils facing this issue with their LPA they may wish to use any dual hatted councillors to put pressure on LPAs to continue publishing redacted comments online, or question why GDPR is being citied as a reason. Putting a question to the Leader of the Council to respond at Full Council, or to the Head of Planning, may also be a practical way forward in querying the rationale for, and resolving this practice.

Committee on Standards in Public Life – Local Government Ethical Standards report

On 30 January the Committee on Standards in Public Life published its long awaited review on local government ethical standards. NALC legal attended the report launch. The committee recommended, amongst other things, the introduction of a single national (but non-mandatory) code. You can read the report here: NALC will be considering how best to engage with the process.

Related to the launch we are updating the NALC disciplinary and guidance procedure, also in light of the Ledbury judgment. We are also working on guidance for dealing with employee complaints involving councillor conduct. We will update you in due course.

Powers to contribute to library authorities

In our October 2018 update we referred to our view that a local council with the general power of competence (GPC) can trade and that we subsequently updated our guidance to reflect this. We want to make it clear that the same factors relate to libraries and it is our view that a local council with GPC can contribute to a library authority (county or unitary council) towards the cost of their library service.

The same goes for s.137 of the Local Government Act 1972. Whether such expenditure is a good use of s.137 funds would be a matter for an individual council, also taking into account that councils have to act reasonably in their decision making.

And finally… New CIL Briefing

The legal team has engaged the planning and housing think tank Planning Futures to produce a practical guide to CIL. This came about because we recognised the frustration a lot of you were expressing at the lack for non-legal practical planning guidance for the sector. We envisage this to be valuable document for members, with guidance on the CIL regime and practical case studies.

The soft launch of the briefing will take place at an Oxfordshire Larger Councils CALC event later in March. A briefing will be circulated shortly after.

Posted: Tue, 05 Mar 2019 13:22 by Alison Robinson

Tags: CIL, Committee on Standards in Publci Life, Ethical Standards, GAPTC, GDPR, NALC, National Association for Local Councils, News, Planning, Transparency, libraries