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08/08/2010

Sunday Misc.

Some bits and pieces from the weekend…

New websites 1
The OPSI and Statute Law Database sites have been combined into one new site for statute: www.legislation.gov.uk. However, the databases are the same and the current estimate is that about 50% of the statute is up to date, in the sense of containing all subsequent amendments. While statutes that have subsequent unincorporated amendments are marked as such, as per the SLD, this remains unsatisfactory for anyone who needs current statute – which is anyone in practice – as noted in the whole Timothy Leigh/iLegal kerfuffle. We don’t link to the SLD and now legislation.gov.uk versions of the key housing statutes for that reason, but there is no doubt that legislation.gov.uk will continue to build into a valuable resource, assuing its funind isn’t removed entirely.

New websites 2
Housing Rights Service – the leading provider of specialist independent housing advice, training and information in Northern Ireland – contacted me about their new site and blog. Because I’m a dimwit, I didn’t know who they were. Thankfully I was quickly put right by others on the NL team before I could (further) embarrass myself. A link to the HRS website is now in the ‘housing law’ links to the right. The blog looks like an interesting start on setting out the HRS findings from their Preventing Possession initiative (spanning mortgage and rent arrears).

‘Cameron Tenancies’
On the floated proposals for council tenancies to be of 5 to 10 years, then reviewable on a ‘means and occupation’ basis, the Lib Dems are uneasy. Simon Hughes has come out against the proposals. Whether this will make any difference will have to be seen. And the Sunday Times reported a poll finding 62% of the voting population is vaguely or strongly in favour of the proposals. Given that the Guardian couldn’t even get the relevant housing law right in its front page, I really doubt that those 62% are basing their decisions on a sound knowledge of how secure tenancies actually work now. What proportion of the 62% actually have secure tenancies was not something that the Sunday Times cared to inform us. No link to the story because of Rupert Murdoch’s paywall on Times websites.

Legal Aid contract round
In an email sent out on Friday 6 August, the Law Society stated that it had sent a letter to Carolyn Downs, new LSC head, requesting that “the implementation of the tender round be suspended ‘pending an urgent but thorough and public evaluation of the result to ensure that access to justice is achieved’.” The letter is here [link to PDF]. The Law Society’s view, based on the Family tender results and the LSC’s previous statements that a reduction in supplier base was not an intended outcome of the process, is that “It is clear that the LSC is not in control of the tender process.”. Various voices, including that of Wall LJ, President of the Family Division, have been raised against the outcome of the Family contract process. There is more of a silence over the Social Welfare results.

Meanwhile, according to the Law Gazette, Ms Downs, having just entered the post of LSC chief, is apparently startled at the nature of relations between the LSC and providers, ‘where it would appear to be acceptable for people to talk to each other in a really rather adversarial, aggressive and inappropriate fashion’.

She said providers and the LSC needed to ‘engage more constructively and more openly’, but added ‘it is very difficult to have open and engaged discussions with people who are constantly threatening to sue you’.

As the comments on the Law Gazette story point out, threatening to sue was hardly a first resort at any point, particularly for the Law Society and no-one has seen any fresh tendency to constructive and open engagement yet from the LSC. Ms Downs may have quite a steep learning curve on the recent history of the LSC – provider relationship to master.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

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