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Written Statements

Volume 729: debated on Thursday 16 March 2023

Written Statements

Thursday 16 March 2023

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

UK-lraq Relationship on 20th Anniversary of Iraq Conflict

My noble Friend the Minister for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and the United Nations, Lord Ahmad) has made the following written ministerial statement:

20 March 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the conflict in Iraq. This anniversary is an opportunity to remember the service and sacrifice of all those who served in the conflict. At this time, we pay particular regard to those service personnel, British, allied and Iraqi, as well as civilians who died or were wounded in the conflict in Iraq. It is also a time to reflect upon the conflict and Parliament’s role in it, and to restate the UK’s enduring commitment to support the development of a stable, prosperous and democratic future for all Iraqi people.

All of us will undoubtedly have in mind today the 179 British and allied personnel who lost their lives in the conflict. I pay tribute to them and to their bravery, and my sympathy goes out to their families for their loss. Their sacrifice and determination to make the world safer for all of us will never be forgotten. Next week Ministers from HM Government will attend commemorative events across the UK, remembering all those who served in the conflict and particularly those who gave the most. Today we have in our thoughts those service personnel that died, and those who were wounded or injured as a result of the conflict. We also remember and give thanks to all personnel of the UK armed forces who served in Iraq, and their families, who provided vital support at home whilst their loved ones were deployed.

We also have in mind the many Iraqi citizens who were killed during the conflict or who have died since in military operations, bombings, acts of terrorism or through sickness and disease. There is no doubt that the people of Iraq have faced enormous and grave challenges over the last 20 years.

As part of our remembrance, we must ensure we continue to implement the hard won and costly lessons. The UK Government have learned much from the Chilcot inquiry and continue to draw upon it as we improve national security decision making and implementation. The purpose of the inquiry was to examine the United Kingdom’s involvement in the conflict in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish as accurately and reliably as possible what happened, and to identify lessons to be learned. The FCDO continues to institutionalise the Chilcot lessons learned across policy, operations and strategy so that staff are equipped to support decision making and implementation in complex contexts.

We should also look forward. Today, the UK and Iraq share a close and enduring partnership, working together to address shared global challenges. Through the global coalition against Daesh, NATO Mission Iraq and our long-term bilateral initiatives, we remain committed to Iraq in its fight to defeat Daesh and to enjoy peace and stability. We are working with the Government of Iraq to support economic reform, energy transition, human rights and freedom of religion and belief, and to mitigate the effects of climate change. These joint efforts to unlock Iraq’s immense potential, as represented by its young population, characterise the relationship in 2023.

I saw this for myself during my visit to Iraq at the end of February. There has been significant progress since 2003 but we are committed to supporting further progress and strengthening our partnership with Iraq. The UK remains committed to preserving the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Government and people of Iraq to safeguard stability and deliver prosperity.

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Health and Social Care

NHS Staff: Pay Offer

I am pleased to be able to inform the House that today 16 March 2023, I have made a formal offer on pay for 2022-23 and 2023-24 to the unions representing staff on the agenda for change contract. The NHS Staff Council has discussed this offer and the Royal College of Nursing, UNISON, GMB, the chartered society of physiotherapy and the British Dietetic Association will recommend the offer to their members in consultations that will be held over the coming weeks. Strike action will continue to be paused while they are consulted.

Under the offer, over 1 million NHS staff on the agenda for change contract would receive two non-consolidated payments for 2022-23. This is on top of an at least £1,400 consolidated pay award that they have already received, which was in line with the recommendations of the independent pay review body.

Under the terms of the offer, all staff would receive an award worth 2% of an individuals’ salary for 2022-23. In addition, staff would receive a one-off bonus which recognises the sustained pressure facing the NHS following the covid-19 pandemic and the extraordinary effort these members of staff have been making to hit backlog recovery targets and meet the Prime Minister’s promise to cut waiting lists. This NHS backlog bonus is an investment worth an additional 4% of the agenda for change pay bill, and would mean staff would receive an additional payment of between £1,250 and £1,600. With both of these payments, a nurse at the top of band 5, for example, would receive over £2,000 in total.

For 2023-24, the Government have offered a 5% consolidated increase in pay. In addition, the lowest paid staff, such as porters and cleaners will see their pay matched to the top of band 2, resulting in a pay increase of 10.4%.

For example, this would mean a newly qualified nurse would get over £1,300, increasing their base salary to £28,407. A nurse at the top of band 6 would receive a pay rise of over £2,000, increasing their base salary to £42,618.

The Government firmly believe that this is a fair offer which rewards all agenda for change staff and commits to a substantial pay rise in 2023-24 at a time when people across the country are facing cost of living pressures and there are multiple demands on the public finances.

Setting pay is an annual process and, as is always the case, decisions are considered in light of the fiscal and economic context and ensuring awards recognise the value of NHS staff whilst delivering value for the taxpayer. While it is right that we reward our hard-working NHS staff with a pay rise, this needs to be proportionate and balanced with the need to deliver NHS services and manage the country’s long term economic health and public sector finances, along with inflationary pressures.

The Government asked the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) to report by the end of April 2023. We anticipate the progress made and the outcome of the union ballot to be taken into account. If the offer is accepted by unions, it will be implemented, but the Government would welcome observations from the NHSPRB on the pay deal in England.

On top of the pay package, the Government are also committing to important measures including the development of a national, evidence-based policy frame- work which will build on existing safe staffing arrangements and amendments to terms and conditions to support existing NHS staff develop their careers through apprenticeships.

In addition, having heard the concerns of nursing staff and their representatives about the specific challenges they face in terms of recruitment, retention and professional development, the Government have committed to address these issues and will therefore work with NHS employers and unions to improve opportunities for nursing career progression.

The Government are also committed to improving support for newly qualified healthcare registrants. It will commission a review into the support received by those transitioning from training into practice. And the Government will consult on the permanent easement of pension abatement rules.

This package, alongside the comprehensive NHS Long Term Workforce Plan that NHS England will publish later this year, will help to ensure that the NHS can recruit and retain the staff it needs to meet the growing and changing health and wellbeing needs of patients.

Alongside making this formal offer, I have today also written to the Royal College of Nursing to outline that, in undertaking work to address the specific challenges faced by nursing staff—in terms of recruitment, retention and professional development—this work will involve: how to take account of the changing responsibilities of nursing staff; and the design and implementation issues, including scope and legal aspects, of a separate pay spine for nursing staff exclusively.

The Government intend to complete this work such that resulting changes can be delivered within the 2024-25 pay year. In conducting this work, the Government will also consider whether any separate measures may apply to other occupational groups, taking into account the views of NHS Employers and unions.

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Home Department

Director of Labour Market Enforcement Interim Annual Strategy 2022-23

Alongside my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business (Kevin Hollinrake), I am today publishing the “Labour Market Enforcement Annual Strategy for 2022-23”, submitted by the DLME Margaret Beels OBE. The strategy will be available on gov.uk.

The Director of Labour Market Enforcement’s role was created by the Immigration Act 2016 to bring better focus and strategic co-ordination to the enforcement of labour market legislation by the three enforcement bodies which are responsible for state enforcement of specific employment rights:

The Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate;

His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs National Minimum and Living Wage enforcement team; and

The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.

Under section 2 of the Act, the Director of Labour Market Enforcement is required to prepare an annual labour market enforcement strategy, which assesses the scale and nature of non-compliance in the labour market and sets priorities for future enforcement by the three enforcement bodies and the allocation of resources needed to deliver those priorities. The annual strategy, once approved, is laid before Parliament.

In line with the obligations under the Act, Margaret Beels submitted a labour market enforcement strategy for 2022-23 in March 2022.

The director is a statutory office-holder with a degree of independence from Government, and is accountable to the BEIS Secretary of State and the Home Secretary. In agreement with sponsor Departments, the director decided to submit what she describes as an interim strategy ahead of a more comprehensive 2023-24 annual strategy, to enable the three enforcement bodies and sponsor Departments to continue to focus on work to address the recommendations in previous strategies, 2020-21 and 2021-22, published in December 2021.

This interim strategy provides an assessment of the scale and nature of non-compliance and focuses on the emerging threats posed by the dynamics of the shifting labour market. It consolidates existing themes from previous recommendations, highlights where the enforcement bodies and sponsor Departments should be focusing their efforts and sets out four priority areas, which include:

Improving the radar picture,

Improving focus and effectiveness,

Better joined up thinking,

Engagement and support.

We believe the enforcement bodies have been funded sufficiently to deliver the activities set out in the strategy. The DLME carried out stakeholder engagement for the 2022-23 strategy with the enforcement bodies prior to submission.

In previous years, we have published a Government response to the strategy setting out the approach we will take to the recommendations. For the latest strategy, we have instead worked closely with the director and their office and the enforcement bodies to agree the recommendations ahead of publication of the strategy.

We look forward to receiving the director’s 2023-24 annual strategy and a summary of the results of the director’s call for evidence to better understand the changing nature of the labour market.

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Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Levelling Up Update

Levelling up the United Kingdom is at the heart of our ambition as a Government. The Chancellor has announced a package of measures in his Budget which put power and money in the hands of our cities, towns, counties, and rural and coastal areas. Through this package, we continue to deliver the ambitions we set out in our levelling up White Paper, further supporting places across the country to reap the benefits of our economic success and strengthen their local economies and communities.

Devolution and local economic growth institutions in England

We have concluded our negotiations with the Mayors of Greater Manchester and the West Midlands on our “trailblazer” deeper devolution deals, subject to ratification. These deals mark a new chapter for English devolution and further progress in delivering our 2030 levelling up mission on local leadership. They transfer more control and influence over the levers of economic growth and levelling up to local, empowered, and more accountable leaders in England’s second city regions.

We have agreed a trailblazing package, including a single departmental-style settlement, unprecedented 10-year retention of business rates, devolution of post-19 skills funding and functions, and control of the affordable homes programme outside London for the first time ever. This will enable the mayors and local authority leaders to grow the economies of Greater Manchester and the West Midlands and drive levelling up, for the benefit of local residents and businesses.

These deals will act as a blueprint for deepening devolution elsewhere in England. We will begin talks with other MCAs on deeper devolution this year. The Government will set out more on plans for those talks soon.

We are continuing to work with places to implement the new devolution deals signed in 2022, and to invite new areas to come forward with proposals, as we progress towards our levelling up mission for every area of England that wants one to have a deal by 2030.

Through this work, we will empower places to take control of their own destinies. But with power must come accountability. We have published an English devolution accountability framework, which sets out clear and robust arrangements to ensure that decision-makers in areas with devolution deals are accountable to their residents and deliver value for money.

Local enterprise partnerships (LEPs)

The Government are committed to empowering local leadership at every opportunity. To this end, the Government intend for the functions of LEPs to be delivered by democratically elected local leaders, where appropriate in future. Therefore, the Government are minded to withdraw central Government support for LEPs from April 2024. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and the Department for Business and Trade will now consult on these proposals, before confirming a decision. The Government will publish an updated policy position to confirm next steps by summer 2023.

Investment zones

The autumn statement set out the Government’s ambition to embed innovation throughout the economy and support the growth of priority sectors. Investment zones will harness existing local strengths and leverage places’ innovation potential to drive productivity and support levelling up across the UK.

Government have announced plans to enter discussions with places to host 12 high growth investment zones across the UK, each backed by £80 million over five years including generous tax incentives, bringing opportunity into areas which have traditionally underperformed economically. Investment zones will be clustered around research institutions such as universities and will be focused on driving growth the UK’s key sectors: digital and technology, creative industries, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and green industries.

Eight places in England have been shortlisted to host investment zones, with the intention to agree plans with local partners by the end of the year. The eight places are those covered by: the proposed East Midlands Mayoral Combined Authority; Greater Manchester Mayoral Combined Authority; Liverpool City Region Mayoral Combined Authority; the proposed North East Mayoral Combined Authority; South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority; Tees Valley Mayoral Combined Authority; West Midlands Mayoral Combined Authority, and West Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority. An explanation of the methodology used to identify these places has been published on gov.uk.

The Government are also working closely with the devolved Administrations to establish how investment zones in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be delivered, which will account for the four final locations.

Levelling up partnerships (LUPs)

Levelling up partnerships will bring the collective power of Government to provide bespoke place-based regeneration in a further twenty of England’s areas most in need of levelling up over 2023-24 and 2024-25.

The following places will be invited to form levelling up partnerships over 2023-24 and 2024-25: City of Kingston upon Hull, Sandwell, Mansfield, Middlesbrough, Blackburn with Darwen, Hastings, Torbay, Tendring, Stoke-on-Trent, Boston, Redcar and Cleveland, Wakefield, Oldham, Rother, Torridge, Walsall, Doncaster, South Tyneside, Rochdale, and Bassetlaw. Our starting assumption is that we will work with the largest urban area within these local authorities, unless there is a strong rationale for choosing somewhere else.

These places have been selected based on the analysis in the levelling up White Paper which considered places in England against four key metrics: the percentage of adults with Level 3+ qualifications; gross value added (GVA) per hour worked; median gross weekly pay; and healthy life expectancy. Geographic spread has been considered to make sure regions across England benefit from the programme. The methodology used to identify the 20 places has been published on gov.uk. We also want to explore delivering this programme in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and will consult with the devolved Administrations.

Mayoral capital investment

To give mayors the resources they need to level up their areas, the Government have also provided a further £161 million for high-value capital regeneration projects in city regions across England, including business premises and food science facilities in Tees Valley, and unlocking investment in a research campus in the Liverpool city region. The funding will support delivery of 32 projects, and a list of these has been published.

Capital levelling up bids

Following the second round of the levelling up fund (LUF), in which the full £2.1 billion LUF was awarded, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is using unallocated departmental budgets to fund, subject to subsidy checks, three further bids which narrowly missed out. These are in Sefton, Rossendale and Stockport local authorities, and are worth just under £58 million in total. Further detail on this is outlined in the accounting officer assessment for capital levelling up bids.

Capital regeneration projects

Since the conclusion of the levelling up fund round two, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has identified further funding to support regeneration and town centre bids that were made into the fund. The Government are announcing grants for 16 projects that can start to spend and deliver quickly across England, worth a combined £211 million. These projects, subject to subsidy checks, are located in the following local authorities: Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, East Suffolk, Kirklees, London Borough of Waltham Forest, North East Lincolnshire, Northumberland, Redcar and Cleveland, Rotherham, Salford, Sandwell, Tameside, Telford and Wrekin, Tendring, Wigan and Wolverhampton. Further detail on the selection process is outlined in the accounting officer assessment for regeneration projects.

Community ownership fund

To empower local people to save community assets that matter most to them, the Government have announced 30 more projects across the UK that will benefit from the community ownership fund. These projects will receive a total of £7.73 million in funding, bringing the total number of assets to 98 and our overall investment to £23.9 million for neighbourhoods right across the United Kingdom. The list of successful projects has been published on gov.uk.

Other measures

To support local authorities to continue to deliver their existing development plans and bring forward new council housing supply, HM Treasury will be offering a new preferential public works loan board borrowing rate for council housing activity through the housing revenue account from June 2023.

To stimulate new housing supply and unlock development that would otherwise be stalled due to high levels of nutrient pollution, we will announce a call for evidence (CfE) from affected local authorities on nutrient neutrality credit scheme opportunities. Where high quality nutrient-credit schemes are presented, this Budget will provide investment to accelerate their delivery and unlock housing supply.

All relevant documents are available as links from www.gov.uk/government/news/levelling-up-at-heart-of-budget.

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Local Authority Interventions

Local councils play an essential role every day. They deliver core services, including to the most vulnerable citizens, they help shape our communities, and support local democracy. Where councils do not meet the high standards that we set for local Government, it is right that Government intervene in order to protect the interests of residents.

Today I am updating the House on the intervention arrangements at three councils of concern to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. These are Thurrock Council, the London Borough of Croydon, and Slough Borough Council.

Thurrock Council

On 24 January 2023, I informed the House that the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities and I were minded to expand the ongoing intervention in Thurrock Council. Over recent months, the new leadership at Thurrock Council have worked co-operatively and collaboratively with the commissioner, Essex County Council, to start the long journey back. In addition, our proposals were to appoint an independent managing director commissioner to work alongside Thurrock’s existing commissioner, Essex County Council, to provide commissioners with further powers over governance and staffing, and to direct Thurrock Council to take additional actions to support its improvement.

I made this announcement after receiving two reports from Essex County Council in December last year, the commissioner’s first report, and an update letter on the best value inspection. Both documents laid bare the scale and complexity of the financial challenges facing Thurrock Council and noted significant concerns regarding a lack of robust governance and leadership capacity at the council.

I invited representations on our proposal from Thurrock Council, and from members of the public, which I have now received and considered.

Since that announcement, the Secretary of State and I have also received a best value inspection report on Thurrock Council from Essex County Council in its role as best value inspector, which I will publish in due course following a further representations process whereby any particular individuals criticised are given an opportunity to read and respond to those relevant parts of the report before it is published.

Having carefully considered the best value inspection report, and the representations I have received about the intervention, I am satisfied that Thurrock Council is continuing to fail to comply with its best value duty. I am today announcing a formal expansion to the intervention in Thurrock Council to implement the changes we proposed on 24 January 2023.

To begin, we will appoint Dr Dave Smith to be a managing director commissioner. He is a highly experienced former local authority chief executive who has held senior executive positions within local government for the past fifteen years, including chief executive of South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority and chief executive of Sunderland City Council. He will work closely with the existing commissioner, Essex County Council, to support Thurrock Council in its improvement journey. He will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the council and will provide strategic direction and leadership, until such time as a permanent appointment to the post of chief executive can be made. As I noted in my January announcement, I intend for this appointment to strengthen the intervention model and to increase the council’s capacity to deliver vital improvements.

The Secretary of State will also use his powers under the Local Government Act 1999 to update and expand his directions to Thurrock Council and its commissioners.

In addition to the finance powers they already hold, the new directions will permit the commissioners to exercise further powers over:

All functions associated with the governance, scrutiny and transparency of strategic decision making by the authority to ensure compliance with the best value duty. This will include oversight of an audit of the council’s governance.

All functions associated with the council’s operating model and redesign of council services to achieve value for money and financial sustainability.

The appointment, suspension and dismissal of statutory officers, including powers to determine the process for making these appointments and dismissals, and to define a new officer structure for senior positions at the council.

The development, oversight and operation of an effective performance management framework for senior positions.

The new directions will also instruct the council to take specific actions to support its improvement. These will incorporate the existing instructions to the council issued back in September, but they will go further, and instruct Thurrock Council to undertake the following new actions to the satisfaction of commissioners:

To prepare, produce and implement an enhanced improvement and recovery plan, which builds on their existing improvement plan. This will include new elements to cover:

An action plan to reconfigure the authority’s services commensurate with the authority’s available financial resources.

A plan to ensure that the Authority has personnel with sufficient skills, capabilities and capacity to deliver the improvement and recovery plan, within a robust officer structure.

An action plan to strengthen the authority’s governance function, to secure improvements in transparency and formal decision making. This should include measures to improve the authority’s scrutiny function, including the taking and recording of formal decisions.

Arrangements to secure the proper resourcing and functioning of the system of internal controls, including risk management and internal audit.

To undertake any action that commissioners may reasonably require to avoid, so far as practicable, incidents of poor governance that would, in the commissioners’ reasonable opinion, give rise to the risk of the authority failing to comply with its best value duty.

To take steps to ensure that the role of accountable body to the Thames Freeport is exercised to the satisfaction of the commissioners. This should also be reflected in the improvement and recovery plan.

As part of this next phase of intervention, Essex County Council will continue to act as a commissioner and I look forward to its report in June. As part of the January announcement, I indicated my intent to formalise the role of the leader of Essex County Council in this intervention. I can confirm that I will today issue an updated explanatory memorandum, to accompany the new directions.

I am hopeful that the expansion to the intervention that I am announcing today will help the council to address the concerns set out in the commissioner’s first report and the best value inspection update letter, and to continue its work to improve the way in which the council is run. There will be an opportunity for further reflection on Thurrock Council when I publish the best value inspection report.

The London Borough of Croydon

Regarding the London Borough of Croydon, the council has been subject to two public interest reports by external auditors relating to poor financial decision making and associated governance failings (October 2020) and failures in financial control and poor governance arrangements relating to the refurbishment of Fairfield Halls (January 2022). Croydon has issued three section 114 notices since 2020, the latest being in November 2022 following the conclusion that it cannot balance its budget in 2023-24 and beyond.

The former Secretary of State appointed an independent improvement and assurance panel in February 2021, chaired by Tony McArdle OBE and made up of independent experts, to offer the council advice, expertise and challenge as it sought to address failings related to poor financial control and governance. The panel has provided regular assurance reports to the Secretary of State on the council’s progress throughout this time, with their latest report being submitted in November 2022.

Whilst the council has struggled to resolve serious governance and financial issues for several years, I want to place on record that the Secretary of State and I recognise the positive steps taken by the council, with oversight from the improvement and assurance panel, to lay the foundations for its recovery and ensure that legacy issues are being addressed. In May 2022, Croydon changed its model of governance with the election of a Mayor, Jason Perry, and a new council. The Secretary of State acknowledges the panel’s assessment in their latest report that the Mayor has been working constructively with them and is prepared to “take firm decisions” to return the council to a sustainable financial footing. The panel have also commented that within the council there is

“much evidence of managers and staff grasping the scale of the problem and doing their best to fix it.”

Historic issues have continued to be unearthed at Croydon and their potential impact on the council and the progress it has made to date must not be underestimated, particularly given its precarious financial position. Croydon is currently unable to achieve financial sustainability on its own accord and has requested an unprecedented level of support from Government as a result of these historic issues.

On balance, the Secretary of State agrees with the panel’s latest assessment, that the acknowledged and welcome work of the new leadership has made good progress, however he has concluded, including as a result of the historic problems and the extent of improvement necessary, that the council is not meeting its best value duty.

The Secretary of State is minded to implement the intervention package set out below and in line with procedures laid down in the Local Government Act 1999 to assist the existing extensive effort to go even quicker. Officials in the Department have, as a result, written to the council seeking representations on the proposed intervention package.

The proposed package is centred on the council continuing to make the necessary improvements to the satisfaction of the improvement and assurance panel. The panel will be backed by directions issued to the council requiring it to follow the instructions of the panel if they are not satisfied with the progress being made. The panel will report to the Secretary of State every six months.

It is important that the council leads its recovery but that it does not lose momentum in making the necessary improvements. As part of the representations period, Ministers will reflect on membership of the panel to ensure the arrangements are fit for purpose to support the council moving forward.

We are inviting representations from the council on the Secretary of State’s proposals by 30 March. We want to provide the opportunity for members and officers of the council, and any other interested parties, especially the residents of Croydon, to make their views on the Secretary of State’s proposals known. Should the Secretary of State decide to intervene along the lines described here, he will make the necessary statutory directions under the 1999 Act. I will update the House in due course.

Slough Borough Council

I would also like to take this opportunity to provide an update on the intervention at Slough Borough Council. On 22 December 2022 I received a copy of the commissioners’ second report on the progress of the intervention. The report has made for stark reading. Commissioners describe there being

“a real sense that many in leadership roles do not see leading and modelling corporate improvement as their overriding responsibility but only as something they have to do”

This is wholly unacceptable. The well-publicised failures of Slough have stemmed from a poor culture of checks and balances, as well as inadequate leadership. The council and its leadership must accept this and embrace the need to change. The results of these past failures have devastated the council and made its financial position unsustainable. Within their report commissioners have gone so far as to query the viability of Slough as a unitary authority. For Slough to remain in its current form there will need to be a fundamental shift in the attitude and behaviour of the council and its leadership. The role of commissioners will be of paramount importance and their focus in the coming months will be on a new operating model for the authority.

Our intervention now needs to move from its discovery phase to one of requiring the council to do the hard work of transformation. The council must step up. Equally, we will put in place a commissioner team who will move the council through the next stage of this journey. Max Caller CBE, lead commissioner for the intervention, wrote to the Secretary of State on 1 March to tender his resignation and stated his intention to retire from public life. The Secretary of State has accepted Mr Caller’s decision and I would like to thank him not only for the work he has undertaken as part of the intervention, but also for his many contributions to the local government sector. In addition, Margaret Lee, finance commissioner, also wrote to the Secretary of State on 12 March to tender her resignation for personal reasons. The Secretary of State has accepted Ms Lee’s resignation with immediate effect and I would like to thank her for her excellent work in Slough and Croydon and wish her well for the future. We will make an announcement on the revised commissioner team in due course and we will make appointments with the experience and skill set to ensure the council progresses, alongside the enhanced senior officer team now in place at the council.

The intervention at Slough remains challenging. I strongly urge the leadership in Slough to consider the findings of commissioners’ report and reflect on what more they could be doing not only to meet the requirements of the statutory directions, but to drive forward necessary changes. Things must change.

Conclusion

I want to acknowledge the work of the dedicated staff who deliver the business-as-usual services of the councils included in today’s announcement, many of whom have strived to deliver those services over recent years despite the financial, leadership and governance challenges faced by their respective authorities. They will play a vital role in each council’s recovery. I have deposited in the House library copies of those reports I have referred to that are also being published on gov.uk today.

We are also today publishing on gov.uk the second report from the Sandwell commissioners, which the House may wish to note. The commissioners report that they have seen some progress at the council in the past six months, though there is still a lot of significant work to be done, with a particular focus on the customer journey and culture. Last week I also published the third report from the Liverpool commissioners. The report is cautiously optimistic about the council’s progress. It is clear, however, that the council faces significant change in the months ahead with a transition in officer and political leadership plus the implementation of a significant transformation programme. The continuation of the intervention in Liverpool will be vital to support the council through this period of change.

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Work and Pensions

Personal Independence Payments

Today, the department will publish the latest statistics on making backdated payments to personal independence payment claimants who are affected by the KT and SH decision of the upper tribunal. The release will be published at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/list-of-upcoming-releases-of-management-information-and-ad-hoc-analyses.

The KT and SH UT decision, handed down on 21 August 2020, concerned how we decide whether hearing impaired or deaf people need an aid, appliance, or supervision, to wash or bathe safely under the PIP assessment.

The department revised the guidance used for the PIP assessment process, for all new decisions, on 17 May 2021. We started the administrative exercise to check eligible claims back to the date of the UT decision on 4 April 2022.

Since April 2022, we have reviewed around 4,000 cases against the KT and SH decision. This includes cases where claimants have previously been assessed as needing an aid or appliance to hear. All reviews have been carried out by a case manager within the department.

Around 4,000 arrears payments, totalling around £11 million, have been made. No one should have seen their PIP reduced because of this exercise.

Although we have completed the exercise, claimants can still ask the Department for Work and Pensions to conduct a review of their case, if they think they are affected.

Our approach demonstrates that we have prioritised claimants who are most likely to benefit, to make backdated payments as quickly as possible.

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