The Weekly Round-up: Truss to review workers’ rights; drive for recruitment in health and social care; storm overflows and damage to rivers
7 September 2022
In the news
Liz Truss has been confirmed as the new prime minister. She is expected to freeze energy bills at approximately £2,500 a year and to provide a £400 universal handout. She has reportedly ruled out the idea of a windfall tax on oil companies, which was proposed by Labour. She is apparently considering reviewing workers’ rights, as part of her plan to scrap remaining EU regulations by the end of next year.
The chair of the Criminal Bar Association has called on Dominic Raab to hold talks to resolve their industrial action, which began in April. On Monday, criminal barristers began an indefinite all-out strike, calling for legal aid fees to increase by 25% immediately.
In other news
Ministers plan to introduce legislation to encourage nurses and dentists trained elsewhere to begin working for the NHS. The health secretary, Steve Barclay, is hoping to boost overseas recruitment in health and social care. This move comes after the number of unfilled NHS posts reached a record high of 132,139 earlier this year. Link 5 – ministers to make it easier
Two councils are planning to seek permission to appeal to the Supreme Court following two successful appeals which involved the striking out of negligence claims that had been brought against them. The appeals considered when children being cared for by local authorities under the Children Act 1989 are owed a duty of care by those local authorities and the social workers for whom they are vicariously liable.
The conservation charity WildFish has asked the Government to withdraw its Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plan, on the grounds that it is ‘unlawful on many counts’ by encouraging breaches of environmental laws to continue. The Plan allows the continuation of environmental damage caused by up to 100% of storm overflows discharging into high priority sites. It has been labelled a ‘smoke and mirror’ approach which does not deal robustly with water companies’ sewage pollution of UK rivers.
In the courts
On August 31st, in Spitalfields Historic Building Trust, R (On the Application Of) v London Borough of Tower Hamlets  EWHC 2262 (Admin), the High Court upheld the London Borough of Tower Hamlets’ decision to allow the redevelopment of the historic Old Truman Brewery site on Brick Lane to go ahead. There had been 7,051 objections to the application for planning permission, including that it would impact upon local character and business and community cohesion. Despite these, it was approved. The claimant’s claim for judicial review was deemed to have failed on each of its grounds, in essence as formal procedures were found to have been followed properly.
On September 1st, in BT Pension Scheme Trustees Ltd & Ors, R (On the Application Of) v UK Statistics Authority & Anor  EWHC 2265 (Admin), a claim for judicial review against the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) and the Chancellor of the Exchequer failed on each of its grounds. It arose from the UKSA’s decision to change the way in which the Retail Prices Index (RPI) is compiled and subsequent decisions of the Chancellor. The claimants were large pension funds which have invested heavily in the RPI. 10.5 million people in the UK are estimated to have private sector ‘defined benefit’ pensions, most of which are connected to the RPI. Due to the decisions at issue here, those people are expected to see a reduction of 4-9% in their lifetime benefits, with women experiencing a greater reduction in payments due to their longer lifespans.
On September 1st, in Challis, R (On the Application Of) v The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care  EWHC 2269 (Admin), an application was made by the Queen on behalf of Carolyn Challis for judicial review of a decision by the Secretary of State to maintain a ‘cut-off date rule’. That rule concerned when those with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) from NHS contaminated blood or blood products could apply for payments under the English Infected Blood Support Scheme (EIBSS). It was enforced pending the conclusion of the Infected Blood Inquiry (IBI). Ms. Challis had been diagnosed with HCV in 1993 having received blood transfusions from the NHS. As she was deemed to have been infected after the cut-off date, her application for a payment through the EIBSS was rejected. This decision, it was argued, was irrational. The claim was dismissed, with Mrs. Justice Steyn emphasising that while she understood the ‘urgency’ for those such as Ms Challis, who would potentially benefit from a revised scheme, ‘it was not irrational’ for the Secretary of State to decide that the findings and recommendations of the IBI should be sought before eligibility criteria are reconsidered .