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News Headlines

 

New funding formula could lead to loss of early years services in London

Nurseries in London could be forced to close under proposals to introduce a universal basic funding rate for early years services, London Councils has warned.

The government has brought in the proposals at the same time as promising 30 hours of free childcare for working parents, due to start in April 2017.

However, London Councils warned that childcare providers in the capital would not be able to cope with the increased demand because different childcare providers in London have different running costs, and those with higher costs would lose out under the proposals.

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Councils facing £320m bill for academisation plan

The government’s plan to covert school into academies could cost councils as much as £320m, new figures have revealed.

The Local Government Association (LGA) warned that schools converting to sponsored academies could leave councils with a £320m bill as any debt built up by the school generally remains with the council.

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Public sector payoffs capped at £95,000

Ministers are to press ahead with plans to cap public sector “golden goodbyes” that the government claims will save the taxpayer £250 million a year.

Under the proposals, no civil servant, health service manager or other public sector worker will be allowed to claim more than £95,000 in redundancy pay.

There will also be a “claw back” clause in severance contacts allowing the government to reclaim the redundancy payments if an employee gets another job in the public sector shortly afterwards.

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Other Headlines

Labour will 'replace post-Brexit EU funding' in UK

Labour says it will replace any regional funding shortfalls caused by Brexit "into the 2020s and beyond".

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said the multi-billion pound commitment would be a "central plank" of Labour's next manifesto.

"The communities who stand to lose out most from Brexit must be looked after first," she told Labour's conference.

The government has said it will guarantee EU-funded projects signed before November's Autumn statement.

It has also said agricultural funding now provided by the EU will continue until 2020.

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Labour pledges to scrap Right To Buy housing sell-off policy in England

Labour would scrap the Right To Buy policy in England if elected, the party’s shadow housing minister has said.

Right To Buy, which lets council tenants buy their homes at a substantial discount of as much as £103,900, has already been scrapped by the Welsh and Scottish governments.

The policy, introduced by Margaret Thatcher in 1980, has been blamed for causing a shortage of social housing, with well over a million homes having been transferred to the private sector during its lifetime.

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Illnesses associated with lifestyle cost the NHS £11bn

Health problems related to poor diet, drinking and smoking are costing the NHS in England more than £11bn each year, officials say.

Public Health England (PHE) says that unless they are tackled more effectively the NHS will become unaffordable.

It warns conditions such as type 2 diabetes and smoking-related bronchitis are a new and untreatable epidemic.

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Theresa May’s grammar schools plan based on ‘no evidence’, warns biggest study of existing schools

In a major setback for the Prime Minister’s flagship domestic policy, the largest study of England’s 164 grammar schools by the independent Education Policy Institute, found “no evidence” that expanding the network would improve overall standards. Its warning that the Government’s proposals could widen the “attainment gap” between rich and poor pupils will increase the chances of them being defeated by MPs or peers. Up to 40 Conservative MPs are said to have doubts.

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Councils ‘building up dangerous levels of debt and risk by investing in commercial ventures’

Cash-strapped local councils are building up dangerous levels of risk and debt as they turn to commercial ventures in a bid to raise funds, credit agencies and campaigners have warned.

Moody’s, the credit agency, warned that a series of ambitious plans to boost revenue by setting up businesses could put council tax payers at risk should they run into difficulties.

The warning, in a report into local government finance, comes amid mounting evidence that local authorities are increasingly turning to borrowing after a run of tough settlements with central Government.

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Inclusive growth review considers case for prudential borrowing reform

A major review of government’s devolution and economic policy has proposed revisions to the prudential borrowing code for local authorities, as part of increased devolved powers intended to lead to more inclusive growth.

The RSA’s Inclusive Growth Commission was formed in May to consider how to make cities and towns across the UK more economically inclusive, to enable more people to contribute to, and benefit from, local growth. It found that more government funding was needed for social and capital projects.

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Brexit could trigger crisis in care for older and disabled people

A report by Independent Age is warning that social services for older and disabled people could see a massive shortage of care workers due to post-Brexit migration restrictions. Currently about 84,000 care workers are from European Economic Area countries and about 90 per cent do not have British citizenship. An ADASS spokesperson said: “The loss of any of this valuable workforce, in a sector already under pressure from increased demand and staffing challenges, would have a profound effect, and we will seek to take part in any relevant discussions to convey our support for EU workers currently working in our adult social care system.”

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Four-year settlements for councils could include more grants, says DCLG

A government consultation into council finance has proposed the inclusion of more areas of funding within the four-year settlement offered to local authorities.

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Licencing loophole costing councils millions in unpaid business rates, says LGA

Councils are being forced to write off millions of pounds of debt owed to them in business rates because of a loophole in licensing laws, the Local Government Association has said today.

The LGA has said that some councils are facing debts of up to £1.5m, while others have been forced to write off unrecoverable sums of around £300,000 owed by licensed premises including pubs, clubs and off-licenses.

It is calling for new powers to allow town halls to suspend the licenses of business that willfully or persistently fail to pay business rates. Under current laws, councils cannot refuse or suspend a premise’s licence for outstanding business rate debts.

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Social care funding gap to reach £2.8bn by 2019-20, report finds

Cuts to adult social care have left the system increasingly unable to meet the needs of the older people who depend on it, with the funding gap set to reach at least £2.8bn by the end of the decade, according to The King’s Fund and the Nuffield Trust. 

Six years of cuts to local authority budgets have seen 26% fewer people receive help, according to the Social care for older people: Home truths report. In addition, rising demand for services and staff shortages had led to a “failing system that leaves older people, their families and carers to pick up the pieces.”

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Care for elderly 'increasingly rationed' in England

Government-funded care for older people is being increasingly rationed in England, leaving growing numbers to fend for themselves, a review suggests.

The number of over-65s being helped by councils had fallen by a quarter in the four years to 2014, the joint King's Fund and Nuffield Trust report said.

This was despite more people needing help, because of the ageing population. 

But the government said it was investing in the system to ensure "affordable and dignified care".

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May urged to not repeat Cameron’s “implausible” spending pledges

Theresa May has been urged to learn from the mistakes of previous governments and avoid unrealistic commitments to improving public sector efficiency that undermine the public’s trust in government when not met.

A report by the Institute for Government highlighted that May faced a challenge in light of Conservative manifesto pledges to cut spending while improving public services, which it said was a hugely ambitious agenda.

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Elected mayor ‘not a done deal’, combined authority insists

Councils in the Sheffield region have taken their next step towards setting up a devolved combined authority - but warn that agreeing to an elected mayor is 'not a done deal'.

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Public sector employment falls to record low

The number of people working in the UK’s public sector in June fell to the lowest level since comparable records began in 1999 according to the Office for National Statistics.

Figures released show that as of June, the number of public sector workers had fallen by 13,000 in the three months since March to 5.332m. This was also around 20,000 less than June last year.

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Councils should take devolved powers now while they still can

It was a package worth £900m, which would have delivered better transport links and more house building, and improved skill provision in Tyne and Wear. But last week, leaders of four of the region’s seven local authorities voted against proceeding with the devolution deal that the region had spent nearly a year negotiating.

Nonplussed, the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, immediately pulled the whole thing off the table, in a move that raises serious questions about where the devolution agenda goes next. Is Westminster’s determination to devolve power to cities starting to flag? Or is it councils that are losing their appetite for more powers in the face of austerity?

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Voluntary sector ‘must play key devolution role’

A group of more than 30 voluntary sector leaders has set out a statement of principles for devolution across England that includes a call for greater involvement of voluntary organisations in local decision-making.

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The chancellor has indicated that infrastructure such as roads and railways could be in for a spending boost in his Autumn Statement, with an emphasis on ‘modest, rapidly deliverable investments’.

Philip Hammond announced on Thursday [08.09.2016] that he would deliver the Autumn Statement, summing up the Government’s fiscal position and spending plans, on 23 November.

He told the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee that he ‘would hope that in designing a new fiscal stimulus, any sensible chancellor would seek to do as much as possible through investment that will not only deliver short-term demand stimulus but will also address longer-term, structural problems in the economy.’

Mr Hammond added: ‘I think there is a role for big, strategic projects, but they are unlikely to be ever able to contribute to fiscal stimulus because of the timelines involved.

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Javid takes £900m North East devolution deal 'off the table'

The £900m North East devolution deal is ‘off the table’, said communities secretary Sajid Javid.

The news comes after four out of the seven local authorities voted against moving ahead with the deal. Mr Javid said he was ‘very disappointed’ that Durham, Gateshead, Sunderland, and South Tyneside voted against moving ahead with the deal, which he said would have brought ‘real benefits to local residents’.

He has now withdrawn the legislation for a mayoral deal and cancelled a House of Commons debate scheduled for Monday [12.09.2016] that would have enabled 2017 elections to take place.

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Councils in Wales 'will not merge for a decade'

A council leader has said he does not believe local authorities in Wales will merge for at least 10 years.

The Welsh Government had suggested the number of councils in Wales be reduced from 22 to around eight or nine.

But Carmarthenshire leader Emlyn Dole said he has been told his council "will remain for at least 10 years".

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Counties and districts voice concerns over business rate pilots

Counties and districts have agreed a shared vision for localised business rates.

In a joint statement, the chairmen of the County Councils Network (CCN), the District Councils Network (DCN) and the Rural Services Network (RSN) insisted on a needs-led system that enabled councils to achieve ‘real and lasting self-sufficiency’.

The networks raised further concerns about the current batch of pilots, which they claimed could see urban areas retain an ‘unfair share of national resource’ if Whitehall failed to acknowledge the concerns of rural areas. The statement, signed by CCN’s Cllr Paul Carter, DCN’s Cllr Neil Clarke and RSN’s Cllr Cecilia Motley, read: ‘Clearly this is ambitious, complex and challenging, but our networks can support this if it enables further devolution, ensures key services are sustainable over time and allows localism to flourish.

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Philip Hammond announces Autumn Statement on 23 November

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond will deliver his first Autumn Statement on Wednesday 23 November.

Mr Hammond announced the date of the Budget when he began giving evidence to a House of Lords committee.

It will set out the government's taxation and spending plans, and the state of the UK economy.

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Ministers warned not to cut national living wage rises

The government should ignore calls to limit future increases to the national living wage, a think-tank said.

The living wage of £7.20 per hour was introduced in April, benefitting more than a million staff aged 25 and over.

Some business organisations have been lobbying the government to restrain future increases in the hourly rate.

But the Resolution Foundation said that women, the young and older workers were most likely to lose out if future rises are limited.

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Green prescriptions ‘miracle cure’ for obesity, say councils

Doctors prescribing exercise outdoors would help tackle obesity, council chiefs say.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has urged the Government to introduce ‘green prescriptions’ - note from the GP advising exercise.

The scheme has been running in New Zealand since 1998 and surveys there revealed 72% of respondents noticed positive changes to their health and more than half (51%) felt stronger and fitter.

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Councils should be given new powers as part of ‘long-term deal’ on poverty

Councils should be given new funding and powers as part of an ambitious strategy to tackle poverty, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has recommended.

The foundation published a new manifesto on poverty today, which sets a target of ensuring that by 2030, less than 10% of the British population are in poverty at any one time and no one is destitute or in poverty for longer than two years.

It recommends focusing on five areas to achieve this – boosting income, delivering an effective benefits system, improving education standards, strengthening families and communities and promoting long-term economic growth.

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North East devolution in doubt as councils reject Government deal

George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse legacy has been thrown into doubt after town hall leaders in the North East failed to approve the Government’s multi-million pound devolution deal.

Members of the North East Combined Authority were unable to agree on whether to accept the agreement, which would give the region a raft of new powers and £30m a year in return for establishing an elected mayor.

It comes as officials in two other large swathes of northern England – North Yorkshire and West Yorkshire – are also yet to agree devolution deals with the Government.

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Blurring the red and blue

Prime minister Theresa May first floated the idea of a PCC takeover of fire and rescue services (FRS) late last year, then as home secretary, as part of plans to increase local accountability and transparency – as well as spur tighter collaboration between emergency services.

She has been largely criticised since then. In December, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union Matt Wrack hit back at what he called May’s “stupid and dangerous proposals”, which could damage public trust in firefighters, hike FRS costs and “sweep away vital democratic safeguards”. Across readings in the House of Commons and the Lords, MPs and peers raised similar concerns, ultimately warning that “forced mergers” between PCCs and FRAs could not be a “smokescreen for further deep cuts” to either service.

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Change bill to protect rural bus services, demand transport campaigners

The government must amend the Bus Services Bill to include rural transport and ensure services outside urban centres are protected from cuts, the Campaign for Better Transport has said.

The bill, currently in the House of Lords, contains measures to improve buses in towns and cities but offers little help or opportunities to improve bus services outside urban centres.

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, highlighted that cuts to public transport can have a “devastating” impact on areas that are out of the way.

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Places for 20,000 Syrian refugees found among local authorities

Councils have pledged to help 20,000 Syrian refugees who will be resettled in Britain by 2020.

The Home Office announced today that all 20,000 local authority places have now been found, one year after it promised to increase the number of refugees the country accepts following public pressure.

In addition, it promised £10m more funding, which will entitle each refugee to an extra 12 hours of free English language tuition for up to six months.

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A second generation LGPS (Local Government Pension Scheme)

Cllr Kieran Quinn, chair of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund and Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, and leader of Tameside MBC, discusses the changing landscape for the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS).

The future of the LGPS is at the centre of government plans to significantly alter the governance shape of the largest funded public pension system in Europe. With assets nudging the £220bn mark, and 5.1 million members employed by over 11,800 employers, the management of these assets and liabilities remains a huge challenge for the 89 schemes in England and Wales.

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Cuts to apprenticeship funding will be 'devastating in deprived areas', Labour MPs say

Fifty-five Labour MPs have written to ministers to ask them to rethink sharp cuts to inner-city apprenticeship funding handled by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA).

In a letter seen by The Independent, the Labour MPs warn the cuts will be “devastating in deprived areas”, which many of them represent.

The funding changes will take effect from May 2017 and will see apprenticeship funding for 16-18 year olds from the SFA slashed by 30 per cent, with estimated 50 per cent cuts in the most deprived areas of the country.

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Figures show ‘dramatic’ cuts in frontline services spending

Local authorities have dramatically cut spending on education, transport, housing and cultural services, according to a new study.

An analysis by the Press Association (PA) revealed the scale of cuts to council services between 2010-11 and 2014-15.

Net current expenditure on housing services has been hit hard. Excluding housing revenue account, they have seen a 30% cut in spending between 2010 and 2015.

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CIPFA Opinion - Council accounting: a shift from rules to principles

Look out for the consultation on changes to the code of practice on local authority accounting, including new standards and requirements

The high number of responses to its two consultations on the Code of Practice on Local Authority Accounting in the United Kingdom last year delighted CIPFA/LASAAC – a partnership between CIPFA and the Local Authority (Scotland) Accounts Advisory Committee (LASAAC). We want to maintain this level of communication.

The changes to the code in 2017-18 will be less technical than in 2016-17. The main one is the introduction of principles-based guidance on the narrative report for local authorities in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

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More Growth Deal funding needed to fill ‘gaps’ in current projects - WYCA

Projects to foster growth in the Leeds City Region have met with challenges so far, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) has admitted as it prepares a bid for more funding.

A report prepared for a meeting of the WYCA investment committee says that the £109m from the government’s Local Growth Fund the authority has applied for is needed to address “gaps in [the] existing Growth Deal allocation that cannot be addressed through current Growth Deal flexibilities”.

The WYCA has started a number of projects using existing Growth Deal funding, which it says have experienced delays because they have proven more difficult to deliver than expected.

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Free school meals putting pressure on small school budgets

Small schools face a widening gap in their budgets and are relying on volunteers to meet the costs of universal free school meals, according to a leaked report commissioned by the government.

The report, which was prepared for release last year but never published, revealed that some small schools were losing £4,000 a year in having to provide free lunches for all pupils in the first three years of primary education in England.

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Councils call for oversight of academy finances after string of abuses

Council chiefs are calling for local oversight of all school finances following a series of abuses by academies and free schools.

The Local Government Association (LGA) urged the new Education Secretary to give councils the power to make sure money given to schools is spent on education and support for children.

The call comes after a number of abuses in academies were unearthed by whistleblowers and journalists, rather than the Department for Education’s (DfE) Education Funding Authority (EFA) which is responsible for their financial oversight.

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Business rates consultation causes rancour over valuations

Local authority representatives are unhappy with government proposals to remove their right to challenge business rate valuations on properties other than their own.

A consultation on regulations intended to speed up the non-domestic rates appeals process was launched by government earlier this month.

It proposed removing “interested party” status from councils, removing their right to initiate a review of individual ratings list entries.

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Recycling in Wales reaches record high

Recycling in Wales has reached its highest ever recorded level and has exceeded its statutory target.

In 2015/16 the average combined reuse, recycling and composting rate across Wales’ 22 local authorities was 60%—an increase of 4% on last year’s figure.

While the data is provisional, it shows Welsh councils have been able to exceed the new Statutory Recycling Target of 58%.

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English fire services pay radically different amounts for equipment

English fire services are spending radically different amounts on equipment, with some authorities paying as much as five times more than others for the same kit, according to new figures.

The large differences in spending appear in the first national overview of what each fire and rescue authority in England pays for common items of uniform and equipment.

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West Midlands receives multi-millions in devo deal

The West Midlands has received a multi-million pound cash boost from Whitehall in order to ‘fire up the Midlands Engine’, the communities secretary announced yesterday.

The transfer of £36.5m to the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is a part of the region’s devolution deal – the first of payments totalling £1.1bn over the next 30 years.

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CIPFA to issue LGPS asset pool governance guide

CIPFA is to launch guidance on the governance principles for local government pension scheme asset pools following the submission of formal collaboration plans to government.

The guide will set out the key governance issues that the 89 LGPS funds in England and Wales must consider as the pooling proposals are developed ahead of planned implementation in April 2018.

Former chancellor George Osborne set out plans to merge all LGPS assets into what he called British Wealth Funds last October. Details on the proposed pools, with eight groups having formed, were submitted to ministers on 15 July.

Proposals include the London common investment vehicle across the capital’s 32 boroughs and the City of London, a Northern Pool across West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside funds, and the Local Pension Partnership of Lancashire, Berkshire and the London Pension Fund Authority.

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Government announces successful bids to £15 million mental health fund

Forty-one projects will benefit from a share of £15 million to improve provision of mental health places of safety, the government announced today [23.08.2016].

The Department of Health funding is supporting the creation of new places of safety and the refurbishment of existing sites, to prevent people experiencing a mental health crisis, who have committed no crime, from being placed in a police cell.

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Calls for more pension advice after study raises concerns over future plans

More than half of people who have taken money out under pension freedoms have not planned for future care costs, a new study shows.

A survey of 500 people who have accessed their pension since April 2015 revealed that just one in six has budgeted for the cost of care as they grow older.

Citizens Advice said its research found that three fifths have not thought about how they will pay for care costs, with one in 10 hoping to rely on their family or the government.

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May to abandon Osborne’s plan for regional mayors

Theresa May is to ditch George Osborne’s policy of directly elected mayors for city regions, partly to avoid Labour using them as a platform for a revival in its heartlands, The Times has learnt.

The prime minister does not share the former chancellor’s enthusiasm for the plan to elect one individual for every city to be in charge of extra powers and cash devolved from Whitehall.

She is also said to be nervous that the policy would give a platform to Labour moderates such as Andy Burnham.

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‘Business as usual' amid end of metro mayor rumours

Whitehall has denied claims that Theresa May is planning to axe controversial plans to impose directly elected mayors on regions as a prerequisite to devolution.

According to The Times, the prime minister does not share former chancellor George Osborne’s enthusiasm for metro mayors – a policy many parts of the country viewed as a deal-breaker for their devolution ambitions.

The Times story was published days after The MJ  revealed the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) had relaxed the demand for areas to elect mayors by 2017 or face having to wait until the end of the decade.

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Local government borrowing increases in response to grant cuts

Net borrowing by local government increased in the first two months of this financial year, despite the public sector as a whole achieving a £1bn surplus.

The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that public sector net borrowing was at £23.7bn in April-July 2016, compared to £24bn at the same point in 2015.

It is currently in surplus by £1bn in July 2016, although this is £0.2bn less than in 2015.

However, local government borrowing increased by £1.5bn in the same period. This largely due to decreases in grants received from central government, particularly in April, being partially offset by decreases in expenditure on goods and services.

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District buys solar farm for new revenue source

Forest Heath District Council has purchased the largest local authority-owned solar farm in the UK, which will generate income of up to £700,000 per year.

The council has purchased the 12.4MW solar farm for £14.5m at Toggam Farm with the intention of using the revenue to help fund public services.

After the capital outlay has been recouped, the investment will generate at least £300,000 in the first year, rising to £700,000 per year after ten years.

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ONS reports £1bn public sector surplus for July

The UK public sector received more in taxes and other income than it spent to record a surplus of £1bn in July, according to official figures released today.

The represents a drop in surplus of £0.2bn compared with the same month last year, according to the update from the Office for National Statistics. July is a month when firms pay corporation tax installments, often leading to surpluses.

In the release, the ONS cautioned that although this was the first post-EU referendum data release on the public sector finances, it contained a significant forecast element. Any post-referendum impact may not be clear for some time, it said.

Over the current financial year to date, April to July, the public sector has borrowed £23.7bn, £3bn less than the same four-month period in 2015.

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Budget Blow To Philip Hammond As Public Finances Disappoint

The figure was below expectations for £1.6bn - in a traditionally strong month for revenues.

It was also lower than the £1.2bn surplus recorded in the same month last year.

The state of the public finances will point to how much leeway Philip Hammond will have if he wants to boost the economy with tax cuts and spending increases later this year.

Sky's Economics Editor on GDP contraction after Brexit vote.

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Business rates ‘bombshell’ could worsen appeals backlog

A new “bombshell” addition in proposed changes to the business rates appeals system risks increasing — rather than reducing — the burden on local authorities, according to a ratings expert.

The Department for Communities and Local Government this week published draft regulations to introduce a new system in an attempt to reduce the backlog of 300,000 outstanding appeals.

But the document included a new clause — not included in a previous draft — which experts say would widen the scope for the Valuation Tribunal for England (VTE) to reject challenges to valuations.

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DCLG and councils should collaborate to avoid service failure, say MPs

The Department for Communities & Local Government has been urged to develop a closer relationship with councils to better mitigate the risks of service failures that led to Whitehall interventions in Rotherham and Tower Hamlets.

In a review of the interventions in the two authorities, the communities and local government committee said lessons must be learned to ensure children are protected, whistleblowers are taken seriously and scrutiny arrangements are robust.

The intervention in Tower Hamlets began in December 2014 following concerns that the authority was failing to comply with Best Value duties, while in Rotherham it began in February 2015 following a damning report into the authority’s governance, which highlighted historic and serious child protection failings. Both interventions are ongoing following recent reviews in both Tower Hamlets and Rotherham.

It is rare that DCLG has to intervene in a local authority, the report highlighted. When it does, the intervention must be swift, effective, clear in its aims, and transparent.

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Counties warn of funding uncertainty from business rates localisation

Funding for public services will become “highly variable” in many county areas under government plans to make councils financially self-sufficient by the end of the decade, government has been warned.

In an analysis of the plan to fully devolve business rate revenue, undertaken for the County Councils Network, Pixel Finance Management found the growth in net business rates in these areas was below average.

In many counties, particularly in rural areas, small businesses often claim reliefs. As a result, a growth in business premises often does not translate into a growth in business rate income received by the local authority in county areas.

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Post-code lottery in care revealed as government publishes dementia 'atlas' of standards across England

A post-code lottery in dementia care means patients in some parts of the country are receiving services which are more than three times as bad as others, the Government reveals today.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, will name and shame the areas of England which are failing in dementia care in a new online “Dementia Atlas” of Britain.

The atlas reveals huge gaps in the quality of care, with around 80 per cent of those with the illness being made to attend hospital in Knowsley, Merseyside, compared to 16 per cent in Medway, Kent.

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Business rates devolution will fail counties without ‘critical’ redesign, CCN says

The design of the new business rates regime – with particular consideration to the retention system in two-tier areas – is “absolutely critical” to its success, the County Councils Network (CCN) has said as research revealed business rates income in urban areas “far outstrips” the amounts raised in rural regions.

The study, commissioned by the CCN, showed that despite shire counties producing 41% of GVA in England, they have much larger numbers of business ratepayers claiming reliefs. As a result, they receive “dramatically less” business rate income per head compared to urban areas. In London, for example, this translated to £3,700 per head compared to £851 in county areas.

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Apprenticeship reforms ‘not fit for the 21st century’, warns IPPR

England is in danger of introducing an apprenticeship system that would have worked well in the economy of the 1960s but is not fit for a 21st century workforce, the IPPR has said as part of a series of concerns surrounding the government’s reform plans for next year.

In a briefing paper, the influential think tank said the new apprenticeship system, which will introduce a levy on larger employers and impose a 2.3% apprentice workforce target, takes inspiration “from the medieval notion that employers should set the standards for trainees entering their profession” – that is, the notion of masters, guilds and a license to practise.

Whilst this could still work in some sectors – such as construction, engineering and pharmaceuticals – it is not applicable to all professions [it states].

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Every pound of EU funding to undergo 'national interest' test to ensure it benefits Britain

Every pound of European Union funding will undergo a "national interest” test to see whether it should continue in the wake of Brexit, a Cabinet minister has said in a letter.

David Gauke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said that Britain will only match EU funding after the country leaves the bloc if it can be proved to benefit the nation.

It comes after Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, pledged that farmers, universities and some of the nation's poorest regions will continue to receive billions of pounds worth of subsidies after Britain leaves the EU.

very pound of European Union funding will undergo a "national interest” test to see whether it should continue in the wake of Brexit, a Cabinet minister has said in a letter.

David Gauke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said that Britain will only match EU funding after the country leaves the bloc if it can be proved to benefit the nation.

It comes after Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, pledged that farmers, universities and some of the nation's poorest regions will continue to receive billions of pounds worth of subsidies after Britain leaves the EU.

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Philip Hammond told to extend UK guarantees on EU grants

The chancellor has been told to go further after promising to invest billions of pounds in projects currently funded by the EU after the UK leaves the union.

Philip Hammond announced on Saturday that taxpayers would contribute about £4.5bn a year to projects to support scientists and farmers and build infrastructure.

The Treasury is also expected to continue its funding for all structural and investment fund projects if they are agreed before Hammond delivers the autumn statement in November or December.

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Daily charge for utility firms 'would cut roadwork delays', say councils

Councils should be given more powers to charge utility companies for the time they spend digging up busy roads, the Local Government Association has said.

It called on the government to grant all councils the power to introduce a daily rate for companies, in an effort to reduce road delays.

Currently only authorities in London and Kent can do so without having to first get government approval.

The government said it was "determined" to improve journeys and cut congestion.

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Brexit: Government guarantee for post-EU funds

EU funding for farmers, scientists and other projects will be replaced by the Treasury after Brexit, Chancellor Philip Hammond has said.

In a move which could cost up to £6bn a year, the Treasury will guarantee to back EU-funded projects signed before this year's Autumn Statement.

Agricultural funding now provided by the EU will also continue until 2020.

But critics said the guarantee does not go far enough and there was "continued uncertainty".

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DfE blasted for ‘irresponsible’ apprenticeship levy as further details revealed

It is “irresponsible” for the government to press ahead with the apprenticeship levy, especially in the midst of post-referendum economic uncertainty, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has said as the DfE revealed further details of the tax.

The CIPD’s head of public policy, Ben Willmott, added that it was disappointing that the DfE didn’t take the opportunity afforded by a new ministerial team to look again at the levy, which has been severely criticised by a range of businesses and public bodies.

“The very valid concerns regarding the levy in its current form are wide scale across organisations from the private, public and voluntary sectors and it is irresponsible for the government, particularly in a time of economic uncertainty in the aftermath of the referendum, to simply press ahead with a policy that is not fit for purpose,” he said.

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New funding formula for early childcare

The Government has introduced a new funding system for nurseries, preschools and childminders in a bid to shore up its flagship 30-hour free childcare policy.

The current funding formula is based on how much a council has historically spent rather than how much it actually costs to meet local childcare needs. The Government claims the new system will be fairer.

The new formula—opened to consultation today—is based on three factors: a ‘universal base rate’ of funding for each child, an ‘additional needs factor’, and the cost of providing childcare in different parts of the country.

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May urged to follow in Scotland’s steps with post-Brexit funding guarantees

Prime minister Theresa May is being urged to announce an economic ‘stimulus package’ that inspires confidence post-referendum, as Scotland’s first minister injected another £100m into this year’s funding in order to motivate the economy.

Nicola Sturgeon announced that she would bring forward the money to support and stimulate the economy in the wake of the EU Referendum. The capital funding will be used to speed up delivery of health and other infrastructure projects.

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Council approves scheme to create hundreds of jobs

A northern borough council has approved a new multi-million pound scheme to create hundreds of jobs.

Chesterfield Borough Council has agreed to a revised version of the Northern Gateway scheme, which they argue will improve the town’s northern entrance and create 489 jobs.

The £19.9m project will be funded by a Sheffield City Region Infrastructure Fund grant of £5.83m and £3.5m from Chesterfield Borough Council.

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Top think tank calls for regional investment overhaul

The North receives six times less investment in infrastructure than London, a spending gap that should be addressed with a ‘North first’ investment policy from the new Government, according to analysis from a leading economic think tank.

IPPR found that the North will get average £280 per person compared with London’s £1,870, based on outlined Government spending plans for transport infrastructure between 2016/17 and 2020/2021.

The think tank highlighted that the total spend on Crossrail alone will be £4.6bn during this period, exceeding spending on all projects in the North (£4.3bn), and has written to transport secretary Chris Grayling to call for a change of policy.

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Elderly should sell homes to fund care, says aide to Theresa May

Theresa May’s policy chief has suggested that people with valuable homes who face high social care costs in old age should downsize or re-mortgage to cover their bills, the Observer can reveal.

Director of policy John Godfrey has suggested that over the next 10 years the solution to the social care crisis lies in people selling up or releasing some of the equity in their property.

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Locals may get compensated for new housing

Homeowners in countryside villages and towns could be given cash payments to offset disruptive developments in their communities, the government has said.

Ministers’ concern has grown that people affected by unwanted developments near their houses are not adequately compensated.

It could allay residents’ frustration when they feel planning permission is being granted for a building project they oppose.

Theresa May is said to be personally interested in the idea as it fits with her drive to create an economy that “works for everyone”.

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Corbyn: I would put up taxes to fund public sector pay rises

Jeremy Corbyn would fund pay rises for public sector workers partly through a 1% rise in corporation tax and bringing back the 50p top rate of tax, the party has said.

The office of the leader of the opposition said he wanted to end “unfair and politically motivated public sector pay cap” brought in by the former chancellor George Osborne, which restricts rises to 1% a year this parliament.

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360,000 families afflicted by council tax poverty trap

Hundreds of thousands of the poorest households in England are having their benefits cut every week because they are unable to pay their council tax bill, the Observer can reveal. 

Families are stacking up such arrears, spanning years in some cases, that they are having their benefits slashed, which is driving them further into poverty.

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Corbyn pledges to 'insource' council services

Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to insource council services and build 500,000 new council homes in his new leadership manifesto.

He also said £500bn would be invested in infrastructure through a publically-owned National Investment Bank, creating a million new jobs.

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UK interest rates cut to 0.25%

UK interest rates have been cut from 0.5% to 0.25% - a record low and the first cut since 2009.

The Bank of England announced a range of measures to stimulate the UK economy including buying £60bn of UK government bonds and £10bn of corporate bonds.

The Bank also announced the biggest cut to its growth forecasts since it started making them in 1983.

It has reduced its growth prediction for 2017 from the 2.3% it was expecting in May to 0.8%.

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Economic slowdown after Brexit “to lead to jump in borrowing”

Public sector borrowing is set to increase by around £47bn over the next four years as the economy slows following the Brexit vote, economic researchers have forecast.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research said that the increase in the deficit, which would equate to an annual average increase of £9.5bn, would effectively override the fiscal charter created by previous chancellor George Osborne.

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Poverty costs UK billions every year, report reveals

Dealing with the effects of poverty costs the UK £78bn per year, the equivalent of 4% of the country’s GDP, think tank finds.

A new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found £69bn of annual public spending goes into dealing with the impact of poverty on people’s lives.

The remaining £9bn is lost tax revenue and additional benefits spending such as Pension Credits and Employment and Support Allowance.

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Chris Buss: How do you solve a problem like £500m? (Opinion)

Post-2008, it’s a different world and an increase in cash balances to over £500 million has meant it’s been much harder to place secure and prudent investments, leading to a move into money market funds, property related funds through CCLA and loans to other local authorities. Investments have been placed for longer periods as the promised or threatened increase in interest rates has moved further into the distance.  But if, as a result of Brexit or other economic uncertainty or even deflation, interest rates go negative, where does one place one’s cash?

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Outsourcing contracts signed by councils on the rise

The value of outsourcing contracts signed by UK local authorities in the first half of 2016 increased by 84%, despite a dip in the value of overall public sector spend.

The Arvato UK Outsourcing Index has revealed the value of outsourcing contracts signed by councils in the first six months of this year increased to £684.9m, with IT deals represented the largest proportion of outsourcing deals (61%).

This was despite a decrease in the value of public sector spending to £1.6bn.

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County warns its reserves will be gone in two years

Lancashire County Council is not financially sustainable and would have spent all its reserves by 2018/19, a new report has warned.

An independent review of the council’s finances, conducted by PwC, has found that even with significant savings, the long-term financial position of the council is not sustainable.

The review looked at what resources the county council would need to deliver its statutory services. It found that even if it reduced spending in every service to the level of lower quartile spending councils in England, it would still face an annual spending gap of £79m by 2020/21.

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