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News Headlines

 

Majority of Councils Accept Tax Freeze Offer for 2015-16

Figures published by the Department for Communities and Local Government yesterday revealed that 64% of authorities (228 out of 345 councils) had accepted the Government’s council tax freeze grant for 2015-16. Official statistics showed the average Band D Council Tax bill for 2015-16 will be £1,484, a 1.1% increase compared to 2014-15. Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, said average council tax bills in England had fallen by 11% in real terms over the last five years, as a result of council tax freezes available to local authorities since 2011-12.

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IFS Research Predicts Schools Funding Squeeze in Next Parliament

Research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned that spending commitments by all three main parties could result in a real-terms reduction in per pupil funding of 7% over the next five years. If the additional costs of teachers' pensions, national insurance contributions and wage increases are included, the real-terms reduction in spending could be nearer 12%, the report stated. The IFS said education spending in England has been ‘remarkably well protected’ under the Coalition, but predicted a combination of falling real spending per pupil, increases in staff costs and likely growth in public sector earnings could see schools facing ‘significant cost pressures’ by 2019/2020.

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Successful Challenge Fund Highways Maintenance Bids Announced by DfT

The Department for Transport has announced £275m in funding for 31 schemes in 28 local authorities from the Challenge Fund. The creation of the Fund was announced as part of the Government’s allocations for highways maintenance capital funding up to 2021. The one-off major infrastructure schemes include safety repairs, bridge renewal, carriageway and drainage improvements, as well as upgrading street lighting in a number of areas to bring them in line with modern standard.

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More Clarity Needed on Spending Cuts, Says IFS

The Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Paul Johnson has called on the Chancellor, George Osborne, to outline how the £12bn welfare cuts planned for working-age benefit would be in place by 2017-18.

Mr Johnson said without the reductions in welfare spending, the cuts of more than 5% implied in both 2016-17 and 2017-18 are twice the size of any year’s cuts over the 2010 Parliament. However, he added that even under a majority Conservative government, his prediction was that ‘annual cuts in public service spending will not turn out much more dramatic than those we have seen over this Parliament’.

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Ministers to Consider More Freedoms for Service Transformation

The Government has published its response to the Service Transformation Challenge Panel report, indicating more flexibility for councils to borrow will be considered in future. In their response Danny Alexander and Eric Pickles wrote the ‘government will work with local places and sector experts to examine how funding for transformation can be improved in the next parliament – considering, for example, simplification in the transformation grants available, the benefits of capitalisation and borrowing powers, and the role of social investment’. Ministers said they wanted the principles of the Troubled Families Programme to be applied to more areas of service provision.

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HM Treasury Publish Business Rates Review

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, has published the review of business rates, first announced in the 2014 Autumn Statement. Mr Alexander said the review, which will be published at next year’s Budget, would consider how businesses use property and how rates can be modernised to better reflects changes in value. It will also assess the sustainability of the current rates system, given concerns that the size of a company may not be reflected in the rateable value of a property it uses.

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Another Reports Show Funding Cuts Hit Deprived Areas

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published a new report, ‘The Cost of Cuts’, which shows the most deprived areas have faced the largest funding cuts in this Parliament. The report found the average cut in English local authority spending power between 2010/11 and 2014/15 was 27% in real terms. However, the Foundation said the most deprived fifth of authorities have seen reductions of £182 more per head than the most affluent. As a result the poorest areas’ extra expenditure per head reduced from 45% to 17%.

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Public Health Funding Disparities 'Concerning', Say MPs

The Public Accounts Committee has published its report on a review of public health funding to local authorities and the role of Public Health England. The Committee called on the government to publish plans on how it proposes to move local authorities towards their target allocations. The report found that nearly a third of authorities currently receive funding that is either more than 20% above or below what would be their fair share and thirteen councils currently remain more than 20% below their target funding proportions. The PAC also said a speedy decision on whether the ring-fence for the public health grant was to be retained beyond 2015-16 was needed.

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IFS Report Shows Funding to Local Government Falls by 36% over Parliament

A new study published by the IFS has found that local government funding has fallen by 36.3% overall (and by 38.7% per person) in real terms between 2009-10 and 2014-15. The report showed that although total council tax revenues had grown slightly  (3.2%), in real terms over the same period, when this was calculated on a per person basis it represented a fall of 0.7% The detailed review of funding and expenditure by the think tank revealed that between 2009-10 and 2014-15,expenditure by councils was cut by 20.4% after accounting for economy-wide inflation. Taking into account population growth over this period, spending per person was cut by 23.4%.

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Tax Freeze Costs Councils £2.8bn CIPFA Says

Analysis by CIPFA claims the council tax freeze, in existence since 2010, has cost local authorities £2.8bn in lost income. The accountancy body said if council tax had risen in line with RPI inflation since 2010, council tax for a Band D property would now be £168 higher, generating £2.8bn a year. The Institute is calling for a debate on the council tax system to discover if freezing rates is sustainable and how else public services can be funded. CIPFA’s council tax survey results show that average B and D council tax will rise by 1% in 2015-16, taking the bill up to £1,483.92 from £1,467.94 in 2014-15.

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Businesses Support Local Business Rates Setting, LGA Survey Shows

Over two thirds of business believe business rates should be set locally, according to a survey of 500 businesses. Findings from the poll, commissioned by the LGA, show 68% agree rates should be set locally following discussions with local businesses, whilst Just 7% of businesses surveyed disagreed. Support for full local control was highest among manufacturing companies (73%) and those in the service industry (72%). It was particularly strong among businesses in the South East (83%) and the North East and Yorkshire & Humber (76%). The LGA is urging the Government, ahead of the Budget, to publish its Terms of Reference for the review of business rates, which the Chancellor announced at the Autumn Statement.

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Greater Manchester Devolved Health Deal Details Announced

An agreement to set up a joint decision-making process for all £6bn of health and social care spending in Greater Manchester over the next year has been signed by the Chancellor George Osborne and NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, as well as the region’s 12 NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, 15 NHS providers and 10 local authorities. The agreement covers the entire health and social care system, including primary care and social care, mental health, acute and community services, and public health. According to the statement, the placed-based approach to health spending will not require any reorganisation of the NHS or its principles, and t. Responding to the announcement, Darra Singh, who chaired the Independent Commission on Local Government Finance said the changes were in line with the Commission’s proposals in its report.

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SIGOMA Publish Proposals for New Local Government Funding Model

The Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities outside London (SIGOMA) has called for a new system to be adopted by the next government. In a report, ‘Protecting vital services: A fair and sustainable funding model’, SIGOMA states that the current system places is skewed towards incentives based on central government priorities and does not reflect the funding needed by local authorities to provide statutory services. The report argues a new funding formula should distribute any cuts fairly so that core services are not threatened. Sir Steve Houghton, chair of SIGOMA and leader of Barnsley Council said: 'Government has failed to recognise the consequences that successive cuts over two spending rounds have had on many of the poorest communities’.

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Surevy of Councils Shows 80% Plan to Raise Charges

A survey by the LGIU and the MJ has found 80% of councils plan to increase prices to balance their 2015/16 budgets. The poll also showed that 54% of local authorities feared that their council will not be able to meet its legal duties over the coming year, as a result of the cuts, compared to 37% who agreed with this question last year. A majority of those questioned called for an end to the Barnett formula that sets public spending, while 82% said council tax should be re-evaluated by the next Government.

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Business chiefs call for business rate review

Business leaders have called on chancellor George Osborne to restate his commitment to reviewing business rates, amid fears an overhaul of commercial property charges could be kicked into the long grass.

Business leaders have written to Mr Osborne - who promised the review in last December's Autumn Statement - expressing concern about a lack of any timetable or possible terms of reference for the review.

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Independent Commission Calls for Complete Control over Council Tax

The final report of the CIPFA/LGA Independent Commission on Local Government Finance has proposed a decade of devolution to give councils with the funding and fiscal powers needed for an era of lower resources and increasing demand. All councils would be given full control of council tax discount schemes, currently set nationally, and would retain all business rates. The report also proposes that ‘pioneer areas’, most likely combined authorities, should be given further powers, including responsibility over the number and value of council tax bands, including control over when properties are revalued.

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Protect Social Care Funding Like NHS, Says LGA

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the Chancellor to put adult social care ‘on a sustainable financial footing’ in next month’s Budget by applying the same funding safeguards as those currently in place for the NHS. The LGA the ‘chronically-underfunded social care system’ had led to a ‘devastating’ impact on people’s lives this winter, contributing to the severe pressure the health service has been under. Cllr David Sparks, the LGA Chair, said ‘If we don't have a commitment to protect the money for adult social care now, we are staring in the face of this inexcusable pattern repeating itself year after year’.

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Only a Quarter of Councils Planning Tax Freeze

One in four local authorities are planning to freeze council tax for 2015-16. Figures from DCLG show that 114 councils and PCCs will be eligible for the government’s freeze grant, with only eight choosing to reduce council tax bills. The Government also published figures showing local authority reserves have increased by half over the last four years to £21.4bn in March 2014. Over the same period, DCLG said, £2.5bn of council tax and arrears was uncollected, and £2.1bn was lost to fraud.

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Additional £74m for Upper-Tier Authorities in Final Settlement

The Local Government Minister, Kris Hopkins, has announced an additional £74m in the upper-tier funding element of the settlement funding assessment, as part of his announcement on the final local government finance settlement. The extra money is to ‘help them respond to local welfare needs and to improve social care provision’. The CIPFA CEO, Rob Whiteman, said the money ‘while it is welcome that the DCLG has listened to local authorities' concerns and allocated some more funds to support social care provision it is unlikely that £74m will be enough to meet the challenges that many councils are facing in caring for their most vulnerable citizens’.

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IFS Forecasts Departmental Spending Cuts of 14% Over Next Parliament

The IFS has published its annual Green Budget warning that, according to plans set out in the Autumn Statement, departmental spending will face real terms cuts of 14.1% between 2015-16 and 2019-20. This report highlighted that 98% of the planned fiscal consolidation will be achieved through spending reductions and efficiencies, with only 2% expected to come from higher tax revenues. In contrast the £110bn reduction since 2010 has been made split with 82% coming from cuts and 18% through higher taxes.

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Conservatives Committ to Protecting Schools Funding

David Cameron has promised that if the Conservatives win the next election, a future Tory government would protect schools’ cash budgets per pupil until 2020. He used the measure of “flat cash per pupil”; as a result it will not account for inflation. Although funding per pupil would not go up by inflation, Cameron said schools had demonstrated that they could ‘be more efficient, more effective and they can make their budgets work’. He also said a Conservative government would convert all failing and coasting secondary schools into an academy, and deliver free schools for communities and parents who want them.

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Extra £12m for Social Care Criticised by LGA

DCLG have announced £12m in funding for councils to 87 councils to help local services to address delays in hospital discharges and reduce the number of people admitted to hospital. The funding is in addition to the £25m allocated to authorities earlier this month by the Department of Health to  speed up the discharge system in areas where hospital were worst affected. The new funding means all upper-tier local authorities will now receive additional funding for winter pressures, but the LGA has compared the amount with extra money given to the NHS, calling it a ‘mere drop in the ocean’.

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Public Accounts Committee Says Most Deprived Councils Cut Most

A report by the Public Accounts Committee has warned that more cuts to local government funding after the general election could threaten the viability of statutory services such as adult social care and child protection in some councils. The Committee’s report, which was based on the National Audit Office study of DCLG’s understanding of councils’ financial sustainability, found that the 3&5 average cut to local authorities over this Parliament had no affected all councils equally. The Committee’s Chair, Margaret Hodge MP, said ‘councils with the greatest spending needs – the most deprived authorities – have been receiving the largest reductions’.

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Elderly care costs require councils to divert £1.1bn in April

Councils will be forced to divert £1.1bn from local services in April due to the escalating cost of caring for the elderly, new analysis reveals.

Figures from the Local Government Association (LGA) show that in the next financial year, councils will need to find £1.1bn from other budgets in order to protect adult social care spending.

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House of Lords Debates Local Government Finance Settlement

The House of Lords debated the implications of the local government finance settlement on 22 January. The Lords discussed the presentation of some of the figures relating to the settlement and local government spending power. Members also raised concerns about the cuts’ impacts on local services, including the effects on the elderly and early years provision.

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Three Quarters of Counties Plan Council Tax Increase

Early indications suggest that three-quarters of county councils will increase council tax for 2015-16. The figures from the LGC’s council tax tracker were obtained from 20 of the 27 counties and show that four-fifths of the counties that plan to increase tax are Conservative-run. Across all council types, 43% are proposing to increase tax in 2015-16, 55% will freeze tax and 3% will reduce the charge. The proportion increasing the charge has risen every year during this parliament, from none in 2011-12 to 15% in 2012-13, then 41% in 2013-14 and 43% in 2014-15.

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Two CIties' Pension Funds Joint Investment in Infrastructure

The Greater Manchester Pension Fund and the London Pensions Fund Authority have announced a new partnership that will allocate £500m to invest in infrastructure projects. The pension funds will make the investments over the next three or four years; both funds said that they could invest in projects in their local areas, described as 'key areas in driving growth', but insisted they would be flexible in determining investment projects.

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New Council Tax Bands Could Generate More Income than Mansion Tax

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) has published a report for the Fair Home Tax campaign on reforming council tax. The report proposes eleven council tax bands, ranging from Band A (zero tax), Band B (5/9) up to Band K (29/9). According to the report ‘reforming the council tax system would boost tax receipts by £4.7bn in 2015-16 and by a total of £25.6bn by 2019-20. The report was commissioned by Howard Cox, founder of FairHomeTax.uk.

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£25m Extra for Councils to Tackle Hospital Discharge Delays

The Department of Health has announced £25m in emergency funding for 65 councils in areas where delays in discharging elderly patients from hospitals are most severe. The additional funding must be used by the end of the 2014-15 financial year to support reablement, in order to free up hospital beds. The funding was apparently approved by a ministerial committee, which is meeting weekly to tackle the current delays in waiting times and pressures on the NHS.

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Mandelson Backs Council Tax Reforms Over Mansion Tax

Peter Mandelson, the former Labour Business Secretary has said the Liberal Democrat plans to bring in new bands of council tax would be better than implementing a mansion tax, as currently proposed by the Labour Party. Lord Mandelson said a mansion tax  was ‘short-termist’ and ‘crude’ in an interview with BBC Newsnight, adding that new council tax bands would ‘take longer to introduce, that's true, but it will be more effective and efficient’.

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LGA Call for Slice of VAT to Fund Public Health

The Local Government Association is calling for a fifth of VAT raised on unhealthy foods to go back to councils to fund health and leisure facilities. According to a new report from the LGA the change would give councils an extra £1bn to tackle childhood obesity problems. The LGA said that local authorities do not have sufficient funding to address this problem currently as other health services take priority.

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TUC/CLES Report Highlights Growing Funding Gap in Local Government

Research published by the TUC and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) shows councils are facing a 'growing funding crisis'. The report found the Government will have reduced its funding to local authorities by an estimated 37% by 2015/16. As a result, a significant funding gap is emerging within local government. The total funding gap is forecast to increase at an average rate of £2.1bn per year until 2019/20, when it will reach £12.4bn.

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Cuts Bringing Bus Services to 'Crisis' Point

Research from the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) has warned that bus services are being loists at an ‘alarming rate’, with Council funding to support subsidised bus services cut by £44m since 2010 – a 15% fall. The overall cut in support over the 2014/15 financial year stands at £9m, with rural areas thought to have been hit worst with an average reduction of 19%. More than 2000 bus routes have been reduced, altered or withdrawn over the past five years, with 500 services alone cut in 2014/15.

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7 Out of 10 MPS Support New Council Tax Bands

A survey by the British Property Federation has shown that 69% of MPs support additional bands on the council tax, rather than introducing a mansion tax, including nine out of ten Lib Dem MPs. However, the proportion fell to 39% amongst Labour MPs. Ian Fletcher, director of policy at the BPF, said: ‘This poll shows that a full council tax revaluation rightly commands widespread political support, particularly across the Labour party, and that the majority of MPs recognise that basing council tax on 1991 house prices is simply unsustainable’.

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Council Tax Support Schemes Continue to be Cut Back

The Local Government Association has published figures on council tax support schemes showing that only 45 councils are continuing to provide council tax support for those on low income at the same level as council tax benefit, which was abolished in March 2013. All householders were now required to pay at least some council tax regardless of income in 244 council areas in 2014/15  – 15 more areas than in 2013/14. The LGA’s survey also found that the majority of councils – 83% – did not plan to change their existing discount scheme in 2015/16, despite continued reductions in finding for local authorities.

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Figures Show Increase in Short Homecare Visits

Figures based on Freedom of Information requests published by the trade union Unison show that almost three-quarter (74%) of authorities commissioned 15-minute visits for carers visiting people in their own homes, compared to 69% in the same survey last year. The study revealed 110 councils commission 15-minute visits, representing 14% of all home calls. The Care Minister Norman Lamb has previously stated that 15 minutes was not enough time for a home care visit.

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Highways Maintenance Capital Funding Allocations Announced

The Department for Transport has published allocations for local authorities highways maintained capital funding, following a short consultation on the proposals in November. The formula funding is worth £4.7bn over six years form 2015/16, an additional £575m will be available through a Challenge Fund for maintaining infrastructure such as junctions, bridges and street lighting. The Government will also allocate £578m from 2016 onwards in incentive funding, based on an assessment of whether each authority is delivering value for money in carrying out improvements.

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CIPFA: Councils Faces 6% Cut

CIPFA has said that local government faces a 6% cut in spending power next year once ring-fenced funds and pooled resources are excluded from the Local Government Finance Settlement, Overall the settlement funding to local government will be cut by 14.6% in 2015/16, the accountancy body has claimed. CIPFA chief executive, Rob Whiteman, said the stark difference in figures ‘demonstrates why we urgently need transparency’ on funding. He said an independent body should release funding to councils adding ‘the figures presented by the Government also appear to hide the true impact of cuts upon some local authorities. Once you peer behind the opaque measurement of funding used today, you see that the disparity of impact across the country and between different types of authority is significant and needs to be considered carefully by policymakers’.

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DCLG Expected to Announce Funding Allocations to Councils

The Government was expected to announce the provisional settlement on 18 December which will be presented to MPs by Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins. The Local Government Association has warned services would "buckle under the strain" of more cuts.

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Libraries Must Reform, Government Report Says

A report on public libraries, jointly commissioned in February by the Departments for Culture Media and Sport, and Communities and Local Government, has found that more than 300 libraries have shut since 2011. The report by William Sieghart said libraries were a "vital lifeline" for many but warned that they are in a state of crisis. Mr Sieghart said it was not just a question of providing new resources in to the public library network, but using existing resources ‘in a more sensible way’. He gave the example of Suffolk County Council which has begun a co-operative with library support groups resulting in a better, localised service.Mark Taylor, from the Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals, welcomed the report and endorsed its proposals as a ‘step forward’, but said there was a ‘challenge in delivering the recommendations, noting that 340 libraries had closed over the past five years, with 6,000 job losses.

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Local Government Settlement Reveals Cuts for 2015-16

The Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins presented the provisional local government finance settlement to Parliament outlining funding allocations for councils in 2015-16. The average spending power reductions for councils will be 1.8%, with no council receiving greater than a 6.4% reduction. However, the publication of the settlement confirmed that the Revenue Support Grant element of the Settlement Funding Assessment will reduce by 25% compared with 2014/15. The settlement also confirmed the Local Welfare Provision funding provided separately to councils in 20113/14 and 2014/15 will not continue. A separate line has been identified in the Settlement Funding Assessment but this does not represent new money.

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Ministers Disagree Over Council Tax Referendum Limit

A disagreement between ministers in the Coalition Government over the referendum cap has resulted in Lib Dem minister Danny Alexander writing to the LGA to make this opposition clear to lowering the referendum threshold. Mr Alexander said in his letter ‘Lowering the threshold is a change of policy that puts an unnecessary further constraint on local authorities’. Eric Pickles, who is believed to want to lower the threshold to 15 is also facing opposition from the Home Secretary, Theresa May, who has warned that police budgets are already under serious strain and it would cost PCCS £1.1m to stage a referendum if they wished to raise the police precept by more than 1%.

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Tenth of Local Government Workers Receive Tax Credits

One in ten local government employees received tax credits, according to a study by the New Policy Institute, commissioned by Unison. The research found on average 11% of local government workers received Working Tax Credit in 2011/12 and 2012/13. This compares to 4% of workers in the rest of the public sector, and 10% of those in private sector work.

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Government Publishes Business Rates Consultation Responses

HM Treasury and DCLG have published the Government response to the administrative review announced in the 2013 Autumn Statement. In this year’s Autumn Statement the Chancellor announced a wider review after pressure from businesses. The interim report found that ‘there is no clear consensus on whether the government should revalue properties more often than it does now’. As a result, the paper continued ‘the government therefore proposes to continue the discussion on the frequency of revaluations to understand better the main differences in opinion’.

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Labour Outline Plans for savings to Local Government

The Labour Party has published its plans to save £500m from the Department for Communities and Local Government’s budget. The third interim report from Labour’s Zero-Based Review outlines how Labour will, if elected, end the New Homes Bonus ‘with the funding reallocated more fairly within local government’, consider proposals to merge some of the 46 Fire and Rescue Authorities in England, making savings of between £62.7m and £83.6m a year; and save £100 million from the £320 million Transformation Challenge Award. Chris Leslie, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury said ‘Labour’s zero-based review has identified more than £500m a year of savings in the communities and local government budget which will help to better protect frontline services as we get the deficit down’.

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Courts Uphold Decision to Close Independent Living Fund

A legal bid to overturn the decision by Government to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF) has failed. Lawyers had argued that the previous minister for disabled people, Mike Penning had not been given sufficient information to properly assess the impact of shutting down the ILF, which provides additional funding for disabled people to support independent living on top of local authority care packages. The Government said the ILF ‘remains committed to supporting its users between now and 30 June 2015’ and would ‘continue to prepare them for transfer to their local authority or any agreed new arrangements within the devolved administrations’.

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Councils Divert Millions of Own Resources to Academies

According to the Local Government Association, councils paid £22.4m in conversion costs for schools in 2011/12 and 2013/14. The LGA has called on the Department for Education to cover all the costs of conversion to academy status. Upfront costs paid by the council include legal fees and payments to close deficits. The DfE said council were 'only required to cover a school’s deficit costs if it has become a sponsored academy after a prolonged period of underperformance. This underperformance has almost always taken place while the school was under the control of a council.’

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Key points of 2014 Autumn Statement: At-a-glance

George Osborne has said stamp duty will be cut for 98% of homebuyers in his Autumn Statement to the Commons.

The chancellor said that from midnight the current system, where the amount owed jumps at certain price levels, would be replaced by a graduated rate, working in a similar way to income tax.

He admitted borrowing would be higher than forecast but claimed the UK would be "into the black" by 2019/20.

Labour said his deficit reduction targets were "all in tatters".

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Business rates face review

A full "structural review" of the unpopular business rates system in England is to be carried out.

Chancellor George Osborne made the announcement in the Autumn Statement.

The review will examine the "complete structure" of the system, which has been in place since 1988, a Treasury spokesman said.

However, the outcome is expected to be fiscally neutral, meaning that the total sum collected from businesses will not change.

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George Osborne confirms extra £2bn for NHS

George Osborne has told the BBC he will put an extra £2bn into frontline health services across the UK.

The chancellor said the money was a "down payment" on a plan drawn up by NHS bosses calling for an extra £8bn a year above inflation by 2020.

He said he could make the commitment because the economy was strong.

Labour said the re-organisation of the NHS had created a crisis and accused Mr Osborne of making billions of pounds of unfunded spending commitments.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said Labour would commit an extra £2.5bn above Mr Osborne's plan adding that the NHS was "in real crisis".

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Funding awarded to improve local services and save over £900 million

Projects which will improve the public services people receive and reduce the cost to taxpayers have today (28 November 2014) been awarded £89.4 million investment.

Local Government Minister Kris Hopkins announced the names of 73 successful bidders to the Transformation Challenge Award after they set out how they will improve residents’ health, education and job prospects and reduce the demands they put on public services.

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Council Tax and Business Rates Collection Down, Audit Commission Finds

The Audit Commission has found councils collected 97% of council tax owed in 2013/14, a decrease of 0.4% on the previous year. According to the Commission, many authorities had 'room for improvement'. The report states that £4.55bn of council tax and business rate debt remained unpaid at the end of March 2014, but the LGA said councils had a much better record on collecting taxes than Whitehall.

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Deficit Target Will Not Be Met Says Thinktank

The Social Market Foundation thinktank has warned that borrowing in 2018/19 would be £15bn higher that current estimates. David Cameron has said the deficit will be eliminated by 2018/19. However, SMF chief economist Nida Broughton said the only way to hit the target would be to rely on surprise over-heating of the economy that temporarily reduces borrowing, or to pencil in further cuts on top of the £38bn already planned.

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Labour Warns Independent Schools Could Lose Business Rates Relief

Labour has warned if they win the next election independent schools will have to work more closely with state schools or face a cut in business rates relief. The Shadow Education Secretary has called on independent schools to ‘step up and play your part. Earn your keep. Because the time you could expect something for nothing is over’. Labour has been given legal advice that ministers have the power to take away business rate relief without challenging private schools’ charitable status. Labour would amend the 1988 Local Government Act, making business rate relief conditional on a school signing a partnership agreement. In 2013 2,570 fee-charging schools claimed an 80% discount in their business rates, on the basis that they are charities, and they saved £165m through this route.

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Nick Clegg lets slip George Osborne's plan to give NHS a £1.5bn boost

The Government could be set to inject another £1.5bn into the National Health Service in next week’s autumn statement, Nick Clegg has suggested.

The Lib Dem leader told his monthly press conference his party wanted to plan ahead by earmarking £1.5bn to head off pressures on the NHS for the winter of 2015-16. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has already provided £700m for this winter.

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Emergency flood funding ‘too complex’

Councils have called on ministers to set up a single online emergency fund for flooding this winter after the chaos last year.

With the Met Office forecasting months of rainfall, councils are already bracing themselves for heavy flooding in some areas. While they are better prepared than last year, they claim that ministers are not responding to pleas for a co-ordinated, simplified fund in the event of another emergency.

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Teachers swap chalk for aprons to serve up Clegg’s free lunch

Teachers are helping to serve lunches as schools struggle to cope with the logistics of providing free school meals for all infants, a poll by The Times indicates.

Since the start of the autumn term, all children in the first three years of primary school have been entitled to free hot lunches under a £1 billion policy promoted by Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister. However, some schools have struggled to find facilities in time, and others have had problems with the increased volume of meals.

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Drivers face winter of road hell as councils cut grit

With Britain bracing itself for the first arctic blast of the year this week, with temperatures plunging to -7C, the budgets for road gritting this winter are down by an average of 24 per cent from 2010-11, the first year of the Coalition.

The East Midlands has been the worst hit with road gritting budgets down by 43.5 per cent, followed by London (-37 per cent), the North West (-28.3 per cent), East of England (-27.4 per cent) and Yorkshire and the Humber (-27 per cent).

The South East has experienced the smallest drop in its grit budget of just 5.3 per cent, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show.

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Retailers make final plea for rates relief

Retailers and business groups are making a last-gasp push to persuade George Osborne to use next week’s Autumn Statement to reform business rates and offer relief on the controversial tax.

The British Retail Consortium has written to industry figures asking them to send letters to their local MPs about the need to reform business rates, while key business groups including the CBI and the Federation of Small Businesses have put the controversial tax at the top of their Autumn Statement wishlist.

Retailers are leading the calls for the Chancellor to extend a package of relief measures he put in place in last year’s Autumn Statement. This package, worth more than £1bn, included capping the annual inflation-linked increase in business rates at 2pc and offering a £1,000 discount for small businesses.

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English MPs should get veto on English laws, says Cameron

English MPs should as a matter of principle be given a veto over legislation affecting only England, David Cameron has said.

The prime minister also revealed he expected Northern Ireland to be given powers to set its own corporation tax probably through an announcement in the autumn statement next month.

He ruled out changes to the Barnett formula that distributes cash to Scotland, but said the mechanism’s importance will diminish as Holyrood is given more tax raising and borrowing powers.

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Government's Understanding of Cuts on Local Government 'Limited' Says NAO

The National Audit Office has published a new study on the financila sustainabilty of local authorities. The report found DCLG only had a ‘limited’ understanding of authorities’ financial sustainability and was reliant on other Government departments to alert it to individual service failures. Auditors are "increasingly concerned" about councils' ability to make more savings, the report said, with over half of authorities responsible for education and social care not well placed to provide the services they hope to over the next three to five years.

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Rise in OAP divorces leaves more elderly people facing an unhappy old age dependent on carers

Growing numbers of older people are being plunged into loneliness by divorce, a report warned yesterday The rise of so-called ‘silver separation’ means tens of thousands more face a harsh and unhappy old age with early dependency on carers Divorce in later years is likely to have ‘negative health and money repercussions’ alongside isolation and a reliance on help from others, the International Longevity Centre UK said.

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Warning for Councils Over £100 Fine for Each Late Invoice

A senior member of the CLG Select Committee, Mary Glindon MP, is warning councils that they face a fine of up to £100 for each invoice that is paid later than 30 days. Writing to the Local Government Association, the MP said councils will have to publish their payment performance data and calculate and apply penalties for late payment, under new procurement legislation.

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£19 million of support available for adoptive families

The Adoption Support Fund - to be rolled out nationwide from May 2015 after extremely successful pilots across 10 councils - helps pay for essential therapy services for adoptive families as and when they need it.

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LGA Commission: 'Handful of Shires' ready for Devolution

An interim report published by the commission on economic growth and the future of public services in non-metropolitan England has found a “handful of shires” were ready for devolved decision-making about public services and tax. The Commission was set up by the LGA’s people and places board in April this year and is led by Standard Chartered and Burberry chair Sir John Peace. The commission’s interim report, How the Other Half Grows, argued over taxation, the retention of business rates, housing, infrastructure and transport should be devolved to county areas as well as cities. However it recognised that not all counties were ready for devolution yet, stating, “Two-tier areas in particular need to seriously consider whether they have effective enough governance arrangements in place to make a success of taking on more devolved responsibility.”

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Scotland and Northern Ireland gained £800m from Barnett Formula 'flaw', IFS warns

Scotland and Northern Ireland have been protected from more than £800 million worth of Coalition austerity cuts due to "flaws" in the Barnett Formula, a new report has found.

Every Scottish man, woman and child have benefited by around £113 from the alleged glitch, it was estimated, while people in Northern Ireland have been saved £110 each.

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Whitehall told to find hit list for £30bn cuts

Whitehall’s most senior mandarins have been asked by the Treasure to draw up details of how an extra £25-£30 billion in public spending cuts could be imposed after the next General Election. The cuts will cover the two years after the existing agreed spending review comes to an end in April 2016. One source told the Guardian: “The planned cuts would have a massive impact on departments. You could see the Department for Communities and Local Government facing eventual cuts since 2010 of 80 per cent.” The source added this would have a devastating impact on local council services.

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Calls to let councils save the high street by setting their own business rates

More high street shops could be forced out of business without urgent action to help family firms and independent traders, council leaders have warned. The LGA is calling for an overhaul of the business rate system in an attempt to take the pressure off struggling small business. It wants councils to be given full freedom to set business rates to reflect their local areas rather than operating to a formula fixed in Whitehall. Under the plans, business rate charges could be cut for the kind of retailers which residents wanted in their high streets and new businesses could be paid start-up leases. LGA Chair Cllr David Sparks said: “Councils can’t support their local businesses as much as they would like to. There are many areas in which local authorities have been successful in helping new firms to open and keep small businesses alive, but in reality we are working with one hand tied behind our backs.”

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Care plan savings ‘over optimistic’

Questions are being asked about what impact a flagship government scheme to improve the care of vulnerable patients in England will have. The £5.3 billion Better Care Fund will be launched in April 2015 to encourage greater integration between the NHS and social care. But a review by the National Audit Office found the scale of potential savings was overstated. When the local plans were initially submitted earlier this year, £55 million of savings was identified. More work on the plans was ordered and the figure has now been increased to just over £300 million. The LGA warned this has meant there is less time to prepare for implementation which “undermine the Fund’s core purpose”.  Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, added it was "too soon" to make judgements about the scheme.

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LGA Leaders in Nations Call for Urgent Devolution Meeting with Hague

Local government organisations in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are calling for an urgent meeting with the Westminster government to make the case for devolving more power to local communities. Local government leaders stress that the UK government's Cabinet Committee examining devolved powers has a "'unique opportunity to refresh local democracy and empower local communities right across our nation". The associations have written to the Cabinet Committee chairman William Hague saying  they have thrown down the gauntlet to Westminster to "take a bold step towards a new system of government" which would move "power to the local level" across all four nations.

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CIPFA Publish Pre-Election Manifesto

CIPFA have published a manifesto for the 2015 general election, calling on the next UK Government to have a clear strategic approach to how the UK invests to the reform of public financial management. CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman said 'The reality is that the ways we plan and implement policies and decide upon how we manage our resources are no longer fit for purpose’. The manifesto 'Things Can Only Get Worse' criticised politicians of all parties for making unaffordable spending promises.

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Soaring cost of pothole damage

Compensation pay-outs for pothole damage to cars rose by a quarter last year. Figures compiled by LV Insurance showed councils worst hit by last winter’s floods saw a rise in claims of up to 26 per cent. The overall number of claims jumped by 13 per cent. Cllr Peter Box, the LGA’s Transport Spokesman, said: “We need long-term funding to tackle the ever-growing £12 billion roads repair backlog facing the nation. Tackling this crisis must be a national priority. That is why we are calling for the Government to inject a further £1 billion a year into roads maintenance by investing the equivalent of just two pence per litre of existing fuel duty.”

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Uncomfortable truths: CIPFA's Manifesto

To hear people talk at the party conferences, at which CIPFA has been running lively fringe meetings on devolution and growth, many assume the proposed elimination of the budget deficit around 2019 will mark a return to ‘politics as usual’. But the reality of long-term financial projections is that policymakers, politicians and voters need to face up to profound choices. While the government and political parties appear to have accepted the need to eliminate the budget deficit, they are still not facing up to the urgent need for further reform to sustain public finances over the coming decades. Indeed, they are making further fiscal commitments which we ultimately cannot afford.

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Flood defending 'insufficient', NAO warns

Spending on flood protection in England is "insufficient" to maintain defences, the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned.

It said half of the country's defences were being maintained to a "minimal level", and were likely to "deteriorate faster".

The NAO also said spending on them had been cut in real terms between 2010/11 and 2014/15.

The government said it was spending "more than ever before" on resources.

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Arts Council England funding must shift from London, MPs say

London's galleries, theatres and other cultural organisations get a disproportionate share of England's arts funding, a group of MPs has said.

There is a "clear funding imbalance" in favour of the capital, a report by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee has concluded.

Arts Council England should "restore some balance" across the country and do so with "greater urgency", it said.

The Arts Council distributes £600m of taxpayers' and Lottery money per year.

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London's Brent Council becomes first local authority to offer Living Wage incentive

Labour-run Brent Council in London plans to give companies a one-off discount of up to £5,000 if they pay their employees the living wage, which is worth £9.15 an hour in London and £7.85 outside the capital – higher than the £6.50-an-hour national minimum wage.

Brent would become the first authority to offer the incentive under a plan to be discussed by its Cabinet in January.

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Child mental health services 'unfit'

There are "serious and deeply ingrained problems" with child and adolescent mental health services, officials warn.

The Health Select Committee says the whole system - from prevention and early intervention through to inpatient services - has issues.

While demand for care is rising, in many parts of the country funding is being frozen or cut.

The government said it had launched a taskforce to drive up standards, and was investing money in mental health.

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Review of current Local Welfare provision

DWP, DCLG and Treasury are to review the current local welfare provision as part of their review into the continuation, or not, of the grant.

 

 

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Latest Fire & Rescue bulletin

The latest Fire & Rescue bulletine is now available on the DCLG website.

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Miliband pledges London-style bus service across England

Ed Miliband will promise later that a Labour government would grant cities and regions greater powers to improve bus services across England.

The Labour leader will say cities and counties should be able to set bus fares and routes and integrate them with local tram and rail services.

He will say that bus services outside London currently "fail to serve the public interest".

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ICLGF Interim Report

The interim report from the Independent Commission on Local Government Finance has been released on October 30

The commission was set up because Local Government finance urgently needs reform and this interim report

• Identifies the strengths and weaknesses of the local government finance system

• Brings forward practical options for reform in the next Parliament and suggests a range of measures to make local government financially self-sufficient

• Seeks reform across all areas of Local government including growth, housing supply, effective welfare provision, affordable health and social care, and early support to families and children.

The report is essential reading for those that agree with Chair of the Commission on Local Government Finance, Darra Singh. who says ‘The challenges are staring us in the face and we just need to try to be more radical,’.

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Care plan 'to ease hospital pressure' in England

Vulnerable patients in England will get better support in the community as part of plans to ease pressure on hospitals, ministers say.

Joint teams of social care workers and NHS staff such as nurses and physios will become available seven days a week under the changes being unveiled.

The move is part of the government's Better Care Fund to join up the NHS and council-run social care systems.

It comes as a new analysis showed hospitals were under growing pressure

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Council tax bands urged to be revalued

Local authorities should be able to set new council tax bands to reflect property price rises as part of a shake-up of town hall finance, an independent commission has said.

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Government response to the Independent Commission on Local Government Finance

Eric Pickles responds to the Independent Commission on Local Government Finance. Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said:

This government has delivered significant decentralisation of power and finance to local communities. There is real scope to go further in England and do more. Localism should be about devolving power to the lowest appropriate level – down to councils, down to neighbourhoods and down to individuals. We need to join up different public services to deliver better services and do more for less.

 

However, we completely disagree with the report’s proposals to increase Council Tax. Revaluation and higher Council Tax bands would means soaring tax bills for hard-working people, as the 2005 Council Tax revaluation in Wales showed. Instead, this government is working to keep Council Tax down – our Council Tax freeze has cut bills by 11% in real terms since 2010, and further funding for a Council Tax freeze is available to councils next year too.

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Thames Water to pay council tax for Cowley flood victims

Flood victims are to have their council tax paid by a water company after being forced out of their homes when a water main burst.

Thames Water offered the money to residents of Normandy Crescent in Cowley, Oxford, after 50 properties were affected last month.

It could be several months before they are able to move back.

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Home carers' travel 'goes unpaid', Unison says

Most councils in England and Wales are failing to ensure home care workers are paid the national minimum wage, figures obtained by the Unison union suggest.

It says freedom of information figures show just 6% of local authorities make it a contractual condition for care providers to pay workers' travel time.

Non-payment of travel time means many are not paid the minimum wage of £6.50 an hour, Unison says.

Councils say stipulating that providers pay for travel time is unnecessary.

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Troubled Families programme turning 117,000 lives around

Eric Pickles has welcomed the latest success of the Troubled Families programme, a crucial part of the government’s long-term economic plan to the turn the country around and help bring security and opportunity to families and communities.

The Communities Secretary welcomed the latest success of the scheme, which has now succeeded in reaching almost all of the hardest to help homes in the country that the Prime Minister pledged to help.

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As Tiers go By: A Collaborative Future for Counties and Districts

New research, supported by PwC, shows that the spectre of unitary status is still holding back the potential for local collaboration, as local partners focus on the potential for nationally imposed reorganisation instead of focusing on the challenging business of working together.

The report, entitled As Tiers Go By: A collaborative future for counties and districts, says that if ministers and their shadows really want collaboration in the shires, then they must unequivocally rule out unitary status and instead back a new generation of policy aimed at encouraging joint working.

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Councils Public Health Spending on Mental Health 'Unacceptably Low'

A report by the mental health charity Mind has found that on average only 1.4% of local authorities' public health budget is spent on preventing mental health problems. According to the charity, in 2014/15 local authorities plan to spend £76m on increasing physical activity, £160m on anti-smoking initiatives and £671m on sexual health services This compares with just £40m on public mental health.

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Britain's failing care system faces £4.3bn funding black hole

Tens of thousands of frail pensioners who need help with basic tasks such as washing, dressing, shopping and eating could be left to fend for themselves as the system spirals into crisis.

Budget cuts and an increase in demand as more people live longer have sparked the shortfall.

And the situation is now so bad that if integration of health and social care services next year is not successful, the care system could collapse.

The warning was made by the Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils across England and Wales, and the Association of Directors of Social Services

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Social workers ‘need more secretaries and less paperwork’

Secretaries could hold the answer to improving standards in social work, the head of the field’s professional body has told The Independent.

Annie Hudson, chief executive of the College of Social Work, said more administrative staff would save pushed social workers from being distracted by “bureaucratic burdens” and mean they could get on with helping children and vulnerable adults.

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Reforms to the firefighters' pension scheme

Regulations setting out the terms of the reformed firefighters’ pension scheme, and consultation on fitness standards and assessment.

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Department of Health Publishes Final Care Act Guidance

The Department of Health has published its response to the Care Act consultation, alongside proposed final regulations that will apply local authorities when the Act comes into force in April 2015. DH consulted over the summer on the draft Care Act regulations and  received more than 4,000 responses. The response to the consultation states: “Many consultation responses, in particular those from local government, highlighted concerns about adequate funding for social care.” As a result, the government has changed its estimates to reflect “a larger number of potential recipients, and show additional costs in the first year and beyond – rising to an additional £100m per year”.

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Record Levels of Fraud Detected by Councils, Says Audit Commission

A new Audit Commission report has revealed that detection of fraud by councils has increased by 10% since 1990, when the Commission first started reporting. The report, ‘Protecting the Public Purse 2014: Fighting Fraud Against Local Government’, found that in 2013/2014 councils identified fraud valued at £188m. However, the commission also warned that councils’ attempts to address fraud were under threat from continued financial pressure, while changes in government policies such as Right to Buy and social care choice could unintentionally heighten fraud risks.

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City Growth Commission Publishes Final Report

A study by the RSA City Growth Commission has published its final findings, stating that enabling cities to make their own decisions on raising and spending could boost growth by £79bn a year by 2030. The Commission, chaired by former Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill, said 'There needs to be a radical reshaping of the UK's political economy, with our metros given sufficient decision-making powers and financial flexibilities in order to become financially self-sustainable'.

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Whitehall suffers from confusion over decisions, say MPs

Taxpayers are getting poorer value for money from government projects because of "confusion" over decision-making, MPs have warned.

The Public Accounts Committee found a "lack of clarity" over the role of the Treasury, Downing Street and the Cabinet Office in reforming services.

Meanwhile, ministers had to overcome "resistance" among some civil servants to change, it added.

But the government said it had strengthened efficiency in Whitehall.

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George Osborne eyes business rates reform for 'northern powerhouse cities

The Chancellor is looking at allowing local authorities in the North to keep a greater proportion of the revenues raised from business rates in their area, it can be revealed.

It is understood that the move to devolve more economic powers to cities including Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool could form part of George Osborne’s Autumn Statement in December.

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RAC calls for higher investment in road maintenance

Motoring groups are calling for increased investment in road maintenance after a study showed drivers pay four times as much in taxes than is spent by the government on the roads.

A report for the RAC Foundation said that spending had dropped to £7.5bn in 2012 while the exchequer’s total take from motoring taxes remained just under £31bn – £24.8bn from fuel duty and £5.9bn from vehicle excise duty. In 2009, the amount spent on roads was £9.7bn, a third of the tax raised.

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Council asks: so what would you cut?

Durham County Council is using a Monopoly-style game at public consultations, encouraging players to find £100m-worth of savings to council services from a £400 million budget. Speaking about budget cuts, Cllr David Sparks, Chair of the Local Government Association, said: “On the surface it appears that local government has been able to make economies through efficiencies and continues to deliver services to a standard that satisfies most people. This disguises the reality that a price has been paid by individuals.”

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English councils failing to help most vulnerable, homelessness charity finds

Some of the most vulnerable homeless people in England, including domestic violence victims and those with learning difficulties, are shunned by councils and forced to sleep rough, according to an undercover investigation by Crisis.

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Cost of dying 'rose more than 10% last year'

The "cost of dying" is more than 10% higher than it was this time last year, according to a report.

Dr Kate Woodthorpe, a sociologist from the University of Bath and author of the SunLife report, said the costs of funerals were rising "on numerous fronts".

Funeral directors' fees reflect the costs of "staff salaries, the expense of running a business, but also the costs recovered by local authorities", she explained.

"Local authorities are trying to preserve land by removing subsidies for burial, and in the case of cremation trying to recover the costs of meeting mercury emissions targets," she said.

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Auditors Identify Future Scenarios for Councils

A report from audit firm Grant Thornton, produced with the University of Birmingham, has called for a discussion about the future of local government in England. The report proposes re-organising 'local government structures to achieve real devolution and efficiency' arguing 'there is an urgent need for debate on this’. The report identified six potential scenarios for the future of local government, which depend on how the political and financial environments develop:  adaptive innovation - running to stand still - nostril above the waterline - wither on the vine - just local administration - imposed disruption.

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Local Welfare Provision Consultation Launched by DCLG

A six-week consultation on proposals for the future funding of Local Welfare Provision has been published by DCLG. The Government is maintaining its position that no new funding for the provision will be available from next April. It sets out three options: going ahead with plans to merge the funding into local government budgets or maintaining separate welfare grants. This could be done by either setting out how much of each authority’s Settlement Funding Assessment would notionally relate to local welfare provision based on previous trends, or by top slicing Revenue Support Grant funding to provide a dedicated fund.

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Councils need fly-tipping powers, says LGA

Councils in England and Wales should be given new powers to impose on-the-spot fines to tackle fly-tipping, the LGA has said. It said fly-tipping was costing local authorities about £36 million a year to deal with an estimated 711,000 cases. The LGA’s Cllr Peter Box said: "It is utterly unacceptable and inexcusable for anyone to dump waste illegally and councils know how much people hate seeing this sort of vandalism on their doorsteps. All the figures show that the huge amount of effort local authorities put into preventing and tackling fly-tipping is having a real impact - but new powers would ensure it goes even further.” LGA Environment spokesman Cllr Mike Jones was interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Breakfast.

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Local Government Strike Called Off

Unions have called off their planned national strike for local government. Unison, Unite and GMB workers were expected to strike on Tuesday against at a pay offer worth 1%. The unions said they plan to consult their members on new proposals put forward by the Local Government Association as the "best achievable" by negotiation. A statement from the unions said  "All three unions have made it clear that they want to strengthen the collective bargaining machinery covering local government and schools and move quickly to jointly tackle important issues facing their members with the Local Government Association”.

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Councils urged to bid for £178m borrowing programme

Councils have been urged to apply for a share of £178m to build new affordable homes.

Housing minister, Brandon Lewis, confirmed six new councils have been granted new powers enabling them to borrow £60m. Sixteen councils have previously been allowed to borrow £62m to deliver over 1,000 new affordable homes.

However, Mr Lewis warned there was only one week left for councils to bid for the second round of extra borrowing.

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Standard of care in England's homes not good enough'

Too much "awful care" is happening in care homes in England, the chief inspector of adult social care at the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has told the BBC.

The standard of care in homes in England is "not good enough at the moment", Andrea Sutcliffe admitted.

CQC publishes new plans for how it will regulate, inspect and rate care homes on Thursday.

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Minister to sign £270 million Heart of the South West Growth Deal

Greg Clark, Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, will join up with councils and businesses from across the South West to sign the £270.3 million Heart of the South West Growth Deal. The deal secures £130.3 million of government funding, as well as a further £140 million of additional investment from local partners and the private sector.

The official signing ceremony will take place at the Exeter Science Park.

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The NHS must learn to be smarter

Andrew Haldenby, Director of think-tank Reform, said more money will not be enough on its own to save the NHS. He said: “The right response to the ageing population is to find new ways to treat patients near to home, and in their homes, rather than ferry them to expensive hospitals.” He argues that the NHS needs to smarter in how it provides services as demand surges in the same way local authorities have had to be over the last few years. He said that council budgets being cut by a third has acted “as a catalyst to do things differently and take tough decisions that were put off in better times”.

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How to make those who would benefit pay for radical improvements in social care

Dame Kate Barker, Chair of the Commission on the Future of Health and Social Care in England, said the current health and social care system “is not fit for purpose”. She said the cost of growing demand for social care must be paid for by those likely to benefit. This would mean raising £1.4 billion by means-testing free TV licences and winter fuel payments and a further £3.3 billion by increasing National Insurance payments for those over 40 and the better off.

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Minister to sign £200 million Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Deal

Greg Clark, Minister for Universities, Science and Cities, will today join up with councils and business leaders from across Cornwall to sign the £198.9 million Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Deal.

The deal secures £48.9 million of government funding, as well as a further £150 million of additional investment from local partners and the private sector.

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Let local government deal with property revaluation

As party conference season draws to a close, it is the Lib Dems who have been the most vocal on local issues.

But the Lib Dems have hit council tax square on. Having been in the Treasury for a few years, Danny Alexander has now dismissed previous plans for a ‘mansion tax’ – now taken up by David Miliband as the next big thing – as unworkable. Instead, he has called for more top rate bands to make the system fairer.

I’m all in favour of upgrading the council tax system, but would probably argue for a regional banding. The current system causes as many difficulties in Liverpool – where house prices are cheap – as it does in London, at the other end of the scale.

But to update the council tax system, a full property revaluation would also be needed. It is now nine years since David Miliband ‘postponed’ revaluation – and it was well overdue then.

Subsequent secretaries of state have shied away from revaluation fearing the political fall-out – and who can blame them? My solution is simple: pass the whole problem down to local government, carry out revaluation at a local level and hand over the power to add in extra bands.

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Councils will slash emergency welfare schemes if ministers cut £175m grant

Almost three-quarters of local authorities will abandon or scale back welfare schemes designed to provide emergency help for England’s most vulnerable citizens from next April because of government funding cuts, ministers have been warned.

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Local government will ‘fall over’ without reform

former Treasury advisor has warned that the system of local taxation in England is ‘broke’, and has called for a radical transformation of the state through devolution in response to spending reductions.

Speaking at CIPFA’s fringe event at the Liberal Democrat party conference, Julia Goldsworthy, a former special advisor to Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, said that without reform, local government could ‘fall over’ amid the impact of planned cuts.

‘The implications for the public sector are absolutely massive and the implications for local government – which is traditionally seen as a balancing item in a lot of approaches to spending rounds – is absolutely huge.’

She warned delegates that there would likely be a point where spending cuts would begin to represent a real threat of the failure of public services.

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Come clean on profits from parking, councils are told

Councils will be made to publish details of how much they raise in parking profits and what they use the cash for as part of a campaign to increase town hall transparency, ministers announced yesterday.

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Unison Rejects New Pay Offer for Local Government

A new pay offer made by the LGA to unions has been rejected by Unison, without the trade union putting it to a vote of members. Under the proposed deal most council employees would have received a 2.2% pay increase  and the lowest paid workers would have received a new minimum hourly rate of £7 per hour, rising further to £7.06 per hour in October 2015. In addition, non-consolidated lump sum payments of between £100 and £325 would be made at all pay grades. The LGA proposed that the pay agreement would run from 1 January 2015 until 1 March 2016, instead of being backdated to April.

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True toll of thousands of elderly and disabled patients locked up in care

At least seven times as many elderly and disabled people are being restrained or locked in at care homes and hospitals as previously thought, government figures show. Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show there were 21,600 deprivation of liberty applications to councils between April and June – 75 per cent higher than for the entire previous year. It comes following a Supreme Court ruling widening the criteria for assessments.

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Councils Struggle to Meet Timelines for DoLS Assessments

Councils are failing to meet deadlines for carrying out Deprivation of Liberty Safeguarding (DoLS) assessments. A ruling by the Supreme Court in March that disabled people have the same rights to "physical liberty" as everyone else, lowering the threshold of DoLS to cover disabled people living in care homes and hospitals. In 2013/2014, 174 councils in England and Wales received 8,602 requests to carry out assessments. Since April this year they've had 33,476 applications. Last year, just 2.2% of assessments breached legal timescales; so far this year it's 50.2%. The LGA says the demand for assessments is likely cost councils £88m and wants the government to provide additional funding. A government spokesman said: "The Health and Social Care information Centre is collecting data on this impact and we will carefully consider the results when they are published shortly."

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LGA creates local audit oversight company

he Public Sector Audit Appointments company, which will be chaired by former CIPFA chief executive Steve Freer, is set to take on a number of transitional responsibilities until at least 2017. These include the appointment of auditors to local government and parts of the NHS, the setting of audit fees, and managing the current outsourced audit contracts.

Under government plans following its decision to abolish the commission, once these deals expire after the 2016/17 financial year, county, district and London borough councils will be responsible for appointing their own auditors.

Announcing the creation of the firm, Peter Fleming, chair of the LGA’s improvement and innovation board, said the umbrella body was keen to maintain quality independent audit arrangements for local public services. 

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Value of outsourcing deals increases in local government

The value of outsourcing deals in local government increased by 164% during the third quarter of 2014 compared to the same period last year, new figures reveal.

The latest Outsourcing Index, published by arvato, shows HR outsourcing account for a quarter of all outsourcing deals signed in 2014 across all sectors.

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Archived Headlines

2014