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News Headlines

 

Higher fuel prices take toll on retail sales

UK retail sales posted a 1.4% rise in February from the previous month, but there are signs that higher fuel prices have begun to hit shoppers' pockets.

In the three months to February, sales volumes fell by 1.4%, a sharper slide than the 0.5% decline for the three months to January.

That was the biggest three-month fall recorded by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) since March 2010.

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Bed delay transfer figures reveal areas worst affected

More than 2,500 hospital beds a day are taken up by patients whose release has been delayed due to problems in the social care system.

Analysis of official so-called "bed-blocking" statistics reveals the areas where the NHS is worst affected.

The Local Government Association said under-funded authorities had placed care providers under "huge pressure".

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Drop in teacher training recruits revealed

There are fears it could get even tougher to recruit teachers after a drop in the number of trainees on courses in England and Wales.

The latest figures show a 6.9% drop in acceptances on to teacher training courses for this year.

Head teachers' leaders said the drop in recruits would deepen the teacher recruitment crisis.

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Other Headlines

School governors point to 'diabolical' budget squeeze

School governors have pointed to a "catastrophic" squeeze on budgets, as the government prepares to introduce a new funding formula for schools.

A snapshot survey of 4,000 governors by the BBC sheds light on the existing funding pressure in England's schools.

National Governors Association head Emma Knights does however back the principle of the new funding formula.

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UK inflation rate leaps to 2.3%

Rising fuel and food prices helped to push last month's inflation rate to the highest since September 2013.

Inflation as measured by the Office for National Statistics' Consumer Prices Index (CPI) jumped to 2.3% in February - up from 1.8% in January.

The increase has pushed the rate above the Bank of England's 2% target.

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'Lack of money' prompts care firms to end council contracts

Care firms have cancelled contracts with 95 UK councils, saying they cannot deliver services for the amount they are being paid, a BBC Panorama investigation has found.

Some firms said they could not recruit or retain the staff they needed.

The Local Government Association said it was the result of "historic under-funding" and an ageing population.

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MPs slam funding crisis and 'postcode lottery' of children's services

Children’s social services are being engulfed by a funding crisis in which nine out of 10 local authorities are struggling to meet their legal duties and families face a postcode lottery, a damning report has concluded.

The inquiry by MPs, led by a former Conservative children’s minister, Tim Loughton, has found “wildly different approaches” in the ways that councils intervene and how likely they are to take children into care.

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Looming countryside health crisis as stoic elderly 'won't make a fuss'

A crisis in countryside health care could be looming because of the number of older patients who are reluctant to "make a fuss" and seek out help, a new report suggests.

Almost half of rural households are at least five miles away from a hospital, when 97 per cent of those living in cities have one close at hand. And 20 per cent were more than 2.5 miles from a GP surgery, compared with 2 per cent of those in urban areas.

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Every secondary school faces losing six teachers - report

Six teachers could be axed from every secondary school due to funding cuts, a report says.

On average, secondary schools are facing losses of £291,000 each, with primaries missing out on £74,000 between 2016/17 and 2019/20, says the Education Policy Institute (EPI).

Their report calculates that this would mean losing six teachers from every secondary school and two from each primary school.

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Is robotics a solution to the growing needs of the elderly?

The receptionist at the Institute of Media Innovation, at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, is a smiling brunette called Nadine.

From a distance, nothing about her appearance seems unusual. It's only on closer inspection that doubts set in. Yes - she's a robot.

Nadine is an "intelligent" robot capable of autonomous behaviour. For a machine, her looks and behaviour are remarkably natural.

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School transport cuts causing 'distress and upheaval'

Will, who has autism and hates loud noise, was expected to walk a mile down a partly unlit route and take a bus and train to school, after his local council stopped funding a taxi for him.

Will tried it but soon became very distressed - so his mother had to drive him to and from school.

This was among 261 complaints about school transport decisions to England's local government ombudsman in 2015-16.

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A third of upper-tier councils facing ‘severe financial challenges’

At least one in three of England’s 152 upper-tier councils are facing ‘severe financial challenges’ in 2018/19, a top auditor has warned.

Head of local government at Grant Thornton UK, Paul Dossett, said if any council was to be declared technically insolvent it would be an upper-tier authority because of their demand-led social care responsibilities.

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Second major 2015 Tory manifesto pledge dropped in a week

The Conservatives have been accused of dropping a second manifesto pledge in the space of a week after ministers rowed back on plans to build hundreds of thousands of “starter homes” for first-time buyers.

Chancellor Philip Hammond sparked negative headlines after the Budget on Wednesday when he raised National Insurance for self-employed people, ditching a Conservative manifesto promise not to raise the tax.

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'Transport deserts' as hundreds of bus routes are scrapped because of Government cuts

Hundreds of bus routes across the country have been scrapped thanks to Government cuts , according to exclusive new research.

The Campaign for Better Transport study shows £30m has been cut from local authority budgets.

And it has seen more than 500 routes lost, often leaving people isolated and cut off from major cities.

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School funding cuts 'will leave councils unable to meet legal obligations'

Councils have said that funding cuts will leave many local authorities potentially unable to meet legal obligations to schools over issues such as checking staff for criminal records and ensuring buildings are free of asbestos.

The warning from the Local Government Association (LGA) comes amid a wider row about a planned new national funding formula for schools, which prompted concern from a series of backbench Conservative MPs.

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Activists to challenge council pension boycott restrictions in High Court

Pro-Palestine campaigners have been granted permission to take the Government to the High Court over law preventing councils from boycotting companies involved in Israel’s human rights violations.

Whitehall amended the rules governing Local Government Pensions Schemes (LGPS) with new guidance last October to stop councils using pensions and procurement to boycott or divest from foreign allies.

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Lib Dems call for 1p income tax rise to provide NHS funding boost

Income tax should be increased by 1p to deliver a £4.6bn boost to the struggling NHS while a long-term funding solution is found, the former Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb has said.

As the Lib Dems seek to woo traditional Labour voters and win back public trust, after being reduced to just nine MPs, Lamb will urge his party’s spring forum this weekend to back higher taxes to pay for health and social care.

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Business rates relief secure after NICs u-turn

The government’s u-turn on national insurance contributions will not scupper the £300m transitional business rates relief announced in last week’s budget, according to ministers.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced earlier this week that it will not not pursue last week’s announcement to raise class 4 national insurance contributions for the self-employed.

But speaking in the Lords this week, Lord Young of Cookham, cabinet office spokesman in the Lords, dismissed fears that the move would reduce the amount available for business rates relief also announced in the Budget.

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Commercialisation drives review of Prudential Code

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has launched two consultations covering its Prudential Code for Capital Finance in Local Authorities and the Treasury Management Code. The move reflects the increasing commercialisation of local authorities and a recognition that risk management and investment activity in the treasury function have evolved considerably in recent years.

The last time the codes were reviewed was in 2011, when the landscape of local authority finance looked very different.

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Inter-authority lending rockets by £1bn

The level of local authority lending to other councils rose by more than £1bn in the first three quarters of this financial year.

Borrowing and investment statistics released by the Department for Communities and Local Government show that more than £6bn is now invested through the mechanism.

The amount lent between local authorities is now almost double the level in March 2012, when it stood at just £3.1bn.

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Councils paying staff £15m for trade union time

Councils are spending more than £14.5m a year on providing ‘facility time’ for trade union reps, according to new research by the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA).

The campaign group said the average local authority spent 0.10% of its wage bill on subsidising the work of trade unions, with at least 371 full-time staff members working for trade unions at least 50% of the time.

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Tory councils warn on school funding

More than a dozen Conservative councils have written to Prime Minister Theresa May to warn of their "alarm" at inadequate school funding in England.

They are part of a cross-party group of councils with low levels of funding.

They had hoped to benefit from changes to the funding formula but now say the funding gap will remain unresolved.

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Public sector workers earn more than their private sector peers, analysis reveals

Public sector workers are still paid more than their private sector counterparts despite nearly a decade of central government cuts, financial experts say.

A new report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has revealed that during the financial crisis the pay premium experienced by public sector workers relative to those in the private sector grew from 3.7% in 2006-07 to 6% in 2010-11.

However, following the squeeze on public sector pay since 2010-11, this gap has come down to about 3.6% in 2015-16 - just 0.1% below pre-crisis levels.

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Budget National Insurance rises 'make system fairer'

Philip Hammond has rebuffed calls for a rethink on National Insurance increases for millions of self-employed workers announced in the Budget.

The measure, which breaks a 2015 manifesto pledge on NI contributions, would result in 1.6 million people paying £240 on average more every year.

The chancellor told the BBC that lower earning self-employed people would be better off, and the new system fairer.

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Extra social care funding welcome, but ‘bare minimum’ to shore up system

Local government leaders have responded to the social care provision announced by Phillip Hammond in the Spring Budget yesterday by saying that though the money will be welcome for struggling services, it still does not come close to plugging the funding gap of a system that is close to collapse.

It has been predicted that adult social care needed around £1.5bn to £2bn worth of fiscal support from the government to be able to fully meet growing demand, but yesterday’s news did not meet the requirements that have been laid out by local government representative bodies and MPs as the chancellor was only able to promise £2bn over the next three years, with half of that amount to be made available in 2017-18.

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Budget is out of touch, says Jeremy Corbyn

The government's Budget is one of "utter complacency" about the state of the UK economy, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

The Labour leader said the budget was "entirely out of touch with reality" of life for millions and did not address the "crisis" facing public services.

He said there were millions of workers who knew their next pay packet would not be enough.

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Budget 2017: What it means for motorists - £800 million boost in fight against congestion

He announced £90 million for the North and £23 million for the Midlands to address pinch points on roads.

And he launched a new £690 million competition for English councils to tackle urban congestion.

At the same time He unveiled a £270million pot for research into technologies including driverless cars in a bid to “enhance the UK’s position as a world leader in science and innovation”.

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Grammar schools: Budget to include funds for new free schools

Extra money for new schools in England, including free and grammar schools, will be announced by the chancellor in his Budget on Wednesday.

Philip Hammond will confirm a one-off payment of £320m for 140 new free schools on top of the 500 already pledged to be created by 2020.

He will also spend £216m to rebuild and refurbish existing schools.

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Dubs amendment: Tory backing for council refugee audit

Up to 30 Tory MPs could back steps to require councils in England to identify whether they have spare capacity to house unaccompanied child refugees.

Conservative Heidi Allen said ministers had not consulted properly with local authorities when opting to close the Dubs resettlement scheme this month (March 2017).

Campaigners want 3,000 Syrian and other minors in Europe to be found homes.

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Rethink rates now or face retail disaster, shops tell chancellor

Britain’s hard-pressed retailers have urged Philip Hammond to rethink government plans for revamping business rates amid signs that rising inflation has led to the weakest high street spending in more than five years.

A report from the British Retail Consortium and KPMG found that the spurt in consumer spending seen in the run-up to Christmas had come to an abrupt halt, with the result that non-food sales are falling for the first time since the economy was flirting with a double-dip recession in November 2011.

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Budget 2017: Hammond's 'upbeat' message over Brexit future

Chancellor Philip Hammond will use his first Budget to help prepare Britain for a "new chapter" in its history after Brexit, the Treasury has said.

In an "upbeat" speech, he is expected to say the economy has proved resilient since the referendum but admit that many families are "feeling the pinch".

Extra money is expected to be found for social care in England and to help firms facing steep business rate rises.

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Leaked tape reveals Surrey's council tax government 'deal'

The prime minister has repeatedly denied Surrey County Council was given what Labour calls "a sweetheart deal".

But on the recording, Councillor David Hodge said he had written government assurances and recordings of talks.

A government spokesman said "there was no special deal" and to imply the opposite was untrue.

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Chancellor plans tax rise to fund budget giveaways

Philip Hammond is preparing to raise tax in Wednesday’s budget after resisting calls to pay for giveaways with higher borrowing.

In his first budget the chancellor is expected to pour more money into social care and offer short-term relief for those worst affected by business-rate changes as he reveals a sharp improvement in growth and public finances.

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NHS denied budget windfall as Hammond saves for Brexit fund

Philip Hammond said yesterday that there would be no new money for the NHS in Wednesday’s budget, facing down pressure from Labour and brandishing his credentials as a fiscal conservative.

The chancellor insisted that there would be “no spending sprees” as he promised to put more cash into social care alongside a wide-ranging review, but made it clear that he was not contemplating extra cash for the NHS.

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Spring Budget will not be a 'show fest'

Like every year, decisions the chancellor makes will have an immediate impact on people's lives and livelihoods.

Tweaks to the new system of business rates will soften the impact to some firms who are hit by the steepest rises.

An expected top up of a billion or so pounds for the social care system could help alleviate the worst pressure on the service that is struggling in many parts of the country.

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Councils spend £2m a day on temporary accommodation say town hall chiefs

A ‘chronic shortage’ of affordable housing is forcing local authorities to spend £2m a day on temporary accommodation for homeless families, council chiefs warn.

The LGA has called on the chancellor to use this week’s Spring Budget to free councils from borrowing limits hampering their ability to build new homes, and to adapt welfare reforms to protect families at risk of homelessness.

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Budget 2017: No 'spending sprees', Hammond warns

There will be no "spending sprees" in Wednesday's Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned.

Mr Hammond said any surplus cash would be used to ensure the UK had enough "gas in the tank" for the coming years.

He also acknowledged social care budgets were under particular pressure but said this was "not just about money".

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Vocational training shake-up 'most ambitious since A-levels'

Vocational and technical education in England is to get an extra £500m a year in a bid to train more skilled workers and boost the economy.

The plans, to be set out in the Budget, also include replacing 13,000 existing qualifications with 15 "routes" linked to the needs of employers.

Students in further education or at a technical college will also be eligible for maintenance loans.

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Funding plan will hit poor pupils hardest - campaigners

Schools in England with the highest numbers of disadvantaged children will be hit hardest by government plans to change funding, say campaigners.

Schools where over 40% of pupils are eligible for free meals will lose most, say National Union of Teachers and Child Poverty Action Group researchers.

Ministers should rethink the national funding formula, which is due to begin in 2018-19, they say.

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Business rates: Sajid Javid considers rates discount plan

Plans to help nearly 100,000 small businesses due to be hit by changes to rates next month are being considered by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.

Out of those, some 25,000 firms face a "cliff edge" under the new revaluation of business rates, according to ratings agency CVS.

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Tory spending pledges on police, education and childcare 'at risk'

Conservative promises to protect spending on police, sixth form education and childcare are at risk as Philip Hammond demands £3.5bn in new cuts from his cabinet colleagues, according to an analysis by the IPPR thinktank.

The IPPR believes the government will not be able to hit its savings target, even allowing for proposed budget cuts, at the same time as meeting spending promises made by George Osborne when he was chancellor.

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Social care crisis: Councils to get more cash amid possible backbench revolt

Councils are to get an emergency cash injection to fund social care and a promise of wider reform in the Budget, as the Prime Minister seeks to avert the threat of a backbench blow-up.

Government sources told Sky News the Chancellor was drawing up a plan to give cash-strapped councils hundreds of millions of pounds in emergency funding to help pay for social care, with the promise of a root-and-branch review of the system later in the year.

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Families 'struggle to get first-place secondary school'

Parents in many parts of England are finding it harder to get their child into a secondary school they want, analysis of government data suggests.

Most of the country's towns and counties saw a fall last year in the proportion of pupils getting a place at their first-choice school.

The figures come on National Offer Day - the day families in England find out where they have been allocated a place.

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Rural areas lose in ‘unfair’ funding of elderly care

Rural councils receive 60 per cent less money for social care per elderly resident than those in London, because of an “unfair” cash formula, a study says.

The County Councils Network (CCN), a pressure group representing England’s shire authorities, has condemned “regressive, unfair and opaque” Treasury methodology. Counties received £279 in social care funding for each resident over 65 in 2013-14, according to a study by LG Futures.

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Nearly 150,000 care and health jobs at risk due to Brexit says TUC

Nearly 150,000 adult social care and NHS jobs could be at risk if EU workers would no longer be able to stay in the UK after Brexit, new analysis has revealed.

The TUC has published a regional breakdown of where health and social care services are most reliant on workers from the EU.

It found 145,200 workers could leave their right to live and work in the UK, with services in London, the South East and East of England most affected.

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One in ten councils to cut comms teams this year

Councils' communications teams have reached a 'plateau' on staff cuts, new research published today has suggested.

A survey by Panacea Applications Limited and LG Communications found one in ten councils are planning to reduce staff numbers in their communications teams this year.

This follows three years of 'fast and hard' cuts with 60% of councils saying they were cutting back their communications teams in 2014. The majority of councils also continued to cut staff numbers in 2015 and 2016.

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Sugary drinks levy will earn schools £415m

The levy on sugary drinks will provide £415m for sports and healthy eating in England's schools, says Education Secretary Justine Greening.

Every school will be allocated funds to help with facilities for mental health as well as physical exercise.

But schools, which have been warning of cash shortages, will not be able to use the fizzy drink levy to pay for staff.

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‘Death taxes’ on inheritance could pay for social care

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Let councils run academy chains, say MPs

Local authorities in England should be able to form their own academy chains, MPs have said.

The Commons Education Committee report echoes councils' calls to be allowed to use their expertise to help boost performance in failing academies.

The government wants all English schools to become academies, independent of local councils and funded direct by Whitehall.

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State pension age 'could rise above lifespan' in poorer areas, say MPs

The state pension age may have to rise to levels above the average lifespan of men in the UK's poorer areas, MPs say.

The Work and Pensions Committee said the age would need to rise above 70 to make the current policy of increasing the pension amount sustainable.

State pensions rise each year by the inflation rate or whichever is highest of average earnings or 2.5% - as part of the so-called pensions triple-lock.

The government said it was committed to the policy until 2020 at least.

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Council to save £94m after axing high interest loans

Newham Council has struck a deal to scrap its lender option borrower option (LOBO) loans and switch to normal fixed rate borrowing in a move that will save up to £94m.

The new financial agreement with a major high street bank will save the council up to £1.6m per year on interest payments over a 60-year period.

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MPs cast doubt on benefits of multi-academy trust expansion for schools

There is not enough evidence to support the expansion of multi-academy trusts as part of the government’s aim for all schools to become academies, the education select committee has concluded.

Responding to the report, Mary Bousted, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, urged the government to heed the committee’s warnings.

She called the proposal for local authorities to be able to set up MATs “entirely sensible, necessary and welcome.”

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Business rates a 'ticking time bomb' for small firms

Business rates are a "ticking time bomb" for small companies in England which should be offered emergency help, the shadow business secretary has said.

Labour's Rebecca Long-Bailey said many firms faced "cliff-edge" rises when new valuations take effect in April and that the process had been mishandled.

The government says it has established a £3.6bn transitional fund to help businesses facing big jumps in rates.

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Older teenagers face biggest funding cuts, says think tank

Older teenagers have been the biggest losers as spending on sixth forms and further education has been "continually squeezed" for 25 years, says a report.

Spending on 16 to 18-year-olds has faced cuts too often while education spending overall has risen, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

However, government plans mean schools as a whole face "real-terms cuts for the first time in 20 years", it adds.

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Colleges seek academy status for the tax breaks

Dozens of sixth form colleges are to become academies to receive public funding and cut their business rates and tax bills as education funding is squeezed.

Hereford Sixth Form College will become the first this week, 18 more are at an advanced stage of the conversion process and more of England’s 90 sixth form colleges are likely to follow.

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Social mobility: Poorer children 'making less progress'

Poorer pupils are increasingly making less progress at secondary school in England compared with their more affluent peers, a study says.

The Social Mobility Commission said poorer pupils were often overtaken by their better-off peers even if they had outperformed them at primary school.

The gap, which was most apparent in poor white children, has widened every year since 2012.

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Local government: ever the bridesmaid

Next week’s Budget is unlikely to bring much comfort to local government. The sector must seize the initiative, redefining its objectives and the financial freedoms needed to deliver

Next week the chancellor will, against his earlier instincts, almost certainly announce some welcome additional resources for social care. This is good news, but I’m afraid that's about all there is to celebrate.

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Government looks for new spending cuts of up to 6%

Government departments have been told to find spending cuts of up to 6% as part of plans to save £3.5bn by 2020.

Ahead of next week's Budget, the Treasury announced Whitehall would begin coming up with ways to contribute to its "efficiency review".

It said the NHS and core schools budgets would not be included, with savings found by councils to be spent on under-pressure social services.

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The challenges for innovative procurement

Malcolm Harbour CBE, who wrote Parliament’s first report on innovation in public procurement in 2008 and now chairs the LGA Task and Finish Group on this subject, considers how the new Industrial Strategy is a great opportunity for local government to back the extension of procurement innovation support more widely across the public sector. 

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Cash boost to ease crisis in social care

Theresa May and Philip Hammond have agreed to tackle the social care crisis with an emergency cash injection and a pledge of significant reform later this year.

The prime minister and her chancellor have held a series of meetings in recent days to hammer out a plan to be announced in the budget on March 8 and officials say it is their “top priority” in the coming weeks.

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'NHS cuts have gone too far...and the revamp of business rates must go ahead': Lord Kerslake has some blunt warnings for the Government

Lord Kerslake is a real Sir Humphrey. Until recently he headed the UK civil service and was also chief mandarin at the Department for Communities and Local Government – the department at the centre of the business rates row.

Now a member of the House of Lords and free from his civil service constraints he is free to voice his worries. And he has a few.

Can the civil service cope with the workload of Brexit? Can local government cope with the care crisis? And what can the Government do to ease the burden on businesses facing huge business rate hikes?

 

 

 

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Cuts deeper than Thatcher ever tried

Birmingham is the local authority worst hit by seven years of unprecedented cuts in Whitehall’s grants to councils, experts said last night.

Tony Travers, of the London School of Economics, said that Birmingham’s longstanding social and managerial problems had been exacerbated by the scale of the cutbacks.

“The reductions in local government spending — which are some 30 per cent in Birmingham — are without precedent,” Professor Travers said. “They are much greater than anything Margaret Thatcher or Denis Healey tried.

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My Shop: How business rates are hitting home

There is growing unease in the business community as it braces itself for England's first rate revaluation since 2010.

The government is promising help in the Budget, but critics are calling the rates system itself "unfit for purpose in the 21st century".

As the commercial rental value of business premises are brought up to date, there will inevitably be some big losers. (You can learn more about the process here.)

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10 charts that show what’s gone wrong with social care

Ministers in England have said they are looking for a solution to the problems in social care. That has raised hope that next month's Budget could include measures to tackle what many describe as the crisis facing the sector.

But what exactly has gone wrong? And who's affected?

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School funding changes 'risk injustice'

The key group pushing for a fairer funding system in England's schools says government plans for a funding shake-up need to be rethought.

The F40 group, which campaigned for 20 years for the funding overhaul, is warning that some poorly funded areas, and schools within them, will lose out.

Its vice-chair, Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk, says it is important "one injustice isn't replaced with another".

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Services failing children with complex needs as national data ‘not fit for purpose’

Concern has been voiced by the National Children’s Bureau that government and local authority services for children with complex needs are insufficient to cater for a growing number of children and families requiring specialist care.

This worry was detailed in a report released yesterday that said the number of children with complex needs and life limiting conditions had risen by over 50% since 2004, rising from 49,300 to 73,000 children and young people.

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South West gets £191m cash boost

The South West has been given £191m in Local Growth Funding to help create jobs and encourage economic development by the Government.

The money will support projects that deliver new jobs, homes and infrastructure, such as unlocking a 91 hectare site at Bridgewater and a new roundabout in Gloucester.

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Successful business rate appeals falling, new figures show

The percentage of successful appeals made by businesses in England and Wales contesting the rateable values of their premises to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has fallen, show figures just released [pdf].

 Almost 2 million appeals were made to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) against the 2005 and 2010 valuations up to 31 December 2016. More than a third (37%) of appeals against 2005 valuations have resulted in a change to the VOA’s decision. That number has reduced to 29% for 2010 valuations.

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Parish council tax bills rise despite squeeze

Villagers paying council tax are seeing their parish bills rise at a higher rate than the share they pay to larger authorities.

BBC News analysed the bills of more than 8,500 town and parish councils from 2013-14 to 2016-17.

Parish councillors say they are being asked to take on more responsibilities as their larger local authority counterparts make cuts.

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Communities secretary to ‘rethink’ business rates revaluation

Sajid Javid has promised to work ‘closely’ with the chancellor in order to support the small businesses who will be hit the hardest by a rates increase.

In a statement on the current business rates revaluation, Mr Javid acknowledged the concerns of backbench Tories and business leaders that some firms would lose out.

He said it would benefit or have no impact on three-quarters of businesses, but he recognised that would be ‘no consolation’ to the other quarter.

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Easing impact of revaluation could undermine business rates devolution

Giving in to pressure from businesses and MPs to scrap the forthcoming revaluation of business rates could scupper plans for 100% retention, according to sector experts.

Recent weeks have seen a crescendo of criticism about the revaluation, which will see bills rise in areas where property prices have risen the most.

However, local government finance professionals said that the government’s hands are tied unless it commits more money to soften the blow for these businesses.

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British roads are worse than Oman’s

Roads in the UK are in a worse condition than those in many other developed nations, even though Britons pay the world’s highest tax on fuel, according to a leading economics consultancy.

A study being published today by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) says that Britain’s road network is ranked 27th in the world, behind France, the United States, Canada, Germany and Spain. The main highways are in a worse state than those of relatively poor countries such as Namibia and Ecuador.

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Disabled children in England 'finding it increasingly hard to access council care'

Families of children with disabilities and complex care needs are finding it increasingly difficult to access specialist local authority help, a study has suggested.

A National Children’s Bureau (NCB) report estimates there has been a 50% rise in the number of disabled children in England with complex needs since 2004, including a doubling in the number of children with complex autism.

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Government spending billions on free schools while existing schools crumble

Ministers are choosing to give billions of pounds to build new free schools while existing schools are crumbling into disrepair, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has found.

The National Audit Office has calculated that £6.7bn is needed to bring existing school buildings in England and Wales to a satisfactory standard.

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PMQs: Theresa May suggests more business rate help

Theresa May says ministers are looking at how to help firms "particularly adversely affected" by controversial changes to business rates.

The PM acknowledged there were "particular concerns" as a result of the revaluation of premises, which comes into force on 1 April.

There has been a fierce campaign against the move, with claims some firms face "eye watering" rises.

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Sajid Javid: Budget help for firms hit by rates rise

The government has promised measures in the Budget for firms facing the "steepest increases" in business rates.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said it was "clear to me that more needs to be done to level the playing field and make the system fairer".

A fierce campaign has been waged against rises, which ministers say will affect a quarter of business in the UK.

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http://www.localgov.co.uk/Taxes-should-be-spent-on-improving-school-buildings-not-opening-free-schools-MPs-say/42590

Nearly £7bn is needed to bring school buildings up to a ‘satisfactory state’ but the Government is using taxpayers’ money to open new free schools, MPs say.

A new report from the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned the expected deterioration in the condition of the school estate is a ‘significant risk to long-term value for money’.

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Council funding freeze 'means cuts to many essential services'

A senior Conservative peer has warned that councils will need to slash a range of essential services after ministers released a funding settlement for councils that offered no additional money during 2017/18.

Gary Porter, who chairs the Local Government Association, said authorities would have to cut back on filling potholes, collecting waste, maintaining parks and running children’s centres and libraries in order to plug growing funding gaps.

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Teacher shortage getting worse, say MPs

The government is failing to take adequate measures to tackle "significant teacher shortages" in England, a committee of MPs has said.

The Education Select Committee has called for a long-term plan, as schools struggle to recruit enough teachers and pupil numbers continue to rise.

MPs want more active efforts to reduce the numbers quitting teaching.

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Academic selection: Policy group criticises 'negative impact'

A policy group run by the Department of Education (DE) has criticised the impact of academic selection.

The department's strategic planning and policy development forum also criticised a number of the department's policies for promoting inclusion.

Academic selection concentrated "lower-achieving pupils, often from socially deprived areas, into a small group of 11-16 schools", the report said.

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Minister under fire from own MPs over business rates 'misinformation'

The Communities Secretary has come under fire for apparently misleading his own MPs over business rate increases as the row over the issue intensifies.

In an attempt to quell a revolt among Tory MPs over the increases, which many fear could force small shops and pubs to close, Sajid Javid wrote to them saying the unease among businesses was based on "distortions and half-truths".

He attached an analysis of the planned increases but these have now been panned by a rating agency firm as figures from a "parallel universe".

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Councils hit out at lack of new money in final settlement

Local government figures have expressed their disappointment at a lack of new council funding in the 2017/18 settlement.

The local government finance setttlement, which was confirmed by communites secretary Sajid Javid last night, confirmed retrospective changes to the New Homes Bonus (NHB) and failed to find any new Whitehall funding for social care.

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Government finances record £9.4bn surplus in January

Government finances recorded a £9.4bn in surplus in January, £0.3bn higher than the same month last year.

Boosted by self-assessment tax receipts, January is typically a strong month for government finances.

For the financial year-to-date, borrowing stands at £49.3bn, the lowest since the comparable period of 2008.

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Tory cuts slice £1bn off real spending on social care

Tory cuts have sliced more than £1billion off spending for social care, devastating research reveals.

Theresa May has boasted she is giving councils "more money" for care as she refuses their demands for a fresh cash pot.

Yet 'real terms' spending - once inflation is counted - has plummeted 8.4% since the Tories took power, the House of Commons Library said.

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Council tax to rise while services cut, says LGA

Council leaders are warning of deep cuts to services despite nearly every local authority in England planning to raise council tax in 2017.

Increases of up to 4.99% are expected across the country, but libraries, bin collections and other services will still face funding gaps.

The Local Government Association says the cost of care for increasing numbers of elderly people is forcing up bills.

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More than half UK investment in transport is in London, says study

More than half of the UK’s total spending on transport networks is invested in London, research has found, prompting warnings of “chronic underinvestment” in northern infrastructure projects.  

The gulf in transport infrastructure investment between London and the rest of England is set to get worse, according to the analysis by the thinktank IPPR North, with £1,943 being spent per person in London on current or planned projects compared with just £427 in the north.

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One in four UK families have less than £95 in savings, report finds

The gap between rich and poor in the UK is growing, as savings and home ownership decline among the poorest families but rise among the richest, a report by insurer Aviva shows.

In a sign of growing financial strain, low-income families had just £95 of savings and investments, excluding pensions, this winter, compared with £136 in the same period last year. That figure jumps to £62,885 among high-income families, up from £50,208 a year earlier.

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Upcoming council tax rises not enough to stem social care crisis, LGA warns

Nearly all local authorities in England with responsibility for social care are set to raise council tax by the maximum 4.99% allowed without a referendum, but the Local Government Association today warned this will not solve the sector’s funding crisis.

Publishing an analysis of the likely increases across the country, the LGA said that even tax rises, there would need to be further deep cuts to local services next year.

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Javid stands firm on business rate change

Local government secretary Sajid Javid has defended the government’s revaluation of business rates, stating that thousands of businesses across the country will get lower bills as a result of the change.

Following criticism from business groups of the revaluation, with concerns that it would lead to significant rate increases for some small firms, Javid published figures showing thousands of businesses across the country are set to benefit from lower rates.

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Philip Hammond 'listening' to business rates concerns

The Chancellor Philip Hammond has told Conservative MPs he is "listening" to their concerns about an imminent re-evaluation of business rates.

Rates are being updated for the first time in seven years, to bring them into line with property values.

Business groups and some Tory MPs have warned of high street store closures.

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Council taxes set to rise by almost 5% across the country to pay for more social care but other services will still be cut

Council taxes are set to rise by almost five per cent across the country but services will still be cut, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.

Earlier this year the Government said it would allow councils to raise their taxes to pay for more social care provisions in the community – and most are considering doing so.

But councils are still warning of cuts to come, and say that the money they will get won’t be enough to offset continued cuts to their funding from central Government.

The LGA said that the cost of care for elderly people is forcing up their bills.

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Business rates blow to be 'softened' in the Budget

Philip Hammond has indicated that he is prepared to take measures in the Budget to help those worst affected by the business rates hike in an olive branch to Tory rebels.

The Chancellor has told Tory MPs he was “alive” to the impact the changes will have on some high street shops and was “open” about ways to help.

The comments are the first indication that he could seek to mitigate the impact of the business rates change in April when he unveils his Budget next month.

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Outrage from employers’ groups at ‘illegal’ changes to business rate appeals

Business leaders have hit out at the DCLG’s planned changes to business rates that are set to be voted at the next revaluation on 1 April, arguing that a clause in the proposed changes is “potentially illegal”.

In a letter signed by 13 employers’ groups, including the British Retail Consortium (BRT) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), concern is raised about a clause that would prevent firms from appealing against rate rises even if they can prove they are wrong.

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Councils going bankrupt? Don’t be Scilly!

Remember the old London bus joke: you wait for ages, then three come along at once? Well, some local government finance anoraks have been waiting ages for a 114, and now two 24s arrive, almost in mini-convoy.

Not buses, of course — but key sections of Acts of Parliament. Section 114 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 requires a councils’ chief finance officers (CFO) to issue a s114 Notice reporting to all elected members an actual or impending seriously unbalanced budget.

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Small shops recoil in the face of business rates that will more than double

Shopkeepers in Southwold are braced for a tough year. The picturesque seaside town in Suffolk is the area of Britain worst affected by the revaluation of business rates. On average, companies will see their tax bill increase by a staggering 177% from April – but for some the impact will be far worse.

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Social care cuts linked to 30,000 excess deaths

Government cuts to health and social care were responsible for 30,000 excess deaths in a single year, according to new analysis.

Research published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine concluded that failures in the health and social care system, including missed A&E targets and staff shortages, were likely to be the main cause of the significant increase in deaths in 2015.

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Liverpool council to axe 300 jobs to plug £90m funding gap

Liverpool City Council has stated that around 300 jobs would be cut while protecting frontline services as much as possible as the authority attempts to plug a £90m funding gap by 2020.

The news comes from a council meeting document outlining the mayor’s budget proposal for 2017 to 2020, which will be considered by the council next Friday 24 February and put before a Budget Council on 8 March.

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Social care system at risk of collapse warns report

One in eight older people are failing to get the care they need, showing the ‘imminent’ danger the social care system is in, a charity has warned today.

A new report from Age UK concluded that the UK is living on borrowed time to save the social care system. It also highlights the ‘major burden’ the failing system is putting on hospitals and family members.

 

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School budget cuts will ‘damage’ UK economy, councils warn

School funding cuts will ‘hinder’ the growth of cities and damage the UK’s economy in the long term, city councils tell Whitehall.

London Councils and Core Cities UK have written a joint letter to education secretary Justine Greening urging the Government to invest £335m to enable the new school funding formula to be introduced without any cuts.

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Senior Tory urges Philip Hammond to protect businesses from 'looming nightmare' of rate rises

Philip Hammond must back down from the "looming nightmare" of higher business rates in his Budget or risk a revolt in the Tory heartlands, a vice-chairman of the Conservative Party has warned.

Mark Field, Tory MP for Cities of London and Westminster, says that retailers in his constituency will "simply shut up shop" unless the Chancellor limits the impact of the first revaluation of business rates in seven years.

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LGA: Proper needs assessment must underpin 100% business rates retention

The LGA has welcomed the DCLG’s consultation on the move towards 100% business rates retention reform in local councils that was launched yesterday, but reiterated that the move must be “fundamentally underpinned” by a proper needs assessment.

In a statement, the association said it was glad that the government was listening to the views of councils in determining how the new business rates system would work, and insisted that a continued dialogue between local authorities and DCLG was essential in making any fundamental decisions.

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Tax cut for Amazon as high street shops suffer

Amazon will have business rates cut at most of its warehouses while high street stores are forced to pay more.

The American internet giant, which has faced allegations of tax avoidance and reported quarterly profits of $750 million this month, is expected to have the rateable value of some of its vast premises reduced from April as part of an overhaul of taxes.

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NHS to be hit by crippling business rates rise, analysis finds

NHS hospitals and GP surgeries in England and Wales face a £635 million hike in their business rates over the next five years, it emerged as health authorities threatened legal action.

A new analysis found that health authorities, many of which are already struggling to cope with huge financial pressure, will see their business rates will rise by an average of a third by 2021.

Some of the country's biggest hospitals will see their business rates double amid warnings that they will have to find further savings to fill black holes in their budgets.

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Rising business rates close four pubs a day

Surging business rates are forcing thousands of pubs to close their doors across England and Wales, with fears that more will follow when rate levels increase in April.

New research from rates and rental specialists CVS suggests a fifth of pubs closed between April 2010 and the end of 2016 - a number totaling 11,443.

That is the equivalent of four pubs every day.

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Kerslake: Devolving Treasury powers from Whitehall vital for UK

The UK would benefit from further Treasury powers being devolved away from Whitehall, a report by former head of the civil service Lord Kerslake has claimed.

The report did also state that further devolution would also require changes to the way the Treasury is run. Despite this, the report concluded that a total break-up of the Treasury would not be necessary, stating that: “such a reorganisation outweighed the benefits”.

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'Council tax bombshell' will see rates rocket 25% in the next three years

Labour has warned of a council tax “bombshell” after documents showed bills are to rise by 25% by the end of the decade.

Research by the House of Commons library revealed ministers expect town halls to scoop almost £6billion extra a year in council tax by 2020.

If shared equally across each home, it would mean the average band D household paying an extra £371 a year by then.

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Local authority announces proposed council tax cuts

The district council is proposing to reduce council tax by 2.6%. This follows a 2% reduction last year.

It has also announced a third cut for 2018/2019 which will bring its share of council tax down to the lowest level since 2006/2007.

EHDC are thought to be the first local authority to announce a council tax decrease.

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One in four care homes rated 'bad' or 'poor' by residents and their families

The number of care homes being rated 'bad’ or ‘poor' by families has doubled in past five years with one in four now deemed unacceptable, new figures show.

The Good Care Guide, a Tripadvisor-style website which allows relatives and residents to rate care services, has shown a serious decline since 2012.

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High street revolt over rates rise

Britain’s high streets face losing some of their most popular pubs and restaurants because of big rises in business rates, Philip Hammond has been warned.

Companies including the owners of Pizza Express, Greene King pubs, Wagamama, All Bar One and Slug & Lettuce have written to the chancellor to ask him to rethink a plan under which some outlets will be hit with a 42 per cent increase in their rates this year.

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Pubs and restaurants want more relief over business rates

Pubs and restaurants are calling for the chancellor to dilute the impact of business rate rises due in April.

The Association for Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has written to Philip Hammond asking for more transitional relief for the sector.

Business rates in England and Wales are being updated to take into account changes in property values.

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Grammars 'unnecessary distraction', say MPs

The Department for Education has argued that removing the ban on opening new grammars will be a way of making "more good school places available, to more parents, in more parts of the country".

The cross-party committee of MPs, responding to the evidence gathered about plans to increase selective education, said ministers still needed to demonstrate how this would improve social mobility and close the gap between rich and poor pupils.

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Councils banned from 'unnecessary' boycotts

Councils will no longer be able to boycott countries or companies unless restrictions have already been put in place by the Government under new rules published today.

The new rules will make the government’s foreign policy a legal requirement for councils when they are buying goods or services.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘We need to challenge and prevent divisive town hall boycotts which undermine good community relations.

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Parents on zero-hour contracts 'could miss out on free childcare'

The shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, has warned that parents on zero-hours contracts could miss out on the government’s election pledge of 30 hours a week of free childcare, as it emerged that fewer than half the families who receive the existing 15 free hours will qualify.

David Cameron made the 30 hours a week promise a key thrust of the Conservative party’s 2015 general election campaign, outflanking Labour’s offer of 25 hours a week, as the Tories sought to win over female voters.

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NHS Health Check: Hunt says NHS problems 'unacceptable'

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Mr Hunt said the key was to treat more people "at home and in the community" to ease the burden on hard-pressed hospitals.

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Unqualified librarians and support staff asked to give lessons amid teacher shortage

Unqualified librarians and support staff are being asked to give lessons as schools desperately attempt to plug teacher shortages without hiring expensive supply teachers, a survey shows.

Recruiting short term supply teachers to cover unfilled posts and short term absences is a major expense, with schools in England spending more than £800 million on supply staff in one year alone.

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Our budget next year isn’t enough, say most councils

Most councils across Britain are planning to increase tax, introduce higher charges, dip into their savings and borrow as a result of the dire state of their finances, according to a major survey of local government officers.

In a stark assessment of the financial crisis facing many local authorities, almost 80 per cent of senior council figures had little or no confidence in the sustainability of their budgets.

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Call to end ban on council-run schools sponsoring academies

A ban on top council-run schools sponsoring failing schools amounts to "red tape" and should be dropped, say council bosses.

In England, only schools with academy status are allowed to form trusts to sponsor weaker schools.

And, the Local Government Association said, a shortage of "good quality" sponsors often left failing schools "in the dark about their future".

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Local authorities face ‘collapse of vital services’ due to underfunding

Nearly eight out of 10 councils lack confidence in the sustainability of local government finances, survey reveals.

The 2017 State of Local Government Finance survey - conducted by the think tank LGiU and our sister magazine The MJ - revealed nearly 80% of councils have little or no confidence in the sustainability of local government finances.

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'New grammars by 2020' reveal heads after meeting ministers

The first of a new wave of grammar schools in England could be open by 2020 - the Grammar School Heads' Association has revealed, following a meeting with the education secretary.

Among the options is to admit only the top 10% of the ability range - compared with 25% in many grammar intakes.

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Customer satisfaction in local public services increases

Overall customer satisfaction in the local public services sector has increased over the past year, research reveals.

The UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), published today by The Institute of Customer Service, has given the UK’s local public services an overall customer satisfaction rating of 74.4 out of 100 – 0.6 points higher than its January 2016 score.

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Surrey’s cancelled referendum: good for Surrey, no change for everyone else

Surrey County Council has cancelled its referendum on a 15% hike in council tax aimed at paying for social care. The reason will see Surrey benefit but will leave other authorities asking how their funding issues will be solved.

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Jeremy Corbyn alleges Surrey 'sweetheart deal' on tax

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has accused ministers of agreeing a "sweetheart deal" to ensure a Conservative-controlled council dropped plans to raise council tax by up to 15%.

On Monday, Surrey County Council restricted the increase, to help fund growing social care costs, to 4.99% - meaning no referendum will be needed.

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Corbyn accuses Tories of ‘sweetheart deal’ with council

Theresa May was hit by allegations of a “sweetheart deal” with a Tory council today after private texts revealed secret negotiations to head off a threatened 15 per cent council tax rise to fund social care.

Mrs May was ambushed in the Commons when Jeremy Corbyn produced a series of texts from David Hodge, Surrey County Council leader, at prime minister’s questions.

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All councils need more cash [opinion]

The emails from voters that Jeremy Corbyn sometimes quotes at prime minister’s questions rarely help him make a point. But the communication he read out from “Nick” this morning was devastating. It allowed him to expose Theresa May’s alarming inability to explain how the crisis engulfing the NHS and social care will be resolved.

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Surrey council abandons plan to raise council tax by 15%

Surrey council has backed away at the last moment from a controversial plan to poll voters on a 15% rise in council tax, mainly to pay for social care, instead recommending a rise next year of just under 5%.

The Conservative-run council, whose leader David Hodge has said it faces a crisis because of central government cuts combined with ever-increasing demand for services, had planned to hold a referendum on the rise.

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‘The government must unlock the money. Because the care crisis is now’

Ask Barbara Keeley what keeps her awake at night and Labour’s shadow cabinet member for mental health and social care will tell you it’s the stories of people in “heartrending” situations whose care is being cut.

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Standardised housing need measure to decide infrastructure spend

Ministers have pledged to align strategic infrastructure spending with house building by targeting the £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund at areas with the greatest housing need.

The long-awaited Housing White Paper, published on Tuesday (7 February), suggests a 'approach' to assessing housing need could form the basis of future infrastructure funding decisions, with this change reflected in planned reforms to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

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Robots 'could replace 250,000 public sector workers'

Robots and computers could replace almost 250,000 public sector jobs over the next 15 years, according to a new report.

The Reform thinktank said using websites and artificially intelligent "chat bots" could improve efficiency and save billions of pounds - but at huge cost for workers who lose steady jobs.

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Free nursery places subsidising the rich, report says

The free entitlement to childcare for all parents in England should be scrapped in favour of a system aimed at disadvantaged children, a report says.

The Institute of Economic Affairs study says the right to 15 hours free care a week has distorted the market price.

It also argues regulations have made it more costly, with many families on average earnings spending more than a third of their income on childcare.

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IR35: Off Payroll working in the public sector

CIPFA answers some key qiestions surroundin the IR35 changes. 

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Millions face 5% council tax rise as a third of authorities plan to raise bills by the maximum amount - three times higher than inflation

Millions of households across England face the biggest rise in council tax in decades as dozens of local authorities revealed that they are to increase bills this year by nearly 5%, three times the rate of inflation.

One in three of the country's biggest councils have opted to slap a 4.99% tax rate on its residents, which is maximum amount allowed without a referendum needing to be called.

With the average band D council tax bill in England last year standing at £1,530 the price hike would put an an extra £76 a year on bills. 

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Schools have no funds to train teachers, says study

There are 20,000 teachers in schools in England without any budget to train them, according to research by the Teacher Development Trust.

Teacher quality has often been highlighted as the key to raising school standards and this research warns of a serious gap in funding.

David Weston, chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust, said the findings were "extremely concerning".

Full Article

The Northern Powerhouse is going up a gear. Let’s all back this plan to make the north great

The North of England is at a turning point. A report I’m helping launch today shows that, with effort and persistence, we can close the north-south gap that has blighted our country for almost a century. To do that we have to sustain the plans to build the Northern Powerhouse and not let them fade.

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Councils should be forced to fix potholes immediately, Court of Appeal rules

Councils should be forced to fix serious potholes immediately the Court of Appeal has ruled, after judges found in favour of a jogger who hurt his ankle.

Judges argued that a highway authority should have responded more quickly to repair "deep potholes" after they were notified of the problem the day before the accident.

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Half of academies fall short on funding

More than half of academies in England have lacked enough income to cover their annual expenditure, according to figures revealed by ministers.

An answer to a Parliamentary question shows that the proportion of academy trusts with an annual shortfall doubled in two years.

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Local authorities fear legal action due to care funding shortfall

Local authorities have warned that a series of flagship social care reforms introduced in 2015 will fail unless the government provides a funding boost for services.

The Local Government Association has said today that underfunding of the Care Act – which sets a new minimum eligibility threshold to qualify for care, and outlines plans for more personalised support – meant these changes could not be implemented.

In its submission to the government ahead of the forthcoming Budget, the LGA urged the Treasury to provide a cash boost to rescue the reforms and save local authorities from possible court challenges they could face for failing to meet the care threshold provision, set at ‘substantial’ need.

If there is no additional funding made available by chancellor Philip Hammond on 8 March then ministers must be upfront to the public about the subsequent limitations in care and support, Izzi Seccombe, LGA community wellbeing board chair, said.

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Dorset councils agree to proceed with unitary reforms

Dorset councils have obtained a mandate to go ahead with their proposals to change the county’s local government structure.

The plans, which would see Dorset’s current nine councils replaced with two new unitary authorities, have now been considered by all nine councils with six of them supporting the plans.

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Surrey Council tax rise of 15% approved before public vote

.A 15% increase in council tax has been approved in Surrey - before a referendum on the issue has been held.

Authorities are legally required to hold a vote on increases above 2%, but council chiefs gave the go-ahead on Tuesday.

If it is rubber-stamped by fellow officials, residents could be landed with the tax hike in April - a month before May's ballot on the issue

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Libraries minister promises to act if councils cannot justify cuts

Local authorities will face government action if they cannot justify library cuts, libraries minister Rob Wilson told librarians, peers and MPs at a packed meeting in the House of Lords to mark the launch of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Libraries (APPG).

 

 

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Parents responsible for care of their elderly mothers and fathers as much as their own children, minister says

Parents have as much of a responsibility to care for their elderly mothers and fathers as they do for their own children, a minister has suggested.

David Mowat, the care minister, said that Britain's ageing population means that society has to take greater responsibility for the elderly.

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Apprenticeship targets 'poor value for money', says IFS

The government's target to rapidly increase the number of apprentices risks being "poor value for money", says the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The think tank warns that it could devalue the "brand" of apprenticeships by turning it into "just another term for training".

The government has a target of three million apprenticeships and is imposing a levy on employers to fund it.

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Robots could help solve social care crisis, say academics

Humanoid robots, with cultural awareness and a good bedside manner, could help solve the crisis over care for the elderly, academics say.

An international team is working on a £2m project to develop versatile robots to help look after older people in care homes or sheltered accommodation.

The robots will offer support with everyday tasks, like taking tablets, as well as offering companionship.

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Councils may cut social care provision due to underfunding, LGA says

Older and vulnerable people could stop receiving vital help to get out of bed, washed and dressed, because the underfunding of social care has become so severe, councils have warned.

Leaders of 370 local authorities in England and Wales fear that some councils are finding it so hard to provide the right level of support they could face a high court legal challenge for breaking the law.

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Term-time holiday fines are under review in some areas

A BBC investigation has found that 35 councils in England have changed their policy on fining parents for term-time holidays.

It follows a successful high court appeal by a father last year against a £120 fine levied by the Isle of Wight.

The case will reach the Supreme Court this week where judges will consider what constitutes regular attendance.

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Homeless spikes installed to stop people sleeping rough in city centre

Metal spikes designed to prevent homeless people sleeping on the ground have been placed outside a building in Manchester city centre.

Manchester has seen an increase in rough sleepers, up to 78 in 2016 from 70 the previous year, and 1,600 children were living in temporary accommodation in September 2016.

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Treasury takes back £384m school funding

The Treasury has taken back £384m originally promised for schools in England - at a time when head teachers are protesting about a cash crisis.

The money had been announced last year to fund a plan to require all schools to become academies.

But the Department for Education has revealed that when the compulsory academy plan was ditched, the Treasury took back most of this extra funding.

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Homelessness reduction bill: a small step in the right direction

How many homeless people did you pass on the way to work today? Statistically, it’s likely that whether you noticed the rough sleepers or not, you passed twice as many as you would have in 2010.

For the sixth year running, rough sleeping statistics show a significant rise in the number of people living on the streets: last year, the figure was 3,569; this year it stands at 4,134.

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Councils warn of £5.8 billion black hole without more social care cash from Government

Morethan two thirds of councils in England will have to slash spending by millions of pounds more than they expected this year if the Government fails to provide more cash for social care, leaders have warned. 

They pleaded for “genuinely” new funds to combat a growing black hole they warn will hit £5.8billion in 2020 which they say they could not plug even if they switched off a host of crucial services including every street light.

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UK economy grows by 0.6% in fourth quarter

Strong consumer spending helped the UK's economy to grow faster than expected at the end of last year.

The economy grew by 0.6% in the October-to-December period, the same rate as in the previous two quarters, according to an initial estimate from the Office for National Statistics.

The figure indicates that the feared economic slowdown following the Brexit vote has not materialised.

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The Guardian view on local government: put up or shut up [opinion]

No one, ever, wants to talk about remote, unglamorous, local government funding. As long as the bins are emptied, most fit adults put up with the closure of the local library or reduced hours at the leisure centre as a sad but minor inconvenience. It is time to take a refresher course.

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Petition demands government abandon tax rule targeting interims

A petition calling on the government to scrap legislation which could make it harder for local authorities to hire interim staff has garnered more than 14,000 signatures.

From April, new HM Revenue & Customs rules will pass responsibility to councils for policing compliance with the tax rules, known as IR35, on off-payroll working.

A statement from the Local Government Association said that applying the IR35 rules just to public sector hires will make the sector a less attractive place for workers and recruitment firms.

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Grammar schools 'may ask parents for hundreds of pounds a year'

Grammar schools in England may ask parents for hundreds of pounds a year to cope with funding cuts, their head teachers' association has warned.

A majority of grammars will be left worse off by proposed funding changes, according to analysis by the Grammar School Heads' Association.

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Care homes rely on ‘hidden tax’ of £1.3bn to stay open

The care home funding shortfall has left self-funders paying a ‘hidden tax’ of £1.3bn to keep the sector ‘afloat’, analysts reveal.

According to the healthcare market intelligence provider LaingBuisson, residential care homes in England currently need to charge fees of between £590 and £648 per week.

However, the average fee paid by English councils for residential care of older people was just £486 per week in 2016/17.

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Number of rough sleepers rises at an 'appalling rate' says charity

The number of people sleeping rough in England has increased by 16% in the past year and more than doubled since 2010, new figures reveal today.

Statistics released by the Department for Communities and Local Government show local authorities counted and estimated 4,134 rough sleepers on a single night in 2016, up from 3,569 in 2015.

The City of Westminster had the highest number of rough sleepers at 260 per night, followed by Brighton and Hove City Council with 144 people.

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Public service delivery should be ‘local by default’, argues community group

The current trend among councils of standardising services and outsourcing contracts to big national charities and multinational companies is ‘counterproductive’, campaigners warn.

Locality, the national network of community organisations, today launched its five-step-guide to ‘Keeping it Local’, which is designed to help councillors and commissioners save money and deliver complex services.

Full Article

Surrey's referendum will deliver a verdict on ministers' approach to social care

Whether intentional or not, Surrey CC’s announcement that it plans to hold a referendum on increasing council tax by 15% could not have been timed better.

Just as the newspapers were beginning to tire of stories of overcrowded hospitals struggling to discharge patients due to a lack of available social care services, Surrey’s proposed mammoth hike gave the issue a fresh angle and kept the pressure on ministers.

 

 

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Another county looking for savings in new unitary council proposal

Lincolnshire is the latest of England’s county councils to propose a new unitary authority as a way to spur savings in the region.

Its leaders plan to hold a public referendum on the proposal, which would involve scrapping the county’s eight district and county councils to make a single unitary authority. Plans may also include North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire, which are already separate unitary authorities.

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It’s a crisis indeed when the social care rebels are Tories [opinion]

Even in the worst of times, democracy has a habit of bursting out. With no effective opposition in England and the government 16 points ahead, a primal force against one-party rule usually erupts somewhere. 

But Surrey is surely an unlikely spot for revolt against Theresa May’s continuity austerity. In this most Conservative county, all 11 MPs are Tory, including the chancellor Philip Hammond, Jeremy Hunt, Chris Grayling and Michael Gove.

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NHS bosses want to force patients into care homes

Thousands of chronically ill patients could be forced out of their homes by a new restriction on NHS funding, campaigners have warned.

In some areas the health service will no longer pay for carers to visit patients at home if it would be significantly cheaper to secure them a place in a residential care home. Charities said that the policy was extremely worrying and could deny people the choice of where they died.

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Councils call for ‘greater freedom and funding’ to deliver industrial strategy

Councils have responded to the government’s new green paper setting out the UK’s industrial strategy by asking for greater freedom and funding to deliver its aims.

The strategy outlines the government’s commitments to future developments in housing, economic growth, skills training and digital connectivity, along with specific transport infrastructure projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail.

In the document, ministers acknowledged that its ambitious set of industrial plans for the country would only be achievable by taking a holistic approach.

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Government borrowing falls in December

Government borrowing fell by £0.4bn in December to £6.9bn, compared with 2015.

The figures, from the Office for National Statistics, means borrowing for the year is £63.8bn, £10.6bn lower than for the same period a year ago.

The last Autumn Statement indicated that the government would borrow £68bn over the full financial year to the end of April.

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One in 10 nursery schools in England face closure within months

Nursery schools in England are facing “death by a thousand cuts” with more than one in 10 facing closure within the next few months, according to a new survey..

There are only 400 maintained nursery schools left in the country, offering high-quality early years education targeted at vulnerable children from difficult and deprived backgrounds.

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Supporting local government

Sajid Javid talks to councillors about adult social care, housing, devolution and more.

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School budgets near breaking point, say head teachers

School budgets are close to breaking point in England suggests research by a head teachers' union.

A survey of more than 1,000 schools by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) shows the number in deficit has doubled since 2015.

And 71% of the heads polled were only able to balance their budgets by making cuts or dipping into reserves, said NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby.

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Punitive business rates threaten rural way of life

Rural enterprises will be among the biggest losers in the most radical reform of business rates for a generation.

Riding schools, livery yards, stud farms, vineyards and livestock markets are facing some of the steepest business rate rises in England, according to league tables seen by The Times.

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Town hall leaders want more devolution as Theresa May launches industrial strategy

Local government leaders have welcomed the launch of Theresa May’s industrial strategy, but have called for greater devolved powers and cash to replace EU funds to help them play a bigger role in economic growth.

Lord Porter, the chairman of the Local Government Association, said the new strategy was “encouraging”, but giving local areas the power to target funds at specific projects would “improve productivity and strengthen the national economy”. 

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Devolution risks being ‘undermined’ if Whitehall tries to performance-manage mayors

The LGA is currently developing a self-assessment diagnostic to help new mayoral combined authorities (CAs) assess their own functioning, rather than being subject to a Whitehall-imposed performance management regime.

The measure, mentioned in an LGA Leadership Board report on combined authorities and elected mayors in England, is designed to pre-empt central government’s potential desire to assess the governance of mayoral CAs, which the LGA warns may “undermine” the new authorities.

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GOV: Building our Industrial Strategy

The government is holding a consultation on how they propose to build their indistrial strategy. 

There is an implication that this will be an ongoing proces and this opportunity to respond will not be the only engagement.

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Whitehall’s industrial strategy must be ‘locally led’, think tank says

The Government’s industrial strategy must be led locally, think tank says as Whitehall announces a £556m cash boost for the Northern Powerhouse.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting in the north west, Theresa May today announced the publication of the Government’s industrial strategy green paper, Building our Industrial Strategy: 10 pillars.

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Free childcare plan faces places pinch, warns lobby group

The government has underestimated the number of children in England eligible for 30 hours of free childcare promised from September, warns a lobby group.

The government says 390,000 three and four-year-olds will be eligible, but research for the Pre-school Learning Alliance suggests the figure will be nearer to 500,000, meaning tens of thousands could miss out.

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Rule changes pose major threat to investment and lending plans

New financial conduct rules could force councils to completely rethink their treasury investment plans and make council-to-council lending more difficult, finance directors have warned.

The new regulations, which are set to be introduced by the Financial Conduct Authority in a year’s time, would mean councils having to renegotiate their relationships with investment firms and could prompt a “fire sale” of assets, meaning reduced returns.

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The Government has dropped its one million new homes target, report claims

The government has quietly dropped its landmark pledge to build a million new homes by the end of this parliament.

The target was a major policy, announced by David Cameron and the then Housing Minister Brandon Lewis in September 2015.

But, according to a new report from the National Audit Office, the Communities and Local Government department has quietly shifted the target’s date to the end of 2020, long after the latest point at which a general election could take place.

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Jeremy Hunt's council to hold referendum on 15% council tax rise to fund social care

Surrey is to hold a referendum on increasing council tax by a massive 15% to pay for the growing crisis in social care.

It is expected that the decision could trigger other cash-strapped councils to follow suit in order to meet the growing cost of caring for people in their own homes after Theresa May refused to increase social care funding.

A 15% increase by the Tory-controlled authority would add around £200 to the average bill.

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Grammar schools lose top spots after league table shakeup

The government’s new performance measure has upended the traditional pecking order of England’s secondary schools, knocking grammar schools out of the top spots and boosting schools that dramatically improved results among their pupils.

The Department for Education’s latest performance tables, published on Thursday — including 2016’s GCSE exams and ranked by its new Progress 8 measure — reveals that the best schools in England are those which make the greatest advances in their pupils’ grades.

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Stretched NHS and social care 'needs more money pumped in to ease pressure'

Ministers will be forced to pump more money into the stretched NHS and social care, the Chief Inspector of Hospitals warned today.

Sir Mike Richards outlined the scale of the crisis gripping the health service and demanded more money to ease the pressure.

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Councils get £48m to expand homelessness provision

Councils will share £48m in extra funding to help them expand homelessness provision for single men and women, but local government leaders have said the money may not be enough.

The funding, announced on Tuesday by the local government minister Marcus Jones, is intended to help councils meet the costs of measures to be introduced under the homelessness reduction bill.

The private member’s bill is intended to end discrimination against single men and women, who currently have no right to immediate help with housing assistance if they become homeless, while families are guaranteed support.

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NHS will need £88bn extra by 2067, says OBR forecast

The NHS budget will need to increase by £88bn over the next 50 years, meaning governments could have to raise taxes or cut spending in other areas to fund it, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has said.

The soaring costs threaten to render public finances generally “unsustainable”, according to the OBR’s latest fiscal sustainability report. It says the government could find it hard to deliver on its pledge to balance the budget during the next parliament.

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‘Build houses in same way as cars to tackle shortage’

Housebuilding must be treated like a manufacturing industry in order to address the shortage of homes, MPs will be told today.

Mark Farmer, author of a report that last year concluded the sector must “modernise or die”, will appear before the communities and local government select committee.

It is considering ways of overcoming building constraints, including introducing pre-fabricated housing, off-site construction and direct commissioning by central government. It is part of an inquiry launched last July into whether the industry has the capacity to meet demand.

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Theresa May has handed the NHS crisis to the regions - here's why that should worry us all [opinion]

Sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) are what’s in store for the NHS in the next five years. The term ‘STP’ is contentious because it’s not really a sustainable approach, nor really a plan – and although transformative, it’s not at all clear what the NHS is transforming into. The plans are being pushed through at lightening speed, during the NHS and local government’s biggest crisis in decades.

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Northants s151 hits back at Daventry’s call for government intervention

Last week, Daventry District Council called on the communities secretary to take over the running of Northamptonshire County Council. In an exclusive interview, Room151 speaks to Damon Lawrenson, interim director of finance and section 151 officer at Northamptonshire.

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First-time home buyers at highest level since 2007, Halifax says

There were more first-time home buyers in 2016 than at any time since the start of the financial crisis, according to research by the Halifax.

The lender estimated there were 335,750 first-time buyers last year, the highest figure since 359,900 in 2007.

However, the average first-time deposit has more than doubled since 2007 to stand at more than £32,000.

The Halifax also found the average price of a first home broke through the £200,000 barrier for the first time.

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DfT announces £1.2bn for local authority roads in 2017/18

Ministers have announced over £1.2bn of funding for English local authority roads in 2017/18, including individual councils’ share of the pothole fund, £185m of new funding announced in the Autumn Statement and the Local Highways Maintenance Funding Needs Element.

The new funds also include the the Local Highways Maintenance Incentive/Efficiency Element, worth £75m next year, with councils given until 4 February to complete self-assessment questionnaires.

Transport Network sources close to the process say there have been no changes in the self-assessment system since last year.

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Roads funding information pack

The government has announced £1.2 billion pounds of spending on roads and infrastructure including an additional £75 that is biddable for local authorities and is designated for improving infrastructure such as bridges and street lighting.

The document also includes:

the distribution of government capital investment to local highway authorities in England outside London in the financial year ending 2018

highways and pothole repair funding for the financial year ending 2018, broken down by local highway and combined authorities

the locations of the most dangerous roads by English region for road safety funding



 

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Westminster exports its homeless locals

Westminster city council, notorious for the homes-for-votes gerrymandering scandal in the 1980s, has admitted that it is moving homeless people out of the borough.

From next month, residents classified as homeless and living in temporary accommodation will be relocated to other areas of London and the home counties into permanent new homes. The policy has echoes of the Shirley Porter era, where homeless people in key wards, who were unlikely to vote Conservative, were moved out to protect the party’s majority.

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NAO investigates business rates retention plan

The National Audit Office has launched a value-for-money probe into government plans to design and implement 100% business rates retention for local authorities.

Former chancellor George Osborne announced the proposal — planned to be introduced by the end of this Parliament — at the Conservative Party conference in October 2015.

And now, after prompting from senior MPs, the NAO is assessing progress by interviewing experts and stakeholders, including officials from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

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NHS bed-blocking rises 42% in a year, new figures show

Bed-blocking has risen more than 40 per cent in a year as hospitals continue to be overwhelmed with people needing care, figures showed on Thursday. 

New data from November shows a health system under strain as it got ready to enter its busiest time ever over Christmas.

It follows warnings from the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Nursing that the NHS is now experiencing its worst ever winter crisis. 

The research for England highlights acute problems with delayed discharges - where patients are medically fit to leave hospital but are stuck in beds due to problems arranging care in the community.

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Businesses unhappy with support from local councils, survey shows

Seven out of ten businesses have accused councils of failing to support business growth, in a new survey of a company leaders.

The Business Census 2017, published by Company Check, found many businesses feel business support from local government has become worse in the past year.

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Fattened precept will still ‘do nothing’ to address London social care gap

London Councils has warned against the capital’s local government finance settlement, advising that the ability to raise social care precepts of up to 3% will still “do nothing” to address the region’s £200m annual funding gap by 2019-20.

In an executive committee meeting set for early next week, borough council leaders in the capital are set to discuss the effects on London of the finance settlement, which was set out by communities secretary Sajid Javid in December and included an option for councils to raise their social care precept to 3% for the next two years.

 

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London health devolution MoU due imminently

London boroughs are expected to agree a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding health devolution with national partners early this year, which would be buttressed by individual agreements in pilot areas, London Councils’ executive committee has revealed.

In board papers released ahead of a committee meeting on 17 January, London Councils disclosed that discussions with the Department of Health and NHS England around health devolution funding are progressing, with an aspiration to finalise agreements and “facilitate next steps” early in the New Year.

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Top doctors tell Health Secretary to tackle A&E crisis as 18,000 patients are left stranded on trolleys in ONE week

Jeremy Hunt was told to get a grip on the NHS crisis last night as the country's top medical bodies warned that it could be ignored no longer.

In a series of separate interventions, some of the most powerful organisations warned the Health Secretary that immediate action to alleviate the pressure was essential.

The Royal College of Physicians – which represents 33,000 senior doctors – warned that lives were being put at risk in 'over-full hospitals'. It said the queues of ambulances outside A&E were 'visual testament' to the extent of the crisis.

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NHS hospitals in England face £322m tax bill increase from April

Cash-strapped hospitals in England face a £322m tax rise from April which threatens to increase the strain on the under-pressure NHS.

Changes to the business rates system mean that the 1,249 NHS hospitals liable for the property tax will see their bill increase by 21% over the next five years, according to research conducted for the Guardian by property consultant CVS.

The total bill faced by hospitals will rise from £313m this year to £377m a year on average for the next five years. This annual increase of £64m would be enough to pay for nearly 2,500 more junior doctors.

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NHS England chief contradicts May over spending

The chief executive of NHS England has contradicted government claims that the health service is getting more funding than it asked for.

Simon Stevens told MPs this was "stretching it" and there were "clearly substantial funding pressures".

And, in clashes with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the PM called claims of a "humanitarian crisis" in the NHS "irresponsible" and "overblown".

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Look beyond Whitehall to solve our huge social problems

After six months of post-referendum shock, conjecture and upheaval, eyes are finally turning back to the day-to-day issues on which elections have been won and lost for decades. While there’s no doubt Brexit represents a tremendously consuming challenge for the Government, the fact remains that our hospitals are at breaking point, children are still going hungry, and our ageing population need to be cared for.

In particular, the increasing furore regarding the funding and reform of health and social care is reaching fever pitch.

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Ofsted chief criticises plan for grammars

The new chief inspector of schools has described Theresa May’s proposals to create more grammar schools as “a distraction” and questioned how they would improve the school system.

Amanda Spielman, who took over at Ofsted this month, said she was struck by the pressure inspections placed on schools, which suggested that she might move to a lighter touch system.

Her appointment was opposed last year by MPs on the education select committee, who pointed out that she had no experience as a teacher or social worker. It also said that she did not appear to be motivated by raising standards or improving children’s lives.

 

 

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One blunt heckler has revealed just how much the UK economy is failing us [opinion]

There’s a lady I’ve been thinking about for the past few days, even though we’ve never met. She’s the central character in a true story told by the Europe expert Anand Menon. He was in Newcastle just before the referendum to debate the impact of Britain leaving the EU. Invoking the gods of economics, the King’s College London professor invited the audience to imagine the likely plunge in the UK’s GDP. Back yelled the woman: “That’s your bloody GDP. Not ours.”

Subtle and learned this was not. But in all the squawking over the past few days about what’s wrong in economics and with the economy, her brutally simple criticism is closer to the mark than are most of the pundit class.

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One in five councils still using ‘unsafe flying care visits’

More than one in five councils are still commissioning 15-minute visits for personal care despite official warnings against the use of ‘flying’ visits, new research has unveiled.

A freedom of information request by charity Leonard Cheshire Disability found at least 33,305 people in England received 15 minute care visits in 2015/16, with 16,311 of these for help with eating, washing and dressing.

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Childcare funding 'will create 9,000 places'

Thousands of childcare places for pre-school children in England will be created under a £50m scheme, the government has announced.

The scheme will help to deliver a government pledge to offer three and four-year-olds in England 30 hours of free care a week in term time.

Nearly 9,000 early years places are expected to be created.

But critics said the funding was "woefully short of what was needed" and would only benefit a few providers.

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Heads warn MPs of 'extremely bleak' funding problems

Hundreds of head teachers in West Sussex have written to MPs warning that the government's funding shake-up has failed to tackle "extremely bleak" budget shortfalls.

They have written to all their local MPs asking how they should cut spending - whether they should lay off teaching staff, reduce school hours or close counselling services.

The government last month launched a new funding formula for England's schools to tackle "unfair" and "inconsistent" funding levels.

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Councils oppose tax increases to fund elderly care

Theresa May’s short-term solution to the elderly care crisis may raise £500 million less than promised as many local authorities are reluctant to increase council tax before elections later this year.

Half of the extra cash promised by the government to bail out the social care system relies on councillors putting up local taxes just before they fight for re-election, an analysis suggests.

Some of the biggest councils face elections in May and many have already expressed hesitation about using powers handed to them by the government last month.

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Councils could face £14bn pothole repair bill by 2019

Councils could face a £14bn pothole repair bill over the next two years, the Local Government Association has warned.

Citing statistics from the Asphalt Industry Alliance, the cost of repairing potholes has risen from £9.8bn in 2012 to £11.8bn last year. At this rate of increase, costs are projected to rise to £14bn by 2019, more than three times councils’ entire annual revenue spending on highways and transport.

 

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Will we see more staff freezes to meet the financial challenge?

A staff freeze has been introduced at Devon County Council as local authorities propose increasingly radical measures to try to relieve financial pressures.

The council announced last week that it will not hire any more permanent staff, apart from roles which it has a statutory responsibility to fulfil.

Devon is set to overspend by £8.1m by the end of this financial year, largely due to an overspend of £6.4m in adult social care.

Cllr John Clatworthy, the deputy leader and finance chief, said the council had “absolutely no intention of not balancing the books”.

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MPs urge ‘swift’ review on social care

The heads of three Commons committees have urged the Prime Minister to find a "political consensus" on funding social care in England before 2020. Clive Betts, Chairman of the Communities and Local Government Committee, Public Accounts Committee Chairman Meg Hillier and her Health Committee counterpart Dr Sarah Wollaston says a long-term solution can only be found if there is cross-party consensus. The LGA estimates there will be a £2.6 billion funding gap in providing adult social care in England by 2020. Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said local government leaders must be part of any review. She added: “This is imperative to get a long-term, sustainable solution to the social care crisis that the most vulnerable people in our society deserve." The LGA’s response was also reported across Good Morning Britain news bulletins this morning.

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Schools to be pushed to breaking point by levy, say councils

Small schools could be pushed beyond breaking point by the introduction of the new Apprenticeship Levy, school and local government leaders are warning. The Levy, to be introduced in April, requires all businesses – including schools – with a wage bill over £3 million a year, to contribute 0.5 per cent of their wage bill to fund new apprenticeships. But whereas academy or faith schools – who employ their own staff – will be exempt from the Levy if their wage bill is under the £3 million threshold, small schools with similar wage bills that are run by local authorities will have to pay the levy because staff are employed by the authority and therefore contribute to the overall wage bill of the council. Cllr Richard Watts, the Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “It is discriminatory for small council-maintained schools not to be exempted from the Apprenticeship Levy in the same way that small academies and faith schools will be. It is no secret that many schools are struggling with their funding, yet once again, council-maintained schools are being dealt a poor hand compared to academies.”

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Blocked beds blight mental health care

Delays in discharging people from hospital are rising more rapidly in mental health trusts than other parts of the NHS in England, a study shows. NHS England data found a 56 per cent rise in the number of bed days lost to delayed discharge in psychiatric trusts in October 2016 compared to November 2015. There was a comparable rise in acute trusts of 30 per cent. Meanwhile, a third of all hospital trusts in England have issued alerts warning they needed urgent action to cope with the pressure of patient numbers last month.

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LGA calls for small council-maintained schools to be exempt from apprenticeship levy

Smaller council-maintained schools will face an unfair burden because of the apprenticeship levy, the LGA warned today.

As it stands, the levy will apply to council schools with a wage bill of under £3m, but not academies or religious schools.

The levy requires all businesses, including schools, whose wages are over £3m to contribute 0.5% of the total to funding new apprenticeships. However, smaller council-run schools will still have to pay the levy because their staff are technically employees of the council.

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Government opens applications for £7bn affordable homes fund

Housing providers can now apply for a share of a £7bn fund to increase the number of affordable homes available for residents, the communities secretary Sajid Javid has announced.

The fund means housing associations, local authorities and private developers in England will be able to bid for funding to build shared ownership, rent-to-buy and rented homes.

The £7bn announced by the DCLG is compiled from previous announcements such as £4.7bn worth of grants, £1.4bn announced in last year’s Autumn Statement and around £1bn saved from a previous affordable homes programme.

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Daventry calls for government to rescue Northants finances

A district council is set to ask the communities secretary to take over the running of Northamptonshire County Council before it becomes technically insolvent.

Next week, A meeting of Daventry District Council (DDC), will vote on the proposal to ask the government to use its intervention powers on Northamptonshire (NCC).

DDC claims that the county’s financial position is “grave”, and that the authority is at risk of being unable to meet its financial obligations.

Under section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999, the secretary of state has the power to take over all, or any, of the affairs of a local authority which is failing in its best value duty.

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New money for affordable homes released

£7 billion unlocked in expansion of the government’s affordable housing programme to meet the diverse housing needs of the country.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has today (5 January 2017) unlocked £7 billion in a dramatic expansion of the government’s affordable housing programme to meet the diverse housing needs of the country.

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Goodbye 2016, and a not so warm welcome to 2017 (Comment)

A sustained crisis in social care funding, complications in business rates devolution and the lack of clarity around Brexit all make for an uncertain year ahead in local government.

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What does 2017 hold for public services?

A wide-ranging piece looks at the key challenges facing public services, including local government, social care and housing, in the year ahead. It says longer NHS waiting lists, rising homelessness and funding pressures on councils could bring public services “to the brink”. It highlights the £5.8 billion funding gap facing local government and LGA Chairman Lord Porter’s warning that even if councils abandoned road repairs, stopped maintaining parks and open spaces, closed all libraries and children’s centres, and halted funding bus services, they still could not plug the funding gap.

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UK's £1bn foreign aid cashpoint

More than £1billion of our foreign aid budget has been given away in cash over the past five years, it can be revealed today.


Despite warnings of fraud, officials have quietly quadrupled expenditure on cash and debit cards that recipients can spend at will. 

The revelations fuelled calls from MPs for the Government to ditch the commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on foreign aid.

Backbenchers have argued it is a scandal that so much is being spent abroad while elderly care in the UK is in crisis and town halls are threatening double-digit council tax hikes to close a funding gap.

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Surrey is an example of why councils need fiscal freedoms

It is no secret that local authorities in Britain have, over the last nine years or so, borne the brunt of financial cuts imposed by successive governments.

Attempts made to tackle austerity, as well as policies designed to stabilise the UK economy, have impacted both on the money available to councils and the potential they hold themselves to raise revenue through local initiatives.

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Experts say the Government must refund £1BN after overcharging on business rates

The Government is facing calls to return more than £1billion to companies which experts claim have been overcharged for business rates collected in the past six years.


Claims of a massive overcharge will add to growing anger among companies over business rates and will fuel calls for the complex system to face an overhaul.


The dispute relates to about £6.5billion collected since 2010 to cover the cost of successful business rates appeals.

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Business leaders warn of North-South divide as Government tax review reveals sweeping changes

Business leaders have warned of a North-South tax divide as it emerged that companies in the South East face huge increases in business rates while those in the North will receive significant tax cuts, according to an official analysis.

Under Government plans to revalue business rates for the first time in almost a decade, a major split has emerged with London firms facing 12 per cent increases in tax as companies in the North East receive reductions of around 16 per cent.

The revaluation in April, the first for seven years, will lead to companies paying rates which have been calculated to take into account the rise in property prices since 2008.

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Education grant cuts would put school improvements at risk, councils warn

The Local Government Association (LGA) says ministers intend to allocate £50 million from next September to cover duties they have received £450 million for in the past. 

The LGA, which represents more than 370 English councils, has warned the move could impact negatively on the access for pupils to speech therapy and physiotherapy, as well as good attainment levels. 

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Double-digit council tax increases planned to fund growing social-care crisis

Thousands of families face eye-watering council tax rises of up to 16 per cent as town halls plot super-sized hikes.

In an unprecedented move to tackle the spiralling social care crisis, councils are preparing to hold referendums on whether they can ignore a 5 per cent cap on annual increases.

Chancellor Philip Hammond's own local authority, Surrey County Council, is considering a 16 per cent rise. If voters approve the increase, which would add £200 to average annual bills, officials believe a string of other councils will try to follow suit.

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.Third of councils face social care funding cut after 'misleading' government changes, Andy Burnham says

The Government has diverted money that was previously used to incentivise councils to build new homes to instead help fund adult social care. 

But Mr Burnham said 57 local authorities will lose more than they gain from the changes – a third of all the councils in England that provide social care. In total, local authorities will lose £40 million from the changes, Mr Burnham claimed. 

The London borough of Tower Hamlets will receive the biggest cut – losing £3.4 million next financial year as a result of the changes. Salford, Westminster, Milton Keynes, Islington and Southwark will all lose more than £2 million. 

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Government's 'paltry' concession on business rates revealed

The Government’s pledge to ease the burden of next year’s massive rise in business rates will provide a “paltry” £156m of relief in London over the next five years as the capital’s bill soars by £9.4bn, new research reveals.

Experts said the owners of London’s 300,000 business premises faced a “ticking tax time bomb” that has led to warnings by top restaurant chains that the revaluation will force many out of business.

Companies in London are set to see their business rates climb by £9.38bn in the five years from next April, to more than £51bn, according to CVS, the business rates specialist.

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Bed blocking costs NHS £455MILLION a year as delayed discharges more than double

Delayed discharges from hospital are costing the NHS £455million a year, Labour has warned.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said NHS England data showed that delayed discharges soared from 58,362 in October 2010 to 134,221 in October 2016.

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Town halls pay £12m to repair cars damaged by potholes

The startling scale of compensation payouts was revealed by hundreds of Freedom of Information requests to individual councils.

But with only one-third of councils replying, the true total is likely to be significantly higher. 

The revelations will heap pressure on councils to spend more on fixing crumbling roads instead of shelling out for broken cars.

Jenny Randerson, Liberal Democrat transport spokesman, said: ‘This is crazy economics; a lose-lose situation for everyone, motorists, councils and taxpayers.

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The rise of Generation Rent: number of young homeowners halved in the last 20 years

The number of 25-year-olds who own their own home has more than halved in the last 20 years as soaring prices and a generational shift have knocked young people off the housing ladder. 

Research by Savills for the Local Government Association found that 46pc of all 25-year-olds owned their home 20 years ago, compared to 20pc now. It is not just young people who have been left out of home ownership, which has fallen among people of all ages 6.8pc since the peak in October 2004, and it now stands at 64.1pc.

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Council to pay damages for keeping children in care ‘too long’

Wakefield Council has apologised after a court ruled it must pay damages to two children it kept in care for too long.

The children aged seven and two at the time were taken into care after their parents were arrested, the BBC reported.

They spent 10 months away from their mother despite the fact she was not charged with any offences.

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Government borrowing falls less than expected in November

Government borrowing fell in November to £12.6bn, down £0.6bn from November 2015, according to the Office for National Statistics.

However, the fall was less than analysts had been expecting.

The monthly borrowing figure had been expected to shrink to £11.6bn, according to an economists' poll.

Borrowing for the financial year so far is down on last year. From April to November, borrowing, excluding state-owned banks, fell by £7.7bn to £59.5bn.

Despite the smaller-than-expected fall in November's borrowing figure, economists said the government was on track to meet its less ambitious deficit forecast set out in November's Autumn Statement.

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CBI calls for barrier-free trade with EU after Brexit

UK firms need to continue to have "barrier-free" access to European Union markets after Brexit, the CBI business lobby group has warned.

It said UK companies should not be subjected to trade tariffs, with only "minimal" other barriers in place.

In a report, it also called for a migration system that allowed firms to obtain the skills and labour they need.

The government said it was committed to delivering the best possible access to European markets for UK businesses.

Full Article

Fears over ‘opaque’ regional funds

An employers’ group has called for greater accountability among the organisations responsible for improving growth in England’s regions.

The Federation of Small Businesses said that Local Enterprise Partnerships “must be more transparent”.

It was responding to criticism of the bodies from the Commons public accounts committee.

The partnerships are designed to bring together the public and private sector, so that local decision-makers can decide on the economic priorities in their areas.

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High Court backs North Yorkshire CC over fracking decision

Fracking will be allowed to take place in North Yorkshire after the High Court ruled that the county council acted lawfully when it approved a fracking application earlier this year.

North Yorkshire County Council had approved energy company Third Energy’s controversial application to frack an existing well in the village of Kirby Misperton for shale gas back in May, despite receiving 4,375 objections to the plans and only 36 representations of support.

Friends of the Earth and residents’ group Frack Free Ryedale launched legal action against the council after its decision, unsuccessfully arguing that the council had failed to properly consider the environmental impact of its decision.

Full Article

No early Christmas presents [opinion]

As the chancellor stood at the despatch box in late November, the public sector waited with bated breath at what support would be given to those that are working under extreme pressure. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, Philip Hammond didn’t deliver any early Christmas presents for local government. And it is unlikely that we will see A Christmas Carol change of heart anytime soon.

Full Article

DCLG publish latest Business Rates Information letter

The latest letter includes more detail on measures announced in the Autumn Statement. 

 

Full Article

Social care’s moral majority is a losing one [opinion]

Warnings over the future of social care are loud and consistent. But it isn’t the politicians who aren’t listening, it’s the voters

A persistent mistake in the world of public services is to assume that a moral majority translates into a political one. The evidence is on your side, the finances all add up ­– or don’t depending on the point you’re making – and of course the consequences are dire. How can government not act, right? Then silence. You have stared into the abyss, impact analysis in hand, only to have the abyss stare back. The question is: why? 

The short answer is a perfect argument often fails not because it sends ministers to sleep but the voters. Whilst many may cry foul over the state of social care, how many actually vote on it? My guess is a lot less than you think.

Full Article

Public library loans show dramatic fall in last two years

Latest figures show that library book loans slumped by almost 16m in the last two years, with library campaigners calling the news “a clarion call to put books back at the centre of what libraries do” in a sector that has seen record closures and budget cuts.

Library book loans continued a downward trend in 2016, with figures obtained by the Guardian revealing that loans for the year to 10 December fell on average by 14%, with loans to adults worst hit at 15% down. Loans of children’s books fell by just over 12%. However, this comes at a time when book sales in both sectors have continued to climb.

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​John McDonnell says emergency funds could solve social care crisis

John McDonnell is demanding that Philip Hammond finds more than £1bn from within the government’s emergency budget plan to rescue Britain’s ailing social care system.

The shadow chancellor says the money could come from the “fiscal headroom” left by the chancellor in the autumn budget. The money has been put aside in case of a financial emergency caused by Brexit, reports have claimed.

The demands are meant to increase pressure on Theresa May’s government to step in with emergency funding to protect elderly and vulnerable people.

Full Article

Corbyn calls for talks with PM on social care funding

Jeremy Corbyn has written to the prime minister calling for urgent talks on social care funding in England.

The Labour leader has urged Theresa May to provide "emergency top-up funding" to protect the elderly and vulnerable.

Councils have been told to bring forward council tax rises, after funding cuts from Whitehall.

A government spokesman said extra funding was being provided and Mrs May was "clear that we need to find a long-term sustainable solution".

Full Article

New homes funding diverted to pay for social care

Money set aside to incentivise councils to build new homes will be used to pay for social care instead, the Government has revealed, amid fears younger people could be disadvantaged by the move.

Ministers have announced the new £240 million fund to help fill a £1.9 billion social care funding gap next year, but the money will be removed from the New Homes Bonus scheme which aims to help people onto the property ladder. 

Critics have warned that the decision will prompt local authorities to rethink their building programmes leading to fewer new homes, while care providers have said that the money amounts to a "sticking plaster" which won't come close to covering the care shortfall.

Full Article

Social care: Ministers to set out funding plans

Details of how councils in England will be able to raise hundreds of millions of pounds to spend on social care in the next two years are to be outlined.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid is expected to sanction a rise in council tax bills to 2018-2019 to pay for more frail and elderly people and dementia patients to be cared for at home.

Theresa May says it will help relieve immediate pressures on the system.

But Labour and councils say such a funding boost would be inadequate.

Full Article

Councils angry at government's social care offer

Councils say it is "hugely disappointing" that the government has not given them extra money to tackle shortfalls in social care funding.

Ministers will let local authorities bring forward council tax rises, and money cut from a housing scheme will be spent on social care instead.

The government said it would create a "sustainable" system for everyone who needs social care.

But the Local Government Association said the measures "fall well short".

Full Article

Schools face cuts of £3bn, says watchdog

State schools in England will have to find £3bn in savings by 2019-20, says the public spending watchdog.

Schools face 8% budget cuts and about 60% of secondary schools already have deficits, warns a funding analysis from the National Audit Office (NAO).

The Department for Education is about to launch a new funding formula, which will see 10,000 schools gaining money and similar numbers losing.

To ease the transition, those losing will have annual cuts limited to 1.5%.

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Labour says it will end rough sleeping

Labour has pledged to end the "national shame" of rough sleeping by doubling the number of homes available for use by homeless people across England.

A future Labour government would ring-fence 4,000 new flats and homes for rough sleepers in cities such as Bristol, Liverpool and Birmingham.

The properties would be let at "genuinely affordable" rents, building on an existing scheme in London.

Spokesman John Healey said rising rough sleeping levels were inexcusable.

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Ministers have failed to explain where schools will find savings, watchdog says

Ministers have no idea how schools in England will implement £3bn worth of cuts and have not communicated the scale and pace of savings required, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has found.

The National Audit Office said schools faced an 8% real-terms reduction in funding per pupil by 2019-20 and cost pressures could result in “significant risks” in making the necessary spending cuts.

A report released on Wednesday has found that although average funding per pupil will rise from £5,447 in 2015-16 to £5,519 in 2019-20 that amounts to a real-terms reduction once inflation is taken into account.

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PMQs: Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May social care 'crisis' clash

Elderly people are being left isolated because of a "crisis made in Downing Street" over social care funding, Jeremy Corbyn claimed.

The Labour leader urged Theresa May to replace a corporation tax cut with cash to cover social care costs as they clashed in PMQs.

It came with councils set to be offered extra tax rises to bring forward planned social care investment.

Mrs May promised a "long-term, sustainable system".

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NHS chief: bus passes and pensions must be up for discussion to tackle social care crisis

Free bus passes and pension protections for older people should be reconsidered if Britain has any hope of solving the crisis facing social care, the head of the NHS has suggested.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, told MPs that there is “no point” giving people free bus transport if there is no one to provide the basic care they need to enable them to leave their home in the first place.

He signalled that far more radical action may be needed to help older people than plans, expected to be unveiled by Theresa May, to channel extra council tax money into funding care.

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Social care levy is 'Theresa May's poor tax', says council boss

A likely increase in council tax to help fund social care has been labelled the Prime Minister's "poor tax".

Ministers are expected to announce on Thursday that local authorities will be allowed to raise council tax 6% over the next two years to raise cash for elderly and disabled care.

It would see the average bill rise by nearly £100 over the next two years: a 3% increase to the average band D property amounts to an extra £45.80 a year.

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Planning department cuts make housing targets impossible, LGiU finds

Almost 90% of local authorities believe that government housing targets are unattainable due to a lack of planning resources, a new joint research report has concluded.

The report, jointly made by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) and the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), is the first to draw upon experience from both local authorities and SME housebuilders across the UK, and also sought to interview planning officers.

It found that a majority of builders find a lack of planning to be a barrier to developing small-scale housing developments, with over half of councils delivering fewer than 40% of homes on small sites.

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Councils offered huge ‘bribes’ to build homes on green belt

Councils are being offered “bribes” worth hundreds of millions of pounds to build homes in the green belt, campaigners have said.

The government has promised to pay councils a new homes bonus, typically worth £9,000, for each home they build — including in England’s 14 green belts, the protected land around cities where development is meant to be strictly limited.

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NAO slams CCS for ‘severely’ underestimating joint buying difficulties

Central government has not achieved value for money from Crown Commercial Service (CCS) deals, with the Cabinet Office “severely” underestimating the difficulty of implementing joint buying practices across government, the National Audit Office (NAO) has reported.

The CCS is directly responsible for buying around £2.5bn of goods and services for central government and public sector organisations. However, while the NAO found that the CCS helped public bodies save £521m last year, it was uncertain whether these savings would have been achieved anyway if departments had retained their buying functions, due to these savings not being directly comparable to the benefits which were planned.

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May plans social care shakeup to ease pressure on councils

Theresa May is planning a shakeup of social care provision after Downing Street acknowledged services were under threat in some areas.

The prime minister’s official spokeswoman said the issue was discussed in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, with an agreement that this week’s local government settlement would contain measures to help ease the pressure.

At the meeting, May also emphasised the “importance of finding a long-term sustainable way of addressing the issue”, raising the prospect of a more comprehensive shakeup.

Full Article

Why council tax hike for care raises peanuts

Over the years there have been some pretty radical suggestions to solve the care crisis. A cap on care costs, a "death tax" and even a full merger of the free-at-the-point-of-need NHS and means-tested social care systems have all been mooted.

But it appears the government in England is now looking at something much less reforming - giving town halls permission to increase council tax by more than they are currently allowed to.

If that is the case - and we will have to wait until Thursday for the announcement - the money raised (barring an astronomical hike in bills) will be peanuts, relatively speaking.

Full Article

Ministers consider council tax rise to cover social care funding

The prime minister is understood to be considering plans to allow councils in England and Wales to increase council tax to fund the social care system.

It follows warnings that the system could "topple at any moment" leading to pressure on the NHS if patients cannot be released from hospital.

Local councils have suffered more than a 40% reduction in government grants since 2010.

The government has refused to comment on the reports.

 

Full Article

UK's current GDP growth rate won't last, warns business body

"The business as usual" approach taken by many firms following the Brexit vote has helped boost UK growth this year, but it will not last, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has warned.

The business body expects GDP to grow by 2.1% this year, up from the 1.8% it forecast just three months ago.

But uncertainty over the UK's EU relationship and higher inflation will "dampen medium term growth," it said.

It expects the UK's economy to grow by 1.1% next year, and by 1.4% in 2018.

Full Article

Contraceptive cuts: Warning over rise in abortions

Many GPs in England have stopped providing some forms of contraception because of funding cuts, the Victoria Derbyshire programme has learned.

Some clinicians have said cuts to contraceptive services will mean "more unplanned pregnancies and abortions".

The Advisory Group on Contraception's research comes after the government announced public health cuts totalling more than £800m over six years.

The government said "local areas" can best decide on sexual health provision.

Full Article

The economy after Brexit: encouragingly resilient or still a case of ‘wait and see’? [opinion]

A comprehensive piece by Iain Begg around the economic consequences to brexit . He conjectures why the treasuries reports about the immediate aftershock have not come to pass.

Iain Begg is a Professorial Research Fellow at the European Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Senior Fellow on the UK Economic and Social Research Council’s initiative on the UK in a Changing Europe.

Full Article

Councils call for reversal of cut to education services grant

Children's education could be damaged unless the government reverses a planned £600m funding cut, local authority leaders have warned.

 The Local Government Association (LGA) says the education services grant paid to councils, due to end next year, allows them to work with schools to improve, provide services such as speech therapy and plan provision in their areas.

Full Article

Ministers consider council tax rise to cover social care funding

Local authorities could be allowed to make a further increase in council tax to pay for social care.

Ministers in England are discussing ways to invest more money into care services for the elderly and disabled.

One option is to let them increase council tax beyond the extra 2% for which they already have permission, while another is bringing forward extra money they have been promised in 2019.

Full Article

Ministers considering council tax precept rise to save adult social care

The government is considering plans to allow councils to increase council tax precepts in order to relieve the social care crisis, it is understood.

Local councils have suffered more than a 40% reduction in government grants since 2010, leading experts to warn that the social care system could “topple over at any moment”. That would put immense pressure on the NHS as patients would take longer to be transferred from hospital.

There has been criticism, such as by Lib Dem health spokesperson Norman Lamb MP, that the plans would worsen the postcode lottery for residents with wealthier areas set to benefit more than poorer ones.

Full Article

Birmingham council chief: years of cuts could have catastrophic consequences

Birmingham city council’s chief executive has said there could be “catastrophic consequences” for some people in the city because years of cuts have forced it to slash funding for key services for vulnerable people. 

Mark Rogers, who runs the biggest council in England, said the effects of six years of austerity meant Birmingham’s youth service had “all but gone”, homelessness prevention services had been cut by so much that rough sleeping had quadrupled, and far fewer elderly people were eligible for care at home.

In an interview with the Guardian, he also said a network of children’s centres designed to serve the city’s most deprived communities had been dismantled so that now only the “super-deprived” were being helped, and even these remaining services were under threat.

Full Article

Library closures 'will double unless immediate action is taken'

A further 340 public libraries could close in the next five years if the government does not act urgently to halt drastic funding cuts, the head of a leading library organisation has warned, which would equal the number of closures witnessed by the sector over the past eight years.

 Nick Poole, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals (Cilip) said: “We have already lost 340 libraries over the past eight years and we think that unless immediate action is taken, we stand to lose the same number over the next five years.”

 Official figures revealed last week showed that UK libraries had lost £25m in their budgets in just one year. As 2017 is not an election year, Poole said, Cilip was anticipating that “local politicians will try to get library cuts through” over the next 12 months.

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Transport boost as councils collect record £750m surplus from parking charges

The surplus cash that councils have gained from overseeing parking charges and penalty notices in England has reached a record high of £756m, the RAC Foundation has reported.

 In 2015-16, England’s 353 local authorities generated a combined ‘profit’ of £756m from their on- and off-street parking activities, 9% higher than the 2014-15 figure of £693 million, and 34% higher than in 2011-12.

 

Full Article

‘Devastating’ lack of social care causing problems for the disabled

A 'devastating' lack of social care is causing mental and physical health problems for people with disabilities, a leading charity has warned.

 Leonard Cheshire Disability says 40% of disabled adults in Britain who report not receiving enough social care have experienced a negative impact on their physical health, while the same proportion say it has caused mental difficulties.

 In its 2016 report The state of social care in Great Britain, the charity says a lack of social care is putting an 'unbearable strain' on the NHS.

Full Article

Councils defend record on mental health funding

Council chiefs have defended their record on mental health funding after a charity accused them of spending ‘next to nothing’ on mental health initiatives.

A freedom of information request by mental health charity Mind revealed local authorities were spending less than 1% of their public health budget on mental health services.

Full Article

UK library budgets fall by £25m in a year

A brutal year for the UK’s public libraries has been topped off with the revelation that the sector took a £25m hit to its budgets in the year to March, as calculated in official figures released on Wednesday. The number of public libraries still open reached a 10-year low, while visitor numbers slid by 15 million. Book budgets were also severely hit, taking an 8.4% fall over the period. Critics claimed the cuts endanger the long-term survival of the sector.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) released the figures as part of its annual survey of library authorities in the UK. They revealed that total expenditure for the sector fell from £944m to £919m over the year, a 2.6% fall that reflects swingeing cuts by local authorities seeking to shore up frontline services by raiding library budgets. Over the same period, visitor numbers fell to 250 million as 121 libraries closed, taking the total number still open down to 3,850.

Full Article

Local authorities 'spend close to nothing on mental health'

Local authorities in England spend “close to nothing” on mental health despite dedicating millions on improving physical health in their communities, according to the charity Mind.

 Less than one per cent of each local authority’s public health budget is spent on mental health on average, showed new data obtained by the organisation.

 Using the Freedom of Information Act, Mind found the proportion of health budgets spent on preventing mental health problems has fallen year on year for the last three years.

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Councils urged to bid for estate regeneration funding

New government funding to help breathe new life into rundown estates has been announced, along with a fresh strategy, by communities secretary Sajid Javid.

The additional £32m comes on top of a £140m loan fund announced in January.

Councils will go head-to-head with housing associations and developers to bid for a share of the £172m.

 

 

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Library funding falls by another £25m, CIPFA finds

Figures from the latest survey, published today, revealed that total expenditure for library services fell by from £944m in 2014-15 to £919m in 2015-16. 

Services have also experienced a decline in visitors, with 15 million fewer visits in 2015-16 compared with the previous year.

 The number of libraries also fell slightly from 3,917 in 2014-15 to 3,850 in 2015-16, representing a drop of 67 or 1.7% year on year. The number of visits to libraries fell 5.5% from 265 million last year to 250 million this year.

 This year’s findings conform to a five-year trend of decline. Libraries across England, Scotland and Wales have seen a 14% reduction in total net expenditure, from £979m in 2011-12 to £842m in 2015-16 in the previous half-decade.

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The right to choose your own care is the latest casualty of council cuts [opinion]

Evans doesn’t want her or her son’s real identity revealed because for the last three years she has been battling with Dean’s council for the allocation of a personal budget. After three formal assessments, stretched over 18 months, he has now been offered a personal budget of 21 hours a week of care. Compared to his current package, this is a cut of 90 hours per week, which the family is contesting.

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Newcastle unveils management shake-up to save £500,000

Newcastle City Council has announced plans for a radical restructuring of its management team, including the abolition of two senior posts, as it struggles to balance its budget.

The council has managed to cut its management posts by 26% since 2012 and its overall jobs by 20%. It is planning to deliver £70m of funding cuts over the next three years, despite board papers revealing it was warned over the risk of legal challenges to changes to social care and other services.

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Increasing risk CQC will have to notify councils of failing care providers

There is an increasing risk that the CQC will have to notify local authorities that care providers are failing to meet their legal responsibilities, unless the social care crisis is addressed, the regulator’s chief executive has said.

David Behan told the Health Select Committee yesterday that some care homes are approaching level 6, the most severe CQC intervention, where the regulator warns the local council that the provider is breaching its legal responsibilities.

He repeated the CQC’s warning in its annual State of Care report that social care is approaching a “tipping point” due to a growing risk of providers collapsing or failing to improve their ratings. He added that increasing numbers of older people are not having their care needs met at all.

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Landlords charging renters extra fees for new mandatory passport checks

Landlords are using new Government-mandated passport checks on tenants as an excuse to charge them extra fees, it has emerged.

 Earlier this year the Government mandated so-called “Right To Rent” checks on anybody renting a home in order to screen for undocumented migrants.

 Research by the charity Shelter identified letting agents and landlords billing renters as much as £40 – while a Government study suggested the figure could be as high as £120.

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Dorset residents support plans to reduce council numbers

Dorset residents have given their “clear backing” for the county’s proposals to reduce its number of local councils, although there remains criticism that not enough people were consulted.

The results of a public consultation led by Dorset’s nine local councils – Reshaping your Councils, which ran from 30 August to 25 October – found that almost three-quarters of 17,000 respondents supported reducing the county’s nine councils down to two unitary authorities.

The council’s research found that there was majority support for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole to be served by one new authority with East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset & Weymouth & Portland areas to be served by a second new council.

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Chris Grayling to unveil plans for new fully privatised railway line

The government has unveiled plans for a fully privatised railway line, with track and trains operated by the same company.

A new route linking Oxford and Cambridge will not be developed by Network Rail, the owner of Britain’s rail infrastructure. Instead, a new entity will be responsible for track and infrastructure, as well as operating train services, under proposals drawn up by the transport secretary, Chris Grayling.

“What we are doing is taking this line out of Network Rail’s control,” Grayling told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Network Rail has got a huge number of projects to deliver at the moment ... , I want it to happen quicker. This is an essential corridor for this country. On that route we are going to bring in private finance, in a form to be decided.

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New manifesto for social care is essential – service users should write it

There seems to be a strong sense in social care that the chancellor’s failure to do anything about its ever-worsening crisis in his autumn statement is the last straw. More powerful voices in the sector than ever before have issued statements highlighting the catastrophic state of social care, including the Care Quality Commission, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Servicesand the Local Government Association.

 

Yet for many service users and their organisations there’s a feeling that leaders of social care organisations have been failing to speak truth to power. The top-down talk now of the need for a new social movement for social care and for radical reform is likely to feel like too little too late. This is especially true for the many individuals and families struggling with extreme issues and a damaged quality of life; sometimes issues of life and death.

But the government’s inaction on social care isn’t surprising in the context of its similar inaction on the mental health crisis, the cruelty and failure of welfare reforms, and the appalling waste demonstrated in evidence-free policies like the troubled families programme.

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Home care crisis as more private companies quit: The elderly are being put at risk as firms abandon services, watchdog warns

Elderly residents are being put at risk because private firms are abandoning home care services, the watchdog has warned.

The Care Quality Commission said rising numbers of companies are pulling out of contracts with councils as they are no longer 'profitable.'

 According to the watchdog, the crisis in social care funding means authorities can only afford to pay firms very low rates.

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Children’s services at ‘tipping point’ as austerity agenda continues

Council children’s services are nearing a “tipping point” as rates of referrals for suspected abuse continue to rise without a corresponding increase in funding, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) has warned. 

The latest Safeguarding Pressures report from the ADCS showed that in 2015-16, there were 2.19 million initial contacts to children’s social care, an increase of 53% since 2007-08. 

In the same period, referrals to children’s social care increased by 12%, child protection plans increased by 78%, and children taken into care increased by over a third.

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Sugar tax could mean rise in general taxation, pressure group claims

The Government is expected to unveil plans for taxes on sugary drinks, amid warnings from critics that the levy could end up resulting in higher general taxation or a rise in borrowing.

The Treasury is expected to announce plans for taxes on sugary drinks which are forecast to raise £520m a year - following promises that funds raised will be spent on sport in primary schools.

 

But critics said the estimates are not reliable - and suggested the public could end up having to find extra money to ensure school sports are not left cash-strapped.

he Government is expected to unveil plans for taxes on sugary drinks, amid warnings from critics that the levy could end up resulting in higher general taxation or a rise in borrowing.

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Cost of social care has rocketed over last year, analysis shows

The cost of social care rocketed over the last year, even as the proportion of services ranked good or outstanding fell, according to a new analysis.

Social care services directory TrustedCare.co.uk found that the price of a week in a care home jumped by almost a quarter over the last year, from an average of £557.86 a week to £686.32, while the cost of a nursing home rose more than a third from £692.17 per week to £924.82. The price per hour of care visits also rose, from £15.01 to £17.02.

The analysis was based on data from providers registered on TrustedCare, as well as calls made by its researchers to more than 100 services in each English county over the last four months.

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Female dementia sufferers get worse medical treatment than men

Women suffering from dementia in the UK receive worse medical treatment than men with the condition, new research suggests.

The gender gap shows women make fewer visits to GPs, get less health monitoring and take more potentially harmful drugs than men.

Researchers at University College London examined the medical records of 68,000 dementia patients and 259,000 people without dementia using The Health Improvement Network (THIN) database.

Despite being more vulnerable to physical and mental illness the study, published in Age and Ageing, showed patients with dementia received less medical care that those without.

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UK infrastructure pipeline grows to £500bn

More than £500bn in planned public and private investment is now in the UK’s infrastructure pipeline, according to an update issued by the Treasury today [05.12.2016].

Ministers hailed it as the largest and most comprehensive infrastructure plan ever, which would help boost Britain’s flagging productivity.

“This record infrastructure pipeline is set to make a real difference to people’s lives form quicker and easier journeys, to better broadband access, and building more homes for people who need them in high demand areas,” said David Gauke, chief secretary to the Treasury.

Full Article

If austerity is over, why can’t Britain afford proper social care? [opinion]

The 82-year-old man said he wanted to remain anonymous. Then he spent half an hour telling me about the increasing difficulty of his day-to-day life. “I feel helpless,” he said. He lives alone around 40 minutes from London, and has a neurological condition that leads to long spells of physical weakness. He uses a wheelchair, and depends on the care workers at his sheltered housing development for assistance with some of life’s most basic tasks. Of course, it’s not just him. His flat is just one of 44.

Until recently, he said, there were several care workers there, but the numbers were cut. Seven or eight people once worked a busy morning shift; now there are never more than five, falling to two or three at other times, and a lone person at night.

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UK congestion worst in Europe and set to cost £62bn

The United Kingdom is the worst country in Europe for traffic jams, and London the most congested city in the continent, according to major new research.

Based on fresh analysis by data company INRIX, the UK has jumped from being the fifth worst in Europe to the first.

Using its Roadway Analytics traffic analysis tool, INRIX also estimates the cumulative cost of jams across the UK will hit £61.8bn by 2025.

Of all cities analysed, London had the highest number of traffic hotspots (12,776) and the highest Impact Factor.

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Teachers welcome £140m school improvement fund, but demand more details

Teachers have welcomed the government announcement that £190m will be spent on school improvement, but have raised concerns that a new £140m ‘strategic school improvement fund’ will detract from schools’ key work.

The education secretary Justine Greening announced that two funds will be poured into schools: a £50m fund to help local authorities monitor and improve low-performing maintained schools, and a £140m ‘strategic school improvement fund’ targeted at schools most in need of support to drive up standards.

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More than 250,000 are homeless in England - Shelter

More than a quarter of a million people are homeless in England, an analysis of the latest official figures suggests.

Researchers from charity Shelter used data from four sets of official 2016 statistics to compile what it describes as a "conservative" total.

The figures show homelessness hotspots outside London, with high rates in Birmingham, Brighton and Luton.

The government says it does not recognise the figures, but is investing more than £500m on homelessness.

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A new Oxford to Cambridge Expressway could cost up to £3.5bn, it has emerged.

As part of last week’s Autumn Statement [23.11.2016] , chancellor Philip Hammond announced ‘a commitment to deliver the new Oxford to Cambridge Expressway’, and £27m in development funding for the project.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has now published a study on the proposed scheme, which set out three shortlisted route options for an Expressway, as well as sub-options to route around Oxford, ranging between £3bn-£3.5bn.

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Libraries receive £4m fund as part of strategy to help secure their future

A new national strategy to help England’s hard-pressed libraries is to include a £4m innovation fund for projects that help disadvantaged communities.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has published a five-year strategy for libraries, which it said would help them improve and thrive in the 21st century.

Rob Wilson, the junior minister responsible for libraries, said libraries were “hugely popular” and among the most valuable community assets, but they had to change.

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Councils back new vision for library services

Councils should use libraries to deliver a wider range of public services in a bid to reinvigorate the sector, a new report has argued.

Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021 calls on local authorities to be innovative when using library buildings, such as for delivering employment, health and learning opportunities.

The strategy, produced by the Libraries Taskforce, includes a £4m fund to deliver new initiatives for disadvantaged communities across the country. The fund will finance new projects such as literacy schemes, improving access to technology or increasing the number of children visiting libraries.

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Social care crisis needs a Japanese solution

Iris Sibley was admitted to hospital in June last year after a fall. A few weeks later she was declared medically fit to leave, but six months on she was still trapped on a ward because there was no place for her in a nursing home. Not only was this hugely distressing for a frail 89-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s, it also cost the NHS more than £80,000.

 

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97% of councils in England tell ITV News council tax hikes will have no impact on social care crisis

More than 90% of councils in England have told ITV News that being allowed to raise council tax has made little or no difference to their ability to provide social care.

Last month the government announced it planned to increase the so-called "social care precept" from 2% to 3%.

But with the crisis surrounding home care deepening, many councils told us its no more than a "sticking plaster".

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Depth of housing crisis revealed as 35,000 people sit on waiting lists for 10 years

Tens of thousands of people have been on social housing waiting lists for a decade, we can reveal today.

Research shows at least 104,000 people in Britain have been on waiting lists for council-owned or “arm’s length run” homes, such as in housing associations, for five years.

At least 35,000 have been on the same waiting lists for 10 years.

Officials insisted not all were in urgent need - but town hall chiefs warned the Mirror of a “crisis” and called for urgent action from the Tory government.

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Councils' social care cash to be 'brought forward'

Councils are expected to be told they can raise extra funds for social care over the next two years - but they will then get no more in the third year.

Campaigners have been calling for investment to tackle what they say is a funding crisis in services for the elderly and disabled.

Now councils in England are expected to be allowed to bring forward investment using extra council tax rises.

The Local Government Association has said the changes were "insufficient".

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Budget 2017: Squeeze on family finances 'extended until 2020s'

The squeeze on both family and public finances have been prolonged until well into the 2020s, according to a think tank's analysis of the Budget.

The UK is on course for an unprecedented 15 years of spending cuts and lost pay growth the Resolution Foundation said.

It will leave the poorest third of households worse off than in the years after the financial crisis, it said.

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School governors point to 'diabolical' budget squeeze

School governors have pointed to a "catastrophic" squeeze on budgets, as the government prepares to introduce a new funding formula for schools.

A snapshot survey of 4,000 governors by the BBC sheds light on the existing funding pressure in England's schools.

National Governors Association head Emma Knights does however back the principle of the new funding formula.

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