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News Headlines

 

Job stress is 'overwhelming' teachers across the UK

An overwhelming number of teachers in the UK have suffered either physically or mentally because of their jobs, a study has suggested.

The research, commissioned by the charity Education Support Partnership, indicated 75% of teaching staff in schools and colleges experienced symptoms stemming from their work.

An earlier survey indicated 62% of the working population was affected.

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Public sector employment is at 70-year low, says GMB report

Public sector employment has fallen to a 70-year low in terms of share of the labour market, the GMB union has said, with the loss of just under a million public sector jobs since 2010.

The GMB union said the share was now 16.9%, the lowest it had been since 1947, the year before the NHS was founded. The figure did not fall below 20% even during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership, it said.

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Councils struggle to cope with influx of child refugees as number in local authority's care doubles in a year

A huge influx of child refugees arriving in Britain has left councils struggling to find homes for thousands of troubled teenagers.

More than 4,200 child asylum seekers were in council care last year – a 54 per cent increase on the previous year – and local authorities have warned that they cannot find enough foster care places.

The increase in numbers has left many councils facing massive budget shortfalls, with one local authority, Kent County Council, reporting that it spent £34million on care for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) in the last financial year. 

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Other Headlines

Eddington housing estate in Cambridge scraps wheelie bins

They are the blight of urban landscapes, but now a housing development is to banish the wheelie bin.

Residents of 3,000 homes being built in Cambridge will instead put rubbish in chutes leading to underground chambers in the largest system of its kind in the UK. The steel chutes are set into the pavement at the University of Cambridge’s Eddington development.

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..Spending cuts have had no effect on the public, say nine in ten councils despite claims by politicians that less money will cause widespread damage

Deep cuts to town hall spending have made no difference to the public, a report on local government reveals.

It said nine out of ten councils reported that their ‘services were maintained’ last year.

The findings published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies tell a different story from that regularly put out by politicians, who say reduced council spending will have widespread damaging effects.

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Illegal strike threat from unions after pay cap row

Three of Britain’s biggest trade unions are threatening a wave of illegal strikes this winter if Theresa May refuses to lift the 1 per cent cap on pay rises for the whole public sector.

Union bosses representing more than two million workers issued warnings as the prime minister abandoned the seven-year cap to boost pay for two sectors yesterday. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, refused to condemn the threats and his party would not say whether it would back illegal strikes.

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UK cities expected to get millions of pounds for green energy projects

Green energy projects run by cities and local authorities around the UK stand to receive millions of pounds of government support, providing another fillip for renewable power just a day after the subsidised price of windfarms hit a record low. 

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Firefighters reject 2% pay rise saying it had ‘host of strings’ attached

Firefighters have rejected a 2% pay rise because it came with too many strings attached, the Fire Brigades Union said

It didn’t adequately address ‘the pain of falling wages,’ they said.

And the offer also came with the condition that they would continue trials to offer emergency medical response as well as fighting fires. 

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Northamptonshire County Council: Appeal for 'fairer funding'

A Conservative county council leader has called on the government for more funding, saying the authority "can't carry on" with present grants.

Northamptonshire councillor Heather Smith is calling for "fairer funding" from the government.

"They [the government] either want us to be able to provide local services or they don't. We can't carry on as we are," she said.

The government said it was working to reform local government finance.

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Union claims pay cap is stripping billions of pounds from council budgets

A major union has accused the Government of stripping billions of pounds from the local authorities, schools and police forces to enforce a cap on public sector pay.

The GMB says £5bn has been taken from budgets because of the 1% cap between 2013/14 and 2019/20.

The claim comes as the government announced the cap on public sector pay rises in England and Wales would be lifted.

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Birmingham bin strike: John Clancy resigns as city council leader

The leader of Birmingham City Council, John Clancy, has resigned following criticism of his handling of industrial action by refuse workers.

In a statement, he said "frenzied media speculation" about the dispute was beginning to harm both the council and the Birmingham Labour Party.

Labour councillors last week proposed a no-confidence motion in Mr Clancy.

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UK inflation rate rises to 2.9%

The UK's inflation rate climbed to its joint highest level in more than five years in August as the price of petrol and clothing rose.

UK inflation measured by the Consumer Prices Index rose to 2.9% in August, up from 2.6% in July, figures show.

The fall in the value of sterling since the EU referendum continued to be the main impetus for rising prices, the Office for National Statistics said.

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Teachers' pay in England down by 12% in 10 years, influential study reveals

Teachers’ salaries in England have dropped by more than a tenth in the last decade while their earnings have risen in comparable countries, according to an influential international study.

The survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that teachers’ salaries in England were worth 12% less in 2015 than in 2005 and 6% less in Scotland.

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Police and prison staff to get more than 1% pay cap

The government has announced pay rises for police and prison officers which breach the 1% public sector pay cap.

Prison officers will get a 1.7% rise while police will get a 1% pay rise plus a 1% bonus for the year, paid for from existing departmental budgets.

No 10 also signalled the end of the 1% pay cap, saying they recognised the need for more flexibility in future.

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Teacher retention efforts 'not working'

Government efforts to help schools keep hold of teachers and develop their skills do not appear to be working, the government spending watchdog suggests.

A National Audit Office report shows more teachers leave before retirement than five years ago, and schools are finding it tougher to fill posts.

In 2016, nearly 35,000 teachers - 8% of the workforce - left their jobs for reasons other than retirement, it said.

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Parents ‘sue school’ after boy in son’s class allowed to wear dress

A Christian couple is suing their son’s Church of England primary school because it allowed boys to come to class wearing dresses, which apparently made their son so confused he became ill.

The family withdrew their son from the school and will now educate him at home on the Isle of Wight, alongside his eight-year-old brother, who was taken out of school a year ago after a boy in his class also began to wear dresses.

 

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Unions demand 5% pay rise for all public sector staff

Union leaders are demanding a 5% pay increase for all public sector workers and threatening co-ordinated strike action against the government’s pay cap.

Amid growing expectation that the cap will be lifted soon for police and prison officers, representatives of 13 unions agreed at the TUC conference that money needed to be found to retain and reward millions of nurses, teachers, council staff and civil servants.

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Public sector pay cap to be lifted for police and prison officers

The government is to lift the 1% public sector pay cap for the first time for both police and prison officers, the BBC understands.

Ministers are expected to accept recommendations for higher pay rises this week and also to pave the way for similar increases in other sectors.

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said it was the "first concrete example of the pay cap being dismantled".

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Disabled child travel cuts 'force parents to work less'

Parents of disabled children say they have quit jobs or cut their hours because of problems with the school transport system.

Almost half (48%) of those surveyed by the charity Contact said travel arrangements for their child had affected how long they work.

Contact said its research showed the council-funded system was "in crisis".

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Teachers' funding fears for breakfast clubs

"You can always tell if a child has eaten breakfast - they concentrate more in class and behave better too," says Stockport head teacher Mike O'Brien.

His school, St Bernadette's RC Primary, runs a breakfast club for 80 children each day - but Mr O'Brien fears they might not be able to fund it in future.

And of 750 teachers polled for food company Kellogg's, which sponsors 3,000 clubs, two fifths are equally worried.

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Half of teachers and social workers want to quit, poll finds

Half of teachers and social workers want to quit their jobs in the next 18 months because of poor working conditions and stress, a study found.

Spending cuts, high workloads and the burden of red tape were bigger reasons for quitting than low pay, national polls of 16,000 people revealed.

Research author Dr Jermaine Ravalier, from Bath Spa University, said it was a "near-crisis situation".

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U.K. Growth Forecasts Lowered as Business Sees No Pound Boost

The weaker pound is failing to boost U.K. growth, according to the British Chambers of Commerce.

The business group downgraded its medium-term outlook for the economy in a report on Friday, citing a weaker-than-expected contribution from trade and subdued consumer spending. Inflation will outpace wage growth until 2019, the BCC forecast, continuing the squeeze on shoppers’ pockets that weighed on performance in the first half of 2017.

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Newcastle backs calls for a 5% pay rise for all staff

There should be a 5% pay rise for council staff and a review of the pay spine, according to calls by Newcastle Council.

The council has backed a motion from Labour councillors calling for an end to pay restraint in the public sector.

The claim calls for a 5% pay increase for all staff and the deletion of the lowest pay levels to reach the Foundation Living Wage of £8.45 (£9.75 in London).

 

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Pay cap pressure growing on government ministers

Civil servants have threatened strike action as pressure from public sector workers to lift the 1% pay cap grows.

The PCS union said it would ballot its members on industrial action to end the "misery" of what it said were real-terms pay cuts of £3,500 since 2010.

Meanwhile, nurses demonstrated outside Parliament over what they said amounted to a 14% cut in the last seven years.

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Cut business rates for premises offering toilet access, says MP

Restaurants, cafes and hotels should be given discounts on their business rates if they allow people "in urgent need" to use their toilets, an MP has said.

Madeleine Moon told the Commons the cutback in toilets in public spaces meant alternative options were needed for those with continence issues.

An estimated 14 million people lived with bladder dysfunction, she said, including many women after childbirth.

Councils having to pay rates on toilets has been blamed for many closing.

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Too many new pupils not school ready, say head teachers

Many children are not ready to start school when they first enter a classroom, according to a survey of head teachers.

The poll, from the National Association of Head Teachers, found many heads thought "school readiness" had become worse in recent years.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said the findings highlighted the need for greater government investment in education, particularly for early years, and more money for family services.

However, ministers have said that school funding is at its highest level ever, and in July, Education Secretary Justine Greening announced an extra £1.3bn for schools over the next two years.

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People power: how cash-strapped councils are turning to crowdfunding

As local government budgets are stripped back across the UK, city councils are turning to crowdfunding as a way for communities to support major projects.

The Victorians built their public structures to last, but they didn’t lose a lot of sleep over the cost of long-term maintenance.

The Madeira Terraces on the east of Brighton’s seafront were built in the mid-1800s and have formed the backdrop to the National Speed Trials, Brighton Marathon and a host of other public events. But over the years, the cast iron has taken a battering from storms across the channel and has been sorely neglected, leading to their closure in 2013.

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Public sector pay cap 'to be lifted next year'

Public sector pay is set to rise above inflation for the first time in eight years, Downing Street has signalled.

Theresa May and Philip Hammond are understood to be drawing up plans to raise the pay cap, which has limited pay rises to 1% a year since 2010.

Scrapping it for all public sector workers would cost £4bn but ministers may support a staggered approach, prioritising areas such as nursing where there are staffing shortages.

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How will councils survive the funding abyss?

From struggling northern councils to seemingly prosperous counties, talk of a financial meltdown is getting louder. “It looks as though we’re approaching a cliff edge and no one has any idea how to stop us hurtling over it,” warns Nick Forbes, senior vice-chair of the Local Government Association (LGA) and Labour leader of Newcastle city council. It is a sentiment echoed across the political spectrum.

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Riots erupt at HMP Birmingham - one wing 'lost'

Inmates have rioted at HMP Birmingham tonight, with unconfirmed reports that one wing has been 'lost'.

National Tornado anti-riots teams are said to have been dispatched to the Winson Green jail - the scene of violent rioting in December 2016.

Sources claim the trouble began at 3.30pm.

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We’re addicted to debt and headed for a crash. It could be worse than 2007

When Provident Financial lost £1.7bn in share value a little over a week ago, a handful of people asked whether this was a Northern Rock moment. The Provident extends high-interest loans to low-income people, and as such could be seen as a bellwether in the manner of a sub-prime mortgage company, the first to go under when debt becomes unbearable, the signal that credit is, once again, about to crunch.

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No interest rate rise for at least a year, economists say

Many economists do not expect UK interest rates to rise until 2019 despite inflation remaining above target, according to a BBC snapshot.

They believe that the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) will be reluctant to raise rates during Brexit negotiations.

Inflation stood at 2.6% in July - well above the Bank's official target of 2%.

Half the economists contacted by the BBC think wages growth will outpace inflation in the first half of 2019.

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Downing St considers plan to lift cap on public pay increases

Theresa May is considering lifting the cap on public sector pay rises, reports suggested last night.

The cap of 1 per cent could be gradually eased as the prime minister attempts to revive her appeal after June’s poor general election result.

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Councils to be banned by ministers from using bin fines as means to generate income

Councils are to be banned from using bin fines “as a means to generate income” after it emerged that families are risking large penalties and criminal records if they put out overflowing bins.

Town halls will also be told that penalties should only be issued "when it is in the public interest to do so, and when it is proportionate to do so".

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Theresa May 'to lift public sector pay cap this month'

Under the plans, ministers will give the green-light to pay rises in line with inflation, which currently stands at 2.6%.

That will be a boost for the millions of public sector workers who have seen their pay rises held down to just 1% since 2010, with rising inflation meaning they have faced a real-terms fall in wages.

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Nicola Sturgeon 'to scrap public sector pay rise cap'

Nicola Sturgeon will scrap the 1% cap on public sector pay rises when she sets out her legislative plans for the coming year, it is understood.

The first minister will announce the measure when she reveals her 2017-18 programme for government on Tuesday.

The SNP had committed to lifting the pay cap for public sector workers earlier this year, describing it as "increasingly unsustainable".

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Government names trial areas for 'full-fibre' broadband

Six areas in the UK will soon be trying out broadband technology that provides data at speeds approaching one gigabit per second (gbps).

Businesses, schools and hospitals will be the first to try out the "full-fibre" network technology.

The pilots will be run in Aberdeenshire, West Sussex, Coventry and Warwickshire, Bristol, West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.

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MPs declare sports and bookies as most common donors

Sports and betting companies top the list of donors treating MPs to gifts and hospitality.

The Ladbrokes Coral group appeared 15 times in the register of members' interests, more than any other donor.

Out of 187 donations from UK sources registered by MPs, 58 were from the world of sport. A further 19 were from betting companies.

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Most adults unprepared for care costs

Half of adults intend to rely on siblings or other family members to help pay their long-term care bills if they need to move into a residential home. 

Many people, however, have not made any plans to pay potential care bills or have even discussed it with relatives, and most dramatically underestimate the full costs.

A poll for the Centre for the Modern Family, a think-tank set up by the life insurance company Scottish Widows, asked 2,000 British adults to estimate the cost of care in a residential home.

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High-profile Tories back Labour bill on free meals in school holidays

More than a dozen Conservative MPs have publicly backed a Labour MP’s bill to provide free meals to poorer children who may go hungry in the holidays because of the absence of school lunches.

High-profile Tories supporting the backbench bill include the newly appointed Treasury minister Mel Stride and the chair of the 1922 committee of Conservative MPs, Graham Brady.

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Council to test how Amazon Echo can support older people

Hampshire County Council will become the first local authority to use the new Amazon Echo technology to help older people live independently in their homes for longer.

Cllr Liz Fairhurst, Hampshire County Council's executive member for adult social care and health, said: ‘We are looking to trial this new technology with 50 adult social care clients in Hampshire, to help support and manage their needs within their own homes and avoid the need for additional care packages.

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Councils resettle over one third of Gov’s Syrian refugee target

Over 8,500 Syrian refugees have been resettled by more than 200 local authorities under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (VPR) scheme, new figures have revealed.

The latest quarterly migration statistics, published by the Home Office, show that over 1,200 refugees arrived through the scheme in the second quarter of 2017.

In September 2015, the Government pledged to resettle 20,000 vulnerable Syrians who have fled the conflict in Syria to neighbouring countries by 2020. There are an estimated five million refugees as a result of the Syrian civil war.

 

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Low emission bus scheme 2015: additional winning bids

A list of the winning bids for the low emission bus scheme. 

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Maths teachers hit out at 'extraordinary' funding decision

Teachers have hit out at an "extraordinary decision" to cease funding a key A-level maths project.

Underground Mathematics had won the backing of a government commissioned review into post-16 maths in England.

It helps students "deepen understanding of central concepts", said Prof Adrian Smith in a report to ministers in July.

The government says funding for the five-year project was always due to run out in September, but teachers want to know why it was not renewed.

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Home care provider market under threat from lack of funds

The continued ‘under-funding’ of adult social care is placing the home care provider market under a lot of pressure, council chiefs warn.

A new study on home care provision by consumer watchdog Healthwatch England has outlined four areas where people's experiences of the service could be improved. These include care planning, skills and qualifications, consistency and continuity, and communication and feedback.

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North should 'take control' of transport, says Grayling

The north of England's leaders should "take control" of their own transport networks, Chris Grayling has said.

Writing in the Yorkshire Post, the transport secretary said: "The success of northern transport depends on the North itself."

The article comes ahead of a transport summit in the region to be attended by local leaders and businesses.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said the event shows "the patience of people... has run out".

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Lancs merger of s151 and CEO roles sparks accountability row

Lancashire County Council has voted to merge its chief executive and section 151 officer roles, sparking a row about accountability.

At a meeting on Monday, the authority’s Conservative cabinet voted in favour of the unusual move in the teeth of vocal criticism from opposition Labour councillors.

The vote came at the end of a meeting at which current chief executive Jo Turton made a plea to keep both roles separate.

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Care home chief warns sector is on the brink of catastrophic failure

Care homes are teetering “on the edge” and a chronic shortage of funding risks “catastrophic failure” within the National Health Service, the businessman expected to be the biggest operator of residential homes has warned.

Chai Patel, chairman of HC-One, which could take over more than 120 homes from Bupa, predicted that six national chains would emerge to dominate the market by benefiting from economies of scale. The acquisition would enable his company to expand to about 350 homes with 22,000 care beds and become the biggest in the sector.

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European Investment Bank cuts off cash for British building projects due to Brexit

The government is facing a multibillion-pound shortage of funding for new schools, hospitals and social housing after a decision by the world’s biggest public lender to freeze its UK operations because of Brexit.

The decision was taken after the government triggered Article 50 in March. Since then only three UK projects have had funding signed off and no projects have been financed since June.

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Philip Hammond urged to save struggling small firms from ‘staircase tax’ that will charge businesses thousands

Chancellor Philip Hammond has been urged to save small firms from a new “staircase tax” that will see businesses charged thousands of pounds more if they operate in a multi-storey building.

The Valuation Office Agency – which collects business rates for HMRC – is exploiting a bizarre court ruling that will now consider firms in a building with more than one floor as operating in two separate premises.

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Government should scrap 'undeliverable' discharge targets warn counties

Councils have called for the Government to rethink a threat to strip them of promised cash if they fail to meet ‘undeliverable and arbitrary’ targets.

Under new Department of Health guidance, county councils have to reduce delayed discharges from hospitals by an average of 43% within the next few months - double the target of London.

The County Councils’ Network (CCN) has written to health secretary Jeremy Hunt to urge the Government to ‘urgently reconsider’ its proposals to withdraw extra social care funding promised in the Budget if councils cannot hit the targets within a short timeframe.

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Scots business rate review calls for extension to new sectors

Liability for business rates should be extended to private schools, universities and local authority arms-length operations, an independent review of non-domestic local taxation in Scotland has recommended.

The review, set up earlier this year by ministers under former RBS chair Kenneth Barclay, followed powerful protests from some hard-pressed sectors of the Scottish economy like the hospitality industries over the potential impact of rates revaluation.

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NHS call for equality over private hospitals' tax break

NHS trusts are calling for equal treatment on business rates after research revealed private hospitals get discounts worth £52m over five years.

A study suggests more than one in four private hospitals are charities, giving them an 80% rebate in business rates.

But NHS trusts all have to pay in full, and will face a £300m increase in rates over the next five years.

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Cash-strapped councils told to meet ‘undeliverable’ bed-blocking targets or have social care funding slashed

English councils have been threatened with cuts to social care funding if they fail to meet “virtually undeliverable” targets to reduce bed-blocking.

The Government has ordered councils to reduce the number of people remaining in hospital when they are fit to be discharged by as much as 70 per cent before winter, or see social care funding withdrawn from them in the Spring Budget next year.

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Families could get supermarket discounts if they hit NHS exercise targets

Families could get discounts on their supermarket shopping if they hit weekly exercise “step targets” under radical NHS proposals.

Free bikes, sprinting tracks on pavements and outdoor public gyms are also proposed as part of efforts to drive out couch potato lifestyles and reward those who try to shape up.

The head of the health service said the schemes, which will be piloted in new towns, aimed to create a “design for life” which would persuade young and old out of sedentary habits.

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Council chiefs call for ‘light touch’ procurement rules post-Brexit

Council chiefs have called on the Government to ‘simplify’ the current rules on how councils buy goods and services once the UK has exited the European Union.

The Local Government Association (LGA) argues EU rules sometimes sit ‘uneasily’ with supporting the local economy and is calling for Whitehall to introduce a more efficient UK system regulating how councils procure goods and services.

‘The UK’s exit from the EU will have a significant impact on local government, creating challenges that need to be addressed but also opportunities to do things differently,’ said Cllr Kevin Bentley, chairman of the LGA’s Brexit task and finish group.

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Collapse in business rate appeals is a ‘disaster’ for small companies

The number of official appeals against business rates has collapsed since the introduction of reforms branded “disastrous” by representatives of small companies.

The “check, challenge and appeal” system for making an appeal against the contentious bills has made it nearly impossible to challenge calculations that may be incorrect, businesses claim.

The new approach was introduced alongside the first revaluation of business rates for seven years.

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Birmingham seven-week bin strike comes to an end

A bin strike that has caused anger and dismay for almost two months in Birmingham has been suspended.

Residents were told their rubbish-strewn streets would be cleared “without disruption” after talks that brought the seven-week dispute to an end on Wednesday.

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Now Labour backs clampdown on ‘crack cocaine’ betting machines

Labour last night pledged to back a government clampdown on ‘crack cocaine’ gambling machines.

The party’s deputy leader and shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said the party supported efforts to limit the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals.

A government review is considering reforms to the machines which offer roulette, bingo, poker and other casino-style games in bookmakers shops.

 

 

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One in six care homes 'at risk of failure due to rising costs and funding cuts'

One in six care homes are showing signs they are at risk of failure amid rising costs and a lack of funding, according to a new study.

Research by accountancy firm Moore Stephens found that a "persistent" lack of funds from local authorities, coupled with increases to the national living wage, had put considerable financial pressure on the sector.

The growing use of agency workers because of problems recruiting and retaining employees has pushed up staff costs to an all time high, said the report.

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Pay growth to stay weak, says forecast

Pressure on incomes looks set to continue, with pay rises forecast at 1% over the next year, a survey predicts.

Despite falling unemployment, wage growth is weak because the supply of labour has also gone up, says the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

The CIPD said for every low-skilled job, there were 24 applicants.

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All of a sudden Britain has become the slowest growing of the major western economies

All of a sudden Britain has become the slowest growing of the major western economies, and there are increasing concerns about its medium-term outlook. Iain Begg (LSE European Institute) writes that with both government and opposition fixated on what kind of Brexit to favour, there is a growing risk that fundamental and necessary measures to underpin the economy will be neglected.

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Children’s services more than £600m in the red, warn councils

Three-quarters of councils have overspent their children’s services budget by a total of more than half a billion pounds as a growing financial crisis engulfs children’s social care, council leaders have warned.

Analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, has revealed that in 2015-16 75% of councils exceeded their children’s social care budgets by a total of £605m.

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Darling: 'Alarm bells ringing' for UK economy

Regulators must remain "very very" vigilant about the risks to the economy, former chancellor Lord Darling has told the BBC - 10 years on from the start of the financial crisis.

He said a rising level of consumer debt in the economy was a growing concern.

Lord Darling was speaking on the 10th anniversary of the 2007 crash, which led to the government spending billions of pounds rescuing major banks.

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Biggest rise in local authority spend to be on adult social services

The biggest rise in local authority expenditure in England next year will be on adult social services, government figures have shown.

Expenditure on cultural services will see the biggest drop - of 6.8% (£161m) from 2016/17 to 2017/18, the The Department for Local Communities and Government budget for the current financial year revealed.

Service spend for adult social care services will rise 8.6% from £14.4bn in 2016/17 to £15.6bn in 2017/18, the figures out at the end of last month showed.

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Is your local care home inadequate?

The Daily Mail have a list of 'inadequete' and 'require improvement' carehomes.

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Council chatbots?

Driven by the need to transform services to deliver more for less, more and more local authorities are now turning to innovative technologies to provide better experiences for their citizens. In the back office, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is set to drive efficiencies, and tools like webchat and social media are being implemented to deliver an improved engagement in the front office.

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Council considers cutting workforce by 20%

Stroud District Council is considering reducing its workforce by 20% over the next four years in order to help plug a £3m funding gap.

The council warned it would be the first in Gloucestershire to lose all the grant it received from central Government and is facing a £3m hole in its finances by 2021.

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Drug-related deaths could cost councils £700m this year, says LGA

An increasing rate of drug-related deaths is a major public health concern that could end up costing public finances £700m, council leaders have warned.

The Office For National Statistics published its latest figures for drug-related deaths in England and Wales in 2016 on Wednesday.

According to the ONS numbers there were 3,744 drug poisoning deaths involving both legal and illegal drugs in England and Wales registered in 2016, this is 70 higher than 2015 - an increase of 2% - and the highest number since comparable statistics began in 1993.

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Most local ombudsman complaints for education and children's services

The majority of complaints made against councils in 2016/17 relate to education and childrens’ services, an annual ombudsman report has stated.

In the last financial year the local government and social care ombudsman handled more than 16,500 objections and enquiries about councils in England, it revealed in its yearly summary released yesterday.

After education and children’s services, the main area of concern for the public was adult social care and planning with 2,555 complaints (15%) and 2,336 complaints (14%), respectively.

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Government awards councils £75m road improvement cash

The Government has announced 19 road improvement projects across the country will receive a share of £75m.

The Department for Transport said the schemes will help cut congestion, reduce journey times and improve reliability.

Among the projects, which will receive funding is the £4.6m refurbishment of the A589 Greyhound Bridge in Lancashire, which will enable heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) to access the bridge.

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Government announces £54m to help councils unlock surplus land

The Government has launched a £54m funding package to help councils release unused or surplus land for housing.

The package includes the Department for Communities and Local Government’s £45m lease release fund, which has been launched in partnership with the Cabinet Office and the Local Government Association’s (LGA) One Public Estate programme.

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Closing roads for play makes 'sense for public health'

Closing roads to allow children to play in the street can help make them five times more active, a new report has revealed.

An evaluation of the three-year Street Play project by the University of Bristol has found street closures made a ‘meaningful’ contribution to daily physical activity targets for children.

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Government looks to speed up small business rates relief

The government has stepped in to try to speed up business rate relief to thousands of small firms.

Businesses in England, hit by huge hikes in their rates bills, were promised millions of pounds in support by the chancellor in March.

But months on from the start of the new tax regime in April, many are still waiting for their bills to be adjusted.

A deadline of 21 August has now been agreed for the companies - Capita, Civica and Northgate Public Services - to provide councils with updated software to help them issue new bills to the affected businesses.

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Government looks to speed up small business rates relief

The government has stepped in to try to speed up business rate relief to thousands of small firms.

Businesses in England, hit by huge hikes in their rates bills, were promised millions of pounds in support by the chancellor in March.

But months on from the start of the new tax regime in April, many are still waiting for their bills to be adjusted.

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Council writes off £1.2m of debt

Darlington Borough Council has announced it will write off debts of more than £1.2m for the second year running.

The debts, which the council says are ‘not economical to pursue’, include rent arrears, housing benefit overpayments and council tax.

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Sugar tax 'must not be used to plug school budgets'

Money set aside for promoting physical activity and healthy eating in schools should not be used to "plug a black hole in funding", councils say.

The Local Government Association (LGA) says the government needs to find "genuinely new money" to meet its funding pledges to schools in England.

Ministers insist money raised from a sugar tax on soft drinks will be spent on improving child health.

But the LGA fears this money is being used to cover funding shortages.

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Cities in England's north pressing for more money

Mayors and council leaders from five cities in northern England will hold a summit with business leaders next month to press ministers for more investment.

They are concerned that the government has become less committed to the idea of a Northern Powerhouse after David Cameron and George Osborne departed.

The cities are Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield, Manchester and Leeds.

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London-centric policies have left North underfunded by billions, think tank says

think tank has slammed successive Governments for leaving the North underfunded compared to London in what they describe as a ‘national scandal’.

Research from the progressive think tank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has revealed the North of England would have seen £59bn more in funding over the last decade, if it had received the same per person for infrastructure as London.

It also discovered the North would have received £10bn more if it had received the UK average spending per head each year for the past ten years.

Full Article

Essex nursery 'closes because of universal free hours scheme'

When ministers pledged to double the amount of free childcare for working parents, they never dreamed it could lead to some top nurseries closing.

But just over two years on, that is exactly what is about to happen.

Fidgety Fingers in Essex, one of many nurseries which says it cannot make government funding rates stretch over 30 hours, will shut on Wednesday.

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Government confirms talks over second West Midlands devolution deal

Business secretary Greg Clark has suggested the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is on the brink of striking a second devolution deal with Whitehall.

Speaking at an event at the University of Birmingham, the former communities secretary said he would begin talks ‘immediately’ with West Midlands mayor Andy Street in the hope of agreeing a deal in the ‘weeks ahead’.

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Public sector workers work £11bn of unpaid overtime a year, union says

Nearly two million public sector workers regularly work unpaid overtime, union says in response to chancellor’s suggestion public sector workers are ‘overpaid’.

Research by GMB, the union for public sector staff, has revealed 1.8 million public sector workers regularly work unpaid overtime worth £11bn a year.

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Justine Greening raids free schools budget for £1.3bn education bailout

Justine Greening, the education secretary, has promised £1.3bn in funding for schools in England to head off a Conservative revolt, raiding the budget for free schools and new buildings to pay for the rise.

She said schools would get the bailout over the next two years, after complaints from Conservative MPs that Theresa May’s failure to deal with concerns about struggling schools cost the government its majority at the election.

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Fire brigade ‘faces huge legal costs’ over Grenfell Tower disaster

London Fire Brigade is seeking more than £900,000 from Whitehall to pay lawyers’ bills for the Grenfell Tower public inquiry and expected legal action arising from the blaze.

The formal request, seen by The Times, says the brigade faces huge legal costs for the inquiry and in “managing subsequent litigation”. It adds: “Resourcing this to a high standard is essential to protect the brigade, the [fire] authority and their reputations.”

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Education needs a revolution, not just more cash

An opinion piece of the times giving their thoughts on education funding. 


"Tuition fees, more money for schools, even the pay of university vice-chancellors: beyond Brexit and our crazy politics these have dominated the news agenda. Just as “education, education, education” were Tony Blair’s declared top three priorities, so it seems they remain. Fantastic. Who could argue that this is any other than the most fundamental of policy issues?"

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Half of people in care at home have ‘unmet needs’

Over half of older people receiving care at home have unmet needs, a report from a key think tank and a number of social care organisations has today found.

Funded by the NIHR School for Social Care Research and conducted by Ipsos MORI in partnership with a number of other social care charities, the report warns that many older people are not receiving adequate care.

The study used information from a survey of older people and in-depth interviews to find out of the quality of care being delivered for older people at home.

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Social care will ‘implode in months’ as charities face back-pay demand

Dozens of learning disability charities face insolvency within weeks after HM Revenue & Customs demanded six years of back pay for home helps.

About 178,000 people with learning difficulties may lose their assistance at home because of changes to pay rates for 24-hour care.

About 200 organisations including Mencap must find an extra £400 million for historical pay demands after the government changed the guidance on the minimum wage last autumn.

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Pay row threatens overnight care for vulnerable

The HMRC has ruled carers sleeping overnight to provide safety and reassurance should be be paid the national minimum wage for all hours.

Mencap says the total bill for back pay - due by September, and in some cases dating back six years - could be £400m.

The government says carers should be paid fairly.

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State pension age rise brought forward

Six million people in their early 40s will have to work a year longer, as a result of a change in the State Pension Age, the government has announced.

The rise in the pension age to 68 will now happen by 2039, rather than by 2046 as was originally proposed.

Those affected are currently between the ages of 39 and 47.

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CCN calls for ‘new deal’ on devolving powers to counties

County councils have today called for a “new deal” to reshape the government’s relationship with rural England and grant a greater devolution of powers to these areas.

Releasing its blueprint for the next five years called ‘A New Deal For Counties’, the County Councils Network (CCN) outlines the priorities for counties over the next few years and urges the government to work with them to address funding problems and match ambitions for more powers.

The organisation has also said that the government should start the process of devolution in England’s counties.

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Review of Senior Civil Service pay not possible within ‘straitjacket’ of 1% pay cap

A union has today called for an end to the 1% public sector pay “straitjacket” to end, warning that the government’s review of Senior Civil Service pay will only have an impact if this happens.

It follows ministers responding to the Senior Salaries Review Body’s (SSRB’s) report into changes to wages for senior public sector workers by accepting that changes needed to be made in the judiciary, Senior Civil Service and for executive and senior managers of arm’s-length bodies.

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County Councillors vote themselves massive pay rises

The Council leader's his pay will rise to £31,745 a year with the deputy leader being paid £20,627 a year.

Only one Tory refused to vote for the rise – Wisbech mayor Steve Tierney who abstained. One source tells me the Conservative group was subject to a three line whip and had Cllr Tierney voted against, rather than abstain, he could have been suspended from the group.

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Government welfare cuts blamed for 50% surge in mental health issues among unemployed

Rates of severe anxiety and depression among unemployed people have soared by more than 50 per cent in the last four years as the impact of “harsh” austerity policies take their toll, The Independent can reveal.

The UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) said the Government’s reforms of welfare payments were to blame for the rise, as benefit cuts and sanctions “are having a toxic impact on mental health”.

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Theresa May declares war on Nimbys and pledges to build 300,000 homes despite risk of rebellion among Tory councillors

Theresa May is to declare war on ‘Nimbys’ with radical plans to build 300,000 homes a year – and risk a revolt from Tories in her wealthy Maidenhead constituency.

The Prime Minister has given her backing to moves by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid to force town halls in affluent areas to build more homes – or have targets forced on them.

Mr Javid will this week warn that if wealthy areas like Maidenhead in Berkshire refuse to build extra homes to solve the UK’s housing crisis, they will drive more young voters who can’t afford to buy into the arms of Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

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Vulnerable children not in crisis are 'left in limbo'

Thousands of vulnerable children in England are being "left in limbo" because their needs are not severe enough, a charity has warned.

Action for Children estimates 140,000 children referred to social services over issues like drugs, alcoholism, domestic violence and neglect are not getting the help they need.

It says they often fall through the cracks as they are not at crisis point.

Ministers say their social care reforms will improve support.

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Drivers seen as 'wallets on wheels' as councils hike parking charges

Drivers are being viewed as "wallets on wheels" as two thirds of English councils cut their highways budgets despite increases in parking revenue, a study has warned.

Some 62 per cent of local authorities have reduced their expenditure on services such as road maintenance, street lights and school crossing patrols since 2016/17, according to the AA.

But the motoring organisation also found that more than 200 of the 363 councils examined are seeking to increase their parking income by raising fees for on and off street parking and residential permit schemes.

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Brexit could cost UK Treasury tens of billions in lost tax revenue, says Office for Budget Responsibility

The Treasury's official watchdog has highlighted the significant risk posed by Brexit to the UK's public finances in a new report.

The Office for Budget Responsibility, in its "Fiscal Risk Report" published on Thursday, said that if Brexit ended up reducing the UK's annual trend productivity growth rate by just 0.1 per cent over 50 years, the economy would be 4.8 per cent smaller than otherwise.

That would be equivalent to a cost in lost GDP of almost £100bn in today's money - which would translate into a £36bn hit to tax revenues.

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UK public finances face twin threat from Brexit and downturn, says OBR

Britain’s public finances are in worse shape to withstand a recession than they were on the eve of the 2007 financial crash a decade ago and face the twin threat of a fresh downturn and Brexit, the Treasury’s independent forecaster has warned.

The Office for Budget Responsibility – the UK’s fiscal watchdog – said another recession was inevitable at some point and that Theresa May’s failure to win a parliamentary majority in last month’s election left the public finances more vulnerable to being blown off course than they were in 2007.

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Betts re-elected as chair of CLG committee

Clive Betts has been re-elected as the chair of the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Select Committee.

MPs voted in a secret ballot yesterday for who would lead up each of its select committees, and Betts beat fellow Labour candidate David Lammy by 335 votes to 229.

The Sheffield South East MP will take up his position as chair of the committee when the remaining members have been named by the House

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Emergency call-outs for mental health patients soar

The number of ambulance call-outs from people suffering a mental health crisis has soared by nearly a quarter over the past two years.

Ambulances received 30,000 more of these types of calls in 2016-17 compared with 2014-15, according to data obtained under freedom of information laws by the Labour MP Luciana Berger.

Paramedics also spent an additional 55,000 hours helping people struggling with their mental health last year compared with 2014-15, a rise of 32%.

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Software hold-up leaves businesses waiting in vain for rates relief

Hundreds of millions of pounds worth of relief promised to companies hit by dramatic rises in business rates is not reaching them because councils are waiting months for software to be updated.

In delays branded “ridiculous” by representatives of small businesses, local authorities are warning ratepayers that they cannot provide any timetable for when compensation will be provided as they do not know when new billing systems will be ready.

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Margaret Willcox: ‘Relations with the NHS are tense. But we will rise above it’

As president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), Margaret Willcox finds herself in an unusual position. In the mounting friction between health and social care, she’s a leading figure on one side of the fence who also spent half her career on the other side – starting out as a nurse.

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Councils slam Whitehall’s ‘short-term approach’ to public health cuts

Local councils have today criticised central government after it was revealed that public health services such as sexual health clinics and services reducing harm from smoking, alcohol and drugs will have to be cut by £85m this year by local authorities.

In findings released by health think-tank the King’s Fund today which analysed DCLG data, it was revealed that councils in England were planning to spend £3.4bn on public health services in 2017-18.

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The six challenges facing local councils over next 20 years

An ageing population, fragmented families and housing affordability are among the challenges the local government sector will face over the next two decades, report says.

A new study from the Social Market Foundation (SMF) identifies and explores six changes that are likely to dramatically impact the demand for, and supply of, local public services in 2040...

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Councils invest billions in property purchases

Councils are making significant investments in commercial property as they try to replace revenue lost through government cuts, the Times reports. Councils have paid £2.7 billion for commercial properties since 2015, up from £500 million over the previous three years, Freedom of Information requests show. The LGA said that councils followed strict rules before making investments. A spokesman said: “In many cases, councils have not only been making investment decisions that can help them replace funding shortfalls, but also contribute to their local economy and environment.” The Times also reports that Mole Valley Council, in Surrey, has spent £11.5 million buying an Asda supermarket.

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Teachers' pay to remain capped at 1 per cent, DfE announces

Teachers’ pay in England and Wales is to be held down for another year with increases restricted by the 1 per cent public sector pay cap, the Government has confirmed.

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Free schools plan under threat

Ministers are looking at scrapping a programme to build hundreds more free schools to fund a manifesto promise to boost education budgets by £4 billion, reports the Times.

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Roll-out of 100% business rates retention to LG by 2019-20 ‘unrealistic’

Meeting the target of rolling out 100% business rates retention nationally by 2019-20, which was set out by the last government, is now “unrealistic,” London Councils has stated.

In a report that will be discussed at a full committee meeting tomorrow, the body said that the previous government’s aim to meet this deadline was probably unrealistic as there will be no Local Government Finance Bill within the next two years.

However, the report added that both piloting and significant changes to the national level of retention could potentially be achieved through secondary legislation.

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Thousands of special needs children left without school plan

Thousands of children with special educational needs have not been been given a plan to move into secondary school by their local council, despite a legal obligation to do so, new research has revealed.

A freedom of information request by Simpson Millar found more than 100 councils have not met the statutory deadline for issuing final transition plans to 2,405 SEN children.

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Wheelie bins replaced by underground waste system

The largest underground bin system in the UK has opened in Cambridge, enabling residents to put their waste down chutes outside their homes.

The system means there are no wheelie bins at the new development in Eddington as waste and mixed recycling are put into steel bins chutes set into the pavement.

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Calls for Javid to sort out ‘shambolic delay’ of business rates relief fund

Small businesses have demanded that the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, should push councils to get on with distributing the £300m business rates relief fund that has seen a “shambolic delay”.

The cash was made available in the Budget in March, but the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned that many local authorities have yet to draw up plans and started the job of giving cash to businesses.

And now the FSB has penned a letter to Javid to try and prompt him to “get a grip on the situation” and make sure councils start distributing the relief immediately.

This should come in the form of a ‘letter of direction’ the FSB say, which would tell councils to urgently implement a strategy to hand out business rates relief in their area.

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Greening calls for 'army of skilled young people'

Businesses in England are being urged by the government to create a post-Brexit "army of skilled young people".

Education Secretary Justine Greening is set to call for firms to back the government's attempts to overhaul technical training for teenagers.

From next April, £50m is being made available to fund work placements and £15m to help improve further education.

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1.2 million people in England and Wales will have dementia by 2040 – study

More than 1.2 million people are expected to be living with dementia in England and Wales by 2040, up from almost 800,000 today, research suggests.

Researchers say the predicted rise in the prevalence of dementia is largely down to people living longer, but add that the figures also show that the risk of developing dementia for each age group is falling – a finding they say suggests that preventive strategies are having an impact.

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Public procurement reform could boost local economies by £14bn, says report

Up to £14bn could be invested in local economies if the Government reformed public procurement rules, new research has argued today.

The report - published in response to the Government’s Industrial Strategy - calls for a clearer definition of Social Value and for all public sector procurement over £10m to deliver at least 20% Social Value.

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Councillors may have limited control over combined authorities, warn auditors

There is a risk local councillors will have limited capacity for the overview and scrutiny of combined authorities, auditors have warned.

A new report from the National Audit Office (NAO) said the creation of combined authorities was logical because economies and transport networks operate at a scale greater than individual council areas.

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Lord Porter: ‘We don’t want any new duties’ for business rates retention

Local Government Association chairman Lord Porter this week confirmed the body’s new hardline approach to business rates retention, publicly rejecting any imposition of new duties from central government.

Last week, Room151 revealed a shift in approach by the LGA towards a stronger rejection of the idea that business rates retention should be accompanied by new service obligations for councils.

Speaking to the LGA annual conference, Lord Porter said that councils should expect to be rewarded for their success in slashing budgets during the recent period of austerity.

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Council chiefs withdraw support for Better Care Funding guidance

Council leaders have hit out at ‘last minute’ plans to penalise authorities that fail to reduce bed blocking in their area.

In the Better Care Fund Planning Requirements, which stipulate how social care and NHS funding to support integration is to be spent, the Government has suggested councils could face financial penalties if targets on delayed transfers are not met.

However, the Local Government Association (LGA) said the plans were ‘extremely disappointing’ and represented a ‘step back’ for the integration of health and social care.

 

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Councils warn of £5.8bn 'funding gap' by 2020

English local authorities face a £5.8bn funding gap by 2020 without new sources of revenue, council chiefs are warning.

Services are running on a "shoestring" and councils must be at the "front of the queue" for extra cash, the Local Government Association will say.

Its chair, Lord Porter, will argue they must be free to raise more council tax and keep all business rates income.

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Hammond says UK must 'hold nerve' over public pay

Philip Hammond has insisted pay policy has not changed and the "right balance" must continue to be struck in terms of what is fair for workers and taxpayers.

The chancellor, who is under pressure from colleagues to lift the 1% public pay cap, said he understood people were "weary" after seven years of austerity.

But speaking in London, he rejected calls to "take the foot off the pedal".

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Tories drop plan to end universal free lunches for infants

Plans to axe free lunches for infant school children from better off families in England have been axed.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said the government would "retain the existing provision", having listened "very carefully" to the views of parents.

The Tory manifesto proposed restricting free lunches to infants from poorer homes - with free breakfasts for all primary school pupils funded instead.

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Lord Porter: Councils to lose 75p of every £1 of Whitehall cash by 2020

Lord Porter, the Conservative chairman of the LGA, has today called for an end to austerity as he warned that by 2020, local government will have lost 75p of every £1 of core central government funding that it had spent in 2015.

The LGA chair also repeated calls for local government to be allowed to keep all of the £26bn raised by business rates ever year.

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Firefighters’ deal means public pay cap is ‘dead in the water’ Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/politics/firefighters-deal-means-public-pay-cap-dead-water/

Pressure was growing on Theresa May to relax the public sector wage freeze after firefighters were offered a two per cent wage pay increase.

Their union claimed the move proved that the long-standing one per cent limit on annual rises for millions of nurses, doctors, police officers, civil servants and armed forces members was now “dead in the water”.

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Sajid Javid's speech to the LGA conference 2017

The Secretary of State's speech to the Local Government Association conference 2017.

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Boris Johnson joins calls to end public sector pay cap

Boris Johnson has become the latest senior cabinet minister to put pressure on the chancellor and the PM to end the public sector pay cap.

Sources close to the foreign secretary made it clear that he wants better pay for public service workers.

He joins those, including Michael Gove, who have suggested the government's 1% pay cap should be lifted.

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Damning government report shows depth of public sector pay cuts

The teaching profession has seen average pay fall by £3 an hour in real terms and police officers by £2 an hour, while the wages of nurses have stagnated during a decade of public sector salary freezes, a new report for the government’s pay advisers has found.

The academic analysis was quietly published on Monday before a crucial cabinet meeting where Theresa May and the chancellor, Philip Hammond, are likely to face pressure from colleagues to agree a timetable for easing seven years of public sector pay restraint.

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Heads push MPs for answers on school funding

Head teachers in England are calling on MPs for answers on school funding shortages - saying that they are still no closer to knowing their budgets.

About 4,000 heads across 17 councils, mostly in southern England, are writing to their MPs warning that schools face job losses and cuts to subjects.

They say that the current level of school funding is "unsustainable".

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Parents face £60 fines when children are late for school

Families have been told they face fines if children are repeatedly late for school, with the threat of prosecution for those who do not pay.

Councils and schools in Warwickshire, Hampshire and Essex are among those that have extended the £60 fixed penalties they issue for absenteeism, including holidays in term time, to cases of lateness.

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Councils given £15m to ease pressures of migration

Local councils have been awarded £15m to help ease the pressures on local services caused by recent migration.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid said the funding will supplement local authorities’ budgets, and will help reduce the impact of migration on local communities.

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Top Tories in revolt against May over public spending

Theresa May is facing a chorus of Tory demands for a radical overhaul of state funding for public services as cabinet ministers and senior Conservative MPs back higher pay for millions of NHS workers, more cash for schools and a “national debate” on student debt.

The prime minister’s waning authority was highlighted as her health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, and education secretary Justine Greening lobbied for an easing of austerity and senior Conservative MPs insisted public services would be in growing peril without an urgent loosening of the purse strings.

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Exclusive: Education Secretary wants £1.2bn extra on schools after 'election austerity backlash'

Theresa May has been told to go on a billion-pound spending spree to protect school funding by one her most senior Cabinet ministers, it can be disclosed.

Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, has informed the Prime Minister that she wants the Tories to abandon plans to cut per pupil funding over the coming years.

It is understood she wants a public statement within weeks making clear the change in direction so schools know where they stand before the summer holidays.

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It will cost taxpayers £2.5m - or 28 fully trained firefighters - for Martin Surl to take control of Gloucestershire Fire Service, report finds

Moving overall control of Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service would cost the same as training up 28 new firefighters for the county.

That's what was claimed this week as councillors unanimously opposed any move to transfer the service from Gloucestershire County Council's hands.

Martin Surl, Gloucestershire's Police and Crime Commissioner, has taken £100,000 of taxpayers' cash to recruit independent consultants to see whether he instead should oversee the fire service.

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Nurseries warn it's 'crunch time' for free childcare funding

Nurseries will only a receive an ‘inadequate’ increase of 40p per hour in order to provide 30 hours of free childcare, new research has revealed.

A freedom of information request by the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) shows that the average hourly rate for nurseries is £4.37 compared to £3.97 in 2016/17.

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Councils threatened with ‘non-incentives’ to move health integration forward

The government has indicated that it will start “increasingly scrutinising” local authority performance and look at putting in incentives – or non-incentives – to encourage them to “step up to the mark” when it comes to effective health and care integration.

Speaking at yesterday’s major Health and Care conference, health minister Philip Dunne told delegates that his department will continue to work “with both the NHS and local authorities increasingly in an integrated way to try to ensure that patients are treated in a setting which most meets their needs”.

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DfT reveals £6.1bn programme to improve major roads

A major £6.1bn programme of road improvements has been announced today by the government as part of a wider £23bn upgrade to the country’s road network.

The programme will offer motorists shorter journey times, as well as reduced congestion and increased capacity, something that is hoped to improve passenger journeys and create better local connections.

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Queen's Speech clears Commons after abortion funding pledge

The minority Conservative government has survived its first major test after its Queen's Speech cleared the Commons.

MPs backed the legislative programme - stripped back after the Tories lost their majority - by 323 to 309.

But the government had to make a late pledge on funding abortions in England for women from Northern Ireland, amid fears of a Conservative rebellion.

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LGA changes tack on business rates retention

The Local Government Association says that local authorities must be granted 100% business rate retention—without taking on new responsibilities.

The position is a shift from the LGA’s previous line, which agreed with the government’s stance that the extra money retained must be accompanied by new service responsibilities.

However, in the wake of the government’s decision to drop the Local Government Finance Bill, the LGA has updated its position saying that the focus must be on allowing councils to use the money to fill the existing £5.8bn gap in local government finances.

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Councils save over £600m by sharing services

More than half a billion pounds of taxpayers’ money has been saved by councils sharing services, new research reveals.

The latest shared services map from the Local Government Association (LGA) shows there are now 486 individual shared service arrangements across the country,

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Queen's Speech: Labour to force vote on public pay cap

Labour is to table an amendment to the Queen's Speech calling for the 1% public sector pay cap and cuts to the police and emergency services to end.

Jeremy Corbyn says the amendment, which will be voted on on Wednesday, will be a "test case" of MPs' willingness to oppose further austerity measures.

He will say firefighters who fought the Grenfell Tower blaze "deserve" a rise after seven years of near stagnation.

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Social care cuts to continue in spite of £1bn boost, English councils say

Cuts to social care will continue this year despite ministers putting in an extra £1bn to halt the deterioration in services, senior council officials have said.

Local authorities in England plan to make £824m of savings in their social care budgets in 2017-18, according to research by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass).

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Labour plot to tempt Tory MPs into amending Queen's Speech

Labour will try to [change the direction] of the Queen’s Speech today by tabling an amendment to tempt Tory MPs to vote against the Government and end austerity

The party is demanding that the Government recruit more police officers and firefighters, scrap the public sector pay cap and praise the emergency services for the response to recent terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower fire.

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Confusion after No 10 backtracks on end to public sector pay cap

Government hints at a possible end to the cap on pay rises for public sector workers have descended into utter confusion after Downing Street rapidly changed tack, insisting that the policy of limiting annual rises to 1% would remain in place.

Hours after a senior Conservative source indicated that ministers would review the cap at the next budget, saying people were “weary” after years of belt-tightening, Theresa May’s spokesman said this was not the case. “The government policy has not changed,” he told a No 10 briefing, repeating the phrase or variants of it 16 times as he was pressed on how this could tally with the earlier comments.

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Leaders pile more pressure on May for urgent social care reform

Despite the extra social care money introduced in the Spring Budget, only a staggering 7% of directors are confident that planned savings for 2019-20 will be met, with even less than that feeling at all optimistic about the future financial situation of the health and care economy in their area.

Other similarly eye-watering findings were included in this year’s ADASS Budget Survey, which painted a picture of a sector led by directors consistently voicing major concerns about the sustainability of the market going forward.

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Schools in England cut back on teaching hours to save money

Schools across England are trying to save money by cutting back on teaching hours and trimming the length of their week, as the ongoing funding crisis casts a shadow over next year’s operations. While state schools face a combination of frozen budgets, rising prices, higher pensions and staff costs, many are choosing to reduce hours rather than cut teaching staff in their efforts to save money.

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Chancellor's £300m business rates relief fund still not up and running

A £300 million business rates relief fund is still not up and running three months after many companies were hit by a sharp rise in their bills.

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that the help announced by Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, after huge political pressure is yet to benefit companies.

Councils who have been tasked with handing out the money are still deciding who should get the money because they are allowed to pick their own rules.

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Council to sell homes on the open market

Bristol City Council is set to build and sell houses on the private market for the first time, paving the way for a new council housing company.

The proposed housing development includes 52 social rented homes, with the remaining 78 to be sold by the council. The money raised through the sales would be reinvested to support the construction of new council housing.

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Social care crisis could be fixed with prefunding arrangement, think tank says

Social care should be financed through a prefunded arrangement rather than the current pay-as-you-go system, a new report says.

The think tank Reform has published a new report which proposes ‘fundamental reform’ of the social care system by replacing the current ‘pay-as-you-go’ (PAYG) approach to financing later-life care with a prefunded arrangement.

Under this arrangement working-age people would contribute a percentage of their income into a Later Life Care Fund (LLCF), which could be managed privately and used to fund the care costs of contributors.

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Businesses and rates relief

A £300 million business rates relief fund is still not fully functioning three months after many companies received a sharp rise in their bills, the Telegraph reports. It says that some councils are in the process of deciding who should get the funds.

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Conservatives agree pact with DUP to support May government

An agreement has been reached which will see the Democratic Unionist Party back Theresa May's minority government.

The deal, which comes two weeks after the election resulted in a hung Parliament, will see the 10 DUP MPs back the Tories in key Commons votes.

There will be £1bn extra for Northern Ireland over the next two years.

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Local authority funding: more ‘graphs of doom’ ahead?

Local government funding has been under severe pressure since the 2008 crisis. This has stress-tested the local authority finances and capacities to identify efficiency savings leading to severe warnings such as Barnet Council’s graph of doom. In this blog Room151 brings together official figures of the drop in local authority funding in order to show the size of the problem and the challenge for local government with a focus on the West Midlands Combined Authority mayor.

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Single parents win benefits cap legal challenge

Lone parents with children under two have won a High Court ruling that the government’s benefit cap is unlawful, and causes “real misery”.

The successful challenge, which affects an estimated 26,000 parents, was brought by four families over the “failure” to exempt them and their dependent children from the scheme.

A judge in London ruled yesterday that he was “satisfied that the claims must succeed” against the work and pensions secretary, who announced an immediate appeal.

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Stop putting league tables above pupils' rounded education, Ofsted chief tells schools

Teachers should stop putting league tables above giving children a rounded education, the new schools inspector says today.

In her first major speech since the general election, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman will today condemn primary and secondary schools that put their league table position above the interests of pupils.

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Gloucester City considers co-locating with county council

A local authority is looking to relocate out of its local offices and move towards flexible working practices in a bid to save money.

Gloucester City Council has today announced that it has started talks with the county council about relocating their staff to the county headquarters, Shire Hall.

The city council currently occupy parts of the Herbert, Kimberly and Philpotts warehouses in Gloucester docks, and a small amount of space in the adjacent North Warehouse.

But as part of the Together Gloucester Transformation, the authority will investigate downsizing and adopting flexible working practices, as well as the move to Shire Hall.

Though the move to downsize its offices would save some money in running costs, the council stated that it thinks moving elsewhere could be better value for money.

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Tory manifesto pledges dropped from Queen’s Speech

Core Conservative manifesto pledges, including grammar schools and means testing for winter fuel payments, were jettisoned from the Queen’s Speech yesterday, leaving a slim legislative agenda that exposed the limits of Theresa May’s authority.

The prime minister’s failed gamble on a snap election, which resulted in the Tories losing their Commons majority, forced her to abandon policies that would have struggled to progress through parliament.

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Queen’s Speech ‘dragged councils into Whitehall uncertainty’ as key laws dropped

Key figures across local government and the health sector have sharply criticised yesterday’s Queen’s Speech for its blatant lack of information around fundamental issues, such as devolution, business rates retention and social care reform.

Jonathan Carr-West, the chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU), argued that when it comes to local government, the speech “hovers around the edge rather than directly confronting the big questions”.

“Local government thus finds itself dragged into the uncertainty that is afflicting Parliament,” he stated. “Councils can and will continue to deliver the local services that people depend upon.

“But if local government is to plan effectively for the future, it desperately needs more clarity on the big issues than is promised by [the] Queen’s Speech.”

There were no firm proposals on social care funding and no mention whatsoever of devolution, as well as no extra detail on the journey towards 100% business rate retention.

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Heads warn parents of 'cash-starved schools'

Head teachers in England are keeping up the pressure on school funding, sending a letter warning about "cash-starved" schools to almost two million families.

As the government prepares to set out its plans in the Queen's Speech, school leaders across 17 councils are calling for urgent action over a funding gap.

Claims over school funding shortages became an election battleground and a doorstep issue with voters.

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Plan for more grammar schools abandoned

The creation of a new wave of grammar schools in England is not included in the government's plans for legislation.

The Queen's Speech says the government will "look at all options" for new schools, but there are no signs of the legislation needed to remove the current ban on expanding selection.

The controversial plan to scrap free lunches for all infants is also absent.

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Mark Carney says time not right for interest rate rise

The time is not right for an interest rate rise, Bank of England governor Mark Carney has said.

Wage growth is falling, and the impact of Brexit on the economy is unclear, Mr Carney said in a speech at Mansion House in London.

The pound fell sharply after Mr Carney's comments.

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Business rate information letter published following Spring Budget

Topics include:

Supporting Small Businesses

New Discretionary Relief Scheme

New Business Rate Relief Scheme for Pubs

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Philip Hammond hints at end to council spending cuts

Philip Hammond has hinted the Government could raise taxes over the course of the next parliament in a bid to ease years of austerity. The Chancellor said the Conservatives had never pledged not to raise "some taxes" and suggested that £3 billion of cuts to council spending budgets might not go ahead.

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Conservatives shoot for the moon with new laws for Queen's Speech

The Queen's Speech on Wednesday will include three bills designed to funnel investment into major transport infrastructure designed to help Britain boom after leaving the European Union.

One will focus on growing the space sector and would allow satellites to be launched from the UK for the first time, as well as develop scientific missions and manned vertical rockets.

A second would help people switch to greener and cheaper electric cars by making it easier to access charging points around the country.

While a third bill will focus on the next stage of the HS2 high speed rail network, which would link the Midlands to the North West.

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Brexit: 2018 Queen's Speech cancelled by government

There will be no Queen's Speech next year to give MPs more time to deal with Brexit laws, the government says.

Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom said the next parliamentary session was being doubled in length to two years.

The unusual move would allow MPs to scrutinise "substantial amounts of legislation", she said.

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Government to confirm two-year Parliament to deliver Brexit and beyond

Parliament will sit for two years instead of the usual one to give MPs enough time to fully consider the laws required to make Britain ready for Brexit. This includes the Great Repeal Bill, which by converting existing EU law into UK statute will enable the smoothest possible transition at the point of leaving.

The government will deliver this while also addressing deep-rooted inequalities in our society in order to give everyone the opportunities they deserve. Taken together, the EU exit process and the government’s domestic agenda mean the new Parliament faces a substantial legislative programme.

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ONS scraps pre-release access for ministers

Ministers and civil servants will no longer have access to national statistics 24 hours ahead of official publication, it has been announced.


John Pullinger, national statistician and chief executive of the UK Statistics Authority, wrote to board chair Sir David Norgrove to announce the decision to end so-called “pre-release” arrangements, which will come into effect on July 1.


He said enhanced access damaged public trust in national statistics.

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Health and social care devolution deal agreed in Surrey

A second Greater Manchester-style devolution deal has been struck in Surrey Heartlands.

The agreement will bring together the NHS locally with Surrey CC to integrate health and social care services, and give local leaders and clinicians more control over services and funding.

NHS England’s announcement came as its head, Simon Stevens, yesterday pledged to end the ‘fractured’ health and social care system that leaves too many patients ‘passed from pillar to post’.

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Queen's Speech: Government 'has enough support' after talks with DUP

The Government believes it has enough support in the House of Commons to pass the Queen's Speech following talks with the DUP.

After announcing a date for the speech setting out Theresa May's legislative agenda, a Tory source said discussions with the Northern Irish unionists had been "progressing".

But the source stopped short of saying that a deal had been finalised with the DUP and left the way open for further negotiations to continue, even after the monarch has set out what laws Ms May wants to pass.

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Queen's Speech to take place next week

The State Opening of Parliament and Queen's Speech will take place next Wednesday, Commons leader Andrea Leadsom has announced.

It had been due to take place on Monday, but was delayed by Theresa May's efforts to strike a deal with the DUP to back her minority government.

The Queen will "dress down" to read the speech in a break with tradition.

It is expected to be a slimmed down programme after the PM lost her majority in the general election.

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Unions call for 5% pay increase for council staff

 

Local government workers should be given a 5% pay rise following eight years of government-imposed pay restraint, trade unions have argued.


Unison, Unite and GMB have put in a pay claim for the 5% increase, and have also called for the lowest paid staff to receive the real living wage of £8.45 an hour (£9.75 in London).


The unions argue that wages for council staff have fallen ‘way behind’ inflation.

 

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Record inflation level prompts concern for treasury returns

 

Rising inflation threatens the returns on local authority treasury assets, according to experts in the wake of news that the UK’s consumer price index (CPI) had reached its highest level in four years.The Bank of England said on Tuesday that inflation had reached 2.9%, more than the 2.7% economists were expecting.David Green, strategic director with Arlingclose, said the rate was still within the Bank of England’s target bracket of one to three percent. But he also warned that local authorities with large sums still on deposit in banks would feel the effects of inflation.

Rising inflation threatens the returns on local authority treasury assets, according to experts in the wake of news that the UK’s consumer price index (CPI) had reached its highest level in four years.

The Bank of England said on Tuesday that inflation had reached 2.9%, more than the 2.7% economists were expecting.

David Green, strategic director with Arlingclose, said the rate was still within the Bank of England’s target bracket of one to three percent. But he also warned that local authorities with large sums still on deposit in banks would feel the effects of inflation.

 

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Theresa May will abandon free school lunch axe

Theresa May’s plans to scrap free lunches for infants and replace them with a free breakfast have been abandoned, according to a government source. It is also reported that the Government will be looking again at schools funding.

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Austerity is over, May tells Tories

Theresa May is poised to bring to a close seven years of austerity after Tory MPs warned that they would refuse to vote for further cuts, the Times reports. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister will today meet Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster to thrash out the terms of the DUP’s backing for her minority government. The Queen’s Speech, due to take place on Monday, will be postponed unless a deal is struck by this evening, it is reported. A BBC Online feature says that even if the Queen’s Speech goes ahead, there is “little chance” specific pledges on social care will be mentioned.

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Harris Federation academy chief says Theresa May’s grammar school plans are the wrong approach

Theresa May’s plans for new grammars have received another blow after one of the country’s biggest academy chains said it would not convert any of its schools. Sir Daniel Moynihan, chief executive of the Harris Federation, said that although he believed more should be done to help high-achieving pupils in the state system to fulfil their potential selection was not the answer.

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Sajid Javid keeps local government role

Sajid Javid has been re-appointed as minister for communities and local government by the prime minister.


In he post-election cabinet reshuffle Theresa May also appointed former housing minister Gavin Barwell as her new chief of staff.


The former Croydon Central MP lost his Central Croydon seat in the General Election on Thursday – and his place as a Department of Communities and Local Government minister.

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Private schools to save £522m in tax thanks to charitable status

Private schools are set to get tax rebates totalling £522m over the next five years as a result of their controversial status as charities, according to a study of local council records.

Business rates firm CVS sent freedom of information requests to councils, and responses from 132 showed that 586 out 1,038 private schools held charitable status and were granted the mandatory relief.

Its analysis of government data suggested that on 2,707 properties classified as private schools there would be a business rates bill of around £1.16bn over the next five years. Extrapolating from the data received from councils, it forecast that £634m would be paid, with £522m saved through the schools’ charitable status.

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Cabinet reshuffle: Theresa May praises Tory 'talent'

Theresa May said the government planned to focus on social issues and "delivering a successful Brexit", as she completed a Cabinet reshuffle.

The PM said the new line-up brought in "talent from across the whole of the Conservative Party".

The Technical Support Team will be updating members on the cabinet reshuffle shortly.

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Hung Parliament: Q&A guide to what happens when no-one wins the election

Some information on a hung parliament. 

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Interest rate rise could ruin 80,000 businesses

One in 25 businesses, or nearly 80,000 enterprises, would struggle to handle an increase in interest rates of as little as a quarter of a percentage point, according to research by the insolvency trade body, in the clearest sign yet of the fragile state of corporate balance sheets.

It is thought that some 79,000 businesses would be unable to repay their debts if rates were to rise, four times as many as in September when the Association of Business Recovery Professionals, or R3 as it is known, conducted a similar survey.

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A million more carers needed to cope with ageing population

One million more carers are needed to support England’s ageing population, according to a study that says social care should be reorganised to avert a recruitment crisis.

Care workers should be given greater control over their work patterns to allow them to fit their hours around their family lives, researchers found. This would help to cut a huge turnover in staff in the sector, which is almost twice the average rate for other jobs.

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Civil servants 'dissatisfied' with pay

Civil servants are dissatisfied with average salaries that run just below those of the UK workforce, the Institute of Government has said.

The IfG assessed sources of information about Whitehall pay and found that with average increases limited to 1% there was discontent beyond the lowest paying departments.

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Refuse collection workers threaten strikes in Birmingham

Refuse workers in Birmingham have started voting on strike action amid accusations of financial mismanagement and an overspend by the council of nearly £10m.

Unite has been involved in a consultation with managers of Birmingham City Council’s waste management and refuse service over job cuts, which bosses blamed on budget cuts and austerity measures.

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Small firms hit by rates relief delay

Thousands of small businesses in England who were promised financial help to ease the burden of hikes in business rates are still waiting.

The chancellor announced a package of measures in the March Budget, including a cap for the most vulnerable firms who were facing huge hikes in their bills.

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Jeremy Corbyn struggles over cost of childcare policy

for 1.3m youngsters during an interview with BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour.

"It will cost... it will obviously cost a lot to do so to do we accept that," he said, when quizzed about the figures by Emma Barnett.

The stumble came as the Labour leader and Theresa May resumed election campaigning following a live TV debate.

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British workers hit ‘hardest’ by immigration cuts, research reveals

The Government’s net migration target of below 100,000 a year could lead to over 3 million people facing unemployment, new research reveals.

New figures from the Migration Matters Trust have shown cutting net migration to less than 100,000 per year could ‘hammer’ British jobs and force unemployment levels from the current 1.6 million to 3.1 million.

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British workers hit ‘hardest’ by immigration cuts, research reveals

The Government’s net migration target of below 100,000 a year could lead to over 3 million people facing unemployment, new research reveals.

New figures from the Migration Matters Trust have shown cutting net migration to less than 100,000 per year could ‘hammer’ British jobs and force unemployment levels from the current 1.6 million to 3.1 million.

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UK growth estimate revised down

The UK's economy grew more slowly than first estimated in the first three months of the year, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) now says the economy expanded by 0.2% in the quarter - slower than its original estimate of 0.3%.

It said the change was due to downward revisions for growth in the UK's dominant services sector.

In the last quarter of 2016, the UK economy had expanded by 0.7%.

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Cost of Tories' free breakfasts 'could treble'

Giving a free breakfast to every primary school child in England could cost more than treble the £60m the Tory party set aside for it, academics say.

Experts analysing the plans re-costed them at between £180m and £400m, depending on how many pupils take them.

A Conservative Party spokesman said the original £60m costing of its universal offer was based on a 25% take-up rate.

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Conservatives not allocated enough cash for free school breakfast pledge

A free breakfast for all primary school pupils was one of the few costed policies in the Tory manifesto – and even that has not been fully costed.

The Tories allocated £60 million to pay for the policy – but with 4.62 million kids of primary school age, that leaves a budget of just 6.8p per child.

Even if only half of children took up the offer, it would cost £400 million to provide them with breakfast (which actually costs 25p), according to Education Data Lab.

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Police investigate up to 20 deaths at mental health unit

Police are investigating the deaths of “up to 20 patients” at a mental health facility in Essex.

Last week an inquest ruled that the authorities had failed to protect Richard Wade, 30, who died in May 2015 after staff at the Linden Centre in Chelmsford failed to confiscate the item he used to hang himself when he was admitted.

Matthew Leahy, 20, died at the centre on November 15, 2012. The inquest into his death concluded there had been “multiple failures”.

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Assaults between care home residents reported daily

Police recorded 1,200 assaults between residents living at care homes between 2014 and 2016, the BBC has found.

More than one assault a day was reported in England and Wales, an investigation by File on 4 revealed.

Some care workers said they were not always given full information about who might pose a risk.

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Councils’ ‘variable’ approach to deferred payment ‘could undermine social care reform’

Conservative plans to shake up social care funding are being built on “very shaky foundations” as councils do not take a consistent approach to deferred payments, a former pensions minister has warned.

Sir Steve Webb, a Liberal Democrat minister in the coalition government, made the comments after surveying 140 councils and discovering there was huge variation in the way they used deferred payments for social care.

He criticised Tory plans to include the value of someone's home when deciding how much they must pay towards care at home – but allow them to pay after they die.

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General election 2017: New warning over social care plans

Conservative plans to change social care funding in England may be derailed by councils, an ex-minister has warned.

The party wants to include the value of someone's home when deciding how much they must pay towards care at home - but allow them to pay after they die.

The Conservatives say the changes ensure fairness across the generations.

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General election: Theresa May changes social care plans

Theresa May has said proposed changes to social care funding in England will now include an "absolute limit" on the money people will have to pay.

The Conservatives ruled out a cap on total costs in last week's manifesto, instead saying no-one would see their assets fall below £100,000.

The PM defended the "sensible" plan, saying the system risked collapsing.

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What do the General Election manifestos mean for local government?

In the build up to the General Election, the major political parties have been unveiling their pledges as manifestos are published for the critical gaze of the voting public.

So, what have they promised the local government sector?

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Conservative manifesto: Social care shake-up in Theresa May's plans

Theresa May will promise to address the rising cost of social care in England and curb immigration when she launches the Conservative manifesto later.

It will promise no-one will have to sell their property in their lifetime to fund residential or home care.

Instead, the cost of care will be taken from their estate - if it is worth at least £100,000 - when they die.

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Conservative manifesto summary: Key points at-a-glance

The Conservatives have launched their manifesto, "Forward, Together: Our plan for a stronger Britain and a prosperous future". The full document is available online.

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UK inflation rate rises to 2.7% in April

The UK inflation rate rose to 2.7% in April from 2.3% in March, the Office for National Statistics says, its highest rate since September 2013 and above the Bank of England's 2% target.

Higher air fares were the main reason, which rose because of the later date of Easter this year compared with 2016.

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Labour pledges to increase local government funding

Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to increase funding to local authorities and review local government finance if elected in June.

Launching Labour's manifesto, Mr Corbyn promised he would review ‘reforming council tax and business rates, and consider new options such as land value tax, to ensure local government has sustainable funding for the long term’.

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Care homes losing 2,000 beds a year as councils cut fees

Care homes will run out of beds for vulnerable elderly people within two to three years as the sector heads for a “widespread capacity crisis”, a market research company has warned.

Bed shortages would hit poorer older people hardest because the looming squeeze would affect those with fewer assets and those in the least affluent parts of the country, the company said.

 Councils were given an extra £2 billion for the next three years in the budget to help with pressure on social care costs. But an analysis of the care home sector in Britain, published by LaingBuisson, a healthcare market intelligence provider, warned that the Treasury may take comfort from a false assumption that a crisis has been averted.

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Unions urge politicians to address £3bn education ‘funding crisis’

Four unions have demanded parliamentary candidates to pledge to opposing school funding cuts that are expected to rise to £3bn a year by 2020.

The National Union of Teachers, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the National Association of Head Teachers and the GMB have joined forced to ask politicians running for office to address the current funding crisis facing education in the UK.

And the unions have also updated the Schools Cuts website so that voters can email their local candidate and ask them to oppose cuts to struggling schools.

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New mayors urged to prioritise inclusive growth

One of the greatest challenges facing the newly elected metro mayors is achieving inclusive growth, new research has revealed.

The second annual Inclusive Growth Monitor, published by the University of Manchester and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, reveals how Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are performing on inclusive growth.

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Funding shortfall 'threatens support for vulnerable children'

A funding shortfall in council support for vulnerable children in England will be worse than expected, town hall bosses are warning.

The Local Government Association says a shortfall in children's services budgets will reach £2bn by 2020.

The LGA calculates that the shortfall will be £100m more than was suggested by its previous analysis last October, which had put it at £1.9bn.

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Children’s services face £2bn funding gap by 2020

The Local Government Association (LGA) said this funding gap will only grow unless immediate action is taken to reduce the number of families relying on the children’s social care system.

The number of children subject to child protection enquiries has increased by 140% in the past ten years from 71,800 in 2005/06 to more than 170,000 children in 2015/16. Over the same period, the number of children on formal child protection plans increased by almost 24,000.

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Inter-authority lending rockets by £2bn

Inter-authority lending leapt 40% to almost £7bn in 2016/17, as local authorities continued to lose patience with bank and building society deposits, and certificates of deposit.

Annual figures released by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) show that investments with other local authorities stood at £6.979bn, up £2bn from £4.980bn the previous year.

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General election 2017: Labour and Lib Dems pledge school cash

Labour and the Lib Dems are both making multibillion pound funding pledges to tackle school cash shortages in England.

Labour says it would raise corporation tax to spend £4.8bn on keeping up with rising costs, and £335m so no schools lost out from a funding reorganisation.

The Lib Dems are promising £7bn to protect per-pupil funding levels.

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7 out of 10 children with mental health problems are treated outside home area

Seven out of 10 children with serious mental health problems are being treated outside their home area, according to NHS figures.

Around 69% of young patients were admitted to hospitals away from their local region in 2016/17, up from 57% the year before, an investigation by the British Medical Association (BMA) has found.

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Care staff 'may not get minimum wage' leaked report claims

Dozens of council-employed care workers may have been paid below the minimum wage, a leaked report has warned.

Days after meeting bosses at Cheshire East Council to discuss the concerns, the report's author lost her job.

A Conservative councillor has demanded an investigation into both the contents of the report and the way in which Sue Wallace has been treated.

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Thousands of staff to be axed from classrooms because of cash crisis - with more cuts to come

Thousands of teachers and support staff will vanish from schools by September because of a funding crisis, according to a new poll.

Of 700 headteachers surveyed, 40 per cent said they would have cut between one and three teaching positions by the start of the new term.

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After divisive 15% council tax rise plans, Surrey underspends by £7m

The local authority that had planned to hike its council tax by an enormous 15% in order to fight against social care cuts – in a move that has since raised suspicions of a “sweetheart deal” with the DCLG – has underspent its total budget by almost £7m, Cabinet papers have revealed.

Earlier this year, Surrey County Council revealed a highly controversial plan to raise council tax far beyond the acceptable 3.99% as a way to mitigate what it perceived to be a “dilemma in terms of budget”.

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Universal basic income ‘offers public finance efficiency gains’

A universal basic income can increase efficiency and accountability in the public finances of developing countries, experts have argued at a debate held at a UK-based think-tank.

 

 

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General election 2017: Conservatives pledge to end mental health 'injustice'

The 1983 Mental Health Act would be replaced with new laws tackling "unnecessary detention" under Tory plans for England and Wales.

The Conservatives also pledged 10,000 more NHS mental health staff by 2020 and to tackle discrimination against those with mental health problems.

But Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC that a failure to hit A&E targets was "not acceptable".

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Britons ready to pay more council tax to fund social care

A majority of Britons are prepared to pay more council tax to help stem the growing crisis in social care, with some ready to hand over £200 a year extra, according to a new survey.

In all, 57% of the public are ready to pay more council tax in order to boost social care. Funding care has become a key domestic political challenge after years of falling town hall budgets led to cuts in home services for older people.

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LGA publishes 10-point general election wish list

General election manifestos must commit to giving local councils the funds they need to provide vital services, the Local Government Association has said.

The LGA has issued an “essential” 10-point list of commitments, which they believe all the political parities should sign up to ahead of the snap general election on 8 June.

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Councils could raise enough money to reverse social care cuts

Councils could potentially raise enough money during this Parliament to reverse all the cuts to social care funding that have been made in the last seven years, financial experts say.

A new study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has claimed that if councils make maximum use of powers to raise council tax they could – under current arrangements – raise £5.4bn in 2019-20.

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Fly-tipping epidemic costs taxpayers £600 million a year

Fly-tipping and other waste crimes have risen to record levels, costing the country £600 million a year, because of a loophole that allows criminals to set up as licensed rubbish collectors.

The number of people and organisations registered to carry waste has more than doubled in the past decade to 185,000 and few checks are carried out on those involved, research shows. The loophole was exposed when the study’s authors registered a dead dog as a waste carrier and the Environment Agency issued a licence immediately without any identity checks.

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Theresa May faces first uprising of election as Tories urge PM to abandon school funding shake-up

Theresa May today faced the first Tory uprising of the General Election with calls to tear up proposed school funding changes, which have sparked fury.

An Evening Standard investigation revealed that senior Conservatives are lining up to urge the Prime Minister to abandon the Government’s school funding reforms before voters go to the polls.

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Core Cities: Government must make devolution ‘more than a soundbite’

A sound Industrial Strategy must be built on further devolution of powers at regional and local levels to allow decision-makers to quickly respond to problems in their area, according to Core Cities UK.

In its response to the Industrial Strategy consultation, the organisation, which represents the UK’s 10 core cities, called on the government to move power away from Whitehall as the first step in driving the economies of the country’s largest cities.

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Schools cutting mental health services to plug funding gaps, warn MPs

Cash-strapped schools are cutting mental health services such as counsellors and pastoral provision as they try to cover funding gaps, two influential groups of MPs have said.

The health and education select committees joined forces for the inquiry, which called on the government to look at the impact of budget cuts on mental health services for children.

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Magnificent Sevenoaks

Sevenoaks, overall winner at the Public Finance Innovation Awards, is the first district council to become financially self‑sufficient. How did it do this?

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Jeremy Corbyn vows to block £3bn of Tory 'tax breaks for the rich' and use cash for new police

Jeremy Corbyn will pledge to block almost £3bn of planned “tax breaks for the rich” in order to pay for 10,000 new community police officers in England and Wales.

The Labour leader believes money saved from scrapping a Conservative plan to lower capital gains tax will easily cover the cost of his pledge and enable him to guarantee current funding levels for 43 police forces.

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School cutbacks put 'education system at risk'

The £3bn savings expected of England's schools threaten the stability of the whole education system, says the National Association of Head Teachers.

General secretary Russell Hobby says ministers should no longer be allowed to claim school funding is protected.

The Department for Education has said school funding is at record levels.

But the Institute of Fiscal Studies says this claim does not tell the whole story or take account of the impact of cost pressures on per pupil funding.

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UK economy grew by 0.3% as service sector slows

The UK economy grew by just 0.3% at the start of the year, the slowest growth rate since the first three months of 2016, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics said that the slower pace in the January-to-March period was due mainly to the service sector, which also grew by 0.3% against 0.8% at the end of 2016.

Economists had been expecting GDP growth to slow as consumers tightened their belts in the face of rising inflation, but they had pencilled in a higher figure of 0.4%.

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GDP figures: The accidental rebalancing of the UK economy

The odd thing is that if balance is the hallmark of economic success, Friday's gross domestic product figures, which showed the UK economy growing by only 0.3% in the first quarter - the weakest rate since before the referendum - are a triumph.

Look at the breakdown: the manufacturing sector grew by a healthy 0.5%. Indeed, far from dropping into recession in the past two quarters, it has had the best six months for two years.

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Government accounts 'failing to explain spending'

It should be easier for the public and MPs to assess whether government spending offers value for money, a parliamentary committee has said.

The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee said departmental accounts were not designed for "democratic scrutiny" and being read or used as much as they should.

The published documents often fail to explain the "effectiveness of government spending", its report added.

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Better Care Fund failed to ease care crisis and was 'little more than a ruse'

A fund created by the Government to help ease the national social care crisis has been dismissed as "little more than a ruse" by a Parliamentary committee.

The Better Care Fund has failed to meet all of its targets and has effectively been used to "paper over" funding pressures, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said.

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Ministers lose pollution strategy delay bid

UK government loses court bid to delay publication of air pollution strategy, and must publish after May election

 

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MPs question government's 'grip' on new school places

MPs have questioned "how much of a grip" the Department for Education has on providing school places where they are needed in England.

The system is "increasingly incoherent and too often poor value for money," says the Public Accounts Committee.

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Birmingham school makes day 30 minutes shorter because of education funding cuts

A special needs school has cut the day by 30 minutes because of education funding cuts.

Selly Oak Trust School in Birmingham has written to parents telling them that the school day will be shortened from September as a money-saving exercise because of the cuts to education funding.

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PAC: Government spending ‘over the odds’ on creating free schools

Concern has been raised that the government’s system of funding to build new schools and create places is “poor value for money,” the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has today stated.

In the ‘Capital funding for schools’ report, the committee said that the Department for Education (DfE) is paying well over the odds to build 500 free schools whilst the condition of many other existing schools across the country continues to deteriorate.

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Metro mayors sound great. But they can’t save local parks and pools

City parks lie overgrown and abandoned; swimming pools and leisure centres shuttered; libraries locked up; local bus services axed; youth services scrapped; roads so badly potholed that hundreds of miles face closure. If the list of cutbacks is endless across the country, you can be sure of one thing. There’s worse to come.

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Tory manifesto will attempt to address social care crisis, Theresa May hints

Theresa May has hinted that the Conservative general election manifesto will attempt to address the looming social care crisis.

The Prime Minister said the country needed to “stop ducking the issue” when she was asked what her manifesto would do to address the issue on a visit to Wales on Tuesday.

She pledged a “long-term solution” to the crisis but said the Government was taking transitional measures.

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Cuts are 'dismantling' neighbourhood services, warns report

Spending on local services such as bin collections, parks, roads and libraries has fallen by £3.1bn between 2010/11 and 2015/16, new research has revealed.

A study into the impact of seven years of local government cuts, published by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE), found while spending on neighbourhood services fell by 13% in this time period, spending on social services increased by £2.2bn.

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Patient waits four years to leave hospital

A hospital patient has been waiting nearly four years to leave hospital after being declared fit for discharge.

The unnamed patient, who has a "serious mental health condition", learning disability, and physical health problems, has been in a hospital bed for more than 1,338 days.

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Minister makes U-turn over £300m business rates relief fund

The government appears to have performed a weekend U-turn on business rates and says a £300m relief fund to help small businesses worst hit by the shakeup is now available for councils to share out.

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Theresa May should drop the state pension ‘triple lock’

The first full week of campaigning in Britain’s general election is about to start, and Theresa May’s Conservative party appears to hold all the cards. The Tories have a consistent lead in opinion polls of at least 20 points. On the crucial matters of leadership and running the economy, they also have commanding leads. Jeremy Corbyn, the hapless leader of the Labour party, falls at the first hurdle. Like the ageing leftwing intellectual Michael Foot in 1983, Mr Corbyn fails to convince that he is a future prime minister. 

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Snap election delays £300m relief package for small businesses

Thousands of small businesses hit hardest by the recent changes to business rates in the UK have been dealt a fresh blow after a £300m relief package promised in the budget was waylaid by the general election.

Earlier this year the government came under pressure to take action on business rates after a revaluation of property in Britain hit the owners of shops, restaurants and pubs in parts of the country where property prices had surged. For example, a property boom in the Suffolk coastal town of Southwold forced rateable values up by 152%, with some shop owners saying the hike threatened the viability of their businesses.

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Private parking firms pursue one million more motorists

The number of motorists hit with “extortionate” penalties of up to £100 by private parking firms has soared by more than a million in 12 months, causing renewed anger over the government’s failure to crack down on cowboy operators.

Figures from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency show that a record 4.7 million vehicle details were released to parking companies — allowing them to pursue motorists for payments — in 2016-17.

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Schools locked into expensive contracts may find their only option is to cut staff

Schools are paying thousands of pounds more than they should for everyday items because they are locked into PFI contracts they have no control over, a Tes investigation has revealed.

In what are dubbed “life-cycle costs”, schools are charged over the duration of PFI contracts, which results in even modest monthly payments mounting up over the years.

One teacher, who asks not to be named, cites an example: “We are a PFI school with an annual PFI bill of £132,478. We have been paying £88 [a year] for the installation of a new sink for 14 years now. With nine years left on the PFI contact, that sink will cost £2,024.”

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Del Boy council scheme to sell bottled park water

Not since Del Boy and Rodney tried bottling “Peckham Spring” water in an episode of Only Fools and Horses has a venture sounded quite this unlikely.

A cash-strapped city council is considering raising money by selling water from a bore hole in one of its parks. The refreshing scheme is one of 82 ideas that are being considered by Bristol city council to try to make its parks department pay for itself by 2020.

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General election: MPs ready to approve snap poll on 8 June

Theresa May's plan for a snap general election on 8 June is set to be authorised by MPs later.

The early poll is expected to secure the two-thirds Commons majority it requires to go ahead, with Labour's Jeremy Corbyn welcoming the PM's surprise announcement on Tuesday.

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Housing problems causing mental illness, says charity

Housing problems in England are causing people to suffer anxiety, depression and panic attacks, says Shelter.

Of people who had experienced housing worries within the past five years, 69% said their mental health was affected, suggests research for the charity.

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Public services pressures the next government can’t ignore

It is no secret that the Conservative Government has struggled to implement the promises of their last manifesto, particularly those around spending controls. As our Performance Tracker shows, the short-term belt-tightening measures that produced efficiencies in the early part of the last Parliament – staff cuts and wage control – are no longer working.

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May to seek snap election for 8 June

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has announced plans to call a snap general election on 8 June.

She said Britain needed certainty, stability and strong leadership following the EU referendum.

There will be a Commons vote on the proposed election on Wednesday - she will need Parliament's backing to hold a vote before 2020.

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Thousands of children miss out on first choice of primary school

Thousands of children in England have lost out on their first choice of primary school this year, as councils face increasing pressure to provide enough places for the rapidly growing population.

More than 600,000 four-year-olds were due to be allocated school places for September on what has become known as National Offer Day.

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Hundreds of children's playgrounds in England close due to cuts

Hundreds of children’s playgrounds have been closed or are being closed by cost-cutting local authorities across England, with councils blaming “unprecedented budget constraints” for the decision to get rid of parks and sports facilities.

A series of freedom of information requests to local authorities found that 112 playgrounds were closed in the 2014-15 financial year, and a further 102 in 2015-16.

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Revolution in council lending could tackle irresponsible borrowing

Most coverage of local government finances falls into two categories of story. The first concerns the egregious rewards paid to “town hall fat cats” for often mediocre performance. The other concerns “savage cuts” being made to this or that service due to a reduction in central government grants.

There is truth in both of these. What has not gone reported so much is that a genuine revolution in local government finance is under way. The traditional model of financing, in which grants are doled out by central government, is gradually being replaced by a system in which councils, collectively, are self-funding and individual councils bear more risk as a result of their own spending and revenue-raising decisions.

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Next wave of free schools approved

Another 131 free schools have been approved to open in England, creating about 69,000 places.

They will include a non-selective school in Dartford opened by an academy trust with runs grammar schools.

All new state schools are now opened under the free school scheme - which can be run by academy trusts, parents or community organisations.

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Social care system 'beginning to collapse' as 900 carers quit every day

More than 900 adult social care workers a day quit their job in England last year, new figures reveal. Care providers warn that growing staff shortages mean vulnerable people are receiving poorer levels of care.

In a letter to the prime minister, the chair of the UK Homecare Association says the adult social care system has begun to collapse.

The government says an extra £2bn is being invested in social care.

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UK inflation rate remains at 2.3%

UK inflation rate remains at 2.3% in March, the highest level since September 2013.

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UK house price growth 'picking up'

House price growth picked up in February, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Across the UK, prices rose by 5.8% in the year to February, up from 5.3% in January, it said.

More recent figures from the Nationwide and the Halifax have suggested that house price growth is slowing down.

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Anger as 539 council bosses paid more than PM Theresa May

At least 2,300 council employees in England and Wales are earning six-figure salaries, according to research from the TaxPayers' Alliance.

The group, which campaigns for smaller government and lower taxes, claims the number of public sector workers being paid in excess of £100,000 a year is increasing.

It said 539 of these employees received packages worth more than £150,000 in 2015/16 - more than Prime Minister Theresa May.

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Essex council taken to court over care home fee rates

The country’s largest representative body for providers of adult social care has accused Essex council of ‘unlawful’ practices with regards to how much it pays care home providers.

Care England has obtained permission from a court to proceed with judicial review proceedings against Essex County Council, challenging the fee rates its pays to independent care home providers.

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Parents facing fines over term-time holidays considering class action against councils who misled them, law firm reveals

Parents who face fines for taking children on term-time holidays are to launch a legal class action against the councils who misled them, a law firm has revealed.

Solicitors at Simpson Millar told The Daily Telegraph they are preparing a group law suit against local authorities who allegedly issued misleading guidance to parents which seemed to say it was permissible to take children out of school without headteachers' approval.

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What we need is a national social care service

Neil Kinnock was on the radio at the weekend, talking about his hero Aneurin Bevan with the journalist Matthew Parris and one of Bevan’s biographers, John Campbell. Any conversation about Bevan’s life is mostly about the NHS and so it was this time, too. But it was a useful reminder of how, among all the battles fought over its creation, among the fiercest was the question of replacing a patchwork of local provision with a single centralised structure that tried to guarantee that everyone got the same level of care wherever they lived...

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School budget squeeze 'is reducing pupils' subject choice'

Pressure on school budgets in England is leading to a narrower secondary curriculum, with teaching posts in some subjects being cut, unions have said.

Teachers of subjects not included in the EBacc league table measure are the most at risk, research from the ATL and NUT unions has suggested.

Of 1,200 union members polled, before the ATL annual conference in Liverpool, 93% were "pessimistic" about funding.

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Labour pledges £10 minimum wage

Labour will raise the legal minimum wage to £10 an hour by 2020, Jeremy Corbyn will announce today in a move that could put further pressure on the social care and hospitality industries.

The Labour leader will pledge a “real living wage” for every employee over 18 if he is elected, in an attempt to outflank the government’s national living wage announced two years ago by George Osborne.

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Raise tax on Chelsea tractors and luxury gas-guzzling supercars to pay for diesel scrappage scheme, says MP

Taxes on gas-guzzling cars should be put up to fund a diesel scrappage scheme, a Tory MP argues today.

Charlie Elphicke said vehicle excise duty should be raised on the top 5 per cent highest-emission cars - including luxury SUVs and sports cars as well as older models - to help to raise the £2billion needed to pay for the scheme. 

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Teachers' union urges limits on pay of academy bosses

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) conference in Liverpool has voted to lobby against "excessive pay" for academy chief executives.

Some academy bosses "have decided to treat education as a gravy train and are milking schools", Leicestershire delegate Simon Clarkson told the conference.

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Speed bumps could disappear from UK roads as part of new plan to cut pollution

Speed bumps could be removed from the nation’s roads as part of the Government’s plans to cut pollution.

Other traffic-calming measures could also be removed to prevent cars repeatedly slowing down and speeding up, which almost doubles the amount of harmful gases they pump out.

Councils will be advised to take measures to improve the flow of traffic as part of a new clean air strategy to be unveiled later this month.

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Landlords earn millions in benefits for micro‑flats

Unscrupulous landlords are milking taxpayers of millions of pounds by converting properties into tiny units where people live in squalid conditions, according to a report.

The units are marketed as self-contained flats and therefore attract the maximum level of housing benefit, which is paid directly to the landlords. Vulnerable people are being housed in poor and sometimes dangerous properties while the owner receives large sums in benefits.

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Councils invited to bid for share of £490m road investment fund

Councils can now bid for a share of the £490m put aside by central government to improve the nation’s roads.

Starting yesterday, funding from the National Productivity Investment Fund will be available for a variety of local roads projects to be completed between 2018 and 2020 that are designed to tackle congestion.

The competition will run until 30 June, and councils will be given details about how to bid by the Department for Transport.

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Half of councils yet to publish a Local Plan warns report

Nearly half of all local planning authorities in England have yet to publish a draft Local Plan, new research has revealed.

Planned and Deliver, published by planning and development consultancy Lichfields, found only 36% of local planning authorities have adopted a Local Plan under the National Planning Policy Framework.

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Jeremy Corbyn says Labour will impose VAT on private school fees to pay for free school meals

A Labour government will impose VAT on private school fees to pay for free meals for all primary school pupils, Jeremy Corbyn is to announce.

The Labour leader will say on Thursday that the policy will boost the health and educational attainment of all children while ending a "subsidy to the privileged few".

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DCLG to consult councils on spending model for Troubled Families scheme

The government will review the spending model of its current Troubled Families programme with local councils, the first annual report of the controversial scheme has revealed.

The programme was first introduced in 2012 and ran until 2015, costing an estimated £1bn to implement – including just under £500m from central government pots.

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One in 10 councils slash funding for social care, report finds

One in 10 councils have cut their spending on social care by more than a quarter, a think tank has found, prompting warnings from campaigners that the system is "no longer able to cope with increasing demand".

Overall local authority spending on social care fell by 11 per cent in real terms between 2009/10 and 2015/16, with six in every seven councils having made at least some cut in its care spending per adult resident over the period, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found.

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Derby school support staff vote for council pay offer

Teaching assistants in Derby have voted to end months of strike action over changes to pay and working time.

It brings to an end a row over Derby City Council's changes to school support staff contracts, which Unison said would see individual teaching assistants lose £6,000 a year.

A cash lump sum for some of those affected has been agreed.

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New Enterprise Zones ‘go live’

Twelve new Enterprise Zones have ‘gone live’, the Government has announced in a move designed to promote economic growth across the country.

Announced in the Autumn Statement 2015, these new zones offer business rates discounts and additional tax breaks, backed by a simplified local planning process.

 

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Schools to receive £2.4bn cash injection

Thousands of schools are to benefit from a £2.4bn cash injection, the Government announced yesterday.

Local councils say they need to create over 230,000 primary and secondary school places nationally between 2017 and 2020.

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CIPFA: Brexit has potential to spark radical reform in public services

Brexit will have a “immeasurable” effect on the running of public services in the UK, but could also provide a “catalyst for much needed reform,” the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has claimed.

In its ‘The Brexit Balance Sheet: Weighing Up the Public Sector Crisis’ report, CIPFA said that due to policies and regulations being closely scrutinised due to Brexit, there was added scope now more than ever to have a fresh look at failing policies.

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School funding cuts to hit poorer areas harder, says Labour

The proposed funding cuts in the government’s new spending formula for schools in England will disproportionately affect more deprived areas, according to a Labour analysis.

Labour compared Department for Education (DfE) data on the prevalence of pupils qualifying for free school meals against data from a study on the likely impact of the new funding formula published last month by the Education Policy Institute.

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Nearly half UK care home workers leave within a year, finds report

Nearly half of care workers leave the job within a year, a report has found, prompting calls for the Government to urgently address serious threats to social care provision.

 

A damning study by the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee found that half of care workers (48 per cent) leave within a year of starting, while the annual turnover rate for nurses working in social care stands at 36 per cent – meaning the sector is having to replace more than a third of nurses each year.

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Two million workers receive 4% pay rise

Minimum pay for workers aged 25 and over is rising by more than 4% as the National Living Wage increases from £7.20 an hour to £7.50.

For somebody working full-time, the 1 April increase means a pay rise of nearly £600 a year to about £14,625.

But business groups have again raised concerns that prices may rise to cover the cost.

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Watchdog says government lacks proof business rates retention will boost economic growth

The government has no proof that handing 100% of business rates income to local authorities will deliver its aim of increasing economic growth, according to a spending watchdog.

The National Audit Office has released a report into the Department for Communities and Local Government’s preparations for introducing the move by 2019/20.

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William Eichler 30 March 2017 Whitehall must not use Brexit as an excuse to centralise power, councils warn

Brexit must lead to ‘new legislative freedoms and flexibilities’ for councils, local government leaders insist.

Responding to the unveiling of the white paper on the Great Repeal Bill, the chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA) Lord Porter warned Brexit will have a ‘significant’ impact on local government.

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Cash cuts 'threaten school standards', say MPs

The biggest school funding shortages in England since the 1990s are threatening to damage standards, says a report from MPs overseeing public spending.

The cross-party Public Accounts Committee criticises "delusions" in government over the budget situation.

Head teachers said the Department for Education had "buried its head in the sand" over the extent of financial problems.

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‘Communities provide the best solutions to their own problems’

A year since Greater Manchester became the first region in England to take control of its £6bn health and social care budget, Jon Rouse is pleased at the progress already made, pointing to figures showing that 62-day cancer waits for Greater Manchester were among the best in the country, referrals to treatment targets are better than the England average and access to mental health services exceeds that of the north and of England as a whole. “I am proud,” he says. “In our first year, we have set up more than 20 programmes – and we are performing better overall in these areas than other parts of the country. It is quite an achievement. The key is to make sure the programmes deliver what we intend.”

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Councils face business rates cash crisis

Local authorities face a funding crisis if the government rushes plans to devolve business rates to councils, the National Audit Office has warned.

All £28 billion of the property-related revenues collected from businesses will be handed to local authorities by 2019-20 but plans are slipping behind schedule. A system of cross-subsidies between richer and poorer councils has not been completed and future spending responsibilities have yet to be established.

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Business rate retention plans could come up short, auditors warn

Plans to allow local authorities to retain 100% of business rates are at risk of delay and may fail to deliver financial self-sufficiency for councils or a boost to local growth, the National Audit Office warned today.

The watchdog said that, although the Department for Communities and Local Government has made progress in designing the scheme, there are a number of potential issues that need to be addressed.

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Surrey to quit LGA and CCN

Surrey CC has given notice to quit membership of the Local Government Association (LGA) and the County Council’s Network (CCN).

The move comes in the wake of last week’s announcement by Surrey leader Cllr David Hodge that he would step down as leader of the Local Government Association’s Conservative group, following the political row over the so-called Nickileaks affair.

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LGA: Councils should use business rates retention to prop up struggling services

Councils should be able to use extra cash raised from the change to 100% business rates retention to prop up underfunded local services, the LGA has today told central government.

The announcement was in response to a National Audit Office’s (NAO’s) report on business rates that underlined a number of “clear risks” that Whitehall needed to identify to make the scheme a success.

The report said that the ‘key question’ over business rates should be whether there was enough money in the system for councils to be able to deliver services efficiently and effectively.

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Communities should have say in future of local pubs, Labour says

The Government should allow communities a say in the future of local pubs, say Labour as they call for ‘clarity’ on business rates relief for pubs.

The House of Commons is today considering an amendment to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill which would ensure any proposed pub demolition or change of use would be subject to planning permission.

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Potholes 'the talk of the canteen'

"We talk about it all the time in the canteen, amongst drivers, our concerns about the safety and comfort for our customers," said Stephen Hopson, a Bristol bus driver.

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Council tax bills to rise in nine out of 10 English local authorities

Households across the country are facing inflation-busting council tax hikes with nine out of 10 local authorities in England expected to increase rates from April.

Residents in some areas will see their bills go up by as much as 5%, with councils taking full advantage of new powers to top up their charges with fees ringfenced for social care.

Only 22 of England’s 353 local authorities are to freeze council tax in the coming year and just one, East Hampshire, is to reduce the bill.

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The 22 local authorities freezing council tax – see if yours makes the list

Council tax will rise in nine out of 10 local authorities next month, with many areas set for an inflation-busting five per cent increase in their bills.

Of all 353 local authority areas in England and Wales, East Hampshire is the only one that has promised to cut council tax. The rise means the average Band D bill in England will be £1,680, an increase of £80.

 

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Brexit risks sidelining grammar schools, says Nicky Morgan

Theresa May’s flagship grammar schools policy risks being sidelined due to the scale of legislation required to prepare Britain for life outside the European Union, a former Cabinet minister has warned.

Nicky Morgan, who served as Education Secretary until last year, has said the amount of new laws needed for life after Brexit will leave little or no time for a grammar school bill.

 

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Government announces £32m for estate regeneration

Over 100 housing estates will receive regeneration cash from the Government in order to speed up the building of thousands of new homes.

The communities secretary Sajid Javid announced on Friday the £32m Estate Regeneration Fund will be distributed to local authorities and housing associations across England.

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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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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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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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Councils call for full control on how to spend social care funding

Councils should be given the freedom to decide how best to spend the £2bn social care funding, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said today.

The LGA said councils should be free to determine which social care services the money will target such as supporting people with physical and learning disabilities, and people with mental health conditions.

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Surrey leader to quit LGA role

David Hodge has quit as the leader of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Conservative group following the political furore over the so-called Nickileaks affair.

Cllr Hodge sparked a high-profile row last month when Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused prime minister Theresa May of offering Surrey CC a ‘sweetheart deal’.

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Kent’s 'super council' plans put on hold

Plans to create a new single council for East Kent are being postponed after Shepway District Council voted against the proposal.

The plan would have seen the four existing councils merged - Shepway, Thanet, Dover and Canterbury - and replaced with one ‘super council’.

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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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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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Councils 'face funding gap' to fix roads

One in six roads across England and Wales is in such a bad state it must be repaired within the next five years, according to local authorities.

The Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance survey (ALARM) found that 17% of roads were in "poor" condition.

The government is planning to invest £1.2bn in roads this year, which includes repair and maintenance.But authorities say it will take an average of 12 years and £12bn to bring the local network "up to scratch".

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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".

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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DCLG publish latest Business Rates Information letter

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

 

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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.

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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.

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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".

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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.

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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.

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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".

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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‘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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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