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News Headlines


Treasury Looks for In-Year Cuts to Departments

The Treasury has asked government departments, excluding the protected areas of health, education and international development, to make savings totalling £3bn, including £1bn from the Ministry of Defence, according to The Times. A minister in an unprotected department told the newspaper that his department was 'looking for savings of around 5% in year cuts. This can be achieved through efficiencies: I haven’t been asked to look at stopping providing specific services. We’ve been planning for this and [it] should not really come as a surprise to anyone’. Mr Osborne said in a speech to the CBI that he had asked Greg Hands, the new Chief Secretary, to find savings to budgets of government departments in-year. However, the aspiration to save an additional £3bn is three times higher than the underspending anticipated in this year’s budget by the Office for Budget Responsibility. A Treasury spokesman said departments had been asked 'to identify options’ and said there was ‘no savings target’ for this year.

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IFS Examines How £12bn Welfare Cut Could be Achieved

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has produced an analysis of the proposal the Conservative government to cut £12bn from welfare savings. The IFS research highlights that 'we are yet to hear about' around £10.5bn of cuts to annual benefits spending. About 40% of the welfare budget is protected from cuts, including the state pension and universal pensioner benefits, as a result the rest of the budget will be significantly reduced. The IFS states it is ‘virtually certain’ that deep cuts to tax credits and housing benefits will have to come.

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Intervention for coasting schools

Underperforming schools in England will face a more rapid intervention, under plans announced in the Queen's Speech. The government's proposed legislation will mean that more schools are likely to become academies. An education bill will target so-called "coasting" schools which have shown a "prolonged period of mediocre performance". Labour's Tristram Hunt said a more pressing issue for school standards was "the quality of classroom teaching".

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New Bill to Force Councils to Merge Adoption Services

Local authorities will be compelled to merge services in order to speed up adoption rates, the Department for Education has announced. In a Bill to be set out in the Queen’s Speech, the Government will gain new powers to force authorities to merge local adoption services if they fail to do so themselves within two years. A statement from DfE said adoption is “happening at too small and localised a scale” and mergers would cut waiting times by increasing the pool of potential adopters.

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LGA Sets Out Plan for Fiscal Devolution

A White Paper from the Local Government Association has set out a two-year timetable over which its plans for fiscal devolution could be adopted. The LGA called for long-term settlements to be announced as part of the forthcoming Spending Review, with the removal of the council tax referendum cap and full local retention of business rates. Following this the government should allow voluntary local governance arrangements to be developed across England by 2017. Once suitable structures were in existence, devolution of responsibilities and implementation of fiscal autonomy could be underway ‘comprehensively’ by the end of parliament in 2020, the LGA said.

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CPI-linked bond ‘could provide model for local government borrowing’

After the GLA raised the funds on May 11 as part of moves to construct the Northern Line extension to Battersea, Glen Forbes, managing director of debt capital markets at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, told Public Finance the deal could be replicated as there was investor demand for local government bonds.

He said the GLA deal, developed by Lloyds, was the first ever Sterling bond issuance to link repayments to the Consumer Prices Index, which was forecast to save the GLA as much as £40m over the next 25 years.

Usually, bonds were either fixed or variable rates, based on the Bank of England interest rates, or linked to the retail prices index measure of inflation.

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Chancellor Plans 'Stability' Budget for 8 July

The Chancellor George Osborne has announced he will deliver the majority Conservative government’s first Budget on 8 July. Mr Osborne wrote in the Sun newspaper ‘I am going to take the unusual step of having a second Budget of the year – because I don’t want to wait to turn the promises we made in the election into a reality’. The Chancellor added the Budget would ‘continue with the balanced plan we have to deal with our debts, invest in our health service and reform welfare to make work pay’, but did not say whether details of the £12bn welfare cuts announced in the Conservatives campaign would be announced. The last Budget was held on 18 March.

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LGA Leaders to Osborne: Further Council Cuts 'Not an Option'

A letter to the Chancellor, George Osborne, signed by the leaders of all 375 county, district, unitary and metropolitan councils, as well as London boroughs and Welsh councils, and published in The Observer has argued another round of funding cuts would devastate local services. The letter stated: ‘Further local government funding reductions over the next five years are not an option. The new government must consider the consequences that further funding cuts, without radical reform of the way public money is spent, will have on the services which bind our communities together and protect the most vulnerable’. The LGA is now Conservative-controlled again following the general election.

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Osborne Outlines Devloution Plan for Cities

In George Osborne’s first speech since the general election the Chancellor has set out the Government’s plans for devolution to English cities. Mr Osborne said a City Devolution Bill will be included in the Queen’s Speech on 27 May, which will enable devolution in Greater Manchester and other areas. However, the Chancellor confirmed that only areas electing a city-wide mayor would be given extensive powers over housing, local transport and skills, saying ‘I will not impose this model on anyone, but nor will I settle for less’.

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Council Tax Reforms Proposed by Thinktank

CentreForum, a liberal thinktank, has published a report calling for the reform of council tax with the abolition of council tax bands. The report 'Moving Beyond Mansion Tax', says councils should be able to retain any revenue raised from homes valued at £2m or below, with tax raised on homes above that value distributed nationally. The report also argues for a new Royal Commission to be established to help reform property taxation.

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Cabinet Reshuffle: New SoS at DCLG

Prime Minister David Cameron has reshuffled his cabinet, appointing Greg Clark as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. The Prime Minister will tell the first all-Tory cabinet meeting for 18 years the Conservatives are "the real party of working people" when they meet later today. The Independent says Clark’s in-tray will include local government spending and legislation to allow housing association tenants to buy their homes. It adds he will be under pressure to increase the number of homes built.

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Former vicar wins legal battle against council tax

A retired vicar has won a legal victory against council tax enforcement bills, in a decision that could affect millions of people.

Campaigner Paul Nicolson, 82, launched legal action after complaining that magistrates ruling on allegations of council tax non-payment were failing to check the accuracy of costs bills said to have been run up by Haringey council.

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Early Intervention Fund for Councils Could Drive Significant Savings, 50 Charities Say

The Early Intervention Foundation has brought together a coalition of more than 50 leading charities to call for the creation of a ring-fenced fund to support councils, healthcare providers and other bodies to tackle social problems early and stop young lives being ruined. The Foundation said redesigning local services could reduce spending on ‘picking up the pieces’ of social problems by 10%. They estimate that failure to intervene early in social problems is costing £17bn a year, a tenth of which could be saved by establishing an early intervention investment fund.

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New lib dem plan to give every primary pupil a free school meal

Mr Clegg said today that all children up to age 11 should have free school meals – regardless of their parents’ ability to pay – under Lib Dem plans which he says would save parents £400 a year. The party would spend more than £1billion a year on giving ‘healthy’ lunches to all primary pupils, from 2017-18 when the deficit is cleared and more funding is available. Under-7s already have free meals at school although the policy has been hit by claims that schools are ill-equipped to make hot lunches and the spiralling costs of the policy.

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More older carers risking health

The number of older carers in England is rising, with signs the pressures of looking after loved ones is damaging their health, research suggests.

The warning by Age UK and Carers UK came as the charities released figures showing there were 1.2m carers over 65 - a 25% rise in the past decade.

The biggest increase though has been seen in the over 85s, with the numbers more than doubling to 87,000.

The charities said these older carers needed better support.

The majority of carers over 65 are looking after a partner, although some are looking after elderly parents, or grandchildren, or relations with disabilities, according to the charities.

The research by the charities - based on Census data from 2001 and 2011 and their own analysis - estimated the care provided by older carers was worth £15bn a year.

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IFS Calls on Politicians to Reform Council Tax

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has called on all political parties to reform the council tax system if elected to government. In a briefing on the parties’ tax and benefit plans, the thinktank said no party was proposing what it described as a ‘rational and long overdue’ change. The IFS said the parties should concentrate on overall reform of council tax, rather than 'layering a separate tax on top of it', as proposed by the Liberal Democrats and Labour for their planned levy on high value homes.

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What will the election mean for public services?

What will the election mean for public services?
Analysis of key pledges – from health to housing – by those who may form the next government after the election. It includes a breakdown of manifesto pledges affecting local government and the NHS.

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School Facing Hidden Funding Cuts

Despite commitments by the coalition government to protect spending on schools, many are already facing significant funding reductions. the education services grant (ESG) has been reduced by £53 per pupil from 2015/16, a cut of 38%. Mike Giddings, the director of education services with chartered accountants Clement Keys, said ‘Many schools opted for academy status a few years ago precisely because they wanted more control over their future. Unfortunately, a growing number of individual academies are only now realising that their business model is not sustainable and in some cases, they have only a short period remaining before reserves run out’. Education funding for 16-19-year-olds has not been protected to the same degree as younger pupils and therefore some schools and sixth forms are facing difficulties.

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City mayors could get power over business rates

Chancellor George Osborne will suggest he could hand the power to raise business rates to elected city mayors, as part of his bid to reduce Whitehall’s power and revitalise northern cities.

He told the Guardian on Sunday that developing a new governance structure in cities to rebalance the British economy was his great personal project for a second term. He says devolving power to a Greater Manchester combined authority had been “the beginning and not the end. I find this the most exciting and incredibly creative area of public policy-making in British domestic politics now.”

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Cameron pledge to create 600,000 new businesses each year

David Cameron will pledge today to create 600,000 new businesses each year by 2020 as he launches his small business manifesto. There are now 760,000 more businesses than there were in 2010, the Conservatives said. The Labour Party promised to "cut and then freeze business rates for over 1.5 million smaller business properties" in its manifesto.

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David Cameron - no lack of drive in Conservative campaign

Having a strong economy "matters more than anything", David Cameron told supporters as he said there was "no lack of drive" in the Conservative campaign.

Labour has accused the Conservative campaign of "giving up" over issues like the NHS and immigration.

Mr Cameron emphasised "economic security and stability" in his speech, telling voters that if they wanted to take a risk they should "go with the other guy".

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IFS Publish Analysis of Manifesto Plans

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has published its analysis of all the major parties’ manifestos, saying the electorate had been left ‘somewhat in the dark’ about the details of all the parties’ spending plans. However, their analysis found Conservative plans for the next Parliament involve ‘a significantly larger reduction in borrowing and debt than Labour plans’. The thinktank noted the Tories' plans were based on 'substantial and almost entirely unspecified spending cuts and tax increases' and could involve 'further real cuts to unprotected departments of around £30bn'. On Labour's plans the IFS estimated the party would require 'a mere £1bn' in further spending cuts over the next parliament if a Labour government could achieve his aim of raising an extra £7.5bn through measures. The IFS added that Labour had been 'considerably more vague' about how much it wants to borrow.

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Lib Dems promise £150m carers' support

The Liberal Democrats will launch a disability manifesto on Thursday pledging a £150m support package for carers.


Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will promise a raft of benefits for carers including a £250 holiday bonus.

One in eight adults across England and Wales provide unpaid care for family or friends, official figures show.

Mr Clegg said more must be done to reward the "unsung heroes of British society".

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Lib Dems Would End Below Inflation Pay Deals for Public Sector

The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, has said pay should rise in real terms for two years from 2016 for public sector workers and then by more than inflation once the deficit has been dealt with. Mr Clegg said public sector workers had ‘made enough sacrifices’ and it was time to end ‘the era of pay restraint’. The Lib Dem announcement expands on its manifesto pledge of "fair and affordable increases" in public sector pay. The deputy PM argued that the public sector restraint policy since 2010 was ‘uncomfortable but unavoidable’ and had helped saved £12bn.

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Parties' Manifestos Outline Policies for Local Government

All five major political parties in England have published their manifestos, detailing their plans for local government if they were to win the next election. The Conservatives would give more power over economic development, transport and social care to cities that choose to have an elected mayor. Under a Labour government an English Devolution Act would transfer £30bn of funding to city and county regions and the Lib Dems have promised to implement ‘devolution on demand, where powers would be devolved to councils or groups of councils.

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Former DCLG Chief Warns Over Cuts to Local Government

The former Permanent Secretary of DCLG, Lord Bob Kerslake has warned that it would be ‘unwise’ to repeat the cuts to local government made in the last Parliament. Speaking to the Financial Times, he said the costs of social care faced by councils meant ;’ local government can’t just simply be asked to do the same again. Lord Kerslake also said if defence spending was protected to some degree ‘the pressure on the unprotected budgets’ was ‘even more acute’.

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Summons to Court over Unpaid Council Tax Rise by a Quarter

Nearly 3 million people were summoned to court in 2013/14 because they had not paid council tax, a 25% increase on the previous tax year, accrodimng to freedom of information request from a campaign grop, fales Economy. The findings were published at the same time as a report from the New Policy Institute, which found council tax discounts being offered to poorer households were being cut by local authorities for the third year running. Over two million of the lowest earning families are now thought to be paying £167 more every year in council tax than they were in 2010.

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Final NHB Allocations

The Department for Communities and Local Government have announced the final 2015-16 allocations for New Homes Bonus.

The technical support team will update the calculator on the SCT website.

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DCLG sees biggest civil servant staff cuts

The Department for Communities and Local Government suffered the largest fall in staff numbers of any ministry since 2010, with over one in three posts being cut, an analysis by the Institute for Government has found.

The think-tank’s latest Whitehall Monitor report found the civil service employed 405,400 full-time equivalent staff in the three months to the end of 2014. This was down 1,290 on the previous quarter, and a reduction of more than 70,000 since the 2010 Spending Review.

DCLG has seen the biggest percentage fall in the period, with staff numbers falling at Eric Pickles’ department by nearly 900, a decline of 35%.

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Labour unveils sweeping devolution pledge

Labour is pledging to deliver a £30bn devolution deal guaranteeing new local powers over everything from new homes to public transport if it forms the next Government.

At the party’s local election campaign launch in Leeds the party unveiled plans to ‘reverse a century of centralisation’.

Its five-year Local Government Pledge includes handing local areas control over funding for training and employment schemes and the ‘first proper housing plan for a generation’ combined with new powers to ensure developers use their land – or lose it.

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Concerns over Care Act Funding as it Comes Into Force

The President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), David Pearson, has warned that elements of the Care Act which came into into force on 1 April 2015 are not fully funded. Mr Pearson said councils have ‘still not fully agreed with central government the additional costs that we shall have to incur in order to implement the legislation fully and successfully’. He said the success of the legislation was dependent on ensuring the estimated £3.4bn funding gap to 2020 was closed. The LGA said that funding for the duties contained in the Act could fall as much as £50m short of costs in the first year alone.

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Labour Would Not Abolish Referendum Limit

The shadow Communities Secretary, Hilary Benn, has confirmed that Labour would retain the right to set a referendum limit if his party won the general election. He told the Yorkshire Post that ‘we are not going to change those arrangements but we are going to give that greater fiscal freedom in the form of the 100% retention of business rate income;. Mr Benn also said Labour would review local authority funding, arguing councils in the most deprived areas had been hit hardest by funding cuts.

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Bedroom tax policy ruled ‘unlawful’ in landmark case

A disabled couple have successfully challenged a council’s bedroom tax policy, in a legal case that could have ‘significant consequences’ for the rest of the county.

The couple mounted a legal challenge against Sandwell MBC, arguing that its policy of taking disability benefits into account when assessing housing support was unlawful.

Lawyers, Irwin Mitchell, argued the council’s policy of using Disability Living Allowance (DLA) as income when deciding to allocate a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) for people affected by the bedroom tax was a breach of the Equality Act 2010 and Article 14 of the European Convention On Human Rights.

Fiona McGhie, the specialist public lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, warned the ruling will have wider consequences for councils across England and Wales.

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Conservatives on course for majority

The Conservatives are on course for a small overall majority in the Commons, with a handful of General Election results left to be declared. Labour has been all but wiped out by the SNP in Scotland and is failing to make enough gains in England and Wales. The Lib Dems has also suffered huge losses with high profile casualties including Vince Cable, Douglas Alexander and Ed Davey.

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