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News Headlines


UK's winter floods create 30,000 tonnes of landfill waste

Almost 30,000 tonnes of damaged household goods have had to be dumped in landfill following devastating winter floods, town hall chiefs have said.  A snapshot analysis by the LGA estimates councils have been landed with a £2.25 million landfill tax bill as a result of the clear-up after the floods. It is calling for all landfill tax to be returned to local taxpayers to be invested in projects that support jobs and growth in the area, instead of going to the Treasury. Waste ranging from ruined furniture and carpets to broken freezers, fridges and washing machines from around 16,500 homes and businesses flooded in December is classed as “contaminated” and cannot be recycled. Cllr Peter Box, the LGA’s Environment spokesman, said: “As these items are ‘contaminated’ with floodwater, councils cannot recycle them and they have to be taken to landfill sites - which is costing millions. We are calling on government to allow councils to keep all of this landfill tax.”

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MPs vote to approve Local Government Finance Settlement

Last night, MPs voted in favour of the Local Government Finance Settlement by 315 votes to 209. Communities Secretary Greg Clark said: “We’re moving from a world in which the Government grant accounted for nearly 80 per cent of local government expenditure in 2010. We’re moving to a world where by 2020 only 5 per cent of local government spending power will come from the Revenue Support Grant.” In his comment piece, the Guardian’s Patrick Butler warns that the “Tory narrative about local government up to now has been that no-one has noticed the cuts”. He adds: “That story doesn’t work so well now, as budgets that are already hacked back to the bone (40 per cent between 2010 and 2015) now must contend with five more years of austerity. More councils will have to reduce services to the legal minimum, at a time when demand is increasing. As the LGA has pointed out, council tax will rise, at the same time as the quality and quantity of the services it pays for dips visibly.”

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Fears over attendance allowance transfer plans

Campaigners are claiming that government plans to transfer responsibility of a £5bn social care benefit to councils are disguised cost-cutting measures that could restrict the number of older people getting care at home.  Late last year, ministers revealed plans to transfer control of the attendance allowance to councils. Nearly 1.5 million people receive the allowance, paid at a rate of £55.10 or £82.30 a week, to help with personal care for those who have a physical or mental disability. As part of the plans, local government is set to get extra income by keeping all the rates it collects from businesses. But Cllr Claire Kober, resources portfolio holder for the LGA, said: “Transferring responsibility for administering attendance allowance to local government would account for nearly half of additional business rates income. Cost pressures and applications for demand-led services like attendance allowance can go up very quickly whereas it can take much longer for local areas to generate business rates income.” 

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Other Headlines

Councils to get extra £300m to ease funding reductions

English councils likely to be hardest hit by cuts to central government funding are to be given an extra £300m over the next two years. Local Government Secretary Greg Clark announced the "transitional" cash in a statement to Parliament, saying he had listened to the concerns of councils. He also announced £90 million of extra funding for rural authorities. The LGA said it was pleased there would be extra money to ease the effects of funding cuts but that councils would still face financial challenges. LGA chairman Lord Porter said: "The LGA has been working hard with the government on behalf of all councils - both publicly and privately - to highlight the financial challenges they face over the next few years. We are pleased it has listened to our fundamental call for new money to be found to smooth out funding reductions for some councils in 2016-17 and beyond without any other councils losing out further as a result. Funding reductions will still be challenging for councils over the next four years. Any extra cost pressures will have to be funded by councils finding savings from elsewhere."

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Cutting ever deeper: councils left no choice but to hollow out elderly care

Many authorities will be forced to cut social care next year, leaving increasing numbers of elderly people stuck in hospital wards or waiting in A&E, it is reported. A Guardian feature reports on the decision made by Cambridgeshire County Council to reluctantly cut its mental health budget, stop funding for the Family Nurse Partnership, and discussions about how it will find £50 million of savings from social care services. Commentator Anne Perkins says: “What is happening in Cambridgeshire is happening in every corner of the UK.”

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MPs revolt over county council cuts

County councils facing drastic cuts are to be offered more money by the Government, it is reported. More than 50 backbench MPs wrote to Communities Secretary Greg Clark to warn they would vote against the Government unless action was taken to ease the funding pressure on rural counties. News of the deal comes days after the LGA also warned that unless the Government offers additional funding, councils will reach financial breaking point within two years. The Government was set to finalise the council funding settlement last Thursday but "horse-trading" with disgruntled MPs has delayed the process, it is reported.

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The places where it's rather hard to get a bus

Campaigners have warned bus services across England and Wales threatened with being wiped out by cuts to council budgets. The LGA said councils are "reluctantly taking difficult decisions to scale back services and review subsidised routes as a result" of Whitehall cutbacks. To investigate the issue, the BBC has visited counties across the country – including Dorset and Hertfordshire – to find out which services have been lost and the innovative ways councils are protecting routes.

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Jeremy Corbyn: 'Councils should run local services'

Councils should be able to run utilities in their areas as part of moves to "roll back the tide" of privatisation, Jeremy Corbyn will say. In a speech to the Association of Labour Councillors, the Labour leader will say English councils should have similar powers to cities on the continent, where local authorities have control of water and energy services. The speech comes as it emerged as Muslim Women’s Network UK has written to Mr Corbyn claiming women have been stopped from becoming councillors by Muslim men in the party. Labour said its selection procedures included strong, positive action such as all-women shortlists and rules to ensure women were selected in winnable council seats.

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Millions of pounds extra needed for care services, warn local government leaders

The Local Government Association says the money for the Better Care Fund, due to be released over the next four years, should be used to support services which are under severe strain now.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the LGA's community wellbeing spokeswoman, said: 'Even with the same amount of money to spend in four years’ time pressures on spending will need to be funded by councils finding savings elsewhere.

'It is inevitable that adult social care will have to contribute to this process, which in turn may continue to impact on provider fee levels.

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Police commissioners should start free schools for troubled children, home secretary says

Elected police and crime commissioners should be given new powers to set up free schools for troubled children, according to home secretary Theresa May.

She told a national newspaper the move would be part of a plan to expand commissioners' powers into youth justice, probation and court services after the May elections.

The new schools would support troubled children and prevent them falling into a life of crime, she said.

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Public sector payoffs capped at £95,000

A crackdown on public sector payoffs could save hundreds of millions of pounds, the Government has announced.

In a move that will hit local government workers and others in the NHS, civil service and other parts of the public sector, exit payments will be capped at £95,000.

The Government says modernising public sector pay and conditions has already saved £12 billion.

New rules will also ban private healthcare packages and restrict the use of confidentiality clauses.

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Councils could be ‘breaking the law’ by closing libraries, warn Unite

Local authorities have a statutory duty to provide 'comprehensive and efficient' library services, and may be contravening this by shutting down libraries, the union warned yesterday.

Over 400 libraries have been closed down in the last five years because, Unite argue, they are seen as 'a soft target' by local authorities trying to find savings in the face of Government cuts.

The latest figures published by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) show that in March 2011 there were 4,340 libraries in England, Scotland and Wales.

In March 2015 that figure had dipped to 3,917 - a loss of 423 libraries.

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Union warns £3bn not enough to save care homes from bankruptcy

Increases in council tax will not be enough to fill a yawning gap facing social care in England which will be more than £3.3 billion a year by 2020, the GMB union has warned. Care homes are being squeezed by a fall in the fees that cash-strapped local authorities pay towards residents and a rise in staff costs. This pressure will be exacerbated in April by the introduction of the National Living Wage, meaning care homes will have to pay all staff over the age of 25 at least £7.20 per hour. The LGA has called for £700 million that is due to be injected into the Better Care Fund over the next four years to be released immediately. Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the LGA’s Community Wellbeing spokeswoman, said: “We are concerned that councils will not see the benefit of this extra money for social care until towards the end of the decade when services supporting our elderly and vulnerable are under severe strain now.”

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8,500 patients blocking NHS beds every day

Up to 8,500 bed-blocking patients are stuck in hospitals each day because of a lack of care at home and cuts to social care, a major report warns today. The crisis costs the NHS £900 million a year and Labour said the crisis is the result of social care services being cut by more than £3 billion since 2010. Separate figures show the health service is short of an estimated 50,000 doctors, nurses and other clinical staff, meaning hospitals and other organisations rely heavily on expensive agency workers.

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Ofsted says academy chain is failing pupils

The UK’s largest academy chain, Academies Enterprise Trust, has been accused of failing too many of its pupils by Ofsted. The watchdog delivered a damning verdict on the chain after it inspected its schools last year. Almost half of pupils who attended AET secondary academies were at facilities rates less than good. Four out of 10 AET primary pupils attended schools that did not provide a good education.

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Public health grant cuts 'will have major impact on NHS programmes'

Reductions to council's public health grants are "cuts to the NHS in all but name", council leaders have said. The LGA warned there would be a "major impact" on many programmes for smokers, overweight people and drug users among others. The comments follow a survey conducted by Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) on cuts to public health grants. Almost four fifths (78 per cent) of Directors of Public Health who responded to the poll said that the cuts would "have a detrimental impact on health". Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Community Wellbeing Portfolio Holder at the LGA, said: "Given that much of councils' public health budget goes to pay for NHS services like sexual health, public health nursing, drug and alcohol treatment and health checks, these are cuts to the NHS in all but name.” The poll comes ahead of the LGA and the ADPH’s annual public health conference in London today.

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Councils to get Sunday trading powers

Ministers are to press ahead with plans to allow councils in England and Wales to relax Sunday trading laws. Business Secretary Sajid Javid said the move would allow local authorities to "help struggling high streets". The LGA has supported the devolution of Sunday trading powers, saying that councils “should be given the flexibility to decide how to drive growth and best attract business to their local high street”.

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Council tax 'to rise four per cent' in April

Council tax is on the rise it emerged today, with two thirds of England’s largest authorities planning increases of around 4 per cent in April. Councils can already increase tax by 1.99 per cent a year. However, new powers aimed at boosting social care for elderly and disabled people mean they can now increase bills by a further two per cent over the next four years. So many councils will now raise bills by around four per cent, adding £47 a year to “Band D” bills in some areas, the Express claims. Cllr Sharon Taylor, LGA Vice Chair, said: “While extra income will help ease some of the funding pressures it would be wrong to think this will be enough to solve the long-term pressures facing local services and communities. After years of striving to keep council tax as low as possible, town halls find themselves having no choice but to ask residents to pay more over the next few years while possibly offering fewer services in return.”

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Expect tax rises and service cuts as councils feel squeeze

Residents face rising council tax bills and more cuts to services as councils are pushed "closer to the financial edge" by the Government's spending squeeze. Many English councils say they have been hit by worse-than-expected funding reductions from the Government - leaving some facing multi-million pound budget shortfalls for the coming year, the LGA is warning. The scale is expected to become clearer in a few weeks as councils meet to agree their budgets for 2016/2017. However, many are already warning they will have to raise council tax by close to 4% and deliver further cuts to services. Town hall leaders have sought meetings with ministers and written to the Prime Minister and Chancellor warning them of the impact of the cuts, with some saying they face not being able to meet their legal duties or be "viable" as councils. The LGA's Vice Chairwoman, Cllr Sharon Taylor said: "Councils have been planning for further funding cuts in 2016/2017 but some will have to find millions of pounds more in savings than they had planned for in even their worst case scenarios. For some councils, this might push them closer to the financial edge. It will be our residents who suffer as councils are forced to take tough decisions about which services have to be scaled back or stopped altogether to plug funding gaps over the next few years."

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Tory MPs call for U-turn on school places as crisis looms

Leading Conservatives are demanding change to government education policy and an easing of cuts, amid predictions that councils in Conservative-run heartlands will soon be unable to provide school places for all the children in their areas. The growing concerns of Tory MPs and council leaders are being relayed to ministers by the LGA, which is calling on the Government to hand back powers to councils so that they can expand schools or open new ones to avoid a crisis of provision across the country. The LGA says that in areas of need, councils will often struggle to find people to sponsor “free schools” and believes that local councils are “uniquely situated” to manage demand. Cllr Roy Perry, the Conservative Leader of Hampshire County Council and Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said councils had created 300,000 extra primary school places by expanding class sizes, converting non-classroom space and diverting money from vital school repair programmes, but now needed to be able to expand schools or establish new ones to meet demand. He said: “If they [schools] are not willing to expand, then powers to create new schools should be returned to local authorities themselves if they are unable to secure high-quality free school sponsors in their communities.”

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Food checks 25 per cent down despite horsemeat crisis

Public health is being put at risk because councils are failing to carry out the legally required number of inspections at restaurants, takeaways and food processing plants, a report by the Food Standards Agency claims. The report, which has tracked trends in enforcement activity over the past five years, found that while there was growth of almost seven per cent in the number of UK food businesses, food standards interventions fell by six per cent over the same period, and random sampling of food fell from 92,122 samples in 2010-11 to 68,471 samples in 2014-15 - a reduction of 25 per cent. In a letter to Chancellor, George Osborne, food safety experts note that since 2013, the year of the horsemeat crisis, the FSA has been asked to make £22 million in savings, while councils are having to cut their environmental health budgets by about 20 per cent. They warn that with further cuts to come, public health could be jeopardised.

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Rural Tory MPs to defy Cameron over town hall cuts

David Cameron is facing the prospect of a major backbench Tory rebellion over planned cuts to town hall budgets, amid claims that rural areas are being unfairly targeted. Up to 50 MPs are understood to have signed a letter demanding changes to the Government’s proposed settlement with local government, which was published last month. The letter calling for shire councils to be given more money has been sent to the Communities Secretary, Greg Clarke, before a final deal is laid before the Commons within the next fortnight.

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Thousands of children held overnight in cells

More than 22,000 children, including an eight-year-old, were held overnight in cells in 2014-15, police figures show. Criminal justice experts said authorities were breaching their statutory duties by detaining under 18s overnight in adult cells. But police said there was a "lack of alternative accommodation", while local authorities said they faced difficulties in finding emergency care. Cllr Roy Perry, Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: "Young people should never have to spend the night in a police cell and it is good to see that numbers are reducing since councils took control of custody budgets. However, we know that there will be times when there is no other option available within a short time frame. It is vital that the police and children’s services work closely together to ensure that this only happens in the most exceptional circumstances, and that these instances are resolved as quickly as possible. There are a number of schemes already in place across the country to address this issue, with several councils developing plans for innovative work that will improve and expand the range of emergency care options available for young people.” 

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Council hit by £1 million malware demand

Lincolnshire County Council's computer systems have been closed for four days after being hit by computer malware demanding a £1 million ransom. Ransomware encrypts data on infected machines and only unscrambles it if victims pay a fee. Some services were affected, including libraries and online booking systems, but the council said it hopes to have most systems working again early next week.

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Pension funds must not be gambled on Government projects, Unison warns

Unison said combined funds should decide how its members’ money is invested, not Government ministers.

The Government is drawing up plans to enable the 89 funds that make up the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) to be pooled and invested in infrastructure projects.

Although it is not opposed to the pooling of funds, Unison questioned the role of ministers in investment decisions – and the prospect of subsidising Government projects.

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Flood risk areas face council tax increase

Homeowners who live in flood-hit regions could face higher council tax bills to pay for new flood defences, the Environment Secretary Liz Truss told MPs. A scheme in Somerset will allow all six councils in the region to raise council tax by 1.25 per cent to pay for preventative measures. Councils in Cumbria are considering the option and the LGA said the Somerset scheme meant there was now an “important precedent for other areas potentially to follow”. Last night, the Environment Agency had 11 flood warnings and 98 flood alerts in place.

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Councils could face claims over pumped floodwater damage

Local authorities have been warned to prepare for claims from farmers affected by pumped floodwater after a council in Yorkshire lost a test case.

Farming business Robert Lindley Ltd took East Riding of Yorkshire Council to court over damage caused to crops after floodwater was pumped into a watercourse close to the farm. It led to additional flooding in the farmer’s field.

The local authority argued it was not liable and had been coordinating a response to flooding on behalf of several agencies. The pumping was carried out by the Environment Agency and local fire service to protect properties in a nearby village.

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Report: Extend social care levy to district councils

District councils should be allowed to charge a ‘prevention precept’ to help them get to the root of health inequalities, according to a new report.

By widening the 2% adult social care levy to districts, the Government would enable them to play a bigger role in the prevention agenda.

The King’s Fund estimated that for every £1 invested in preventative work, almost £70 is saved in future health and social care costs. The precept, announced last year’s autumn statement, is currently restricted to unitary authorities. But the District Councils’ Network (DCN) has argued that it should be extended to the district element of council tax bills – as long as the extra income raised is ringfenced for prevention services.

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Cuts are 'not realistic' and show 'misunderstanding' among ministers, council tells PM

Political leaders from all sides at East Sussex Council have joined forces to issue a plea to David Cameron over latest cuts, warning they are unrealistic and betray a lack of understanding about local government.

The local authority has revealed it will have to raise council tax by 3.99% from April as it attempts to deal with £70-90m of savings by 2019.

Six group leaders sent the joint letter to the prime minister to raise their concerns about the damage this will inflict on the quality of local services. In it they warned him funding allocations did not reflect the 'varying needs' of different areas and that East Sussex's ageing population made it particularly vulnerable to cuts.

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Isle of Wight Council warns cuts are pushing it to the brink

Isle of Wight Council has warned the Government it may not ‘be viable in the very near future’ if planned budget cuts go ahead.

Chief executive John Metcalfe has written to the Department for Communities and Local Government asking it to clarify how it will assess whether a council ‘has reached the “tipping point” where it has insufficient resources available to meet its legal obligations’.

The council expects to have a budget gap of £32m over the next four years, which it warned would increase unless it can raise council tax by at least 3.75%.

It said the Government had assumed the council’s £46m reserves could be used to plug the shortfall. But the council warned £30.6m was already allocated ‘to meet known commitments in future years’ and £4.4m had been exhausted to support services.

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NHS chief demands political consensus on funding social care

NHS Chief Executive, Sir Simon Stevens, says Britain urgently needs a new political consensus on how we pay for elderly and social care, with the funding debate considering the value of pensions and homes. Sir Simon says he wants the Government to rescue social care services from their downward spiral of funding cuts and increasing unmet need by reaching an agreement on how care will be paid for by 2018, the NHS’s 70th birthday. Otherwise, he says, he fears the service will be unable to cope if the recent decline in help received by older people, especially in their own homes, continues to increase demand for medical care. Previously, Labour, the LGA and older people’s charities such as Age UK have criticised George Osborne, for not tackling the issue in his spending review in November apart from letting local councils levy a two per cent precept on council tax rates to fund social care.

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County cuts could signal end of services, say council leaders

County council leaders have urged the Government to either postpone cutbacks or provide emergency transitional funding – or else risk the end of non-statutory services.

The County Councils Network (CCN) said its members would see a 34% cut in core funding as a result of the local government finance settlement. The average across the country is 28%. Such deep cuts will have 'severe consequences for local services', said the CCN.

Cllr Paul Carter, CCN chairman, said: ‘Our evidence shows that counties see the biggest reduction in funding due to the changes being made in the distribution of local grants.

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Fine home towns for petty criminals

The Institute of Public Policy Research has called for the cost of jailing petty criminals to be charged to their home towns to help reduce the growing prison population. It says control over money held by Whitehall to cover custody costs should be devolved and spent on improving services, such as drugs and alcohol dependency programmes to help deter reoffending. Under the plan, local authorities would be billed for the full cost of a prison bed to deter them from jailing low-level offenders.

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County councils warn non-statutory services could end amid funding squeeze

The “unprecedented” reductions in funding for county councils set out in the local government finance settlement could "all but end" the provision of non-statutory services in some parts of the country, the County Councils Network has warned today.

In a response released following the closure of a consultation on the settlement, counties warned that changes to how local government funding is distributed could see funding cut by one third.

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Government cuts to hit counties

The Conservative Party has been accused of declaring war on the middle classes over plans to cut county council budgets. Council tax bills are expected to rise by nearly four per cent, which will see well-off rural areas bear the brunt of cuts as government funding is reduced by almost half in some places. Dorset, Buckinghamshire and Leicestershire are reported to be making contingency plans to reduce jobs and services. Documents seen by the Sunday Express show rural counties face an average funding cut of 33.7 per cent in 2016/17, compared with an average cut of 24 per cent in metropolitan areas and an average of 27.6 per cent across all councils in England. Last night is was revealed that more than 40 backbench Conservative MPs have signed a letter to Communities Secretary, Greg Clarke, urging the Government to think again.

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DCLG Official Says 100% Rates Retention Will Require New Needs Assessment

Stuart Hoggan, deputy director of local government finance reform and settlement at DCLG, has told the LGA's finance conference that the Department's thinking on 100% business rates retention is still at a very early stage. Mr Hoggan said the Department needed 'to work out a way of measuring relative needs and resources', acknowledging that 'the instance of business rates is different from the instance of need to spend'. Mr Hoggan told delegates that this change would be 'quite controversial', but DCLG did not have a 'closed mind on how this will work at all'.

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Cross-party review 'needed for health and care'

A cross-party commission should be set up to review the future of the NHS and social care in England, a trio of former health ministers say. Ex-health secretaries Stephen Dorrell – now Chairman of NHS Confederation - Alan Milburn and Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb say without radical change, the future looks bleak. Mr Lamb said a growing number of hospitals will still struggle with deficits and to keep pace with demand despite extra investment. And he said that was before the state of social care was taken into account. He claimed those services were on the brink with concerns that a number of care home providers were set to leave the market.

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Councils could be fined £5,000 a day for unmanned roadworks

Councils and utility companies could be fined up to £5,000 a day for leaving roadworks unmanned at weekends, the Department for Transport has said. The proposal is among measures the Government is considering to reduce congestion on English A-roads. Those carrying out work on major routes would have to operate seven days a week, or remove road restrictions when no work was taking place. Councils and utility companies would be fined for needlessly inconveniencing drivers by leaving roadworks in place over weekends when no-one is working on them. 

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Council leaders express fear over years of cuts in local funding

Councils have warned pressure is mounting on already stretched local services as they face billions of pounds more spending cuts. The Government confirmed that town hall spending will fall by 6.7 per cent between 2016 and 2020, councils will be able to raise extra money for social care through a 2 per cent precept on council tax bills, which will add up to £100 onto the average Band D bill by the end of the decade, and have the option to set four-year funding settlements. Communities Secretary Greg Clark said overall spending power for councils would remain relatively stable at £44.5 billion in 2015/16 and £44.3 billion in 2019/20. However, the LGA said this “flat-cash” settlement would still present significant challenges to councils. Lord Porter, LGA Chairman, said: “While councils will strive to limit the impact on local communities they will face tough decisions about how to keep providing the hundreds of vital services which communities value and rely on to go about their daily lives.” 

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Mental health services 'turning care children away'

Distressed young people in care are often turned away by mental health services because they do not fit the criteria for treatment, MPs have heard.

This was despite it being known that three-fifths of children in care had some sort of mental health problem, the Commons education committee heard.

MPs were told more needed to be done to ensure these children's needs were understood and met.

The government is investing £1.4bn by 2020 on children's mental health.

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Greg Clark hails historic 4-year settlement and support for adult social care

Greg Clark has hailed a historic settlement for town halls as he ushered in a new era of long-term financial certainty for councils, while prioritising adult social care for the nation’s ageing population.

Details of a revolutionary 4-year funding package for councils in England were published, in a move which transforms the relationship between central and local government.

By the end of this decade town halls will be financed from revenues they raise locally, such as council tax and business rates, rather than central government grants. This is something local government has spent decades campaigning for.

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Thinktank Calls for More Tax-Rasing Power for Councils

A report from the Centre for Cities think-tank has found that if councils were able to keep revenues from Stamp Duty it would add £10bn of revenue to the £23bn expected from 100% business rates retention. The think-tank argued their proposal would persuade local authorities to push through planning permission for house building to gain an additional £1bn. The report, 'Beyond business rates: incentivising cities to grow', builds on criticism of the Government's plans for limited tax raising and borrowing by local authorities.

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Worst children's services face takeover, PM says

Moves to make it easier to take over council children's services failing vulnerable youngsters in England have been announced by the prime minister. Departments judged inadequate by Ofsted will be given six months to improve and then be taken over by high-performing councils and charities if they fail. A handful of councils that were failing children are already run by trusts.

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'Huge rise' in newborn babies subject to care proceedings

There has been a "huge" rise in the number of newborns who are subject to care proceedings in England, according to figures compiled for the first time. Some 2,018 babies were involved in such cases in 2013, compared with 802 in 2008, the University of Lancaster said. About half were taken from mothers with other children in care - one woman had 16 children removed - and a third were from women who became mothers as teens. Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said the figures were "worrying".

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Employers Announce Local Government Staff 1% Pay Offer for Next Two Years

Local government employers have announced a pay increase offer of 1% on 1 April 2016 and a further 1% from 1 April 2017. The offer would apply to those on salaries above £17,714 per annum; the majority of employees. Those on lower salaries receiving higher increases to take account of the new National Living Wage.The total increase to the national paybill resulting from this offer is 2.4% (£364.175m) over 2 years. Approximately 0.4% of this figure is designed to meet councils immediate obligations under the National Living Wage and to start the process of moving towards the expected level of the Living Wage by 2020.

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Chancellor Announces Date of 2016 Budget

The 2016 Budget will be held on Wednesday 16 March, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has told MPs.

A week after unveiling his Autumn Statement, Mr Osborne must now prepare for this annual speech outlining fiscal forecasts and tax changes for the following financial year.

Last year there was a Budget on 18 March, the Chancellor's sixth.

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Council tax 'to cost £200 more by 2020'

Council tax bills in England could cost an average of £200 more for band D properties by 2020, the Local Government Association has warned.

The claim comes after extra fundraising powers for councils were outlined in last week's government Spending Review.

But the LGA said councils would still face a combined shortfall of £6.8bn by the end of the Parliament.

The government said council tax was expected to be lower in real terms in 2020 than a decade earlier.

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'Paupers' funerals' cost councils £1.7m

The cost to local councils of so-called "paupers' funerals" has risen almost 30% to £1.7m in the past four years.

The number of these funerals has also risen by 11%, a Freedom of Information request by BBC Local Radio revealed.

Public health funerals, as they are known, are carried out by local authorities for people who die alone or without relatives able to pay.

These increases may be due to people living longer and dying alone, and a rise in fees, industry figures said.

The Local Government Association said the "tragic figures speak for themselves".

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LGA Warning Over Councils 'Right on the Edge'

Lord Porter, the Chair of the LGA, speaking ahead of the Spending Review has warned of the risks to local government. He said: ‘ We are not going to see hundreds of councils falling over in the next year or two. But we are close to a dozen nationally, which will, if the spending review goes the way we think it will, be right on the edge and ready to go’. The LGA has warned that the expected cuts to be announced in the Spending Review could deliver a ‘knockout blow’ to local services. Lord Porter said the impact on core services be impossible to hide; every children’s centre in England, could be closed saving £700m, but the sum would only plug the funding gap facing adult social care for a year.

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Spending Review and Autumn Statement at-a-glance

Spending Review headlines

Planned £4.4bn in tax credit cuts abandoned, with taper and threshold rates for working tax credits and child tax credits remaining the same

As a result, government to breach overall welfare cap in first years of Parliament

Government to borrow £8bn less than forecast, with the aim of securing £10.1bn budget surplus by 2020

Total spending to rise from £756bn this year to £821bn by 2019-20

State spending to hit 36.5%, as a share of total output, in five years - down from 45% in 2010

Overall day-to-day departmental spending to fall by 0.8% each year by 2020, lower than during the 2010-15 Parliament

Health, education, police, international aid and defence budgets protected

Transport, environment and energy among biggest losers, resource budgets falling by 37%, 15% and 22% respectively

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Local government funding at the Spending Review 2015

The Spending Review and Autumn Statement delivers on the government’s priority to provide security to working people at every stage of their lives. It sets out a 4 year plan to fix the public finances, return the country to surplus and run a healthy economy that starts to pay down the debt.

By ensuring Britain’s long term economic security, the government is able to spend £4 trillion on its priorities over the next 4 years.

For local government, there is a cash terms rise from £40.3 billion to £40.5 billion in 2019 to 2020 with councils having almost £200 billion over the course of this Parliament to spend on local services. This represents a fall of just 1.7% per year in real terms over the Spending Review period.

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NHS Set to Receive £3.8bn Funding Increase in 2016-17

The Spending Review is to announce a £3.8bn funding increase for the National Health Service in 2016-17, meeting the health service's request for the additional funding for the NHS to be front-loaded. he profile of the extra NHS spending is set to be £3.8bn in 2016-17 and £1.5bn in 2017-18, followed by smaller increases in the following two years, before a larger rise in 2020-21. NHS England Chief Executive sir Simon Stevens said the 'settlement is a clear and highly welcome acceptance of our argument for front-loaded NHS investment. It will help stabilise current pressures on hospitals, GPs, and mental health services, and kickstart the NHS Five Year Forward View’s fundamental redesign of care. In the context of constraints on overall public spending, our case for the NHS has been heard and actively supported'.

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New 2% Social Care Precept in Addition to 2% Referendum Cap Expected in Spending Review

The Chancellor, George Osborne, is expected to announce in his Spending Review statement that local authorities will be able to increase council tax by 2%, specifically for social care, in addition to the normal council referendum, expected to remain at 2%. if every eligible council decided to impose the 2% “social care” precept, it could raise an additional £2bn by the end of the Parliament in 2020. .The proposal for a council tax social care precept was recently supported by Alan Milburn the Government’s social mobility commissioner, who said it would help Osborne avert a crisis.

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Councils set to freeze services as they reach 'tipping point'

Councils are starting to freeze non-essential services as they reach a "tipping point" ahead of an expected fresh round of deep spending cuts, according to new research by the Press Association. The survey of local authorities across Britain shows the scale of cuts they are already facing, amid warnings of the impact on services ranging from caring for the elderly and protecting children to bin collection, pothole repairs, street lighting, social work, museums and maintaining parks. Lord Porter, Chairman of the LGA said: "With councils already struggling to keep services running and facing almost £10 billion in additional cost pressures by the end of the decade, it is clear that a similar funding cut again would mean that some councils would have to review how they deliver their statutory duties. The ability of councils to provide many of the services people take for granted, like clean and well-lit streets, maintained parks and access to leisure centres, could become significantly impacted. Vital services, such as caring for the elderly, protecting children, collecting bins, filling potholes and maintaining our parks and green spaces, could struggle to continue at current levels."

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Councils set to freeze services as they reach 'tipping point'

Millions of people face council tax rises to help tackle the social care funding crisis under plans announced by George Osborne this week.

Local authorities will be given the power to raise council tax by an additional 2 per cent to help plug the shortfall in social care funding, which has fallen to the lowest level for 20 years.

The power will be announced by Mr Osborne on Wednesday, when he is also expected to unveil significant cuts to funding for front-line police officers to help balance the books. 

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Spending Review: Schools to get 'fair funding' formula

Plans to redress differences in school funding across England are expected to be outlined in the Autumn Statement.

Change will begin in 2017-18 after consultation on the details, which could happen in early 2016, George Osborne is likely to say on Wednesday.

This would begin to reduce historical variations in funding per pupil between different areas of England.

School budgets face a likely fall of 8% per pupil due to rising costs during the next five years. 

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Concerns that Public Health Funding Will Not Be Protected in Spending Review

There are concerns that public health, along with funding for health education, will face cuts in the Spending Review. According to the BBC, the commitment to protecting health expenditure will only apply to funding for NHS England. Public health funding for local authorities is expected to be reduced, although reports suggest that the annual budget of £800m for health visiting for 0-5 year-olds will be ring-fenced, with spending reductions applied to other areas of public health.

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Head teachers appeal for funds ahead of Spending Review

Head teachers have written to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan expressing their concern over future funding for schools in England.

The National Association of Head Teachers claims education is being seen as a cost rather than an investment.

Ahead of next week's Spending Review, the NAHT is calling for a fair national funding formula for education.

The Department for Education says it is "protecting the schools budget, which will rise as pupil numbers increase".

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‘National living wage’ will push up wages at more than half of employers

The new “national living wage” will push up wages at more than half of all employers, forcing many of them to seek savings through improved productivity, according to a major survey.

The survey, one of the first to test the mood among employers before the higher wage comes into effect next April, found that 54% of respondents said it will have a material effect on their wage bill.

In response, three in 10 of those organisations affected are planning to recoup some or all of the extra cost by raising productivity, according to the survey by the Resolution Foundation and the CIPD, the professional body for personnel staff.

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Mental health early deaths 'worrying in one in four areas'

Nearly one in four areas of England has unacceptably high rates of early deaths among people with mental health problems, a report suggests.

The warning by independent experts funded by the Cabinet Office came after they looked at deaths before 75 in 2011-12 in more than 200 local areas.

In each area, the premature mortality rate was higher among those with mental health problems.

But in 51 areas, it was judged to be "particularly worrying".

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Mayoral Devolution Could Leave Out Counties IPPR Warns

A report by the IPPR thinktank has warned that a 'one-size-fits-all; model for devolving powers to directly elected mayors could see counties miss out. Ed Cox, IPPR north's director said 'Devolution deals can drive economic development, but the process needs far more understanding and flexibility from government to work for the counties, who have different needs and organisational structure'. IPPR's report concluded that in complex multi-tiered counties, with a small number of different centres of economic activity and little collective cultural or political identity, the posts should not be required if existing democratic arrangements are fit for purpose.

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Devolution: English counties tell George Osborne they must be involved in plans to devolve powers

English counties must be at the forefront of George Osborne’s devolution plans and not be ignored in favour of major cities, as they need new powers to help drive economic growth, a leading think-tank has said.

Counties represent half of England’s population and two-fifths of the economy, but there is concern they could be left behind as the Chancellor pushes to devolve powers to urban areas in his Northern Powerhouse plans.

A major report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says counties could become a driving force behind national economic growth and there is a “strong case” for giving them extra powers, but they risk “being cut off” from the benefits of devolution

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Health Secretary's personal view is that Government needs to move to a 'trajectory where social care is protected'

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hun,t has hinted that social care funding may receive some protection in the Spending Review. He told the NHS Providers conference that ‘it was his personal view, he said, that policy needed to evolve to ensure a ‘trajectory where social care is protected’. The chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, in his speech said ‘when social care is cut, the NHS bleeds’. Mr Hunt, indicated his sympathy for the argument saying ministers, including the chancellor, recognised that health and social care, despite being run by separate organisations were interdependent. however, Mr Hunt warned there was little room for manoeuvre in providing frontloaded funding for the NHS. He said ‘The spending review will be the most difficult spending review in a generation and possibly in the history of the NHS. This is a very, very challenging financial situation for the government and for the chancellor’. The Health Secretary also defended the £200m in-year cut to the public health grant.

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Retailers Lobby Government over Business Rates

Retail bosses have met with treasury ministers to raise concerns over business rates, ahead of the Spending Review and Autumn Statement. Retailers are expected to pay £8bn in business rates this year, 25% of the UK total. For every £1 a large retailer pays in corporation tax, the company pays £2.31 in business rates. A source close to the talks said the meeting focused measures to share the rates burden more fairly throughout the economy with other business. According to Tesco’s chief executive, Dave Lewis, the supermarket chain's business rates bill has risen by 35% in the last five years at a time when profits have fallen significantly.

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Mental health gets only 1 per cent of council cash

Local authorities in England are spending on average just 1 per cent of their public health budgets on tackling mental health problems, the charity Mind has calculated. Mind estimates just under £40 million will be spent by local authorities in 2015-16, compared with nearly £664 million on measures relating to sexual health, £160m on stop smoking measures, £111 million on tackling obesity and £96 million on promoting physical activity. Cllr Izzi Seccombe, LGA spokesperson for Community Wellbeing, said: “It is wrong to look at mental health funding in isolation without considering the range of other services councils provide that directly impact on people with mental health issues. Local authorities do a huge amount of positive grassroots work including tackling obesity, and helping people to get active, stop smoking and cut down on drinking. As physical and mental health are inextricably linked, this has a major impact. Just last week the government confirmed a £200 million reduction in the public health grant for 2015-16. Councils, who only took over responsibility for public health just over two years ago, cannot be expected to reverse decades of underinvestment in mental health spending by successive governments overnight.  Local authorities have a finite budget and many competing health priorities. What is needed is a holistic approach to mental health, which involves providing a range of different services.

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Osborne to announce departmental cuts

George Osborne is expected to announce today that four government departments including the Department for Communities and Local Government have agreed to cut their budgets by 8 per cent each year for the rest of Parliament.  The Chancellor will insist that deep cuts to public spending in his Autumn Statement this month are necessary to make the country “more resilient”. The other departments are the Department for Transport, DEFRA and The Treasury.

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Call for council-run schools to sponsor academies

High-performing, council-run schools in England should be allowed to sponsor struggling schools without becoming academies first, say town hall bosses.

The Local Government Association feels that with lots of council-run schools flourishing, they should be allowed to take over failing academies.

By contrast, too many academy chains are performing poorly, argues the LGA. 

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LGA Calls for Business Rates Self-Assessment

The Local Government Association has called for a change to the business rates valuation system, arguing businesses should be responsible for self-assessment valuation of their properties. The LGA is proposing a system in the run-up to the 2017 valuation, where businesses would be able to submit their own assessment of their own rateable value to the VOA. It would be the VOA’s responsibility to appeal any valuation it believed was inaccurate. The VOA would also be responsible for assessing the rateable value of any business choosing not to self-assess, however, those businesses would only have three months to appeal.

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Drivers miss payouts for ‘pothole epidemic’

The UK has a pothole every eight miles with more than 31,000 in need of being filled in, according to new figures. One in seven motorists said they had damaged their car on bad road surfaces in the last year with councils paying out £1.6 million in compensation for damages, according to Freedom of Information research by LV Insurance.

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NAO Warning on Fire Authorities' Financial Resilience

Two studies by the National Audit Office (NAO) on the financial ustainability of fire and rescue services and the impact of funding reductions on the authorities has found that has found that whilst there have been no financial failures yet as a result of cuts, further reductions could negatively affect the service's capacity to respond to major incidents. both reports said further savings could only be achieved by cutting fire fighter numbers. The Comptroller and Auditor General said 'I would expect DCLG to have a better understanding of the appropriate funding level necessary to support services, in order to maintain the financial sustainability of the sector in the context of funding cuts.

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UK Population to Grow by Over 10m in Next 25 Years

The population of the UK will rise to more than 70 million over the next 12 years according to the Office for national Statistics. There are currently 64.6 million people in the country, this will rise to 70 million by 2027 and by 9.7 million over the next 25 years. The population will also get older, with 29.5% of people aged over 60 by 2039 - up from 23.2% this year. More than one in every 12 people in the UK will be aged over 80 or older by 2039.

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LGPS Costs and Income Rise, Figures Show

A statistical release from DCLG on the Local Government Pension Scheme funds in England has shown the total market value of funds at the end of March this year was just over £200bn, an increase of 13% on its value on March 2014. The figures showed the LGPS spent a total of £12.1bn in 2014/15 against income of £15.2bn. In total £8.3bn was spent on pensions, lump sums and other benefits, £3bn on the disposal of liabilities, £689m in fund management costs and £121m in administration costs. Expenditure in 2014/15 was 79% of income, up from 77% last year and just 58% in 2005/06. Employers’ contributions to the LGPS totalled £6.9bn, while employees’ contributions were £1.9bn. Investment income was £3.3bn and £3bn was received in transfer values.

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Small Businesses Want Say in Business Rate Increases

The Federation of Small Businesses has welcomed the Government's recent announcement on business rates devolution, but has called for small businesses to be ‘properly consulted’ and have ‘a strong voice in any tax raising decisions.’John Allan, the national chairman of the FSB,said the power for directly elected mayors to increase the multiplier should be accompanied by a responsibility to 'reflect the wishes of the whole business community'.

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BCF Will Continue, Ministers Say

The Care Minister, Alistair Burt, and Local Government Minister, Marcus Jones, have written to health and wellbeing board chairs confirming the Better Care Fund will continue in 2016-17. In the letter, sent earlier this month,the ministers write that the future minimum size of the Fund, currently set at £3.8bn, cannot be confirmed until the the spending review on 25 November. They wrote 'the local flexibility to pool more than the mandatory amount will remain; however, detail about the minimum size of the fund will not be confirmed until after the spending review reports ... when we will also have greater clarity on the policy framework that will underpin the better care fund next year'.

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Proposed Public Health Cut Calls into Question Government's NHS Funding Commitment

A coalition of doctors, nurses, and council leaders have written to the Chancellor saying the proposed £200m in-year cut to the 2015-16 public heath grant would have a direct impact on the NHS and accuse the Government of misleading the public by describing the cuts as “non-NHS”.

The letter states the 'cut will have a direct impact on the people and communities who rely on this funding, and it will have a direct impact on the NHS which will have to pick up the pieces...Cutting this funding reduces NHS revenues so it is misleading to suggest that the NHS budget is being protected'. The letter is signed by the leaders of 11 organisations including the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AOMRC), the Royal College of Nursing, the NHS Confederation and the Local Government Association.

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Elected mayors for north-east of England as devolution deal announced

The north-east of England and the Tees Valley are to each have an elected mayor to preside over regional issues, George Osborne has announced. The deal, hailed as "historic" by the chancellor, gives regional figureheads power over policies such as transport, strategic planning and employment. People will choose a directly-elected mayor in 2017, despite a no vote for a "Geordie Boris" in a 2004 referendum. The deal is part of the government's Northern Powerhouse programme.

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Moody’s: business rate devolution will drive up council debt

In an analysis of the impact of the Chancellor George Osborne’s plan to devolve full business rate growth to local authorities by 2020, the credit rating agency said council credit ratings were now likely to be “decoupled” from the sovereign rating of the UK.

“This change gives local authorities greater financial autonomy, and makes their credit profile more dependent on their own characteristics rather than on their links to the sovereign.”

As a result, local authorities with strong potential to grow businesses would benefit, while those unable to harness business growth “will be at a comparative disadvantage”. Among the areas it provides ratings for, the agency projected that councils like Guilford Borough Council, currently given the second top rating of AA1, would benefit from the change, while areas like Cornwall County Council (also AA1) and Lancashire County Council (AA2) would be negatively affected.

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£470m Reduction in Adult Social Care Predicted by Report

A report from AGE UK, ‘Health and Care for Older People 2015’ has predicted budget allocations for 2015-16 imply social care budgets will fall by a further £470m. According to the report the number of people aged 65 or over in England increased by 18.8% (or by 1.5m people) between 2005 and 2016, with the most significant growth amongst the over 85s (up by 29.3%). Given the steadily rising numbers, AGE UK funding for health and social care is failing to keep pace, adding to an already existing crisis in health and social care for elderly people.


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King’s Fund: pressure on councils now impacting on the NHS

In its latest Quarterly Monitoring Report, health services review body The King’s Fund says that nearly 90% of NHS Trust finance directors think financial pressures on local authorities are adversely affecting health care services in their local area. The report says this pressure is evident from the number of delayed transfers of care attributable to social care; these increased by more than 21% over the 12 months to August 2015/16.


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Per pupil spending 'to fall by 8%'

Spending per pupil in schools in England is likely to fall by 8% in real terms over the next five years, the Institute for Fiscal Studies warns.

It argues that school funding levels will feel quite different in the next five years from the previous five.

Schools are set to face real-terms reductions in spending per pupil for first time since the 1990s, it adds.

The report, however, says schools have been protected in recent years compared with other government departments.

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Spending review could floor local services, warns LGA

With non-protected Government departments having been asked to find savings of between 25% and 40% ahead of the spending review, the Local Government Association (LGA) has analysed the implications.

It found that a 40% real terms cut would equate to £8.4bn being taken away from central Government funding and £2.1bn from council budgets.

Overall, it would mean a 64% cut to local government grant funding between 2010 and 2020. Lord Porter, LGA chairman, said: ‘Councils are under no illusions about the challenge that lies ahead. We know we face almost £10bn in cost pressures by 2020 even before the prospect of further challenging funding reductions over the next four years.

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Business rate reform will usher in council finance shake up

Marcus Jones said the announcement by Chancellor George Osborne that the revenue from the tax on business properties would be fully devolved by the end of the decade represented a historic opportunity for authorities.

Under the plan, revenue support grant will be phased out completely, although the system of top ups and tariffs, which operates under the existing system of local retention of half of rate growth, will be extended. The current safety net, which protects authorities against big drops in revenue, will also remain in place, but the current levy on disproportionate gains will end.

It is also proposed that the uniform national business rate will be abolished – although only to give all authorities the power to cut rates. Cities that create combined authorities with directly elected city-wide mayors will be able to increase rates for specific infrastructure projects, up to a cap that is likely to be set at 2p on the rate.

In a speech to the District Council Network’s assembly on Wednesday, Jones said the reform would be fiscally neutral.

As well as seeing revenue support grant end, Jones said councils would be expected to take on additional responsibilities in return for the fiscal powers, with more details to be set out in the spending review on November 25.

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Town hall chiefs warn of bedblocking crisis this winter

The LGA said new analysis reveals 145,067 hospital beds have been 'blocked' over the past 12 months, an increase of 7,454 days from the previous year.

The figures show that 30% of all cases are a direct result of not having enough social care provision to enable someone to be discharged from hospital. The LGA says that despite these figures, less than 6% of available funding is used to ease pressure on social care.

It urges the Government to urgently release more money to local areas to prevent a ‘crisis’ this winter.

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Care funding is a ‘postcode lottery’

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests made by Which? to 180 local authorities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland showed huge variations in the standard weekly rate councils contribute to the funding of residential care.

As well as disparities between north and south, the consumer watchdog also discovered that there could be a lot of variation between authorities in close proximity to one another. In Greater London, for example, there is a difference of £138 for the standard weekly rate between neighbouring boroughs Bromley (£555) and Croydon (£417).

The research also shows around a third (36%) of councils have a maximum standard rate of £434 for personal care, with 53% paying a maximum of £435 to £539. One in 10 (11%) councils paid a maximum of more than £540. The highest rate found was Lewisham’s maximum of £768.

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Health devolution will not work everywhere, says former DoH chief

Speaking at a King’s Fund breakfast event on devolution and health on 13 October, Sir Hugh Taylor, who retired as DoH permanent secretary in 2010, said that, “on the whole”, he was an enthusiast for devolution.

But he cautioned against assumptions that the Manchester model could be easily copied everywhere, as it had benefited from continuity of leadership in the city and its roots were laid down a long time again.

“It’s not a magic bullet … and not easily replicable in other geographies.”

Taylor, who now chairs Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, also observed the difficulty of taking “big decisions” with the agreement of multiple stakeholders.

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A devolution conundrum

Will business-rich councils in individual regions help less prosperous or dormitory-like neighbours? There are going to be winners and losers, even with some reduced re-distribution. London will benefit, but what happens to secondary cities in the Midlands, the North and especially the North East? We have to wait and see.

Certainly, local government now has much more interest in encouraging business – just as countries engage in competitive tax regimes to attract the likes of Google, all sorts of options now open up for enterprising finance directors.

So far the British public has sighed, and moved on – well, those who have noticed. They like the idea of local control of spending in principle, but worry about ending up with different levels of services. They remain firmly opposed to letting local government control taxation, and the Government has no intention of letting this happen, but the squeeze some localities face in future looks considerable.

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Councils can 'double savings' if Government invests in prevention

Currently, just 5% of the entire healthcare budget is spent on schemes that prevent people from falling ill. And with a predicted £200m cut to public health budgets, councils are concerned that money is being reduced which could undercut prevention schemes.

The LGA argues that failure to tackle the crisis in the social care and health system will leave councils unable to manage future demand as it reaches unmanageable new levels.

An analysis of the exact cost benefits of 11 prevention programmes across the country designed to improve people's physical and mental health found that:

• Programmes keeping people aged between 40 and 65 active could save as much as £3.10 for every £1 spent.
• Telehealth care could have benefits of almost £2.70 for every £1 invested.
• If £1bn of transformation funding was spent on these programmes, including supporting unemployed people, reducing physical inactivity and tackling depression, money could be saved with knock-on benefits of almost £7.2bn over a 5 year period.

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ADASS/LGA Spending Review Submission Highlights Funding Challenges for Social Care

The LGA and ADASS have published their joint submission to the Government’s Spending Review, calling on the Government to take urgent action to close the gap in care funding. The submission states that the problem could be addressed In part by using funding previously earmarked for the Care Act, but this would still leave, according to LGA/ADASS, adult social care facing an estimated £1.7bn funding gap by 2019/20. The groups have said Government needs to allocate £2bn in each year of this Parliament to help the system move more towards prevention, rather than simply fixing problems; the submission also emphasises sufficient funding must be made available for Deprivation of Liberty safeguards (DoLs) and the introduction of the National Living Wage.

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Kent County Council considers council tax rise

People in Kent are being asked if they will accept a council tax rise to help the county balance its books. Kent County Council said it needed to make £80m savings in 2016/17.

It has started a six-week consultation asking people where money should be spent. It includes a proposal to increase council tax by 1.99%. The council said a £33m cut in government funding and £58m of additional demands being placed on it, had led to the need for savings.

The council tax proposal is the largest increase allowable without triggering a referendum. The council said the rise would raise £11m for the authority.

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27% Cuts for Non-Protected Departments, IFS Warns

The Institute for Fiscal Studies have published their analysis of the constraints facing the Government ahead of the Treasury’s Spending Review, to be published on 25 November. According to the thinktank, unprotected Whitehall departments will need to £23.7bn, 18.8% of their budgets in real terms, to meet the Chancellor’s plans to increase spending on the NHS, Ministry of Defence and international aid. After taking account of devolved funding through the Barnett Formula, unprotected areas face real terms revenue reductions of 27% from 2015-16 to 2019-20.The IFS briefing paper states that over the course of the decade ‘the total real cut... would reach around 50%’ for unprotected departments.

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Chancellor Announces 100% Business Rates Retention for Local Authorities

The Chancellor, George Osborne, speaking at the Conservative Party conference this morning has announced that, by the end of this Parliament, local authorities will be able to retain 100% of business rates. He told delegates: 'All £26bn of business rates will be kept by councils rather than being sent back to Whitehall'. Further consultation is likely to take place on the plans in the coming months.

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Free School Meals Will Not Be Cut, Says PM

Following recent speculation about the scrapping of universal infant free school meals the Prime Minister's official spokesman has said Mr Cameron ‘is committed to free school meals in England’. Following the announcement of the demand to find 25% and 40% real terms cuts the future of the scheme was thought to be up for debate. The spokesman said the prime minister had made the point that ‘it was in the manifesto, the manifesto words are very clear - we're proud of what we've done with free school meals’. The National Association of Head Teachers called for ‘a swift and unequivocal statement’ from government that it would honour its general election pledge to fund a meal for all infant children. Their General Secretary, Russell Hobby said ‘that message could and should be delivered straight away’.

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CCN Chair Calls for a 'Fairer Settlement'

The Chair of the County Councils Network, Cllr Paul Carter has called for the Spending Review to reflect pressures at different tiers of local government by differentiating reductions. Cllr Carter said funding should reflect the demand pressures faced by councils, adding that counties are particularly facing pressures in social care and concessionary travel. He also said that counties were continuing to work on devolution plans arguing that governance reform is ‘not a total precondition’ to extra powers. The Treasury minister Jim O'Neill has previously said that only limited devolution would be offered to areas that do not adopt elected mayors.

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Cost of Councils Picking Up Academies' Deficits Reaches £30m

Figures obtained by the BBC from freedom of information requests show £32.5m worth of deficits from schools converting to academies had been cleared by local authorities. Deficits have been cleared using funding from the Dedicated Schools Grant. The LGA Deputy Chair David Simmonds said ‘it is not right that the taxpayer foots the bill. This money could instead be spent in ways which directly benefits pupils’. A DfE spokesperson said councils were ‘only required to cover a school's deficit when it has become a sponsored academy after a prolonged period of underperformance, and the deficit was accumulated under council control’.

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Social Care Sector Facing Uncertain Future, Providers Warn

A coalition of social services directors, charities, providers and the NHS have launched a campaign calling for fair funding of social care in the Spending Review. The alliance which includes the Associations of Directors of Adult Social Services, Care Providers Alliance, Care and Support Alliance and the NHS Confederation said there was a serious risk that the new national living wage and the decline in fees paid by councils decline would lead many providers to exit the market. Their submission to the Spending Review, said year-on-year cuts since 2010 threatened the dignity of older and disabled people and their carers as well as the sustainability of the care market and the NHS.

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Revealed: Shocking NHS postcode lottery for elderly care

Elderly people in some parts of the country are nine times more likely than in others to be admitted to hospital as emergency cases - for lack of the right care in their local communities.

The figures, published by Public Health England, are among more than 100 measures assessed today in an "NHS atlas" exposing enormous variations in NHS care.

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One in Five Council Workers Will Receive National Living Wage Pay Boost, Says Thinktank

Research from the Resolution Foundation has suggested the new National Living Wage will place particular pressure on councils where around one in five workers are expected to receive a pay rise. In contrast, fewer than one in ten central government employees will be affected. Overall there will be a 0.2% rise in the public sector pay bill by 2020, compared to 0.8% for the private sector by the end of the decade. The thinktank report said although the total increase in the public sector wage bill would be small, it could prove challenging to implement given the 1% cap on annual increases in the wage bill across the public sector for the next four years.

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Home Office Launch Consultation on PCCs Taking on Fire Responsibilities

The Home Office has published a consultation on reforms to enable Police and Crime Commissioners to take over responsibility for fire and rescue authorities in their area. The consultation proposes several options including allowing a PCC to create a single employer for police and fire staff. In areas where PCCs do not become responsible for fire and rescue services, the consultation proposes enabling them to have representation on their local fire and rescue authority. Separate funding streams for police and fire and rescue services would continue, as would separate precepts on the council tax bill, even if the police and fire services were under the control of a single organisation. The consultation closes on 23 October.

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Chancellor announces OBR forecast alongside the Spending Review

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has announced that there will be an OBR forecast alongside the Spending Review on Wednesday 25 November 2015. The government will therefore publish a joint Autumn Statement and Spending Review on this date.

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European Investment Bank Loans £102m for Schools Expansion in London Borough

The vice president of the European Investment Bank, Jonathan Taylor, has said the Bank expects to announce further support for UK schools in the coming months. His announcement came on a visit to the London borough of Croydon, which has agree a £102m, 25-year loan, with the Bank, which will help the council invest in building and upgrading 38 schools to provide the 5,182 primary school places and 2,100 secondary places that it is estimated are needed in the next three years. In total 6 new primary schools Six new secondary schools will be built as will a new school for children with special needs. The loan is the Bank's first ever to a local authority in England exclusively for investment in local schools. Mr Taylor said ‘the European Investment Bank is committed to supporting long-term investment that improves lives and opportunities in London and across the UK’.

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Up to 30 Regions Expected to Submit Devolution Bids to Spending Review

The Local Government Association has said it believes at least £60bn of central government spending should be devolved to local areas over the next five years. On the day of deadline for submissions to the Spending Review up to 30 regions of England were expected to submit bids for devolved powers. Some of the deals already submitted and offers being finalised include Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire calling for a 10-year transport settlement and fully devolved housing investment, and Gloucestershire asking for control of all healthcare budgets, fully integrated health and social care and a single vision for health and wellbeing for the county.

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LGA Spending Review Submssion Highlights £10bn of Cost Pressures by 2019-20

The Local Government Association’s submission to the Treasury’s Spending Review has warned of extra, unfunded costs for councils worth £9.9bn by 2019-20. This is split between £3.6bn of what the LGA describes as “business as usual” costs: extra costs incurred through inflation factors such as demographic change, in particular care costs are rising because of the growing number of elderly people. Additional costs worth £6.3bn by the end of the Parliament will result from the impact of government policies for which local authorities have not been reimbursed.

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Councils Under Pressure to Use Reserves to Reduce Cuts

The Treasury is expected to urge councils to use reserves to offset the impact of expected spending reductions to be announced in the Spending Review. Treasury sources said councils’ “large reserves” must be looked at when the Government is looking at making significant savings. The Government is likely to demand that councils use the money in their reserves in the wake of the Spending Review; however, the Treasury has not ruled out the possibility of new legislation forcing local authorities to use their reserves in future, it is understood. A source close to Mr Osborne said: “The Chancellor and the Prime Minister have often referred to the large reserves councils have when asked questions about savings in local government. But there are no plans to seize them or restrict them.”

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Enterprise Zones Create 19,000 Jobs, DCLG Figures Show

Figures published by DCLG have shown that the 24 Enterprise Zones in England have created 19,000 jobs and attracted 540 companies and £2.2bn of private investment. According to the Government £440m has been spent on developing the 24 zones. Businesses in the 24 zones will receive business rate discounts until 2018. In 2012-13, income foregone from business rates cost the Government £10m. In July, the Chancellor George Osborne announced that he intended to create more enterprise zones; the deadline for bids is 18 September.

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Public Sector Workers May Not Receive 1% Pay Rise, says Chief Secretary

Greg Hands the chief secretary to the Treasury has written to the chairs of the seven independent public sector pay review bodies to say that not every public sector worker can expect to receive the 1% pay increase, announced in the Summer Budget. Mr Hands said the Government would fund a 1% rise for each year of the four years of the next Spending Review period, but that the increases needed to be ‘applied in a targeted manner to support the delivery of public services, and to address recruitment and retention pressures’. The general secretary of the public sector trade union Unison, Dave Prentis, said the 1% pay pledge was ‘smoke and mirrors’, adding ‘It is difficult to see how much targeting you can get from a miserly 1% without resulting in hundreds of thousands not getting a pay rise at all’. Local government pay is determined separately from the central government pay review bodies.

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Transport Groups Warn of Risks to 'Everday Transport' in Spending Review

A joint letter from the Campaign for Better Transport, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Living Streets, Pteg and Sustrans has warned of the risks to 'everyday transport' if local authority transport funding is cut in the Spending Review. The groups warned that as major investment programmes for roads and railways are protected, the expected budget cuts could mean further reductions in bus services, local roads falling into greater disrepair, and targets to increase walking and cycling missed. Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport The leeter called for the Government to review major transport programmes, especially the Road Investment Strategy, to help rebalance capital and revenue funding for everyday transport.

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National Living Wage will damage care homes

The National Living Wage could result in a "catastrophic collapse" in the number of care homes, according to the five biggest providers.

In a letter to the chancellor, they say staffing accounts for 60% of the cost of care.

The companies said they supported the National Living Wage, but efforts would be needed to rescue the care system.

The government said social care would be considered as part of the spending review later this year.

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Local Governmnet Pension Funds Receptive to Treasury Plans to Pool Investments

The Chair of the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum Kieran Quinn has responded to the announcements in the Budget about the development of proposals to pool LGPS investments by saying the sector ‘accepts the challenge of change’. Mr Quinn said the Treasury’s call for funds to develop their own plans was ‘more positive’ than indications from the previous coalition government that it may impose reform, including moves to passive asset management. He added ‘the language is different than it has been previously, and therefore there is much more opportunity for us to find solutions’. Local Government Minister Marcus Jones said ‘Later this year we will set out those detailed criteria and publish a consultation on backstop legislation which will ensure that those administering authorities that do not come forward with sufficiently ambitious proposals are required to pool investment’.

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