Society of
County Treasurers

Latest News

18 Jul 2024

'Nothing should be off the table' – CIPFA chief

Abandoned Conservative policies for fixing local government finance should remain on the table, the new chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has said.
While he suggested Labour was unlikely to take on plans for the long-promised fair funding review and business rates retention as they stand, Owen Mapley said: ‘I don't think we have the luxury of ignoring any of the options.

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18 Jul 2024

Care sector needs 540,000 workers by 2040

The care sector will need 540,000 additional social care posts by 2040 to cope with the aging population, the adult social care workforce body, Skills for Care, estimates.
Skills for Care’s new Workforce Strategy for adult social care in England warns that the sector still has a vacancy rate around three times higher than the wider economy.

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18 Jul 2024

'Too costly to answer our own questions'

Whitehall has claimed it would be too costly to answer the same questions councils have been asked ahead of tomorrow’s productivity plans deadline.
Departments, including the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), offered a string of excuses as they refused to answer the questions ministers had posed to councils after The MJ submitted a series of Freedom of Information (FoI) Act requests.

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17 Jul 2024

Inflation holds steady

UK inflation held steady in June as price rises across the country stayed at the target level for the second month running. Inflation rose at 2 per cent in the year to June, partly driven by hotel prices going up, according to the latest official figures.

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17 Jul 2024

Tobacco bill ‘to save £1.9bn per year’

A Tobacco and Vapes Bill was announced in the King’s speech, continuing the previous government’s aim to progressively ban smoking.
The bill would increase age limit of tobacco purchasing and crack down on the marketing of nicotine products to children,
Trading standards would be strengthened to ensure compliance is met. A document published alongside the speech said this will cut public healthcare costs by £1.9bn per year, reducing hospital admissions and GP visits as a result.

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17 Jul 2024

Home school register plans launched in King’s Speech

More powers for local authorities over children’s education have been proposed by the government in the King’s Speech today.
A Children's Wellbeing Bill has been announced by King Charles III as a means to "raise educational standards and break down barriers to opportunity".
If this bill is passed, local authorities would be responsible for a register of home schooled children and have more control over decisions on school places for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

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17 Jul 2024

King's Speech: OBR handed beefed-up scrutiny role

The Government has put fiscal stability in the form of a Budget Responsibility Bill at the heart of the King's Speech.
The new bill will ensure a beefed-up role for the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
The OBR will be handed responsibility under the bill for independently assessing all significant tax and spending changes.

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Other Headlines

17 Jul 2024 - King’s Speech: Labour commits to ‘modernising planning committees’

The Labour Government will deliver its aim of building 1.5 million houses by ‘modernising planning committees.’
Prime Minister Keir Starmer has used his first King’s Speech to confirm the Government’s ambition to ‘get Britain building, including through planning reform, as they seek to accelerate the delivery of high-quality infrastructure and housing.’

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17 Jul 2024 - King's Speech: A plan for devolution

The new Labour Government has set out a widespread plan for devolution and economic growth in its Parliamentary timetable, with central diktat reserved for planning proposals.
A much-trailed shift towards devolution has already seen deputy prime minister Angela Rayner write to those without deals earlier this week, asking them to join a ‘devolution revolution' and offering deals for combined or combined county authorities.

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16 Jul 2024 - Hospital discharges limiting home care in England, councils

Vulnerable people face being denied basic preventive social care at home, due to a wave of rapid discharges from hospital that is taking up resources, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has warned following its annual survey of England’s 153 council social care directors. The survey also found only one in 10 directors were fully confident their budgets would meet their statutory duties.

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16 Jul 2024 - Labour to invite England’s ‘devolution deserts’ to take on more power

Councils in “devolution deserts” are being invited to join forces to take on more responsibilities over policy areas including transport, skills and planning, as part of a major transferral of powers out of Westminster. Angela Rayner, the Deputy Prime Minister, is writing today to all council leaders without a devolution deal to tell them the Government’s door is open to areas that want to take on extra powers for the first time

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16 Jul 2024 - Multi-year settlements: Delay could see more ‘fall off a cliff’

Section 151 officers give their views on the prospect of a return to multi-year settlements
Finance directors have warned against the government breaking its promise to provide multi-year financial settlements and urged ministers to go further.
Speaking to LGC during the Public Finance Live conference last week, finance directors called for settlements to be finalised earlier in the year and for larger sums overall.

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16 Jul 2024 - Somerset Council leader calls for urgent action

The Leader of Somerset Council has urged the Prime Minister to take action to prioritise local government.
This comes as the council’s executive held a discussion on many of the key issues that highlight the challenges that local authorities face, with the Council Leader pledging to stand up for the people of his county.
Last November the county council declared a financial emergency, with this leading to a number of ‘unprecedented’ decisions. This includes today’s Executive decision to devolve certain assets and services to Yeovil Town Council with the aim of reducing costs and consulting on potential changes to the Council Tax Reduction scheme.

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16 Jul 2024 - King’s speech targets growth

The government has announced that Wednesday’s King’s Speech will be used to put economic growth at the heart of its legislative agenda.
With the speech coming at the State Opening of Parliament on Wednesday, departments across government are working on over 35 bills to deliver on ambitious priorities. These priorities are to be built on foundations of economic security, as this supports growth to improve prosperity around the country.

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16 Jul 2024 - Integrated care systems show ‘signs of progress’ but need flexibility

Integrated care systems (ICSs) are showing ‘signs of progress’ but increasing pressures on health and care services could derail the positive gains, health think tank warns.
A new report by The King’s Fund found signs that ICSs had some successes in organising local partners around a shared purpose, scaling and spreading success, and using resources more effectively.

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16 Jul 2024 - Andrew Cozens: New ministers must quickly confirm social care intentions

Hints of a new royal commission are unlikely to be welcomed by expert opinion, writes an independent care and health specialist.

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16 Jul 2024 - Rayner sets September deadline for devolution bids

A new devolution framework will be published “in due course” with the government expecting to move away from a “deals-based” approach.
Communities secretary Angela Rayner wrote to unitary and county councils today inviting them to submit proposals for devolution by the end of September.
The letter, seen by LGC, reveals that the government expects devolution to involve new combined or combined county authorities and that some powers will be “reserved for institutions with directly elected leaders, such as mayoral combined authorities”.

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15 Jul 2024 - GMB accepts local government pay offer

The GMB has split the union response on sector pay after coming out in support of the offer from employers for this year.
Sharon Wilde, GMB National Officer, said: ‘GMB members have voted to accept the local government pay offer for 2024/25.

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15 Jul 2024 - "Massive Waste" In How Local Councils Are Funded

Georgia Gould, the new Cabinet Office Minister, has said the new government will bring “new era of partnership” between local, central, and regional government. The new MP for Queen’s Park and Maida Vale, who was previously leader of Camden Council, said having councils bid against each other for government funding led to a “massive waste” of resources. She added: “If we work differently together, we can save a huge amount of money and improve public services, there's a massive opportunity.”

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15 Jul 2024 - Councils hit second homeowners with cynical tax raid

There has been an increase in councils implementing a surcharge on second homes, it is reported, following changes in April which allowed unoccupied properties to be subject to 100 per cent council tax following one year of being vacant instead of two. The LGA said that charging more for second homes is one way of encouraging owners to bring these properties back into permanent use.

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15 Jul 2024 - Regional mayors “deserve more powers”

Chris McDonald, the newly elected MP for Stockton North, has said that regional mayors “should be as powerful as in London”. Speaking to the BBC’s Politics North programme, he said the Government would devolve more powers to regional mayors, but there had to be value for money for taxpayers and better accountability.

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15 Jul 2024 - ‘Rooftop revolution’ to deliver solar power to millions of homes

The Government unveils plans for a “rooftop revolution” today which will see millions more homes fitted with solar panels in order to bring down domestic energy bills and tackle the climate crisis. Before Wednesday’s King’s Speech, which will include legislation for setting up the new publicly owned energy company GB Energy, ministers are working with the building industry to make it easier to buy new homes with panels installed, or install them on existing ones.

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15 Jul 2024 - Labour plans cross-party royal commission to fix social care

An ambitious cross-party taskforce into the future of social care is being planned by Labour to create a “broad consensus” on fixing a failing system, it is reported. Baroness Casey of Blackstock has been lined up to lead a royal commission into social care which is expected to include representatives from the main political parties.

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15 Jul 2024 - Economic growth

The Chancellor is set to announce the creation of a new council of economic advisers to help guide the Government’s “national mission” of expanding the economy. Rachel Reeves will appoint academics and senior advisors to the council, which will help to inform the Government’s growth policies.

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15 Jul 2024 - ‘Basic, core’ services in danger as budget gap set to rise to £83.6m

A revised projected financial deficit of £83.6m by 2027/28 at East Sussex County Council means the authority will likely not be able to provide some basic services without further government support.
The bleak financial outlook has been outlined in the latest report of East Sussex’s cabinet and in the authority’s draft of a productivity plan that all councils were asked to produce by 19 July.
Having already introduced a programme of cost-cutting measures, East Sussex said the scope for more efficiency gains is “very limited and will go only a small way towards bridging the budget gap”. At the same time, total strategic reserves are projected to be £16.7m by 2029, excluding any draws required to set a balanced budget in 2025/26 or beyond.

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15 Jul 2024 - Unlocking the power of devolution not straightforward but could make ‘big difference’

Devolution could be a way to help reverse the “zombie state” created as a result of the long-term funding crisis in local government.
But while further devolution is no ‘silver bullet’, if done right it could be part of the solution to local government’s funding problems, according to a panel discussion on the topic at Public Finance Live, which is being held in Manchester this week (10-11 July).
Paul Kissack, group chief executive at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, offered context by describing the “bleak” current picture of England being “in the midst of an enormous experiment” of centralisation, which has reached “quite an extreme point”. He noted that “more and more power and control has moved from the local area to the central area” and “powers have been removed”

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15 Jul 2024 - ‘Decade of renewal’: 20 authorities call for new government to save council housing

Reducing PWLB borrowing costs for council housing as part of a new “fair and sustainable” HRA model will help secure the future of England’s council homes.
A group of 20 of England’s largest council landlords have called for a ‘decade of renewal’ starting with emergency action this year and followed up with sustained investment to achieve that aim.
The councils – which include Southwark, Bristol, Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham and Dudley – have jointly published five solutions for the new Labour government in an interim report.

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15 Jul 2024 - Owen Mapley: ‘forging a new path for CIPFA’

Owen Mapley, CIPFA’s new chief executive officer (CEO), has laid out the “three core areas” of his “vision” for the organisation: focusing on members; understanding CIPFA’s proposition; and combining the “now and the next”.
Speaking on day two of the Public Finance Live conference in Manchester, Mapley highlighted that he is looking to “refresh the member value proposition” in explaining his first core area. Later on, he told delegates that it is “time to forge a new path”.

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11 Jul 2024 - Cost of social care

A place in residential care costs around £60,000 a year, according to carehome.co.uk. It said that people can end up spending a lifetime of savings on care costs. The LGA said that “the adult social care sector remains in a precarious position with overstretched budgets, significant unmet need and remaining instability” and called for immediate investment.

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11 Jul 2024 - Water bills set to rise

Water bills in England and Wales are set to rise by an average £94 over the next five years, the water regulator Ofwat has said. The typical £19 a year increase is a third less than the increase requested by companies and is intended to fund investment for improvements such as replacing leaking pipes and reducing sewage discharges into rivers and seas.

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11 Jul 2024 - Council housing landlords warn of £2.2bn ‘black hole’

Twenty of England’s largest local authority landlords have warned that the council housing financial model is ‘unsustainable’ with councils’ housing budgets facing a £2.2bn ‘black hole’.
A cross-party group of local authorities – including Birmingham City Council, Leeds City Council and Camden Council – warned that England’s council housing system has been hit hard by a lack of funding and ‘erratic’ national policy changes.

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11 Jul 2024 - LGA chair: Councils need to 'keep' up with new Government

The Local Government Association's (LGA) new chair has emphasised the need for councils to show they can ‘keep up' with Labour's ambitious programme for Government.
Speaking to The MJ after officially replacing Shaun Davies in the post – following his election as an MP – Louise Gittins said the sector was ‘sometimes seen as a bit slow to react' and needed to show it was ‘hitting the ground running'.

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11 Jul 2024 - DfT begins ‘bus revolution’

The new transport secretary has confirmed that every local area will be able to take control of its buses through franchising or public ownership.
Louise Haigh will meet Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham today to discuss how the region’s bus franchise, the first in the country outside London, can be replicated nationwide.

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11 Jul 2024 - Industrial action ballot ‘likely’ as Unite rejects pay offer

The Unite union has "overwhelmingly" rejected this year’s local government pay offer, and warned that a ballot for strike action was now likely.
The National Employers offered a pay increase of £1,290 which equates to 5.77% for the lowest paid, from 1 April 2024.
GMB, Unison and Unite had asked for "£3,000 or 10% whichever is higher" when they submitted the claim earlier this year.

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10 Jul 2024 - National Wealth Fund to be created

The Chancellor Rachel Reeves has announced a National Wealth Fund (NWF) which will be launched with £7.3 billion from the Treasury, with money coming from a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, the closing of tax loopholes as well as further funding to be announced at the next budget. The NWF aims to attract £3 of private investment for every £1 of public money invested for key industries.

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09 Jul 2024 - Rayner promises ‘full reset’ of local government relationship

The prime minister and deputy prime minister have promised to “reset” the relationship between central and local government as they prepare to meet with metro mayors on Tuesday.
Speaking ahead of the meeting Sir Keir Starmer said he had made it a priority to meet with the 12 metro mayors in his first week in office as “those with skin in the game are the ones who know best what they need.”
He added: “By resetting these crucial relationships and putting more power in the hands of local leaders, I’m determined to make sure they have the support they need to play their part in delivering economic growth in every part of the country.”

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09 Jul 2024 - DLUHC renamed to drop ‘levelling up’

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities has been renamed as the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG), removing what the new government described as a “slogan” from the previous administration.

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09 Jul 2024 - Rachel Reeves first speech

In her first speech as chancellor, Rachel Reeves has outlined plans on reform to the National Planning Policy Framework. She promised her government would build 1.5 million homes over the next five years, as well as a new taskforce "to accelerate stalled housing sites in our country". Chair of the LGA, Cllr Louise Gittins said: “Councils stand ready to help the Government achieve our shared ambitions to boost inclusive economic growth and housebuilding. National growth can only be achieved if every local economy is firing on all cylinders.”

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09 Jul 2024 - Council's four-day week 'maintains service'

A report into a council's controversial trial of a four-day working week suggests it has maintained the quality of its services.
South Cambridgeshire District Council introduced the scheme in January 2023 for most of its staff and extended it to bin crews in September. It means staff are meant to do the same amount of work in 80% of their contracted hours without losing any pay.
A group of researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Salford looked at 24 different parts of the council's work before and after the trial.
They found it had improved in 11 areas, including the percentage of calls being answered by its contact centre, the number of major planning decisions made on time and invoices being paid by the council within 30 days. Staff turnover also dropped by 40%, the report said.
Outcomes in some areas remained the same, including frequency of bin collections, while they dropped in two areas, including housing rent collections and meeting a 17-day target to re-let empty council homes.

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09 Jul 2024 - Housing targets ‘essential’ to solve crisis but councils need ‘proper levers’

Identifying parts of the green belt that are suitable for new development is "essential" to addressing the housing crisis, some experts have told LGC, while councils have called on ministers to ensure they have the "proper levers" and infrastructure to deliver.
Yesterday, in her first speech as chancellor Rachel Reeves outlined the government’s plans to reform planning, which included requiring local planning authorities to review greenbelt boundaries to increase housing supply.
She also confirmed that the government will consult on plans to reform the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) before the end of July and restore mandatory housing targets.

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09 Jul 2024 - Shropshire could cut 540 job posts

Shropshire Council could cut 540 full-time equivalent (FTE) posts in a bid to cut costs by becoming a smaller organisation.
The unitary authority, which employs around 3,500 staff, is facing a budget gap of £62.5m this year and estimates it could save £27m by resizing.

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09 Jul 2024 - Council offers to brief Farage on SEND pressures

A member of Essex County Council’s cabinet has offered to brief Nigel Farage MP on special educational needs and disabilities issues after the leader of Reform UK criticised the council for SEND delays.
Mr Farage, who was elected as MP for Clacton, and James McMurdock, who won in South Basildon and East Thurrock, said they would put pressure on councils after hearing from parents about delays in the provision of SEND services in their Essex constituencies.

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09 Jul 2024 - Badenoch takes shadow communities role

Kemi Badenoch has been named shadow communities secretary by opposition leader Rishi Sunak.
The Conservative MP for North West Essex previously held the role of business secretary prior to the party's defeat in last week's General Election.

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09 Jul 2024 - Councils create largest fostering partnership

Twenty councils in the south east of England have formed the country’s largest local authority fostering partnership in a bid to boost the number of carers in the region.
The virtual fostering hub, which launched yesterday, will offer prospective carers access to a centralised platform for their enquiries, and marketing campaigns will raise awareness of the role of a carer.

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08 Jul 2024 - Starmer appoints new cabinet

In his first speech outside Downing Street as Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer cautioned that, despite Labour's parliamentary majority, his aim of "rebuilding" Britain "will take a while". Sir Keir has confirmed his new cabinet - which will meet for the first time today - with Angela Rayner appointed as Levelling Up Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, Wes Streeting as Health and Social Care Secretary and Ed Milliband named Energy Secretary

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08 Jul 2024 - 'There's not a huge amount of money there', warns Reeves

New Chancellor Rachel Reeves has warned that the state of the economy means "there is not a lot of money there" for Labour to use to boost public service spending. Ms Reeves said that reform of the planning system was "front and centre" of Labour's plan to grow the economy. It is reported that Sue Gray, the PM’s Chief of Staff, has compiled a list of immediate issues facing the new government, which includes complex pay negotiations and under-pressure council budgets. The LGA has warned that councils face a funding gap of £6.2 billion over the next two years.

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08 Jul 2024 - Lib Dems to push for cross-party talks on tackling social care

The Liberal Democrats plan to use their best-ever number of MPs to try and push Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer to begin cross-party talks on a new plan for social care. It is also reported that the Lib Dems want to ensure that the position of unpaid carers was considered properly by the new government.

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08 Jul 2024 - Councils on the brink hope for lifeline

Council leaders say local government funding pressures are something that the new Labour government cannot ignore and that an immediate cash injection is needed just to keep them afloat. The LGA estimates that councils face a funding gap of at least £6.2 billion over the next two years, largely driven by a rise in the cost of providing adult social care and children’s services.

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08 Jul 2024 - Revealed: Over 70 new MPs with council backgrounds

There are at least 74 new MPs with current or recent experience serving on councils, LGC analysis has found.
At the general election last week Labour won 412 seats, a gain of 211 since 2019. The Conservatives won 121 seats, a loss of 252, and the Liberal Democrats won 72, a gain of 64.
Ahead of the election LGC identified 127 current or former councillors who were standing at the general election. Our analysis is based on information gathered when candidates were announced and therefore could be an underestimate of the number.

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08 Jul 2024 - Housebuilding, planning, and growth

n her first speech since being appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rachel Reeves has outlined how growth will be achieved around the country through a raft of new measures.
Appointed on Friday following the Labour Party’s election win, Reeves has become the UK’s first female chancellor, and has set out a number of measures today that include the cutting of red tape when it comes to planning.
Beginning her speech, the Chancellor said:
“Growth requires hard choices. Choices that previous governments have shied away from. And it now falls to this new Labour government to fix the foundations.

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08 Jul 2024 - Education Secretary begins teacher recruitment

The Department for Education has announced that the new Education Secretary has already begun work to improve the relationship between the government and the teaching profession.
After being confirmed as Prime Minister Keir Starmer’s Education Secretary on Friday afternoon, Bridget Phillipson has begun work to recruit a further 6,500 new teachers. This will not only improve the relationship between the profession and the government, but also ‘transform the image of teaching’ – a key part of bringing in new teachers and retaining those that are already in the role.

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08 Jul 2024 - McMahon and Pennycook announced as ministers

Former Oldham MBC leader Jim McMahon as been appointed as a minister in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

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08 Jul 2024 - South Cambs’ four-day week trial shows ‘positive’ results

A report into South Cambridgeshire District Council’s controversial four-day week trial found the majority of key performance indicators had improved or remained the same.
Under a four-day week, South Cambridgeshire DC officers are expected to carry out all of their work in around 80% of their contracted hours while remaining on full pay.
Analysis by the universities of Cambridge and Salford of the 24 key performance indicators monitored by the council found that 22 improved or remained the same.

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08 Jul 2024 - Council to consider paying £47m extra for waste service

Somerset Council will consider paying an extra £47m over six years for waste services after its contractor disclosed it was making significant losses in the area.
Suez warned the local authority in May that it would consider exiting the contract, despite the financial penalty it would face, unless payments were increased.

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06 Jul 2024 - Prime Minister urged to include voice of England’s counties in meeting with metro-mayors next week

Earlier today, the new Prime Minister announced that next Tuesday he will host a meeting with metro-mayors in England to discuss regional economic development. This was part his commitment to drive growth in all four corners of the nation and devolve powers outside of Whitehall.
Responding to the announcement, the County Councils Network (CCN), which represents 37 county and large unitary authorities, says that with less than half of England’s population covered by a metro-mayor, a failure to involve county authorities in these discussions would be a ‘missed opportunity’, leaving large parts of the country – particularly rural areas – without a voice.
CCN is urging the Prime Minister to ensure counties have a seat at the table, harnessing the expertise and experience of county authorities, who are responsible for attracting and spending billions in economic development, infrastructure and regeneration investment every single year.
Ahead of the election, CCN’s Manifesto for Counties set out that the incoming government should undertake a bold and ambitious programme of devolution in England, ensuring that all areas without a devolution are able to secure one by 2027.
The proposals contained in the manifesto (see here) outlined that securing a devolution should not require an area to adopt the metro-mayor model. While some areas have adopted a combined authority mayor or Elected Leader, many county and rural areas considering this model unsuitable.

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05 Jul 2024 - CIPFA LASAAC looks to long-term local audit fix

CIPFA LASAAC has announced it is changing its approach to the huge backlog of English local authority audits, because the planned ‘backstop’ system for outstanding audits has been disrupted by the general election.

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05 Jul 2024 - Council pays family £1,500 after school transport failure

A family in Surrey has been paid £1,500 in compensation after the county council failed to provide school transport for a child with complicated medical needs.

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05 Jul 2024 - LGPS quizzed in Labour economic growth push

The Labour Party has been asking local government pensions schemes (LGPS) their views on greater ‘investment into the UK’ as they look to drive economic growth, a consultant has said.

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05 Jul 2024 - Whitehall readies for tough times ahead

Whitehall departments are preparing briefings for new ministers – with stark advice on critical issues that will need quick decisions.
As voters go to the polls, civil servants are finalising the briefing documents that will await the new ministerial teams who will begin business within hours of the result being declared.
The new prime minister will begin making announcements on posts – and potentially a reorganisation of Whitehall departments. Final ministerial posts are traditionally agreed over the weekend.

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05 Jul 2024 - Labour wins General Election

Sir Keir Starmer has led the Labour Party to a landslide General Election victory and will take over as the UK's Prime Minister. Labour crossed the line for a Parliamentary majority when than 150 seats were still to declare. Sir Keir said: "Today, we start the next chapter, begin the work of change, the mission of national renewal and start to rebuild our country." Rishi Sunak said the British people had delivered a "sobering verdict" with the Conservatives set for its worst electoral result in history. The Lib Dems have increased its number of MPs to record levels with party leader Sir Ed Davey declaring the result as its "best ever". The Green Party has also increased its number of MPs.

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05 Jul 2024 - Cash-Strapped Councils Locked Out of Crucial Funding Source

Some councils are being locked out of the inter-authority lending market, where local councils borrow from each other, it is reported. Others are facing higher borrowing rates for the loans, as local authorities worry about at the potential risk of lending to them. Last year, almost £12 billion of councils’ £135 billion in outstanding borrowing came from the inter-authority market, according to government figures. The LGA has warned that councils face a £6.2 billion hole in their budgets in the next two years after facing soaring costs and rising demand for services.

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05 Jul 2024 - DLUHC team wipeout in Labour landslide

The Conservative Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) team has faced a near wipe out in Labour's election landslide.
However, the Labour victory has give a raft of councillors parliamentary seats, including Local Government Association chair Shaun Davies, who will be succeeded in his role by Cheshire West and Chester leader Louise Gittins.

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05 Jul 2024 - Sunak to step down

Following the Conservatives’ general election defeat, outgoing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced that he will step down as leader of the party.
In a speech outside Number 10 Downing Street, Sunak spoke about his pride in having led the United Kingdom as Prime Minister, whilst also congratulating Sir Keir Starmer on his election victory. Sunak then went on to outline how he will step down as leader of his party – and Leader of the Opposition – with the wheels being set in motion to appoint his successor.
By stepping down Sunak becomes the fifth Conservative Leader to resign since David Cameron won the 2010 General Election, and the third since 2022.

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05 Jul 2024 - Starmer to decide priorities to keep the UK going

Never mind the graph of doom that predicted the collapse of local government, there’s a far bigger risk warning ready for the new PM.
Sir Keir Starmer’s lead adviser, Sue Gray, is understood to have been drawing up a list of critical issues that must be tackled early before they turn into a crisis.
Then the Westminster media briefed that she wasn’t the only one as civil servants were drawing up a ‘black swan’ list of their own.
It’s a tricky moment as there are not only new ministers but also a raft of special advisers arriving with them.

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05 Jul 2024 - Angela Rayner appointed levelling up secretary

Deputy leader of the Labour party Angela Rayner has been confirmed as deputy prime minister and communities secretary.
Her full job title was announced as secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities, suggesting the name of the department has not changed .
Ms Rayner became shadow communities secretary last September. Before entering politics she was a care worker and has experience of living in council housing.

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03 Jul 2024 - Capital spending hampering services

A new Institute for Government report has outlined how a new approach must be taken to capital spending to stop service performance from continuing to falter.

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03 Jul 2024 - First ‘tourist tax’ on hold

The first so-called coastal tourist tax in the UK has been put on hold following opposition from Dorset hoteliers.
Guests at around 70 large hotels were to be charged an extra £2 per room per night, with the levy expected to generate around £12m to support the region’s tourism over five years.

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03 Jul 2024 - Scrap council tax referendum limits, says DCN

District councils should have the powers to increase council tax referendum limits to at least 10% as a first step to scrapping them altogether, district council chiefs say.

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02 Jul 2024 - NHS debt to council climbs by £11m in a year

The NHS owes Cambridgeshire County Council £13m for adult social care services, a report has revealed.
The debt has risen from £1.4m in March 2023: an increase of £11.6m.
A council report says officers are ‘very activity engaging’ with the integrated care board to recover the money.

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02 Jul 2024 - Homelessness spending triples in eight years

The proportion of councils’ total housing budget spent on homelessness and temporary accommodation has tripled since 2015, new analysis has revealed.
The Local Government Association (LGA) found that councils in England and Wales spent £315m on homelessness in 2015-16, compared to just over £1bn in 2023-24 – a sum it said could rise when official figures are released.

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02 Jul 2024 - Leeds council proposes SEND transport overhaul

Leeds City Council has proposed reducing transport support for post-16 learners with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
The council spends £4m-£4.5m each year on discretionary transport assistance, with the number of learners receiving transport support having doubled since 2015.

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02 Jul 2024 - Next government set to benefit from fall in inflation and fuel prices

Britain’s next government is set to benefit from easing pressure on household finances after a slowdown in inflation in shops and a fall in fuel prices, but costs remain “too expensive” for many families. Figures from the British Retail Consortium show that annual UK shop price inflation slowed last month to 0.2 per cent, down from 0.6 per cent in May – the slowest pace since October 2021 – as retailers cut the prices of many of their key products, including butter and coffee.

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02 Jul 2024 - Just over half of councils feel LGA value for money

A Local Government Association (LGA) survey has revealed just 54% of councils now feel the organisation provides value for money.
This perception has dropped dramatically among chief executives, falling from 81% in 2021 to 59% in 2023. For directors it has dropped from 62% to 50%.
Among leaders, the perceptions survey found 69% felt the LGA provided value for money, while 52% of frontline councillors shared the view.

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01 Jul 2024 - Britain's pothole problem is five times worse than previously thought

It is claimed Britain’s roads have 11.5 million potholes, which is five times higher than previous estimates, according to a campaigner using data from a new AI dashboard app. Cllr Claire Holland, Transport spokesperson for the LGA, said: “Longer-term, whoever forms the next government should award council Highways Departments with five yearly funding allocations to give more certainty, bringing councils on a par with National Highways so they can develop resurfacing programmes and other highways improvements, tackling the scourge of potholes.”

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01 Jul 2024 - Teenagers ‘crying out’ for return of youth clubs in England, study finds

Young people are “crying out” for a return of youth clubs with three-quarters of 16- to 19-year-olds in England lacking ways to connect with youth workers, according to research from the National Youth Agency. More than half of people in their late teens are specifically calling for more youth work that offers “fun”, with older teenagers particularly hankering for more jollity and one in 10 said they have zero options to access youth work. Youth groups are urging the next government to inject up to £1 billion a year into services in England.

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01 Jul 2024 - Unpaid UK carers ‘face financial hit that can last decades’

People who care for family members free of charge are taking a hit to their finances which could continue into their retirement as they find themselves unable to balance paid work with caring commitments. Analysis by financial firm Just Retirement found seven in 10 people receiving carer’s allowance were not in paid work, and missing out on earnings and private pension contributions.

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01 Jul 2024 - Planning system not to blame for lack of building

In a letter to the Guardian, Professor Roger Brown says the planning system is not the problem – the issue is developers failing to build. He references LGA analysis from 2021, which estimated that planning permission had been granted for 2.8 million homes in the previous decade in England but only 60 per cent of them had been built.

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01 Jul 2024 - UK economy grew more than estimated in early 2024

The economy grew by more than initially estimated in the first three months of 2024 as the UK emerged from recession, revised official figures show. Between January and March, the economy grew by 0.7 per cent the Office for National Statistics said. Figures released last month initially estimated growth had been 0.6 per cent.

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01 Jul 2024 - DLUHC criticised for ‘sitting on’ Cipfa debt reviews

The government should not delay acting on issues, the outgoing chief of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy has said, in response to a 16-month gap between reviews of council debt and publication of the reports.
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (Cipfa) was commissioned by the Department for Levelling up, Housing & Communities in February 2023 to review the capital programmes of local authorities known to have high levels of debt. However, the findings of some of the reports were not made public until May this year.

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01 Jul 2024 - ‘More good authorities will need help’, warns outgoing Cipfa chief

The next government has a “window of opportunity” to reform local government finance before the whole system falls over, the sector’s most senior accountant has warned.
In an interview with LGC to mark his retirement from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy after 11 years as chief executive, Rob Whiteman said local government was “a few years off being in a very dangerous place”.
He said the extra one-off resources secured for councils in recent years by communities secretary Michael Gove, who he described as a “big hitter secretary of state”, had “staved off the worst that we feared” of significant numbers of councils being unable to balance the books.

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01 Jul 2024 - Localis: Labour and Tories share ‘common neglect’ of council capacity issues

Both main parties have ducked the crucial questions of local government capacity, planning reform and public sector procurement, according to a leading sector think-tank.

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01 Jul 2024 - How should we fund public infrastructure?

National and local infrastructure features heavily in their general election manifestos, but with Labour and the Conservatives reluctant to increase borrowing or taxes, how will they be funded in a post-PFI world? Craig Elder, partner at UK and Ireland law firm Browne Jacobson who worked on some of the UK’s highest-value PFI projects, explores the options available to the next government.

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01 Jul 2024 - Labour could bring in automatic voter registration

It has been reported that Labour plans to introduce automatic voter registration (AVR) if elected next week.
The party’s manifesto says it would ‘improve voter registration’ and electoral officials have told the Guardian the pledge relates to plans for people to be added to the electoral roll by default, although a Labour source denied the party was committing to the policy.

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01 Jul 2024 - Councils’ confidence for childcare roll-out ‘worryingly low’

Local authorities in England have raised concerns that they will be unable to meet demand in the next phase of the expansion of free childcare.
From September, children from nine months old in England will be eligible for 15 free hours a week until they start school, but almost six in 10 councils (59%) are either not confident or not sure they will have enough places to meet demand, research by Coram Family and Childcare (CFC) found.

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26 Jun 2024 - EXCLUSIVE: Asylum dispersals tied to pressure on services

Existing pressures on housing and services will determine the distribution of asylum seekers this year, The MJ can reveal.
A letter from the Home Office’s chief operating officer for asylum support, resettlement and accommodation, Andrew Larter, said the latest dispersed accommodation targets for asylum seekers were ‘based on an indexing tool which weights each regional plan by three key overarching factors’.
The factors are the current housing market and viability (70%), social factors including pressures on local services (15%) and the existing population (15%).

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25 Jun 2024 - Labour pledge on council funding

During a visit to Northamptonshire, Sir Keir Starmer promised to ensure that local government was properly funded if Labour are elected. He also pledged to end no-fault evictions, which he said put extra burdens on local authorities. The LGA has called for all parties to commit to a "significant and sustained increase in funding for councils in the next Spending Review, alongside multi-year funding settlements and plans to reform the local government finance system”.

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25 Jun 2024 - CIPFA calls for governance overhaul

A ‘transformative overhaul of governance’ has been called for by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).
Responding to a consultation by the Committee on Standards in Public Life looking at accountability within public bodies and the importance of acting on early warning signs, CIPFA said there was an ‘urgent need for decisive action’ to restore trust in the public sector.
CIPFA highlighted dysfunctional relationships between officers and councillors, inadequate resources and the wrong culture as factors hindering local authorities in identifying and resolving issues.

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25 Jun 2024 - Avoiding the iceberg

After the austerity of the 2010s, a look at the headline figures for local government funding would suggest councils should now be feeling more financially secure. Their core funding per resident is up around 10% in real-terms since 2019-20, after adjusting for whole-economy inflation. That is nowhere near enough to undo previous cuts, but enough to ease the pressure on council budgets and allow some expansion and improvements to services?

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25 Jun 2024 - Hampshire set to quit transport partnership

Officers have recommended that Hampshire County Council withdraws from a transport partnership involving three other local authorities.
Hampshire pays £90,000 a year to Solent Transport, which was established in 2007.

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25 Jun 2024 - Party manifestos offer “not a clue” for resolving local government funding gap, says IFS

Even the most optimistic scenario for a real-terms funding increase of local government in the next parliament will fall well short of that needed to maintain service provision, according to analysis conducted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).
With grants frozen and council tax up 5% per annum, a real-terms funding change of 2.5% per year, might be expected, the IFS said. This compares to the 4.5% real-terms increase the Local Government Association estimates will be needed if spending pressures continue to rise as quickly as in recent years.

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25 Jun 2024 - Kent warns of ‘challenging’ budget setting and capital programme delivery

Kent County Council has warned of an estimated budget gap of £81m for the next financial year, whilst also underspending on its capital programme by £192.7m in 2023/24.
According to the authority, Kent has had to find almost £1bn in savings and income generation to manage spending within funding availability since 2011. In the same period, the council’s revenue budget has increased from £943m to £1.4bn.

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24 Jun 2024 - ‘Hundreds of councils’ at risk of financial failure if local government is not taken seriously

Political parties have been told to wake up to a looming crisis in local government that could see a swathe of councils face financial collapse over the next five years.

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24 Jun 2024 - LGA statement on adult social care narrative

A joint statement from the LGA and 42 partners has called for a “step change” in the way the sector is understood and talked about by politicians. The public must be given reasons to be hopeful about the future of social care rather than alarmed by the challenges it faces, the statement said. Cllr David Fothergill, LGA Community Wellbeing Board Chairman was interviewed by LBC, and said that “there has not been enough discussion about social care by any political party”.

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24 Jun 2024 - Households brace for £600 rise in council tax

In a warning about the viability of councils in England, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said the scope for further reductions to services was severely limited for some councils after more than a decade of financial challenges. It referenced LGA analysis on the amount core spending power for local government would need to increase to meet the demand for services. Cllr Kevin Bentley, Senior Vice Chairman of the LGA urged all political parties to promise “a significant and sustained increase in funding”. He added: “A funding gap of more than £6 billion over the next two years, fuelled by rising cost and demand pressures, means a chasm will continue to grow between what people and their communities need and want from their councils and what councils can deliver.”

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24 Jun 2024 - Local authority spending budgets

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities has published local authority service expenditure budgets for the 2024-25 financial year.
With 96% of England’s local authorities responding to the Department’s call for Revenue Account budget returns, it was found that budgets amount to an increase of £8.6 billion when compared to 2023-24, with budgets coming to £127.1 billion for the next year. In the main, this increase came across four areas.

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24 Jun 2024 - Manifestos ‘continuing conspiracy of silence’

A new report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has outlined how major political party manifestos have steered away from outlining how individual public services will be funded.
Labelled as a ‘conspiracy of silence’ when it comes to plans for public service spending, the lack of baselines for spending has created three issues according to the IFS. The first of these is that it is impossible to evaluate whether public service improvement plans are plausible. An example used within the report is the health and social care budget and the delivery of the NHS Workforce plan, which remains in doubt as different spending paths could leave the gap between promised additional spending anywhere between £1 and £20 billion a year.

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24 Jun 2024 - NAO tells auditors to continue as planned despite backstop delay

The National Audit Office has instructed auditors to "continue to make every effort" to complete planned audits despite the general election effectively halting backstop plans.
A supplementary guidance note was issued last week stating that proposed changes to the code of audit practice such the introductions of statutory public deadlines for accounts cannot proceed until a new parliament is formed.
As of March 2024, a total of 646 audit opinions are delayed for financial years 2015-16 to 2022-23, according to the latest figures from the Public Sector Audit Appointments (PSAA).

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21 Jun 2024 - LGA adult social care statement

A statement from the LGA, co-signed by 42 other leading social care organisations has called for a “step change” in the way the sector is understood and talked about by politicians. The public must be given reasons to be hopeful about the future of social care rather than alarmed by the challenges it faces, the statement said. It added that those within the sector have been struck by social care not being “as prominent as it should be in debates about the future of our communities”.

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21 Jun 2024 - Parties´ `silence on council funding remarkable considering challenges´

In a warning about the viability of councils in England, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said the scope for further reductions to services was severely limited for some councils after more than a decade of financial challenges. It referenced LGA analysis on the amount core spending power for local government would need to increase to meet the demand for services. Cllr Kevin Bentley, Senior Vice Chairman of the LGA urged all political parties to promise “a significant and sustained increase in funding”. He added: “A funding gap of more than £6 billion over the next two years, fuelled by rising cost and demand pressures, means a chasm will continue to grow between what people and their communities need and want from their councils and what councils can deliver.”

[ more...]

21 Jun 2024 - Care workers say pay rise needed to save sector

Care workers have told Sky News a £15 an hour wage is the "bare minimum needed" to stabilise the sector, with some receiving only a £6 pay rise in 33 years. Industry leaders and other groups representing care workers say the wage floor needs to be much higher to address a growing recruitment and retention crisis - with some 150,000 vacancies in need of filling.

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21 Jun 2024 - Chief attacks ‘strange’ funding pots that force councils to borrow

Competitive funding process that require councils to borrow to match government funding were criticised as “strange”, by Warrington BC’s chief executive.
Speaking at LGC’s Net Zero conference yesterday, Steven Broomhead said “policy fragmentation” is a problem, but “even worse is financial fragmentation”.
He was part of a panel about transport where he said: “It is more and more difficult to access capital funding, which is what we need to make the necessary interventions.”

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21 Jun 2024 - Service cuts likely, think-tank warns

Councils could be forced to cut back service provision if cost and demand pressures continue to grow, researchers have warned.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) noted that the main parties’ manifestos were ‘almost silent’ on council funding, meaning there is significant uncertainty about what the financial landscape for local government will look like over the next parliament.

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20 Jun 2024 - Interest Rates held at 5.25%

Interest rates are expected to be held at 5.25 per cent for the seventh time in a row by the Bank of England on Thursday. Despite inflation hitting the central bank's target level, most economists have predicted rates, will not be cut. They believe the Bank will wait to see if inflation stays at 2 per cent in the coming months, with a first rate cut in the autumn now looking more likely than the summer.

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20 Jun 2024 - Landmark fossil fuel ruling has ‘profound’ implications for planning

A historic legal judgement has ‘fundamentally changed’ the landscape around planning permission for fossil fuel extraction, campaigners have said.
The Supreme Court ruled today that Surrey County Council acted unlawfully when it granted permission for oil drilling at Horse Hill, near Horley, without considering the climate impacts of the inevitable burning of the oil.

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20 Jun 2024 - Lib Dem £300m pothole pledge ‘won’t scratch the surface’

The Liberal Democrats have committed to spending £300m over the next Parliament to fill 1.2 million potholes a year.
The party says it will redirect funds from the road-building budget to address the ‘pothole postcode lottery’, where some councils take up to 18 months to fix a pothole.

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20 Jun 2024 - Warnings over Labour devolution drive

A Labour drive to fill in the devolution map will take time and energy away from deepening devolution in areas that have already secured deals, an expert has warned.
The party’s manifesto last week said Labour would ‘widen devolution to more areas, encouraging local authorities to come together and take on new powers’ while also deepening devolution settlements for existing combined authorities.

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20 Jun 2024 - Lack of funding hindering road safety, councils say

Limited funding and inadequate data are major barriers to road safety planning and measurement, local authorities have reported.
In a survey of 200 council bosses, 63% cited lack of funding as an issue, while 45% said they faced a lack of accurate data when assessing the success of road safety schemes and infrastructure.

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20 Jun 2024 - Build 90,000 social homes per year, party leaders told

Charities and housing bodies have urged the major parties to commit to building 90,000 social homes per year over the next decade.
The letter, coordinated by Homeless Link and signed by 54 other organisations focusing on homelessness and housing, also called on the next government to work across party lines to end homelessness.

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20 Jun 2024 - North Yorkshire Council to invest £11.6m in temporary accommodation

North Yorkshire Council is set to build 90 new temporary accommodation units at a cost of £11.6m.
Gross spend on temporary accommodation was over £500,000 in 2019/20 and increased to more than £2,100,000 in 2022/23 – an overall increase in spending of 400%, according to a council report.
North Yorkshire Council members predict delivery of the new temporary accommodation units could bring annual savings of £1.7m by 2027/28.

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20 Jun 2024 - Finance directors tighten grip on spending

LGC research uncovers the measures councils are taking to make sure they cut costs
Most council finance directors have increased their oversight of spending, with pressures mounting, according LGC research.
In May LGC asked all upper tier authorities how they were handling their financial pressures and 50 councils responded. Nearly two-thirds said they had taken additional steps such as lowering authorisation thresholds or implementing stricter reviews of spending.

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20 Jun 2024 - Workforce: ‘Services are stretched too thin’

Reducing headcount is one way local authorities save money
Almost four in 10 councils have considered making people redundant as a cost cutting measure, according to LGC research.
In May LGC asked all upper tier authorities how they were handling their financial pressures and 50 councils responded.
Of those that responded, 18% said they currently have a ­recruitment freeze or have had one in the past 12 months and 14% have a freeze on paying for agency staff.

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19 Jun 2024 - UK inflation falls to 2%

Inflation has reached the Bank of England's target for the first time in almost three years. Prices rose at 2 per cent in the year to May, down from 2.3 per cent the month before, official figures show.

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19 Jun 2024 - Labour would use part of NHS budget to buy beds in care homes

NHS funding will be used to buy thousands of beds in care homes under Labour plans to reduce overcrowding in England’s hospitals, long waits in A&E and patients becoming trapped in ambulances, if the party wins the general election. Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, said the move would tackle the huge human and financial “waste” of beds being occupied by patients fit to leave but stuck there due to a lack of care outside the hospital, with 13,000 beds in England being occupied by such patients.

[ more...]

19 Jun 2024 - ‘Glacial’ progress on levelling up means more resources needed, says thinktank

Achieving levelling up goals by 2030 will require a big increase in resources for struggling areas, a leading thinktank has said. The Institute for Fiscal Studies said that, on many measures, regional inequality had widened.

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19 Jun 2024 - Sir Keir: We need to review voter ID rules

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has suggested his party would review the policy of mandatory voter ID if elected to govern.
A report into the controversial law by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on democracy and the constitution last year described voter ID as a ‘poisoned cure’ that prevented at least 14,000 people from voting in the local elections and first-of-its-kind polling earlier this year found five million voters could be disenfranchised by the rules at the General Election, the first time they will apply nationally.

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19 Jun 2024 - Councils and NHS row over Better Care Fund use

Some Integrated Care Boards (ICB) are seeking to challenge or repurpose the parts of the Better Care Fund (BCF) earmarked for social care funding, senior Local Government Association (LGA) councillors have been told.
A report to the latest meeting of the LGA’s executive advisory board said it was ‘offering some support to councils in systems which cannot agree the use of the BCF’.
The report read: ‘The LGA has reminded DHSC [Department of Health and Social Care] and NHS England of the rules and original purpose of the fund, and advocated strongly against the behaviour shown by some ICBs.’

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19 Jun 2024 - New LGA annual conference date revealed

The Local Government Association has rescheduled its annual conference and exhibition to October after the original date clashed with the snap general election.
It will take place at the Harrogate Convention Centre on 22-24 October, during half term in some areas. However, the annual general assembly meeting will be held virtually as planned on 2 July.
LGA senior vice chairman Kevin Bentley (Con) said the LGA was "delighted to have been able to secure a date" this autumn as "it will provide a perfect opportunity for the local government family to come together after the general election and discuss the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead".

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18 Jun 2024 - Councils expect £1bn shortfall in special educational needs

Councils in England are expecting a shortfall of nearly £1 billion in special needs budgets this year. Parent groups have said they fear children could miss out on support as a result of rising high needs deficits. Since 2019, the accumulated deficit in England for special educational needs and disabilities has reached £3.2 billion, according to the County Councils Network.

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18 Jun 2024 - Labour pledges leave questions over council funding

Questions hang over the future of local government finance in the event of a Labour victory in next month’s General Election.
The party’s manifesto includes a pledge to ‘replace the business rates system’ but leader Sir Keir Starmer has yet to expand on what changes will be made.
Labour claimed the overhaul would ‘raise the same revenue but in a fairer way’ and ‘level the playing field between the high street and online giants’.

[ more...]

18 Jun 2024 - How key manifesto promises from the three main parties compare

LGC has been through the general election manifestos from the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties to see what they propose for the main policy areas relevant to local government.

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17 Jun 2024 - King recognises council chiefs in honours

Current and former local authority bosses have been recognised in this year’s King’s Birthday Honours. Including ex-SCT President, Margaret Lee and Surrey CC’s leader and chair of the County Councils’ Network (CCN) Tim Oliver who both received OBEs.

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17 Jun 2024 - Questions about details and timing of Labour manifesto proposals

Finance experts praise the “positive intent” of the Labour Party manifesto but share their fears over the lack of clarity over their plans for local government.
Labour’s manifesto promised replacing business rates with a new system, multi-year funding for local government and further devolution.
Sector experts said they need clarification on the practicalities of these plans and are concerned about their timing, with the next financial settlement due within the first six months of the next parliament.

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17 Jun 2024 - UNISON: More than two-thirds of council youth centres lost

Funding cuts have led to the closure of more than two-thirds of council-run youth centres in England and Wales since 2010, according to a trade union.
Unison found that 1,243 council-run youth centres closed between 2010 and 2023, with just 581 still in operation by the end of March last year.
By 2023, more than four in 10 councils (42%) no longer operated their own youth centres.

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16 Jun 2024 - Places in council-run children’s homes in England fall by third as private firms take over

The number of places in council-run children’s homes in England has fallen by a third since 2012 – at the same time as places in privately run profit-making children’s homes have soared, according to an Observer analysis of government data.
The dramatic fall in council-run children’s homes, and local authorities’ increasing reliance on privately run provision, have helped drive a rise in children being housed hundreds of miles from their families, with private provision clustering in cheaper parts of the country.
Figures from annual reports published by the regulator Ofsted show that the number of places in council-run children’s homes fell from around 3,250 in 2012 to 2,087 in 2023. But over the past eight years, the number of children in privately run homes rose by 63%. Overall, there are now 9,717 children in homes run by either private companies or charities, with the vast majority in the private sector.

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16 Jun 2024 - The teacher giving bullied SEN pupils a ‘second home’ at school

Two years ago Kian Gallimore was so anxious about going to school that patches of his hair and his eyelashes turned “pure white” almost overnight.
Bullied at his primary school in Stoke-on-Trent by children who had previously befriended him, he felt further ostracised when he was offered only a backstage role in the school production of Alice in Wonderland. If supply teachers turned up he developed “bellyache”.
At the age of 11, the council offered Kian a place in a large failing secondary school, but “we knew he would not cope”, says his mother, Amy Gallimore. The GP put the change in his hair colour down to stress and Kian did not go to school for nine months, rarely speaking in public. “It was a horrendous situation,” Gallimore says.
Then the family met Tracy Whitehurst, principal of Aurora Hanley School. She would change Kian’s life.

[ more...]

14 Jun 2024 - Record number of children with EHCPs

The number of children and young people in England requiring support for special educational needs and disabilities has increased sharply according to new data. Local authorities issued 84,400 education, health and care plans (EHCPs) last year, according to figures released by the Department for Education, a 26 per cent increase compared with 2022. Nearly one in 19 children in England aged between five and 15 now have an EHCP. Cllr Louise Gittins, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board said: “Councils want to be able to provide the very best support to children with special educational needs and their families. However, these record figures are a reminder of the huge pressure councils are under, with the number of EHCPs increasing every year since they were introduced in 2014.”

[ more...]

14 Jun 2024 - Planning permissions at lowest level since 2005

Planning permissions have fallen to the lowest level since 2005 it is reported. The number of applications granted in England fell by 10.4 per cent between January and March compared to the same period last year, according to the latest statistics from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities.

[ more...]

14 Jun 2024 - Benefits bills to rise

The Resolution Foundation said the nation’s worsening health and a rise in pension payments would lead to a significant increase in welfare spending. In total, more than 90p of every extra £1 spent on benefits will go towards either the state pension or disability and incapacity claims. The Resolution Foundation said Britain’s ageing population and a commitment to keep the triple lock on pensions will increase the welfare bill by £9.5 billion in real terms between 2024-25 and 2028-29.

[ more...]

14 Jun 2024 - CIPFA responds to the Lib Dem election manifesto

Today the Lib Dems have announced £8.35bn extra for health and social care. This is welcome as they are areas of huge need. However, public service professionals are struggling due to chronic resource shortages.
Spending increases alone won't be enough to make lasting and sustainable improvements in health and care provision unless we address the underlying fragility in our public services. The problems facing the entire system of service delivery must be addressed. CIPFA looks forward to commitments from the other parties in these critical areas.

[ more...]

14 Jun 2024 - CIPFA responds to the Conservative election manifesto

This manifesto is light on how the Conservative party will pay for any public services. Tax cuts mean less spending, there is no headroom for us to borrow more as a country and that will mean the burden will fall on already stretched public services. As the professional body for public sector accountants, we focus relentlessly on public services and sound fiscal practice. It is difficult to find much in today’s publication that responds robustly to our calls for stability and predictability in public service resourcing.

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14 Jun 2024 - CIPFA responds to Labour’s election manifesto

On stability, Labour stresses fiscal predictability. There are well trailed tax initiatives: removing the VAT exemption on private schools to pay for 6500 extra teachers, a windfall tax on energy companies. But personal direct taxes will be frozen.
On renewal, public services are highlighted. Labour commits to reduce NHS waiting times. Extra resources are earmarked for potholes. The manifesto also focuses on growth and opportunity, with particular emphasis on removing regulatory obstacles to housebuilding.
Both stability and renewal are desirable. But so severe are the challenges confronting local public services that it is difficult to see how they can be rejuvenated and stabilised without far-reaching changes in how they are resourced.

[ more...]

14 Jun 2024 - Labour’s housing plan must ‘restore funding’

Labour's plans to reform the planning system to "kick start economic growth" must be underpinned with adequate funding for planning services, sector experts have said.
The party's manifesto which was published yesterday said it would "immediately" update the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to undo recent changes and restore mandatory housing targets.
Labour also promised to give combined authorities new planning powers "along with new freedoms and flexibilities to make better use of grant funding" in addition to reviewing the right to buy discounts.

[ more...]

14 Jun 2024 - Labour manifesto ‘dodges’ social care issue

Social care experts are not convinced Labour's manifesto pledges will meet the challenges facing the sector but instead "largely dodges the issue".
Chief executive of the King's Fund, Sarah Woolnough said Labour's "promises on social care reform could best be described as a plan to come up with a plan".
She added: "The current social care system in England is not fit for purpose and many people’s needs go unmet, yet it is one of the most over-looked and ignored policy challenges in recent decades."

[ more...]

14 Jun 2024 - Greens to push for council tax revaluation

Elected Greens will push for a re-evaluation of council tax bands to ‘reflect big changes in value’ since the 1990s, the party has pledged in its manifesto.
Greens said their ‘long-term policy aim’ was a land value tax so that those with the ‘most valuable and largest land holdings would contribute the most’.
The manifesto, which also said the party would ‘push for an increase in local government funding of £5bn per year to tackle the current under-funding crisis’, read: ‘The Green Party has always opposed the council tax, which is a regressive tax, that shifts the emphasis away from a local tax on property.

[ more...]

13 Jun 2024 - UK economy fails to grow during wet April

The UK economy failed to grow in April after particularly wet weather put off shoppers and slowed down construction. The official data is what most economists had expected and comes after the fastest growth in two years from January to March, ending the recession from the final half of last year.

[ more...]

13 Jun 2024 - Councils consider legal advice over waste guidance

Councils are considering seeking legal advice over statutory guidance that will tell local authorities to collect residual waste at least every two weeks, The MJ understands.
The ‘minimum standard’ for residual waste collection frequency is due to be introduced by the end of March 2026, although local government insiders are unsure whether this could change under a new government.
Whitehall said waste collection authorities ‘must have regard to the statutory guidance’ and it ‘actively encourages’ councils to collect residual waste more frequently than fortnightly.

[ more...]

13 Jun 2024 - UKMBA still reliant on LGA

The UK Municipal Bonds Agency (UKMBA) remains dependent on support from the Local Government Association (LGA), according to its latest accounts.
UKMBA suffered ‘delays of the company’s planned pipeline of bond transactions in 2023’ due to high interest rates and disruption caused by the Ukraine conflict.
The blow comes after the previous year’s accounts, when UKMBA said it expected to ‘generate positive cash flows’ in the short to medium term.

[ more...]

13 Jun 2024 - Full dispersal asylum targets still in draft

Ministers have not signed off the Government’s 2024 targets for identifying an extra 100,000 bedspaces for asylum seekers this year, The MJ can reveal.
Home Office officials had suggested politicians had approved the figures but it has now emerged the plans are still in draft form.
A senior officer said: ‘It is inconceivable that Home Office officials would issue a plan that has obvious potential to cause political controversy without at least showing it to ministers.

[ more...]

13 Jun 2024 - More than a million apply for vote

Council elections teams are facing a workload surge as they race to register voters in time for the General Election.
By the beginning of this week, 1.2 million people had applied to register since the election was called, with a week left before the deadline.
This year’s figure compares to just under 1m at the same point in 2017, when the election was called at a similar point in the calendar.

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13 Jun 2024 - Labour pledges to fix one million potholes

One million potholes a year will be fixed if Labour is elected on 4 July, shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh has said.
Under the proposals, councils will be funded to improve the condition of local roads and planning barriers will be removed to ensure infrastructure upgrades can be delivered.
The plan will be funded by £320m that will be saved by the deferral of the planned A27 bypass in the south of England.

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13 Jun 2024 - Labour manifesto pledges Right to Buy curbs

Labour has opened the door to reining in Right to Buy in its manifesto today.
The document includes a pledge to ‘increase protections on newly-built social housing’ and review the increased Right to Buy discounts introduced in 2012.
In a heavy focus on housing, the manifesto promised to help councils ‘build their capacity’ to supply affordable homes, but was light on further details.

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13 Jun 2024 - Labour would review combined authority governance

The Labour party has promised to “deepen” and “widen” devolution and review the governance arrangements for combined authorities.
Today’s manifesto launch set out an offer to “deepen devolution settlements for existing combined authorities” through “landmark devolution legislation to take back control”.
“We will also widen devolution to more areas, encouraging local authorities to come together and take on new powers,” the document said.

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13 Jun 2024 - Labour pledges £95m for youth hubs

The Labour party manifesto has pledged to allocate £95m of the predicted revenue from introducing VAT on private school fees towards launching youth future hubs "reaching every community".
This proposal promises to "intervene earlier to stop young people being drawn into crime," provide mental health "drop-in" spaces and careers advice.

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13 Jun 2024 - Labour reveals ‘deep’ social care reform ambition

The Labour Party has said that the social care sector needs "deep reform", but no funding has been allocated specifically in the manifesto costings.
The manifesto, published today, states: "The sector needs deep reform: there are inconsistent standards, chronic staff shortages, and people are not always treated with the care, dignity and respect they deserve."
These reforms include a pledge to "undertake a programme of reform to create a National Care Service" that Labour says would "underpin national standards" that "ensure providers behave responsibly".

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13 Jun 2024 - Labour promises ‘immediate’ update to planning framework

The Labour party has pledged to "immediately" update the National Planning Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) to undo recent changes and restore mandatory housing targets.
In the manifesto published today Labour said it would give combined authorities new planning powers "along with new freedoms and flexibilities to make better use of grant funding" and would also review right to buy discounts.
The party also vowed to introduce new mechanisms for cross-boundary strategic planning, which will require all combined and mayoral authorities to strategically plan for housing growth in their areas.

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13 Jun 2024 - Labour manifesto: Multi-year funding, business rates reform and £745m for public services

Labour has promised councils multi-year funding settlements and an end to “wasteful competitive bidding” in its general election manifesto.
The document also pledges to replace business rates with an alternative which would “raise the same revenue but in a fairer way” while costings published alongside include £745m a year for “prioritising frontline public service delivery and public sector capability,” funded by “halving consultancy spend”.

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12 Jun 2024 - Green party launch manifesto

The Greens will pledge to raise National Insurance by 8 per cent for wages above £50,270, as they publish their manifesto later today. The Greens are also expected to announce the details of a Green Economic Transition programme to upgrade homes, a carbon tax, a 1 per cent wealth tax on assets worth more than £10m and a 75 per cent fossil fuel profit windfall tax on banks.

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12 Jun 2024 - Labours pothole pledge

Labour has pledged to fix an extra one million potholes a year. Its proposals will use £320 million saved from deferring the A27 bypass to fund local authorities and relax planning restrictions to deliver infrastructure upgrades.

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11 Jun 2024 - Conservatives to launch manifesto

The Conservatives are pledging a further 2p cut in employee National Insurance, as they publish their manifesto later this morning. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is also announcing a stamp duty cut for some first-time buyers, a new Help to Buy scheme, and tax cuts for landlords who sell to tenants.

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11 Jun 2024 - Conservative manifesto to pledge no council tax revaluation

The Conservative party's manifesto promises that a future Tory government would not undertake an "expensive" council tax revaluation or review discounts on offer.
Ahead of today's manifesto launch, which took place at lunchtime, the Conservative party reiterated its commitment "not to change number of council tax bands, undertake an expensive council tax revaluation or cut council tax discounts" as part of wider promises to reduce taxes.

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11 Jun 2024 - Conservatives pledge business rates retention expansion

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to create business rates retention zones as he launched the Conservatives’ General Election manifesto today.
Councils would be able to retain all business rates growth for 25 years, and use the funds to finance infrastructure projects and support industry.
The document also confirmed the UK Shared Prosperity Fund would be extended for three years before being diverted to fund the Conservatives' proposed national service.

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11 Jun 2024 - Half of cyclists say road conditions are dangerous

A major local government insurer has warned that months of rain may have caused ‘some of the worst ever road conditions’.
Zurich Municipal’s warning comes after the insurance firm found more than half of cyclists believe roads are in poor condition and dangerous.
Analysis by the firm found more than 6,500 injuries were sustained on roads and pavements in the past three years, with incidents including cyclists being thrown off bikes after hitting potholes and pedestrians tripping over tree roots.

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10 Jun 2024 - LGA funding gap analysis

Councils in England face a funding gap of more than £6 billion over the next two years, according to new analysis in the LGA’s Local Government White Paper. Experts warn that rises in council tax will not be enough to plug funding gaps and meet demand pressures in special needs provision, children’s services, adult social care and homelessness support.

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10 Jun 2024 - Liberal Democrat manifesto

The Liberal Democrat manifesto, set to be released today, will focus on health and social care, with a pledge to provide £9 billion to these services. This will include a plan to pay care workers £2 above the minimum wage and a raise in the Carers Allowance eligibility threshold.

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10 Jun 2024 - Labour to pledge no increase in 'big three' taxes in 'triple lock' promise

Labour will reportedly promise not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT for five years if the party wins the general election. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves already said this week they will not put up the taxes, ahead of Labour's manifesto launch expected on Thursday, but Labour will take their pledge further and vow to cast a “triple lock” on the “big three” taxes over the course of the first term in power.

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10 Jun 2024 - Families homeless - but 33,000 properties are empty

LGA housing spokesperson Cllr Victor Chamberlain was interviewed on Sky News in response to Freedom of Information figures showing there are tens of thousands of council houses currently empty, despite the country facing a national housing crisis. There are 33,993 vacant council properties in England, the highest number since 2009, with more than 6,000 publicly-owned homes empty for over a year. The LGA said a shortage of funding for councils is the cause of the number of vacant properties. Cllr Chamberlain said that in many cases “the council doesn't have the money in place to be able to refurbish them and bring them back into use as council homes”. He said money is instead paid to private landlords for temporary accommodation because councils have a duty to make sure that nobody is sleeping rough or does not have a secure place to sleep each night. Cllr Chamberlain said: “There’s a complete false economy, if we’re not able to spend the money on the actual solution but we’re using a sticking plaster of temporary accommodation, then the system is broken.”

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10 Jun 2024 - Labour vows to 'pull up shutters' for small business

Labour has promised to “pull up the shutters” for small businesses and entrepreneurs if it is elected in the UK general election. The party said it would overhaul the business rates system to help High Street shops, as well as cracking down on the late payment of invoices.

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10 Jun 2024 - Hunt rules out ‘expensive’ council tax revaluation

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has pledged that if elected a Conservative government would not undertake a council tax revaluation.
Writing in a national newspaper, Hunt promised the Conservatives would not ‘increase the number of council tax bands, undertake an expensive council tax revaluation or cut council tax discounts’.

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10 Jun 2024 - Judge: Kent must accommodate UAS children 'irrespective' of resources

Kent CC has been told by a judge it must accommodate and look after all unaccompanied asylum seeking (UAS) children 'irrespective' of its resources.
The judgment comes amid predictions that increasing numbers of UAS children will arrive over the summer on top of numbers ballooning by 59% last year – from 1,405 in 2022 to 2,228 in 2023.
In a judgment handed down on Wednesday (5 June) in the High Court, Mr Justice Chamberlain said: ‘It is important to be clear what it means to say that the section 20 duty to accommodate and look after all UAS children when notified of their arrival by the Home Office applies irrespective of the resources of the local authority.

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10 Jun 2024 - ‘Significant costs’ as registrations surge after election announcement

The general election may cause "increased costs to local authorities that can’t be reclaimed" the chief executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA) has told LGC.
Returning officers claim costs for the running of elections from the government's the consolidated fund. But the costs the costs for registering people to vote are not included as this is part of council budgets.

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10 Jun 2024 - ‘Neither party seems serious’: IFS criticises Labour and Tory approach to fiscal rules

Neither the Conservatives nor Labour are serious about reducing the level of national debt, the Institute of Fiscal Studies has said, accusing both parties of avoiding the harsh reality of spending cuts after the election.

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10 Jun 2024 - Whitehall warning over 'heightened' care provider failure risk

The risk of adult social care provider failure is ‘currently heightened due to additional pressures in the market,’ a Whitehall document highlighting the key risks over the next few months has warned.
A Civil Contingencies Forward Look, seen by The MJ, blamed workforce capacity, fuel, utility and agency staff costs, and inflation.
Applications for health and social care worker visas plummeted by 76% compared to the previous year, according to the latest data from the Home Office, with social care leaders warning the drop would destabilise the sector and result in poorer care for the elderly.

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10 Jun 2024 - Councils bring in over £127m in bus lane fines

Local authorities in England brought in a total of £127.3m in revenue from bus lane fines in 2022/23, according to the AA.
The AA’s analysis of Department for Transport data found that this revenue, after deducting £47.7m of costs, generated a total financial surplus of £79.6m.
Transport for London accrued most of this revenue (£48.5m) followed by Manchester City Council (£4.8m), Bristol City Council (£2.9m), and Essex County Council (£2.5m).

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10 Jun 2024 - Call to reset government-council relationship

The Local Government Association has published a new white paper outlining how the next government can solve numerous issues by building a new relationship with councils.
Including analysis into issues such as council funding gaps, the white paper calls for a new relationship that includes long-term financial certainty and empowerment to be at the forefront of the new relationship, with cost increases and demand pressures continuing to challenge councils.
As has been the case for a long time now, more and more councils are being forced to cut back on services that they provide for communities, to ensure that they are able to meet their obligations for adult and children’s social care, homelessness support and SEND school transportation. Part of the paper’s analysis revealed that two-thirds of local neighbourhood services such as waste collection, road repairs, and leisure services are being stripped back to try and make ends meet.

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10 Jun 2024 - Council funding still lower than 14 years ago

A report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has explored how local government finances have changed since 2010, and has found that core funding is still lower per resident than it was 14 years ago.
The publication of this report comes against the backdrop of a General Election campaign that has failed to address how the incoming government will address council funding, something that has continued to grow in importance over recent months and years.
By looking into the evolution of council finances both since 2010, and the most recent General Election in 2019, the report was able to find that funding from central government and local taxes is 9% lower than it was in 2010. Thanks to significant population growth, this translates to a cut of approximately 18% per resident.

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07 Jun 2024 - Council funding still lower than 14 years ago

A report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has explored how local government finances have changed since 2010, and has found that core funding is still lower per resident than it was 14 years ago.
The publication of this report comes against the backdrop of a General Election campaign that has failed to address how the incoming government will address council funding, something that has continued to grow in importance over recent months and years.
By looking into the evolution of council finances both since 2010, and the most recent General Election in 2019, the report was able to find that funding from central government and local taxes is 9% lower than it was in 2010. Thanks to significant population growth, this translates to a cut of approximately 18% per resident.

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06 Jun 2024 - ‘There’s life in the UK economy’ as growth forecast upgraded

The UK economy will grow faster than expected this year and next, according to upgraded forecasts from the British Chambers of Commerce.
The BCC, a business and industry lobby group, said the economy would expand by 0.8 per cent this year, up from a forecast of 0.5 per cent, and by 1 per cent in 2025, compared with an earlier projection of 0.7 per cent.
The acceleration in growth comes after the economy performed better than expected at the start of the year, registering its fastest quarter of output growth since 2022 at 0.6 per cent. The UK briefly slipped into a technical recession at the end of 2023, but is now on course for a slight recovery where longer-term growth prospects “are unlikely to be strong”, said the BCC.

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05 Jun 2024 - Some councils spending large proportion of budgets on temporary housing

The LGA has warned that growing demand for accommodation means councils are now spending more than £1.74 billion supporting 104,000 households in temporary accommodation, both record highs. Analysis by the campaign group Generation Rent suggests more than 25 councils are spending at least 10 per cent of their core housing budget on temporary accommodation but more than 80 spend less than 1 per cent. The LGA says that building more “genuinely affordable homes” is the best way to tackle council housing waiting lists in the long term.

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05 Jun 2024 - Surge in STIs

There were 401,800 new sexually transmitted infections diagnosed in England last year, up 4.7 per cent from 383,789 in 2022, according to the UK Health Security Agency. Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said the figures "show sexual health services continue to face rising demand pressures". He added that whoever forms the new government must introduce a "new 10-year strategy to tackle infection rates, and ensure that sexual health services are properly funded and resourced in the long-term".

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05 Jun 2024 - Gove silent after LGA letter on Oflog

Local Government Association (LGA) leaders have failed to receive a reply from communities secretary Michael Gove to their letter on the controversial council league tables story.
Angry politicians called for an ‘urgent meeting’ with Gove more than a month ago on 2 May after The Times used Office for Local Government (Oflog) metrics to rank England’s 318 councils in the five areas the watchdog currently monitors – adult social care, corporate and finance, planning, roads and waste management.

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05 Jun 2024 - Councils in financial crisis predicted to double

The number of councils seeking support due to financial crisis is expected to double over the next year unless the next government injects more cash into the sector, senior figures have warned.
Last month, Lambeth LBC became the 20th council to secure exceptional financial support from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) this year, in the form of a £50m capitalisation direction.

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04 Jun 2024 - Lib Dems pledge free personal care for adults

The Liberal Democrats have pledged that free personal care will be offered to older or disabled people at home, if they were to form the next government.

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04 Jun 2024 - Election winners face painful school cash choices – report

A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said the party that wins the general election faces a “painful set of choices” in relation to England’s schools’ costs.

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04 Jun 2024 - Move to home education biggest since pandemic

An investigation has found the number of children moving to home education in the UK is at its biggest level since the pandemic. Councils received nearly 50,000 notifications in the last academic year from families wanting to take their children out of school.

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04 Jun 2024 - Audit backlog hindering publication of 2023/24 accounts

Just 41% of local authorities published their draft accounts for 2023/24 by the audit deadline, with many still struggling from the “knock-on impact” of the backlog.
According to the latest LG improve accounts tracker for 2023/24, which was released today (3 June), 128 authorities out of 315 published their draft accounts by the 31 May deadline.

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04 Jun 2024 - Growth at heart of LGA White Paper

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called for powers and funding so that councils can take a leading role in driving inclusive growth.
A Local Government White Paper, which has been months in the making, emphasised the sector’s potential to deliver on what is a high-priority agenda for the Conservatives and Labour heading into the General Election.
The paper proposed working with the next government to provide a ‘place-based employment and skills offer’ and called for the creation of an ‘integrated multi-year growth fund’ to replace the current plethora of short-term funds.

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03 Jun 2024 - Calls to extend the sugar tax

The sugar tax has been so successful in improving people’s diets that it should be extended to cakes, biscuits and chocolate, health experts say. The World Health Organization wants the next UK government to expand coverage of the levy to help tackle tooth decay, obesity, diabetes and other illnesses.

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03 Jun 2024 - Conservatives’ pledge to transform 30 towns

The Conservatives have pledged to give £20 million to 30 towns across the country - many of which are based in the Midlands and north – as part of their existing long-term plan for towns. This would increase the number of towns that will receive financial support to more than 100. The Party said local people in each area would decide how the money would be spent, through new town boards composed of community leaders, businesspeople, local government and the local MP.

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03 Jun 2024 - Labour pledges to revive four key bills

Allies of Sir Keir Starmer have confirmed a Labour government would revive four bills, including legislation intended to phase out smoking and a separate measure to end no-fault evictions, strengthening the rights of tenants. The Labour leader is said to back the creation of an English football regulator, which is intended to improve financial resilience in the game, with reserve powers to redistribute cash from the Premier League to smaller clubs. Sir Keir Starmer has also promised to implement “Martyn’s law”, which would require venues and local authorities in the UK to deploy training and contingency plans in the event of a terrorist attack.

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03 Jun 2024 - Think-tank urges slashing of competitive funds

Competitive funding of councils should only be used in ‘exceptional circumstances’ under the next government, a report has argued.
The Institute for Government (IfG) think-tank concluded the system should be streamlined into a smaller number of large, multi-year funds that can be topped up as cash becomes available, which would ‘strike the right balance between flexibility and central control and accountability’.

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03 Jun 2024 - Lib Dems in public health cuts reversal pledge

The Lib Dems have pledged a £1bn-a-year investment to reverse cuts to the public health grant.
Under the pledge, health checks would be funded for 40-74 year olds, and infants and their mothers, and access to blood pressure tests would be widened.
The Lib Dems said there had been a 28% real terms cut to the grant to local authorities since 2015.

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03 Jun 2024 - National service funding proposal shows ‘disconnect’ between levelling up rhetoric and action

Scrapping a key economic generation programme to help fund a new national service scheme would see the poorest parts of the UK lose “hundreds of millions” in essential funding, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

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31 May 2024 - National service funding proposal shows ‘disconnect’ between levelling up rhetoric and action

Scrapping a key economic generation programme to help fund a new national service scheme would see the poorest parts of the UK lose “hundreds of millions” in essential funding, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
Under proposals put forward by the Conservative Party, all 18-year-olds would be expected to take part in either military training or community volunteering as part of a National Service programme costing £2.5bn a year.
The party said most of the cost would be met by abolishing the £1.5bn UK Shared Prosperity Fund – the economic development programme set up after the UK’s departure from the European Union – while the remaining £1bn would be paid for from improved tax enforcement.

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31 May 2024 - Election stalls devolution deal

Lancashire County Council has confirmed that last week’s General Election announcement has stalled the finalising of its devolution deal.
The government announced in November 2023 that it would be willing to enter into a deal to bring devolution to the county, with this bringing together Lancashire County Council, Blackpool Council, and Blackburn with Darwen Council. Once finally approved, the deal would allow the new Combined County Authority to hold more power, whilst also injecting further investment.

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31 May 2024 - Council rejects film studio plans despite Hollywood backing

Buckinghamshire councillors have rejected permission for a proposed film studio despite the plans receiving the backing of Hollywood royalty.
The council’s Strategic Sites Committee considered the application for Marlow Film Studios but rejected it over concerns relating to the impact on the local road network.

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31 May 2024 - Hoare: We still want productivity plans

Local government minister Simon Hoare has insisted he still wants councils to draw up unpopular productivity plans despite the calling of the General Election, The MJ understands.

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31 May 2024 - CCN: Oflog reform and long-term funding needed from next government

The County Councils Network (CCN) has called on the next government to provide financial sustainability and funding reforms for local authorities.
Ahead of the next general election on 4 July, the CCN has launched its cross-party ‘Manifesto for Counties’, providing a “blueprint” for “sustainable” county and unitary councils. It sets out four key foundations: sustainable long-term funding; an agenda for reform; localising and devolving; and tackling climate change.

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30 May 2024 - Finances ‘extremely precarious’: County Councils Network warning for the next government

Leaders from the organisation’s Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and independent groups released a joint statement stressing that councils in county areas face a £2bn black hole in the coming two years.
“Whoever wins power, the next government inherits a situation with council finances that are extremely precarious,” the statement read.
“Without extra funding and fundamental reform, highly valued local services could reach breaking point, and even well-run local authorities could struggle to balance the books.

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30 May 2024 - Public health grant cut by over 20%

Public health services such as sexual health and drug and alcohol programmes have seen their budgets reduced by more than other health care services, a think tank has revealed.
The Nuffield Trust found that NHS expenditure rose by an average of 3.1% annually over the past decade.

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29 May 2024 - Labours tax plans

Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has said that Labour will not include any additional tax rises in its manifesto aside from those already announced. The revenue raised will go towards funding for extra schoolteachers and reducing NHS waiting times but not to non-ringfenced public services with the Shadow Chancellor neither confirming nor denying that councils could receive less in grants. The Shadow Chancellor also said that there would be no budget until September should they win the upcoming election.

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29 May 2024 - Nearly 85,000 childcare places needed, MPs warn

Around 84,500 more childcare places and 40,000 extra staff are required by September 2025 if the Government is to deliver on its plans to increase early year childcare support.

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29 May 2024 - Council workers’ incomes ‘cut to the bone’, warns union

Unite has recommended its members reject the latest local government pay offer for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
The trade union said the offer of a pay increase of at least £1,290 ‘fails to tackle poverty pay’ or ‘reverse the years of real terms pay cuts’.
‘Unite’s local government representatives have rightly called on members to reject yet another pitiful pay offer for council workers,’ said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.

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29 May 2024 - Levelling Up details confirmed

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has confirmed the further details of the areas that are to benefit from Levelling Up Partnership funding.
Across Boston, Stoke-on-Trent, Wakefield, the Scottish Borders, Tendring, investment will be allocated to regeneration projects that will support the government’s levelling up plans. Approximately £60 million will be committed by the government, covering everything from culture and the arts, to transport and housing.

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29 May 2024 - Reeves: No return to austerity

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said there will be no return to austerity under a Labour Government.
Experts have warned that local government could be left to shoulder the burden of public sector cuts in a new age of austerity, with a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank warning commitments by Labour and the Conservatives mean real-terms cuts will have to be made to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities without a higher overall spending envelope.

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28 May 2024 - Private school parents warned state places are scarce

Private school parents looking to avoid Labour’s VAT policy have been warned there are very few state school places available. It is reported that up to an estimated quarter of students could be removed from private schools if the policy goes ahead. There have been warnings about a growing shortage of school spaces across the country for a number of years. Councils, which have a duty to provide children with a full-time education, have no powers to open new schools or force local academies to expand, the Local Government Association said, as it called for councils to be given more powers to direct schools to accept children.

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28 May 2024 - Tories pledge 'Triple Lock Plus' pension allowance

The Conservatives have promised to raise the tax-free pension allowance via a "Triple Lock Plus" if they win the general election. Under the plans, the personal allowance for pensioners will increase at least 2.5 per cent or in line with the highest of earnings or inflation.

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28 May 2024 - How Britain’s historic buildings are being sold off to the highest bidder

A feature explores how the Government and local authorities have been selling assets to plug budget shortfalls.

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28 May 2024 - The year the state pension will start to collapse – whoever wins the election

The state pension could become unaffordable between 2035 and 2045 if the triple lock is protected, according to the Adam Smith Institute. Pension spending has risen from 2 per cent of GDP in the early 1950s to more than 7 per cent today.

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28 May 2024 - Another pandemic is ‘absolutely inevitable’, says Patrick Vallance

Sir Patrick Vallance, the former chief scientific adviser to the Government, has said another pandemic is “inevitable” and urged the next government to focus on preparing for it as a priority.

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28 May 2024 - Rise in public health funerals

Freedom of Information figures reveal a 23 per cent rise in public health funerals between 2018 and 2023, in nearly two-thirds of council areas in England. Research by charity Quaker Social Action suggests that more than half of councils are not following guidelines on public health funerals. It said, for example, some do not allow family and friends to attend and has called for minimum statutory standards for public health funerals. The LGA said: "When arranging these funerals, councils will seek to ensure the religious beliefs or wishes of the deceased are respected and they are provided with a dignified funeral. In many cases the deceased has no family to arrange their funeral, so there is no-one to attend a service if one is held or to collect the ashes."

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28 May 2024 - Michael Gove steps down in mass exodus of MPs before election

Housing Secretary Michael Gove is one of a number of MPs yesterday who announced they will not be seeking re-election. Around one in five MPs have now said they are stepping down ahead of the General Election on 4 July.

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28 May 2024 - Tower Hamlets Best Value Inspection extended

The Best Value Inspection (BVI) team at Tower Hamlets LBC has extended its work to include the council’s oversight of the General Election.
With the election set for 4 July, The MJ understands that the Government-commissioned BVI at the east London borough has been expanded to ensure additional scrutiny of how the national-level vote will be managed locally.
BVI officials have already reviewed how Tower Hamlets managed the recent London mayoral and assembly votes – and election scrutiny will form a key part of their final report to ministers. But a senior source today confirmed that, after prime minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to hold a snap General Election six months before the official end of his term, local inspectors will stay on.

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28 May 2024 - National service threat to Shared Prosperity Fund

Conservative proposals to create a national service scheme could spell the end of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF).
The reallocation of the funds has come under fire from opposition parties on the General Election trail.
Rishi Sunak has outlined plans that would see all 18-year-olds complete a year of military service or 25 days of community volunteering, to be introduced by the end of the next Parliament.
The lion’s share of the funding would come from £1.5bn previously committed to the UKSPF, which replaced EU funding post-Brexit, with dedicated allocations for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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28 May 2024 - Devon and Torbay devo deal in doubt over election timing

Devon CC and Torbay Council have sought “clarity” from officials after the timing of the general election put the timetable to establish a new county combined authority into doubt.
The two councils formally submitted their devolution proposal at the beginning of May and had expected that the new combined county authority would be established by the autumn.
The new CCA will gain control of £14.8m from the shared prosperity fund over three years. It will also get £16m in new capital funding to support housing and net zero priorities.

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28 May 2024 - Minister calls for cross-party solution to 'broken’ funding

Local government minister Simon Hoare has admitted the funding formula for councils is ‘all but broken’ and called for a ‘cross-party solution’.
He spoke in a debate on council funding called by Helen Morgan, Liberal Democrat MP for North Shropshire.
Morgan, a vice-president of the Local Government Association, argued that ‘rural areas are struggling perhaps more than urban areas’ and that funding had ‘lost touch with reality on the cost of delivering services, and indeed to some extent on the level of need’.

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24 May 2024 - Council funding reduced by a quarter since 2010

ITV Tonight has investigated how councils across the country are struggling with their budgets. The LGA said council core spending power has reduced by a quarter since 2010, with its survey of councils revealing 85 per cent were worried they'd need to relook at service delivery.

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24 May 2024 - Unison advises members to reject pay offer

Trade union Unison has advised its members to reject this year’s “disappointing” pay offer.
Unions had asked for "£3,000 or 10% whichever is higher" when they submitted the claim earlier this year.
Last week the National Employers offered a pay increase of £1,290 which equates to 5.77% for the lowest paid, from 1 April 2024.

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24 May 2024 - Councils given 100,000 asylum housing target

Councils have been told to identify an extra 100,000 bedspaces for asylum seekers this year amid Home Office expectations of a further surge in arrivals, The MJ can reveal.
Senior council sources have questioned whether they can meet the Government’s 2024 targets – sent to the UK’s 11 regional strategic migration partnerships – without hampering their ability to meet other housing needs.

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24 May 2024 - General Election brings raft of reforms

Elections officers face a raft of reforms to implement as voters nationwide prepare to go to the polls in July.
Changes introduced in the Elections Act has added to workloads for teams, who in some cases are still engaged in post-polls work and reporting from this month’s local elections.
Chief executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators, Peter Stanyon, said: ‘This General Election will be the first time voter ID is used across Scotland, the first time new Parliamentary constituencies are in place and the first time UK citizens overseas can register to vote however long ago they left the UK.’

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24 May 2024 - MacAlister: Not enough has changed on children's social care

The author of the Government’s independent review of children’s care has warned ‘not enough has changed’ since he proposed reforms two years ago.
Former executive chair of children’s services specialist Foundations, Josh MacAlister, who led a Government-commissioned review in 2021 and published his final report the following year, had urged a ‘radical reset’ of children’s care away from costly and often poor crisis intervention.

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24 May 2024 - LGA to decide on annual conference 'in coming days'

The Local Government Association (LGA) will decide whether to axe its annual conference ‘in the coming days’ in light of the clash with the General Election.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called a General Election for 4 July – the last day of its conference - last night.
In a message to councils, LGA chief executive Joanna Killian said Labour chair Shaun Davies - a prospective Parliamentary candidate - will step away from his role to ‘focus on running for election’.

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24 May 2024 - Windsor and Maidenhead issues section 114 warning

Windsor and Maidenhead BC has warned it could be facing effective bankruptcy if financial support is not agreed soon.
The borough has begun talks with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in the hope of securing exceptional financial support.
Windsor and Maidenhead, which limited all non-essential spending in September, said it had uncovered unexpected historical costs.

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24 May 2024 - Snap election creates ‘massive challenges’

The timing of the general election means returning officers need to “squeeze” six months’ work into six weeks, but could herald positive results for council budgets because the new government will have more time to conduct a spending review.

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24 May 2024 - RAC: Councils take ‘wildly differing approaches’ to potholes

Local authorities take very different approaches to deciding whether potholes get fixed, which means many go unrepaired, according to the RAC and Channel 4’s Dispatches.
Almost a third of the 206 councils in Britain with responsibility for roads fail to state any criteria online for repairing potholes, while 35% list specific pothole depths and sometimes widths that would trigger a repair.

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24 May 2024 - Public services need serious reform, say sector leaders

Public service leaders have urged the political parties to think seriously about long-term reforms as the general election gets under way.
Sector influencers have warned the dire state of public services after years of austerity means clear plans need to be put before voters.
As Westminster winds up essential business, campaign teams were cautioned not to fudge commitments in the same way as Theresa May did with the care commitment in her election manifesto that was panned by social care experts.

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23 May 2024 - `Councils refusing to fix potholes deemed too small´

Many potholes are left unrepaired despite being reported because some councils only fix them if they are a minimum size, according to new analysis.
More than a third (35%) of local authorities in Britain state the size a pothole must be before they will act, research by the RAC and Channel 4’s Dispatches programme found.
The most common depth stated is 4cm (1.6in)(54 councils), but in the case of six councils – Warwickshire, Torbay, Thurrock, Nottingham, Torfaen and South Lanarkshire – potholes need to be at least 5cm (2in) deep to be considered for repair.

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22 May 2024 - UK Inflation falls to 2.3%

UK inflation fell to 2.3 per cent in the year to April, official figures show. It marks a fall from 3.2 per cent in March, according to the Office for National Statistics, and is the lowest level in almost three years.

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22 May 2024 - IMF warning of £30bn fiscal hole

The International Monetary Fund’s annual health check on the UK said “difficult choices” lay ahead because of a looming £30 billion hole in the public finances. In order to stop debt rising, the IMF said the UK Treasury may need to consider a range of potentially unpopular revenue-raising measures including widening the scope of VAT, road pricing, scrapping the triple lock on the state pension, raising more from inheritance tax and capital gains tax, and wider user charges for public services.

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22 May 2024 - Proposed audit backstop dates deemed ‘unacceptable’

Proposed deadlines for future local audits could interfere with elections if they are scheduled during pre-election periods, warned the Local Government Association's economy and resources board last week.
Senior advisor in finance at the LGA Bevis Ingram told the board last week that some of the proposed dates for publishing audited accounts could mean qualified or disclaimed opinions would be published in the weeks leading up to an election.

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22 May 2024 - Right-to-buy needs ‘radically different approach’

The right-to-buy scheme has been a "broken set of promises" the mayor of South Yorkshire CA said as he and another Labour mayor backed calls for reform to the system..
Earlier this month Andy Burnham (Lab) mayor of Greater Manchester said called for the scheme should be suspended to allow "councils the breathing space they need to replenish their stock" after unveiling plans to build 10,000 council homes.

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22 May 2024 - North Yorkshire bans public questions at budget meetings

Public participation will not be allowed at North Yorkshire’s budget meetings as part of a series of changes to the council’s constitution.
The Conservative-run council, launched as a unitary in April 2023, will have its first dedicated budget meeting next year after this year’s budget was approved at a quarterly full council meeting that lasted eight hours.

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22 May 2024 - Housing crisis has become ‘significantly worse’ in past year

Three-quarters of councillors believe the housing crisis has become significantly worse in the past year, according to a major survey of planning authorities in England and Wales.
In the survey of 416 planning committee members by communications consultancy SEC Newgate, two-thirds said the housing crisis in their local area was severe.

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22 May 2024 - Bailiff usage soars by nearly 50% as council debt blackhole hits £2.4bn, figures show

Enforcement agents managed to recoup less than a fifth of that debt, as people struggled to pay their bills during the cost of living crisis.
LBC asked local authorities about the amount of unpaid debt they’ve passed on to enforcement agents in the last three financial years. This included bills for council tax, parking fines, non-payment of business rates and housing arrears.
The uncollected debt is exacerbating the pressure on councils’ finances.
Of the 235 which provided their data, 70 asked enforcement agents to recoup more than £10m last year, with two chasing debts of more than £100m.

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22 May 2024 - Rishi Sunak announces UK general election for Thursday 4 July

Rishi Sunak has vowed to "fight for every vote" as he called an early UK general election for Thursday 4 July.
The PM made the announcement in a rain-soaked speech outside 10 Downing Street, as he bids to win a fifth term in office for the Conservatives.
The surprise move overturned expectations of an autumn poll, which might have given the Tories a better chance of closing the gap with Labour.

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21 May 2024 - Internal drainage board costs reach ‘unprecedented’ levels

Some councils have warned that they may have to cut services due to "unprecedented" cost rises from the internal drainage board levy.
Councils are charged a levy to fund IDBs to manage water levels in their area. Previously the funding for IDBs was included in the revenue support grant from central government but since 2016 councils have been expected to fund it through council tax, which they have not been able to increase at a rate to match the increase in the levy without holding a referendum.

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21 May 2024 - Rayner reveals plans for New Towns Code

Labour will deliver "more social and affordable homes" through its New Towns Code, its deputy leader has said.
Speaking today at UKREiiF Conference in Leeds, Ms Rayner revealed plans for the code which sets out criteria that developers must meet on new settlements with a "gold standard aim of 40%" of social and affordable homes.
She said: "New towns are just one way we get good quality affordable homes built in the national interest. Our local housing recovery plan will reverse the Conservatives' damage changes to planning.

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21 May 2024 - BT: Too many councils failing to engage

‘Too many’ councils are failing to engage with telecoms giant BT as it works to switch customers to digital phone lines, the firm has said.
BT urged councils to ensure they share data to protect vulnerable telecare users as it delayed its switchover timetable to February 2027.

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21 May 2024 - Homes England beating targets

Homes England has announced that its provisional figures for the year show that it has exceeded its annual targets, despite poor market conditions.
As the agency holding the responsibility for housing and regeneration across the country, Homes England works alongside local, regional and national organisations. This has led to achievements such as the completion of more than 32,000 homes, beating the annual target of 29,641.

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21 May 2024 - Frustration over ‘burden’ of productivity plans

The introduction of productivity plans is an "attempt to try and defend not funding local government properly," a council chief executive has told LGC.
In February, the final local government settlement confirmed that in return for an additional £600m in funding, councils would need to set out how they will "improve service performance and reduce wasteful expenditure" in productivity plans.

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21 May 2024 - LGA launches attack on DfT over traffic fine surplus plans

Council bosses have hit back at the Department for Transport (DfT) over plans to restrict their ability to generate surpluses from traffic contraventions, calling the plans misguided and even questioning whether the Government violated pre-election rules.

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20 May 2024 - Council tax in England increased 50 per cent faster than inflation between 98 and 23

Analysis of government and Office for National Statistics data has shown that council tax for an average home in England increased 50 per cent faster than inflation between 1998 and 2023. An interactive map shows how much council tax has risen in different areas and what the total amounts to over the last 25 years. The LGA said: “While council tax is an important funding stream, it has never been the solution to the long-term pressures facing councils, raising different amounts in different parts of the country – unrelated to need - and adding to the financial pressures facing households.”

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20 May 2024 - Why levelling up needs to change

The Government’s new “towns tsar” Adam Hawksbee, who is overseeing the implementation of the “new plan for towns” in 75 communities across the UK, with local people controlling how Whitehall money is spent, has described being struck by the unique problems and solutions in each place he has visited.

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20 May 2024 - Council employees offered 5.8% pay rise

Council employees have been offered a pay increase of at least £1,290, which equates to a 5.8% rise for the lowest paid.
Employers also offered chief executives and senior officers a 2.5% pay increase from 1 April 2024.
Chair of the national employers for local government services, Cllr Tim Roca, said they were ‘acutely aware’ of the added pressure this would place on ‘already hard-pressed council finances.’

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19 May 2024 - The stealth £11,000 council tax rise as 'Britain's worst designed tax' has outstripped inflation by 50%

Experts have called for a 'complete overhaul' of council tax as MailOnline can today reveal that 25 years of stealth tax rises have cost the average Briton nearly £11,000.
Analysis of Government and ONS data shows that council tax - dubbed 'one of Britain's worst designed taxes' by Resolution Foundation economist Adam Corlett - for an average home in England rose 50 per cent faster than inflation between 1998 and 2023.
MailOnline has created an interactive map and graphic so you can find out how much council tax has risen above inflation in your area and what the total amounts to over the last 25 years.

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19 May 2024 - Schools in England send police to homes of absent pupils with threats to jail their parents

Some schools in England are sending police to the homes of children who are persistently absent, or warning them their parents may go to prison if their attendance doesn’t improve, the Observer has learned.
Headteachers say they are now under intense pressure from the government to turn around the crisis in attendance, with a record 150,000 children at state schools classed as severely absent in 2022-23. From September, all state schools in England will have to share their attendance records every day with the Department for Education.

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19 May 2024 - Landlords face rent caps under Labour

Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, has said she is in favour of councils having the power to cap rents.
The measure would mean local authorities could prevent landlords from raising rents above a set proportion every year.
A similar policy introduced in Scotland by Nicola Sturgeon drove landlords out of the market, reduced the supply of housing and forced up rents.

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18 May 2024 - 30,000 OAPs die every year while waiting for help from Britain's broken social care system

Analysis of NHS data reveals 28,655 people aged 65 and over passed away waiting for social care in 2022/23, a figure equal to 79 deaths a day.
Almost 30,000 desperate pensioners die every year waiting for help from Britain’s broken social care system, figures show.
Campaigners fear many of the frightened and vulnerable begging for assistance spent their final weeks and months in distress and discomfort because supply simply cannot meet demand.

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18 May 2024 - What happens when councils take control of buses?

Buses are the most commonly used form of public transport in England - yet in recent years routes have been disappearing at an alarming rate.
Outside of London, bus services have dropped by 50% since 2008, according to research by Friends of the Earth, external, with people on lower incomes and those without a car disproportionately affected.
Bus use plummeted during the pandemic but even before then it was steadily declining in areas outside the capital.

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17 May 2024 - Nottingham has much to do to bridge £172m budget gap, says departing improvement board

Nottingham City Council still has “significant shortcomings” in budgetary control and its underlying level of spend, with the authority facing a “stark financial challenge in 2025/26 alone”.
Those insights are included in the final report from the departing Improvement and Assurance Board, chaired by Sir Tony Redmond, on progress at Nottingham City Council. The report sets out the board’s views on Nottingham’s improvement journey since it was appointed three years ago, with the board leaving following the appointment of commissioners.

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17 May 2024 - Four councils continue to dodge corporate peer challenge

Four councils could be at risk of Government intervention as they dig in over not undergoing a corporate peer challenge (CPC).
The Local Government Association (LGA) had refused to name and shame the councils that have still not committed to a date to have a CPC – 13 years after the programme was launched.
However, the LGA has now been forced to disclose under the Freedom of Information Act the names of the remaining councils that have not yet booked in to have a CPC – Bromley and Hillingdon LBCs, Leicestershire CC and Dartford BC.

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17 May 2024 - Oflog league tables journalist defends article

The journalist who wrote the controversial league tables story based on data compiled by the Office for Local Government (Oflog) has defended the article.
The Times journalist who wrote the piece, Andrew Ellson, admitted the tables were ‘not perfect but we believe they still give a useful indication of who is performing well and who is not’.

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17 May 2024 - Government advisers urge overhaul of infrastructure funding

Councils should be given more funding to play a greater role in developing infrastructure projects, according to Government advisers.
A report published today by the National Infrastructure Commission said local government needed increased and more stable funding in areas such as flooding, transport, recycling and net zero.
Chief among its recommendations was to give all local authorities with transport responsibilities the same five-year funding settlements offered to mayoral combined authorities.

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17 May 2024 - Wales pushes back council tax reform

Council tax reforms will not come into force until 2028, the Welsh Government has announced.
Finance secretary Rebecca Evans said five-yearly revaluations would be introduced from 2028 after taking into account at feedback to a Welsh Government consultation.
While two-thirds of respondents backed reform, a third opted for minimal changes and across the slowest timeframe, compared to about a quarter favouring expanded reform and the quickest timetable.

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17 May 2024 - £50m of exceptional financial support agreed for Lambeth LBC

The Government has agreed in principle up to £50m of exceptional financial support for Lambeth LBC for 2023-24 and 2024-25.
Lambeth joins 19 other local authorities that have agreed in principle capitalisation directions.
The council’s financial difficulties are largely related to costs associated with a redress scheme for historic child abuse cases.

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17 May 2024 - Somerset to save £8m with 201 redundancies

Somerset Council has accepted 201 redundancy applications, which it said would save more than £8m a year.
It is the first part of the council’s plans to cut £40m from its annual pay bill by reducing its total staff, including senior directors, by 25%.
The 201 voluntary redundancies will cost £12.8m and councillors have been recommended to approve the 49 redundancies where costs will exceed £100,000.

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17 May 2024 - Lack of ‘urgency’ over new Oflog chair

The government has been criticised for not seeming "very urgent" in its approach to appointing a chair for the Office for Local Government, over a month after the departure of the interim postholder.
Former interim chair Lord Morse stepped down in March due to "unexpected health reasons", and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities has yet to announce his successor.

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17 May 2024 - Coca-Cola is accused of misleading consumers over its plastic pledges

Coca-Cola has been accused of misleading consumers over its plastic pledges following an investigation. A Channel 4 Dispatches documentary has found the soft drink giant's bottling partners sell two billion plastic bottles and two billion cans a year in the UK, equating to 65,000 tonnes of single-use plastic. In 2017, Coca-Cola said it aimed to recover every bottle it sells by 2030. Speaking about the cost implications of this waste, LGA environment spokesperson Cllr Darren Rodwell said: “For every penny we are spending on waste, actually, we're not spending it on supporting people. That's a real cost to us as a society.”

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17 May 2024 - Net zero policy changes will hit UK infrastructure, say government advisers

The Government’s changes to net zero policies have delayed progress on vital infrastructure which is needed for economic growth, its advisers have said. Sir John Armitt, the chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, said good progress had been made on renewable energy in the past five years, but changes to key policies, including postponing a scheme to boost heat pump takeup, had created uncertainty and delay.

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17 May 2024 - Landlords selling up leaving 2,000 households a month facing homelessness

More than 2,000 households a month are facing homelessness in England because private landlords say they are selling up, with some blaming uncertainty caused by government delays to renting reforms. Official figures show that more than four in 10 families who have asked councils for temporary housing after a private landlord ended their tenancy are in the predicament because the owner told them they were putting the property on the market.

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17 May 2024 - UK free school meal allowances too low for healthy lunches, study finds

Free school meal allowances are not enough for students from lower-income backgrounds to buy healthy school lunches, research suggests. The study, presented at the European Congress of Obesity, involved 42 pupils aged between 11 and 15 at seven schools across the UK, with pupils keeping food diaries which detailed what they bought, the quality of the food and whether they felt full for the rest of the school day.

[ more...]

17 May 2024 - Councils struggle to meet care plan deadlines

Thousands of children in England with complex needs are missing out on support as councils struggle to meet care plan deadlines, findings from BBC News suggests. Councils have a legal time limit of 20 weeks, in most cases, to issue an education, health and care plan (EHCP). Cllr Louise Gittins, Chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said councils "do their best" to meet the time limit in the face of "increasing demand and insufficient funding".

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17 May 2024 - `Full and final´ pay offer made to 1.5 million council workers

The National Employers have made a “full and final” pay offer to around 1.5 million council workers of at least £1,290. The deal equates to a rise of 5.77 per cent for the lowest paid from April 1 this year, unions were told. Chair Cllr Tim Roca said: “The national employers are acutely aware of the additional pressure this year’s offer will place on already hard-pressed council finances, as it would need to be paid for from existing budgets. However, they believe their offer is fair to employees, given the wider economic backdrop.”

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17 May 2024 - Chiefs: 2.5% pay rise offer ‘ends discrimination’

Local authority chief executives have been offered a pay increase of 2.5% by the National Employers from 1 April 2024, matching the percentage to offered to those at the top main pay scale.
The Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers welcomed the move but is not yet in a position to accept the offer.
Yesterday council employees were offered an increase of £1,290 which equates to 5.77% of the lowest paid, with those at the top pay spine offered 2.5%.

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17 May 2024 - LGA slams ‘ridiculous’ council salary bill

A parliamentary bill that would require additional scrutiny for council officer roles paying more than £100,000 has been criticised as "ridiculous" by members of the Local Government Association's economy and resources board.
The Local Government (Pay Accountability) Bill is a private members bill proposed by Conservative MP Paul Bristow to "ensure transparency and accountability on council salaries" and has reached the committee stage in the Commons. It would require every council officer role with salary above £100,000 to be approved by full council before the position is advertised or appointed.

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15 May 2024 - New boundaries in Coventry, Surrey and Staffordshire council areas

Coventry City Council’s wards will be altered and boundary divisions for Surrey and Staffordshire county councils are also set to change.
The Local Government Boundary Commission reviewed the three council areas to ensure councillors represent around the same number of voters.

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15 May 2024 - LGA survey: 30% ‘not confident’ of meeting care duties next year

Around 30% of local authorities are not "confident" they will be able to meet their statutory duties in adult social care next year, a new survey has revealed.
This year marks ten years since the Care Act received royal assent, which set out local authorities' legal duties to provide care and support.
A survey of social care authorities by the Local Government Association, published yesterday, and just revealed that only 8% are "very confident" they will be able to meet the legal requirements in adult social care for 2025-26.

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15 May 2024 - Safeguarding panel calls for register of home-educated children

An expert child safeguarding panel has joined calls for a statutory register of children who are electively home educated.
The Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel looked at 27 incidents involving 41 children whose parents had chosen to educate them at home and who were subjected to sexual abuse, physical abuse, and neglect in 2020 and 2021.

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15 May 2024 - Hotel tax in first coastal region set to generate £2m

A levy on hotel guests is set to be introduced in a costal region for the first time this summer, which is expected to generate £2m a year for placemaking activity.
Hotel owners narrowly approved the creation a Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Accommodation Business Improvement District (ABID) on Friday.

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15 May 2024 - UK free school meal allowances too low for healthy lunches, study finds

Free school meal allowances are not enough for students from lower-income backgrounds to buy healthy school lunches, research suggests.
The study, presented at the European Congress of Obesity (ECO), involved 42 pupils aged between 11 and 15 at seven schools across the UK.
The students were provided with a daily budget that was equivalent to the free school meal (FSM) allowance at their school, which was between £2.15 and £2.70. The pupils kept food diaries that detailed what they bought, the quality of the food and whether they felt full for the rest of the school day.

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14 May 2024 - Total Place: ‘Buy in from the Treasury made it unique’

Veterans of one of the boldest experiments in public service reform reflect on lessons for a future government

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14 May 2024 - Fresh local government cuts warning

Government commitments mean real-terms cuts will have to be made to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities without a higher overall spending envelope, a report has warned.
The report on NHS spending by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think-tank said the Government’s commitments under the NHS England workforce plan, which has been endorsed by the Conservatives and Labour, implied real term funding growth of around 3.6% per year.

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14 May 2024 - Somerset’s £24m-a-year waste contract at risk

Somerset Council’s waste collection contract is at risk after Suez disclosed ‘significant losses’ and said it may have to end the deal early.
The local authority has agreed for its chief executive to negotiate with the company to establish the minimum increase to annual payments it would accept to keep providing services.

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14 May 2024 - Government criticised over free school meals threshold freeze

The Liberal Democrats have criticised the Government for failing to increase the income threshold for free school meals in line with inflation.
Families in the UK who receive universal credit can apply for free school meals, but a household income threshold of £7,400 a year (after tax) was introduced in 2018.

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13 May 2024 - What is WorkWell? New trial explained after Sunak’s disability benefits news

A new service designed to help long-term sick people back into work will be piloted in 15 areas across England, DWP Secretary Mel Stride has announced.
The WorkWell programme is part of the Government’s sweeping changes to the welfare system, including a review of payments to people with mental health conditions, which prompted accusations of a “full-on assault on disabled people”.
From October, the £64 million pilot will connect people with a health condition or disability to local support services including physiotherapy and counselling to help them stay in or return to work.

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13 May 2024 - Dementia to cost economy £90bn by 2040 as population ages

Dementia will cost the economy £90 billion by 2040 as the population ages, researchers have said.
The largest study of the economic impact of the disease on Britain revealed the cost will more than double from £42 billion a year to £90 billion a year without action.
The economic burden consists of costs to the NHS and social care, as well as the loss of work and productivity of patients, their families and unpaid carers.

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13 May 2024 - Council funding is a numbers game in which everybody is losing

Less than two weeks ago, some us in England went to the polls for this year’s local elections.
Reflecting the absurdly centralised and Westminster-focused nature of our political system, most of the commentary since then has obsessed about what these elections mean for the standing of the parties nationally and whether we have gleaned anything more about the likely shape of the next parliament...

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13 May 2024 - ‘Council funding is a numbers game in which everybody is losing’

Following the local elections, Paul Johnson, Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, has written about the “opaque” system of local government funding. He said: “The problem for local democracy is that there is now little relationship between the council tax rates in a local area and what the relevant authorities are able to deliver. That’s because the way in which the central grants are allocated has become essentially arbitrary. Under those circumstances, it is hard for voters to have a real sense of how effective their local council is.”

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13 May 2024 - Dementia to cost economy £90bn by 2040 as population ages

Research from the Alzheimer’s Society has revealed that by 2040, yearly dementia costs to the UK economy will rise from £42 billion a year to £90 billion, due to an ageing population raising the numbers of people living with dementia from 1 million to 1.6 million in 2040. This cost burden will fall on the NHS and social care, but also on unpaid carers with the demand expected to rise 46 per cent in the next 16 years.

[ more...]

13 May 2024 - WorkWel Trial

The Department of Work and Pensions has announced £64 million in funding for a new service, WorkWell, which will be trialled in 15 areas across the UK from October. The programme will change how fit notes are treated, with the claimant being required to speak to their employment adviser who will attempt to find adjustments and treatment for the condition so they can remain in work.

[ more...]

13 May 2024 - Energy-from-waste schemes included in emissions trading scheme

Energy-from-waste schemes are being included in the Government’s emissions trading scheme from 2028, under which polluters will have to pay for the carbon dioxide they emit. This is despite objections from councils which face significant bills for the waste they send to incinerators. Cllr Darren Rodwell, environment spokesperson for the LGA said: “We are concerned about the potential financial impacts to councils. For the scheme to succeed it is critical that the costs fall on the industries producing the material in the first place, rather than the council that collects, processes and disposes of the waste.”

[ more...]

13 May 2024 - Top Gear star’s plan to fix Britain’s pothole pandemic

A Top Gear presenter has shared his plan to fix Britain's pothole’s. Chris Harris has said that local authorities don't have the budget required to buy the equipment needed to repair roads and he urged the Government to allocate more funding to road maintenance. An LGA spokesperson said: “Currently 31 times more per mile is spent by government on maintaining motorways and national trunk roads. Councils do what they can with the resources they have to tackle the £16.3 billion local roads repair backlog and against competing pressures from other services.”

[ more...]

13 May 2024 - Rise in lone asylum-seeking children

The number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking (UAS) children arriving in Kent has risen by 59 per cent in a year, as the county council says it is at risk of being "overwhelmed". They said a national scheme to transfer children to other local authorities was still "inadequate", despite the number of transfers increasing. The LGA warned that while councils worked "extremely hard" to support UAS children, funding and recruitment challenges across children's social care were making the situation "increasingly difficult".

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13 May 2024 - Simpler Recycling: Recyclables to be collected in one bin

Councils in England will be able to collect recyclables, such as plastic, metal, glass, paper, and card, in one container as part of the Simpler Recycling reforms, Recycling Minister Robbie Moore has confirmed.
The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) today confirmed the next steps of the reforms, which aim to put an end to the ‘patchwork of different bin collections across England’.

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13 May 2024 - Is this to be the end of council tax capping?

Somerset replaced its two-tiers with one last year but with news of it making deals with parishes, reporter Mark Smulian asks is it now about to have 280 tiers and lead the abolition of council tax capping?
The council warned last year its viability was at risk and it later gained exceptional financial support.
This though was not enough to safeguard services and leader Bill Revans (Lib Dem) asked all 279 parish and town councils whether they would take on some.
Somerset had spotted a financial wheeze which – while not new – is not known to have been offered on such a scale.

[ more...]

13 May 2024 - Phil Triggs: Ministers need to give LGPS funds incentives to merge

Local pride and sovereignty stand in the way of voluntary consolidation among the 86 funds, writes the tri-borough director of treasury and pensions at Westminster City Council.

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13 May 2024 - Unitary set to create two new town councils

Two new town councils could be established in North Yorkshire a year later than previously planned.
Harrogate and Scarborough are currently the only areas within the unitary's boundaries without a parish council.
These lower tier authorities have been permitted "greater responsibilities" as part of one of the "central pledges" of North Yorkshire's unitarisation, the council has said.

[ more...]

13 May 2024 - The case for a new Public Health Act

Last year saw the 175th anniversary of the Public Health Act, which introduced a framework for local areas to improve sanitary conditions, food safety and housing.
The Act recognised that improving people’s environment would improve their health – an approach recommended in Chadwick’s report into sanitation levels amongst the poor. Chadwick argued that the cost of improving living conditions would far outweigh the cost of ‘poor relief’ given to families of workers who died from infectious diseases, particularly evident during the cholera outbreaks of the time.

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13 May 2024 - National Insurance devolution call

A ‘small share’ of around 5% of locally-generated National Insurance (NI) revenue should be devolved as part of tax-sharing pilots with leading combined authorities, the Institute for Government (IfG) think-tank has argued in a report.
The report said devolving just 5% of NI contributions revenue on a per capita basis would amount to around £350m for a large organisation such as Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
It read: ‘There is good evidence that associates tax devolution more strongly with improved economic outcomes than devolution of policy levers alone, which at least in part reflects the additional incentives governments have to drive growth when they receive some of the proceeds from it.

[ more...]

13 May 2024 - Council invests emergency £5m to tackle ‘potholes menace’

Lancashire County Council has announced an emergency £5m to deal with the ‘potholes menace’ ruining the county’s roads.
The funding boost was agreed as an urgent decision by the council's cabinet and will bring the county's highways budget for the year to over £37m.

[ more...]

13 May 2024 - Call to fix ‘incomplete patchwork’ of devolution deals

The next government must extend devolution to 85% of England to address an ‘incomplete patchwork of mismatched deals’, a think-tank has argued.
A report by the Institute for Government (IfG) includes 30 proposals that could be implemented over the next parliament.
The IfG said devolution to remaining large urban areas like Leicester and Southampton should be prioritised and called for a legal right for all parts of England to take on devolved powers.

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13 May 2024 - Devon CC to invest £12m in pothole and drainage works

A new multi-million-pound investment in repairing potholes and boosting road drainage has been agreed by Devon council members.
Devon County Council’s cabinet was set to discuss a £10m cash injection for pothole repairs and pre-emptive road drainage work.
However, on hearing that the county budget for 2023/24 has come in underspent by £5.2m, an extra £2m was agreed taking the overall investment to £12m.

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11 May 2024 - ‘The car is not the enemy’ – Top Gear star’s two point plan to fix Britain’s pothole pandemic

A Top Gear star has shared his two-point plan to fix Britain's pothole pandemic.
First of all, he suggested the use of new pothole-repairing robots which can fill in the craters quickly and efficiently.
Machines like the ARRES PREVENT or JCB's Pothole Pro use AI tech to identify and fix damage to the roads before they can even open up into dangerous fissures.
However, Chris claimed that local authorities don't have the budget required to buy the gadgets.
As such, he urged the Government to allocate more funding to road maintenance with a view to having a fleet of the marvellous autonomous motors patrolling the roads.

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10 May 2024 - UK exits recession with fastest growth in two years

ONS figures, published this morning, confirm that the UK has left the technical recession that it slipped into at the end of 2023 when the economy contracted by 0.4 per cent over the year, with the economy growing 0.6 per cent in the first three months of 2024. This figure marks a return to growth in the UK economy, which has seen weak growth in the last two years.

[ more...]

10 May 2024 - Bank of England edges closer to summer cut

Andrew Bailey, Governor of the Bank of England, has expressed optimism that, as inflation falls close to its targets in the next few months, an interest rate cut will follow in June at the earliest, with rates holding at 5.25 per cent. He added that more evidence of inflation staying low would be needed before a decision was made but described news on inflation, currently at 3.2 percent, as encouraging.

[ more...]

10 May 2024 - Four in 10 council homes sold under right to buy owned by private landlords

More than four in 10 council homes sold under right to buy are now owned by private landlords, new research has revealed.
Freedom of Information requests sent by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) found that 41% of all council homes sold under the right to buy scheme are now being let on the private market.

[ more...]

10 May 2024 - Fresh Right to Buy devolution call

Calls to devolve England’s Right to Buy policy are gathering momentum, with a centre-left think-tank now urging ministers to hand powers to councils.
The New Economics Foundation (NEF) today reported that a ‘suite of powers’ over housing policy should be devolved from Westminster to local authorities, which would give councillors the ‘ability to make decisions regarding the future of their council housing stock and give them greater control over the tenure balance of homes in their area’.

[ more...]

10 May 2024 - Killian lobbied to halt work with watchdog

Sector figures have been lobbied to withdraw engagement and co-operation with the local government watchdog after a national newspaper used its data to rank councils, The MJ understands.
Amid the fallout from The Times story, Local Government Association (LGA) chief executive Joanna Killian is among those to have been urged by a number of angry council chiefs to halt any collaboration with the Office for Local Government (Oflog) after it failed to publicly rebut last week’s controversial article.

[ more...]

10 May 2024 - Tony Travers: Local politics shows up national realities

Local election results prove the big parties are not as popular as they used to be, writes the director of LSE London.

[ more...]

10 May 2024 - Anger over fortnightly waste collection rule

Councils in England will be required to collect unrecyclable residual household waste at least fortnightly, recycling minister Robbie Moore has said.
Mr Moore confirmed the government indent to table regulations intend to table regulations to introduce 'simpler recycling' later this year and that councils would also remain able to collect multiple materials together.

[ more...]

10 May 2024 - Government announces 16 new special free schools

New schools for 2,000 children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are to open in 16 areas across England.
The schools will be supported by an initial £105m, announced in this year's Spring Budget.

[ more...]

10 May 2024 - Rutland residents face highest council tax bills

Households in Rutland, Nottingham and Dorset are facing the highest council tax bills in England this year, according to a new analysis.
Research into council tax increases by rebate experts Rift found that Rutland tops the list with Band D households paying £2,543, followed by Nottingham at £2,530 and Dorset at £2,504.

[ more...]

08 May 2024 - ‘Bleak’ future for social housing without investment

Without extra funding, the future of England's social housing looks ‘bleak’, council bosses have warned.
The warning follows a call from the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee for the Government to invest in the social housing sector and ensure 90,000 homes for social rent can be built in England every year.
A new report by the LUHC Committee sets out how financial pressures have seen providers build less social housing, exacerbating a ‘chronic’ shortage that has left a record 1.2 million households on council waiting lists in England.

[ more...]

08 May 2024 - Unitary transfers services to town council in ‘historic’ deal

Somerset Council has passed on several functions to a local town council after it narrowly managed to set a balanced budget with a pledge to devolve powers.
Services like street cleansing, road sweeping, the management of open spaces, market rights and carnival clean-ups are now in the remit of Bridgwater Town Council.

[ more...]

08 May 2024 - Local funding reform key to growth agenda, says report

The next government must relinquish centralised control to realise ambitions for growth, a report concluded today.
Think-tank Localis’ report said devolution of powers to local government was needed to boost housebuilding and promote long-term economic growth.
It argued best practice in regeneration at a local level could not only achieve growth, but help to improve health and tackle climate change.
Localis said reforming how local government was funded was key, and recommended a return to regional spatial planning and establishment of ‘regional planning offices’ to pool resources.

[ more...]

08 May 2024 - Councils frustrated by Whitehall siloes, says chief

Whitehall’s siloed approach to city centre renewal has led to ‘real frustration’ from councils, slowed down projects and increased costs, a local authority chief has warned.
Addressing the House of Lords Built Environment Committee today, Sunderland City Council chief executive Patrick Melia said the sector’s ability to regenerate Britain’s town centres had been hit by the ‘siloed approach across government departments’.

[ more...]

07 May 2024 - Adult maths scheme scaled back

The Government’s flagship policy to improve maths skills among adults has reportedly been scaled back for the second time in as many years. Last year £41 million of the Multiply project’s £130 million budget went unspent by councils, with the money returned to central government due to spending rules. The LGA said: “Councils worked quickly with the Government to plan the Multiply offer for adults through local partnerships to identify and engage new learners. However, a new service like this can take time to build up, which is why multi-year flexible funding is vital to delivering it effectively and to improve services for communities.”

[ more...]

07 May 2024 - Autumn statement ‘might not be held before general election’

Jeremy Hunt and his team are reportedly considering not holding another autumn statement before the next election, amid uncertainty about the public finances. It is understood the Chancellor may opt to include further tax-cutting pledges in the next Conservative manifesto, rather than holding a final so-called “fiscal event” which would require a detailed analysis of the public finances by the Office for Budget Responsibility.

[ more...]

07 May 2024 - Car parking charges

Parking charges have more than doubled in the space of a year for some premium spaces, while some councils have been putting up their parking prices by 20 per cent or more, according to new analysis.

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07 May 2024 - School leaders warn of ‘full-blown’ special needs crisis in England

Staff shortages and funding cuts are causing a “full-blown crisis” in special needs education for children and young people in England, according to school leaders who say they are struggling to give pupils the support they require. The union NAHT’s survey of 1,000 school leaders found that 78 per cent said they had cut back on support staff such as teaching assistants within the last three years, and 84 per cent said they also expected to do so within the next three years. LGA Children and Young People Board Chair Cllr Louise Gittins said: “Councils’ high needs deficits currently stand at an estimated £1.9 billion, rising to £3.6 billion by 2025 with no intervention. We urge the Government to write off these deficits.”

[ more...]

07 May 2024 - Local elections - worst election defeat for Conservatives in years

Of the 107 councils which held elections on Thursday, 102 have declared their full results, with the Conservatives losing more than half of the seats it has been defending so far and losing control of 12 councils. Labour won control of eight councils as it gained 173 seats, while the Liberal Democrats gained 100 seats, the Greens 67, and Reform UK picked up two. Labour also had successes in the North East, York and North Yorkshire and East Midlands mayoral votes, while Conservative Lord Ben Houchen was re-elected as the mayor of Tees Valley. Further results are expected over the weekend, including key mayoral contests in London and the West Midlands.

[ more...]

07 May 2024 - Election timetable means councils face race against time

Councils’ next finance settlement may have to be announced before a Spending Review amid ‘extremely accelerated’ demands after the General Election, experts have warned.
A report by the Institute for Government (IfG) think-tank said the likely General Election in autumn or winter this year meant councils faced a race against time to agree their budgets for 2025-26.
The UK’s current multi-year Spending Review period runs until the end of the 2024-25 financial year in March.
But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has ruled out publishing a new review, which gives public bodies certainty over their finances, until after the General Election.

[ more...]

07 May 2024 - Council debt up by £52bn since 2010

Local government debt has increased by 78% since 2010 as councils attempted to make up for cuts to Government funding, research has revealed.
Analysis by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) found the debt held by councils across the country increased by £52bn to £119bn between 2010 and 2023.
During this period, local authorities took advantage of relaxed borrowing restrictions and low interest rates to finance property investments as they tried to compensate for a 60% reduction in Government funding.

[ more...]

07 May 2024 - Re-elected Burnham calls for Right to Buy suspension powers

Greater Manchester’s re-elected mayor has called for powers to suspend Right to Buy on new homes under plans to build 10,000 houses across the region.
Andy Burnham, who was re-elected as the region’s powerful mayor for a third term last week, wants to pause the divisive Right to Buy programme for all new-build social housing because he believes the potential loss of units discourages councils from building.
Under Right to Buy, social housing tenants can purchase their homes at heavily discounted rates to get onto the housing ladder after a qualifying period.
However, the policy has reduced social housing units in England from 5.5 million in 1979 to 4.4 million today while waiting lists have soared to 1.2 million.

[ more...]

07 May 2024 - Councils spend £45m on planning appeal advice

Councils spent £45m over the past three years on external legal advice relating to planning appeals, according to a freedom of information request.
The new data found that each local authority spent an average of £45,000 per year on legal advice between 2020/21 and 2022/23.

[ more...]

07 May 2024 - Significant Tory losses in Essex

The Conservatives suffered significant losses in Essex last week.
It lost 12 seats to lose control at Basildon BC, while being wiped out at Castle Point BC, which it had run until 2021.
Elections in the adjacent unitaries saw the Tories likely to lose their year-old minority administration at Southend-on-Sea City Council after losing four seats, while Labour took control of troubled Thurrock Council after a series of financial scandals.

[ more...]

03 May 2024 - Poll of councillors on funding pressures

More than a fifth (21 per cent) of the 280 councillors who responded to a New Statesman poll said it was likely or very likely that their local authority would declare bankruptcy in the coming five years. This correlates broadly with similar data from the LGA’s recent finance surveys. When asked if their local authorities had adequate funding, 97 per cent - including 82 per cent of Conservatives - said no.

[ more...]

03 May 2024 - Councils scale back housebuilding plans

Analysis from planning consultancy Lichfields suggests that in recent months 15 local authorities have cut the number of homes they ¬intend to build over the next decade by 10 per cent on their previous plans.

[ more...]

03 May 2024 - Spending review urgently needed

The Institute for Government is warning that government departments face a “cliff edge” moment in December if the incoming administration after the general election does not launch a spending review immediately. The next election is expected to be held in either October or November this year, which the institute said would be the closest “to the point at which government departments’ budgets expire than at any time in over 40 years”. This leaves government departments, local authorities and devolved administrations not knowing their budgets from April 2025 and creates a risk of delayed and inefficient spending on services and projects.

[ more...]

03 May 2024 - Municipal Missions Manifesto: radically rethinking the purpose of local government

The president of the Association of Local Authorities’ Treasurer Societies and executive director of resources & section 151 officer at Oxfordshire County Council, Lorna Baxter, calls for a review of legislation and statutory guidance and a refocus on what the purpose of local government should be.

[ more...]

03 May 2024 - Warning of more council bankruptcies as debt doubles

Research undertaken by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) has shown a 78 per cent increase in the debt burden on local authorities since 2010. This research illustrates the scale of the pressure on councils amid rising interest rates and the demands on services. LGA Chair Cllr Shaun Davies, said: "Councils continue to transform services, but it is unsustainable to expect them to keep doing more for less in the face of unprecedented cost and demand pressures."

[ more...]

03 May 2024 - Angry LGA leaders write to Gove over Oflog league table story

The Office for Local Government’s (Oflog) ‘lack of action to correct misleading information’ in rankings compiled by The Times ‘calls into question its ability to inform,’ senior sector politicians have told communities secretary Michael Gove.

[ more...]

03 May 2024 - Council forced to close school meal service

Cheshire East Council has been forced to close a council-run school meal service due to ‘significant budget pressures’.

[ more...]

03 May 2024 - Public sector productivity falls

The Office for National Statistics has released its figures on public sector productivity for the final quarter of 2023, with numbers revealing that productivity dropped in comparison with the same period in 2022.
Published today, the report outlines how productivity across the sector was 2.3% lower than it was between October and December 2022, whilst it also fell by approximately 1% when compared to the third quarter (July to September) last year. The review itself serves to improve the ways that productivity in the public sector is measured, calculated by the volume of services that were delivered to communities.
Healthcare and education dominate the reporting of these figures, due to their size when compared to other such services.

[ more...]

03 May 2024 - Angry LGA leaders write to Gove over Oflog league table story

The Office for Local Government’s (Oflog) ‘lack of action to correct misleading information’ in rankings compiled by The Times ‘calls into question its ability to inform,’ senior sector politicians have told communities secretary Michael Gove.
A letter to Gove from the chair and vice-chairs of the Local Government Association said they were ‘very concerned’ that neither Oflog nor the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities ‘stepped in swiftly to correct inaccuracies and misleading content’ after The Times used 21 of the watchdog’s 27 metrics to rank England’s 318 councils in the five areas it currently monitors – adult social care, corporate and finance, planning, roads and waste management.
The politicians said the focus of The Times on a ‘small number of indicators… misses considerable nuances’ and the method used by the national newspaper to compile them into a league table was ‘fundamentally flawed’.
Calling for an ‘urgent meeting’ with Gove, they warned Oflog’s lack of action would have a ‘consequent impact on trust in the sector’ and asked him how that and the sector’s shattered confidence in the watchdog could be rebuilt.
The letter read: ‘Our warnings about the use of data and Oflog’s ability to advise and brief the media about what the data does and doesn’t show have now come to pass.
‘The fact that this happened during the pre-election period when the ability for councils to adequately respond is curtailed has made this situation worse.’

[ more...]

02 May 2024 - Care sector issues warning as visa application numbers collapse

Social care visa applications have plummeted since the introduction of a ban on overseas workers bringing dependants into the UK, according to the latest figures.

[ more...]

02 May 2024 - Voting under way as polls open for local elections

Voters in parts of England are heading to the polls today to elect councillors and mayors in the local elections. They are considered the last test of voters' opinion before the next general election, which is expected later this year.
Police and crime commissioners will also be chosen across England and Wales
Mayoral elections are taking place in London and nine other "metro" areas across England. Mayors will be chosen for the first time in the East Midlands, the North East, and York and North Yorkshire. Voters will also choose the mayor of Salford, the directly-elected leader of the city council

[ more...]

02 May 2024 - Council debt up by £52bn since 2010

Local government debt has increased by 78% since 2010 as councils attempted to make up for cuts to Government funding, research has revealed.
Analysis by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) found the debt held by councils across the country increased by £52bn to £119bn between 2010 and 2023.
During this period, local authorities took advantage of relaxed borrowing restrictions and low interest rates to finance property investments as they tried to compensate for a 60% reduction in Government funding. However, the subsequent increase in interest rates has meant that local authorities are now spending increasing amounts servicing debts.

[ more...]

30 Apr 2024 - Oflog data used to compare council performance

Data has been published by the Office for Local Government (Oflog) measuring councils in 27 categories in five main areas: waste management, corporate and finance, adult social care, planning and roads. In an analysis of the data, the Times has compared council performance. The LGA said mechanisms were already in place, such as LG Inform, to help councils learn from each other. Cllr Abi Brown, Chairman of the LGA’s Improvement and Innovation Board, said: “Councils continue to face huge financial challenges, with individual authorities facing competing demands on budgets that are often unique to their local area and specific circumstances.”

[ more...]

30 Apr 2024 - 634% homelessness surge from people leaving asylum hotels

The number of asylum seekers councils have helped with a homelessness duty after they have been evicted from Home Office hotels has increased by 634% over two years.
Statutory homelessness figures for England published by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities today show that between October and December 2023 the number of people entitled to a prevention duty after being required to leave Home Office asylum accommodation was 1,830, while 5,140 received a relief duty.

[ more...]

30 Apr 2024 - Devolution: Areas hoping to finalise deals before a general election

Two areas expect to submit their final devolution proposals in time to set up shadow combined authorities later this year, while one has already done so.
The Greater Lincolnshire deal involves Lincolnshire CC, North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire setting up a new mayoral combined authority, which would have access to a £720m investment fund over 30 years. A public consultation took place earlier this year and the councils expect a final deal to be agreed this summer.
Devon CC and Torbay Council are also in the final stages of sealing a level two devolution deal. The consultation process has concluded and Devon CC has voted in favour of continuing with the deal, while Torbay is due to vote today.

[ more...]

30 Apr 2024 - High turnover of directors of children’s social care latest figures show

The annual survey of directors of children's services has revealed 62 changes in the statutory role in councils last financial year, one of the highest turnover rates since the post was created.
According to the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) annual report, 13 councils experiences two changes in this post "largely due to due to short-term interim appointments being made prior to a permanent appointment".
However these changes in leadership took place across 49 local authorities, meaning less than a thirds of councils have experiences changes in the post holder last financial year.

[ more...]

30 Apr 2024 - Ministers propose disability benefits overhaul amid ‘spiralling’ costs

Plans to overhaul the disability benefits system and ‘deliver better value for the taxpayer’ have been laid out by the Government.
A new Green Paper sets out reforms to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which supports disabled people to live independently by helping with the extra costs they face.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the proposals were part of a plan ‘to make the benefits system fairer to the taxpayer, better targeted to individual needs and harder to exploit by those who are trying to game the system’

[ more...]

30 Apr 2024 - Elderly forced to wait over six months for home adaptations

Elderly and disabled people across the country are being forced to wait over six months for the installation of home adaptations due to poor administration at the local level.
In 2021/22, over two-thirds of councils took longer than the six months recommended by the Disabled Facilities Grant guidance to carry out installations that enable people to live more independent lives within their own homes.

[ more...]

30 Apr 2024 - Worst-performing councils in England revealed — where does yours rank?

Nottingham city council is the worst local authority in England, while Torridge district council in Devon is the best, according to government performance statistics that expose huge variations in public sector efficiency across the country.
The data, published by a new agency, the Office for Local Government (Oflog), reveals that some councils have recycling rates that are twice as good as others and that some authorities are failing to process half of planning applications on time while others are not late on a single one.

[ more...]

29 Apr 2024 - Teenagers in care placed in hotels

Teenagers in care are being placed in hotels by councils due to rising costs for placements, according to an investigation. Children aged 16 to 17 are entering care in greater numbers than any other age group. Cllr Louise Gittins, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People’s Board, said: “With record numbers of children in care and significant pressure on budgets, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to ensure every young person gets the support they need.” More than 80 per cent of children’s home are now run to make a profit, with previous LGA research finding more than 1,500 placements cost at least £10,000 a child a week.

[ more...]

29 Apr 2024 - Cost of potholes to economy

The Centre for Economics and Business Research has said that the UK’s more than one million potholes cost the economy £14.4 billion a year. Costs are incurred through repair costs, accidents, driver delays and higher emissions, according to the estimates.

[ more...]

29 Apr 2024 - PM does not rule out July election

Rishi Sunak has not ruled out holding a general election in July. The Prime Minister has repeatedly said his “working assumption” is the election would take place in the second half of the year.

[ more...]

29 Apr 2024 - Guildford to sell £50m of assets

Guildford BC has approved the sale of £50m of assets over three years under plans to stabilise the Surrey-based authority’s finances.
Under the disposal strategy, which forms part of the borough’s wider financial recovery plan, the council intends to raise £12.5m from asset sales by October 2025.
It will then seek to secure three further tranches of asset sales worth £12.5m each by April 2026, October 2026 and April 2027.

[ more...]

29 Apr 2024 - Wages below 2008 levels in two thirds of council areas

Real wages are still below 2008 levels in nearly two-thirds of UK local authority areas, a new TUC analysis has revealed.
Over a decade and a half on from the global financial crisis, wages are set to be lower – in real terms – in 212 out of 340 UK local authorities in 2024.
Millions of workers are experiencing the ‘longest pay squeeze in more than 200 years’, according to the TUC.
London has the highest share of real wage blackspots, with real pay lower than in 2008 in nearly all (94%) of its local authorities. The South East is close behind with 78%.

[ more...]

26 Apr 2024 - Government’s use of exceptional financial support “at best careless and maybe reckless”

Exceptional financial support for struggling councils “feels like something to get the existing government over the line to the next election” rather than being a sustainable solution.
Dan Bates, financial resilience director at consultancy LG Improve, expressed this view during a webinar on council tax and balance sheets at local authorities.

[ more...]

26 Apr 2024 - ‘Both front benches’ see need to dismantle funding formula and ‘start from scratch’

The funding formula for local government “needs dismantling and starting from scratch”, Parliament has been told.
Local government minister Simon Hoare was speaking during a House of Commons debate yesterday (18 April), where he said the need for wholesale change was recognised “across the two front benches”.
While any action will only take place in the next Parliament, Hoare noted that he was currently “talking to council leaderships across the country and to the wider sector about where we think the formula should land”.

[ more...]

26 Apr 2024 - Politicians `must be put on the spot´ on social care during election campaign

The next government must finally “grasp the nettle” and deliver lasting social care reform, the new President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services is to say. In her speech to its annual spring seminar, Melanie Williams will call for politicians to be put “on the spot” in the forthcoming general election campaign in order to focus attention on adult social care.

[ more...]

26 Apr 2024 - Half of the public concerned over deteriorating services

Nearly half (48%) of the respondents in England said local services have gotten worse in the last five years, according to a new poll.
The Ipsos survey of 1,837 adults, carried out this month, also found that people thought local councils have a bigger impact on the quality of life in their respective areas than the central government.

[ more...]

26 Apr 2024 - Minister: KPIs ‘not appropriate’ for Oflog

Key performance indicators for the Office for Local Government (Oflog) will "evolve as time goes on, rather than be pre-set", the local government minister has said.
Oflog was launched in July 2023 to measure the performance of local government in four key areas: adult social care, skills, reserves and waste management. However, as yet there is no set way of measuring if its introduction has been successful.
Simon Hoare (Con) local government minister told MPs yesterday that it was not "really appropriate to have KPIs at this stage." But that it was something that would be kept under review.

[ more...]

26 Apr 2024 - Gove open to giving mayors Whitehall voice

Local government secretary Michael Gove has not ruled out a ‘formal structure’ for mayors to work more closely with central government.
Shadow Labour minister Dan Jarvis, who served as mayor of the Sheffield city region from 2018 to 2022, asked Gove to consider a ‘dedicated formal structure that will enable the metro mayors to work more effectively with Whitehall Government’ in the House of Commons yesterday.

[ more...]

26 Apr 2024 - Fresh call for Right to Buy restrictions

Housing experts today called for fresh restrictions on the controversial Right to Buy policy – including a ban on applying it to new builds.
A study by The Housing Forum, a not-for-profit body representing public and private sector housing bodies, proposed devolved buyers’ charters, which would allow councils to partially design local restrictions and requirements.
It also called for full retention of Right to Buy receipts for councils and a reduction in the discounts available to no more than one-fifth of the home’s value to protect the supply of social housing.

[ more...]

26 Apr 2024 - Blow to council hopes for cash boost

The prospect of extra cash for councils has faded further with the latest public finance figures showing the UK borrowed more than expected last month.
According to public sector finance figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the Government borrowed £11.9bn in March, which, although £4.7bn less than March last year, was still higher than economists had predicted.
In the full year to March, borrowing was estimated at £120.7bn, £7.6bn less than the year before but £6.6bn more than forecast by the OBR last month.

[ more...]

26 Apr 2024 - LGA lobbied over income tax devolution amid White Paper preparations

The Local Government Association’s (LGA) White Paper should make the case for councils to receive a share of income tax, sector experts have urged.
Smith Square is understood to have been lobbied to include calls for fiscal devolution as sector groups jostle for their agendas to be included in the paper.
The LGA has asked councils to submit their strongest piece of evidence that will help to demonstrate to a new or returning Government that a more empowered sector could deliver the public’s priorities more effectively as it continues to develop its White Paper – a key ambition of chair Shaun Davies.

[ more...]

26 Apr 2024 - New president promises ‘a more assertive’ Adass

The new president Melanie Williams said the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services will be “more assertive” under her leadership.
Speaking at Adass’ Spring Seminar this morning, Ms Williams said “we need greater challenge of the government, our systems and status quo”.
Ms Williams, who is also the director of adult social care and health at Nottinghamshire CC, said: “Politicians make promises about reforming social care and then don’t fulfil them.”

[ more...]

26 Apr 2024 - Early years roll-out will get ‘significantly more challenging’

Just one in 10 councils are confident they can provide enough early years places to deliver the Government’s childcare expansion on time, a spending watchdog has warned.
In the 2023 spring budget, the chancellor announced that children from nine months old would be entitled to 30 funded hours of childcare a week from September 2025.
A phased roll-out meant two-year olds were offered 15 hours a week from April 2024 – an entitlement that will expand to children from nine months old this September.

[ more...]

26 Apr 2024 - One-word Ofsted judgements to be retained

The controversial one-word Ofsted judgements for schools are here to stay despite criticism after the suicide of headteacher Ruth Perry.
The grades, such as ‘outstanding’ or ‘inadequate’, had ‘significant benefits’ for parents choosing a local school for their children, according to the Government.

[ more...]

26 Apr 2024 - Years-old study into Carer’s Allowance to be published

Research into how unpaid carers are impacted when they are forced to repay benefit overpayments will be published ‘shortly’, a minister has pledged.
In 2018, the Work and Pensions Committee began an inquiry into reports that many carers had amassed large overpayments of Carer’s Allowance, an £81.90 weekly benefit for people who provide at least 35 hours of unpaid care a week.

[ more...]

26 Apr 2024 - Sunak's defence spending could hit council budgets, says IFS

The Prime Minister’s announcement of extra defence cash could hit public sector budgets further, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS).
Rishi Sunak pledged to put Britain on ‘a war footing’ by increasing defence spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2030 on a visit to Poland. Under the plans, defence spending would increase by £75bn over the next six years.
However, IFS senior research economist Ben Zaranko has claimed the move would hit non-protected government spending – including local government.

[ more...]

26 Apr 2024 - New ADASS president calls for community focus

The new president of the Association of Directors of Social Services (ADASS) has called for a community, rather than a hospital, focus for the sector.
Melanie Williams told the association’s Spring Seminar in Bedfordshire that there was a ‘disproportionate’ political focus on hospital discharges despite four in five requests for social care support coming from the community.
Williams, who is also Nottinghamshire CC’s corporate director for adult social care and health, told delegates: ‘Therefore, our ADASS focus on building personalised and community support closer to home must remain.

[ more...]

26 Apr 2024 - 10,000 council staff on long-term sick leave

Nearly 10,000 staff members working in councils across England are currently on long-term sick leave, freedom of information requests have revealed.
Sent by the Liberal Democrats to all English councils, the FOI requests showed there were 9,979 council staff on long-term sick leave, up 18% from 8,441 in 2019.
The FOI requests, which received 185 responses, also found 58% of local authorities had seen a rise in staff being off on long-term sickness compared to 2019.

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25 Apr 2024 - Politicians `must be put on the spot´ on social care during election campaign

The next government must finally “grasp the nettle” and deliver lasting social care reform, the new president of an adult social services organisation is to say.
Melanie Williams will call for politicians to be put “on the spot” in the forthcoming general election campaign in order to focus attention on adult social care.
Both the social care minister Helen Whately and shadow social care minister Andrew Gwynne are due to speak at the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) spring seminar on Thursday.

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23 Apr 2024 - Breakdowns due to potholes increase

New figures from the RAC have shown the number of vehicle breakdowns caused by potholes have increased by 9 per cent in the past 12 months. Cllr Darren Rodwell, Transport spokesperson for the LGA, previously said: “Councils are doing all they can to tackle the £16.3 billion backlog of road repairs, including learning from and adopting innovative techniques.”

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22 Apr 2024 - ‘Right to Buy’ housing policy is being ‘abused’ and requires urgent reform

Sales of council homes under the Right to Buy scheme have increased over the past 10 years, and are expected to reach 100,000 between 2021 and 2030, according to the Housing Federation. The LGA's previous calls for reform of the scheme are reported, including for councils to be able to set discounts locally.

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22 Apr 2024 - Time is running out to defuse £2.4bn shortfall

There’s a growing awareness of the crisis in local government finances. But there’s another ticking time-bomb – the subsidies that charities and the social sector are providing.
Our new research, State of the Sector 2024: Ready for a Reset, estimates that charities are propping up the public purse by £2.4bn a year by making up shortfalls in public sector contracts. With charities’ other sources of income under pressure, this puts services delivered by charity contracts at risk. Services ranging from mental health support and care for those who are unwell or unable to work to tackling poverty and reducing homelessness.

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22 Apr 2024 - Government urged to fund council pay claim

Forest of Dean District Council has called on ministers to fully fund trade unions’ pay claim for local government workers.
Councillors at the Gloucestershire authority voted for a motion backing the 2024-25 pay claim for a 10% or £3,000 pay rise for council and school employees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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22 Apr 2024 - Transforming care and support in Wales

A new National Office for Care and Support has been launched in Wales, with this focusing on innovation, improvement, and transformation.
The primary focus of the National Office for Care and Support will be to support the Chief Social Care Officer for Wales, to deliver a National Care Service, and to implement the National Commissioner Framework for Care and Support in Wales.

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19 Apr 2024 - Half a million unpaid carers in UK not claiming £4,200 a year benefit

As many as half a million unpaid carers in the UK who look after frail, ill and disabled loved ones are failing to claim the £4,200-a-year carer’s allowance despite experiencing high levels of poverty, according to new estimates. Campaigners said unpaid carers may have not claimed the benefit partly because of strict limits dictating the amount of paid work they can undertake on top of their care duties, and the penalties they face if they breach those rules.

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19 Apr 2024 - Retail sales show zero growth

There was a worse than expected performance for retail sales last month, despite predictions of a consumer-led pick up from recession for the UK economy. The Office for National Statistics reported sales volumes were flat in March, following an upwardly revised figure of 0.1 per cent for the previous month and said sales at non-food stores helped offset declines at supermarkets.

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19 Apr 2024 - Councils hit with new productivity demands

Ministers have demanded councils improve their productivity in the same week as the Government quietly published a report revealing Whitehall makes the sector less efficient.
Local government minister Simon Hoare wrote to chief executives on Tuesday, formally asking councils to produce productivity plans.
Hoare claimed he was ‘not looking to impose excessive burdens’ or ‘issue you with a formal template or a detailed list of criteria to meet’ but suggested an astonishing 51 questions the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) would like councils to answer.

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19 Apr 2024 - Council tax arrears

Further coverage of Freedom of Information requests that revealed a 70 per cent rise in the total amount of council tax arrears over the last 5 years, with almost 600,000 residents referred to bailiffs have been reported. The LGA said: "Enforcement agents should only ever be used as a last resort. Before the situation reaches a stage where enforcement agents are involved, several letters should have been written, people should have been encouraged to apply for financial support, and efforts should be made to arrange new payment plans."

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19 Apr 2024 - Productivity plans criticised as ‘diversion tactic’ ahead of election

Productivity plans are a "diversion tactic" from central government to "change the narrative" ahead of the general election, local government figures claim.
Local government minister Simon Hoare wrote to council chiefs on Tuesday asking them to "formally begin" compiling productivity plans, which were first proposed in the as part of this year's financial settlement.
These documents should be three to four pages in length and "set out" what councils have done to "transform" their organisation and services, Mr Hoare wrote.

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19 Apr 2024 - Commissioner model lacks ‘political buy-in’ and ‘long term thinking’

Former Wigan MBC chief Donna Hall was appointed to Nottingham City Council’s improvement board by the government in 2021. However, she became frustrated and stood down after two months.
“My experience was there was no deep transformation and building a partnership relationship with citizens, as we did in Wigan. It’s heavily governance and finance focused, often in a strategic and relational vacuum.”
She told LGC she would now not want to be a commissioner as she has not been a chief executive for more than four years, during which time a lot has changed.

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19 Apr 2024 - Intervention: Who are the commissioners?

LGC looks at the characteristics of the individuals charged with turning around the most troubled councils
Almost 70% of commissioners sent into struggling councils are male and more than a quarter have not worked in local government for four years or more, exclusive LGC analysis has found.
LGC research shows there are currently 26 individuals involved across eight active statutory interventions by the Department for Levelling up, Housing & Communities.

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19 Apr 2024 - DLUHC will not make ‘league table’ out of productivity plans

The government will not "rate or score" council productivity plans or create "any kind of league tables", a letter to chief executives has revealed.
Local government minister Simon Hoare wrote to council chiefs on Tuesday asking them to "formally begin" compiling productivity plans, which were first proposed in the as part of this year's financial settlement.
These documents should be three to four pages in length and "set out" what councils have done to "transform" their organisation and services, Mr Hoare wrote.

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18 Apr 2024 - A grieving mother has described the intimidating moment bailiffs turned up at her door after she fell behind on her council tax bill.

A GRIEVING mother has described the intimidating moment bailiffs turned up at her door after she fell behind on her council tax bill.
Jess King, from Yorkshire, fell behind on her priority bills after losing her newborn baby, but she isn't alone. It comes 600,000 people were referred to bailiffs for not paying their council tax on time.
The data came from a Freedom of Information request by ITV News which asked 100 of the country's biggest councils about council tax arrears.
The responses revealed that the total amount owed in council tax arrears has increased by over 70% in the past five years.

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17 Apr 2024 - Fresh concerns raised over Oflog remit

Fresh concerns have been raised over the remit for local government’s new ombudsman.
Fears were raised by experts that Oflog’s remit is and relationship with other oversight organisations is unclear.
Members of the levelling up committee were told that its focus on collecting data will be useful for the government but will be of limited use to the councils that have either already issued Section 114 notices or may do so within the next two years.
CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman told the committee its remit is “pretty limited… given the challenges facing local government”.

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17 Apr 2024 - Government updates MRP guidance

New safeguards have been introduced to curtail “excessive borrowing” by local authorities which puts them at heightened risk of financial failure.

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17 Apr 2024 - Councils refer 600,000 people to bailiffs

Local authorities referred almost 600,000 people to bailiffs last year due to failure to pay council tax, according to a freedom of information request.
ITV News sent FOI requests to around 100 of the biggest councils in England.
The responses revealed that the total amount owed in council tax arrears has increased by over 70% in the past five years.

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17 Apr 2024 - Defra withholds £6m of air quality funding

Around £6m in funding promised to local authorities to help tackle air pollution will be withheld, a Defra spokesperson has confirmed.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) is also considering a redesign of the Local Air Quality Grants scheme.

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17 Apr 2024 - 'Social inequalities' pushing disproportionate number of children into care in north of England

A report by the Child of the North All-Party Parliamentary Group, researched and funded by Health Equity North, has found that while the north of England accounts for 28 per cent of the child population, 36 per cent of children are in care. The analysis suggests that due to the higher burden, the north has faced service costs of at least £25 billion in the last four years.

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15 Apr 2024 - Councils face £300m funding gap to help young homeless

Councils face a £300 million funding gap to support their efforts to tackle homelessness, the charity Centrepoint has claimed. The research is based on the results of freedom of information requests to councils in England. Cllr Darren Rodwell, housing spokesperson for the LGA said: “Councils have consistently raised significant concerns about the impact rising cost of living, multiple asylum and resettlement programmes, and an insufficient supply of affordable housing, are having on driving increases in homelessness. Currently, councils are spending £1.74 billion on supporting households living in temporary accommodation, with this spend predicted to increase by a further 19.9 per cent in 2023/24.”

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15 Apr 2024 - LGA to launch 'foundation programme' for new chiefs

The Local Government Association (LGA) is to introduce a ‘significant new foundation programme’ for newly-appointed chief executives after a ‘successful’ pilot.
Launching its sector support programme for 2024-25, the LGA said it would expand its range of officer and councillor development opportunities, including for statutory officers.
The LGA will also launch a ‘flagship’ national recruitment campaign to ‘attract new talent and promote the benefits of a career in local government’ amid recruitment and capacity challenges.

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15 Apr 2024 - Government ignores sugar levy calls

The Government has ignored Local Government Association (LGA) calls for the sugar levy to be spent by councils to tackle physical inactivity.

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15 Apr 2024 - Over 700 vulnerable children placed in illegal homes

Councils in England placed hundreds of vulnerable school-age children in unregulated homes last year due to the shortage of secure places, an investigation has revealed.
In 2022-23, over 700 looked after children were placed in homes that were not registered with Ofsted, the children’s social care watchdog, according to the Observer.

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15 Apr 2024 - Childcare in England failing and falling behind much of world, charity says

A report by the Fawcett Society has claimed that the UK’s childcare system has fallen behind international comparators. The charity compared the affordability, quality and levels of public spending with childcare in Australia, Canada, Estonia, France, and Ireland.

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15 Apr 2024 - What motoring experts would do to solve Britain’s pothole problem

Campaigners have warned of a growing decline in the condition of local roads and have called for increased levels of funding for councils to tackle the issue. Analysis last year by the LGA of OECD figures found that spending on local roads had halved between 2006 and 2019. The LGA’s position on road funding has been reiterated in today’s print edition of the Telegraph.

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15 Apr 2024 - UK economy grows slightly

The UK economy has grown slightly for the second month in a row. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.1 per cent in February, the Office for National Statistics said.

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15 Apr 2024 - Seven areas selected for £45m child protection trial

Seven more areas in England have been selected to trial the Families First for Children (FFC) scheme, a £45m child protection programme.
The scheme was launched in three areas in 2023 after reports into the murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson in 2020 and a child care review in 2022.

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15 Apr 2024 - Schools face losing over £1bn, think tank warns

A decline in the number of school-age children could lead to schools losing over £1bn in funding by 2030, education experts warn.
Pupil numbers in state-funded primary and secondary schools are projected to fall from over 7.5 million in 2022-23 to just over 7.1 million in 2028-29, according to a new report from the Education Policy Institute (EPI).
The decrease in the number of pupils could mean a reduction in school funding from £42.7bn in 2024-25 to £41.6bn by 2029-30, which would force schools to consider mergers, cost-cutting measures and closures to remain viable.

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15 Apr 2024 - Councils hold back cash plans on fixing potholes

One in seven eligible English highway authorities have failed to detail their plans for the Government’s £300m of redirected HS2 road resurfacing cash.
The Department for Transport said that as a condition of the funding and to make sure the money was being spent on pothole repairs, local authorities were required to publish a two-year plan detailing exactly which roads will benefit.

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15 Apr 2024 - Former BoE chief economist makes case for urban wealth funds to alleviate council crisis

Urban wealth funds could invest in local assets to avoid selling them at fire-sale prices and alleviate the financial crisis across councils.
Andy Haldane, former chief economist at the Bank of England and current chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, made the case for urban wealth funds operating in such a way in a recent contribution to the Financial Times.
An income stream of £100bn each year could be generated for local councils, he conservatively estimated, if half of all public assets were placed in commercially-managed urban wealth funds with a rental yield of 5%.

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15 Apr 2024 - Bristol walks tightrope of Safety Valve programme to avoid bankruptcy

Bristol City Council will have to issue a section 114 notice if it fails to meet the terms of a government programme that aims to wipe an escalating deficit in its special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) budget.
The council’s Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) reserve, which finances the SEND budget, is forecast to be £56.1m in deficit as at 31 March 2024, rising to £114.2m by 2027/28. The latter figure, though, assumes that all currently planned mitigations “have been successfully delivered in full up to that date”, according to a new report presented to the council’s cabinet.

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15 Apr 2024 - Tighter MRP requirements ‘put the prudential framework on a more robust basis’

The final requirements for determining minimum revenue provision (MRP) for local authorities in England have been laid out in parliament.
Amendments to the Local Authorities (Capital Finance and Accounting) (England) Regulations 2003 have been made, and specify additional requirements that local authorities must comply with – with most of the changes coming into effect on 1 April 2025.
MRP is an amount of money set aside each year by local authorities to ensure they can repay the principle of their debt, essentially stopping authorities from taking on more debt than they can afford to repay.

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11 Apr 2024 - English schools could lose £1bn by 2030 as pupil numbers fall

Schools in England could lose up to £1bn in funding by 2030, researchers warn, with exceptional falls in pupil numbers prompting a wave of closures as some establishments cease to be financially viable.
Mergers and closures are already under way in parts of London, where pupil numbers have been falling for some time. According to the Education Policy Institute (EPI), a thinktank, the north-east is projected to see the greatest decline in primary pupil numbers, down 13% by 2028/9.
At secondary level, Yorkshire and the Humber, as well as the north-east and London, are projected to have the largest falls in pupil numbers, whereas in other areas, including the West Midlands, the south-east and east of England, numbers are rising.

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10 Apr 2024 - Councils publish pothole battle plans

Local authorities have published which pothole-stricken roads will benefit from the first tranche of an over £8bn package of reallocated HS2 funding.
The £150m of the £8.3bn pot was paid to councils for fixing roads last year (2023/24) and another £150m will be released this year (2024/25).
As a condition of this funding, local authorities are required to publish a two-year plan detailing which local roads will benefit.

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10 Apr 2024 - Council parking income set to top £2bn

English Councils received nearly £2bn in income from on and off-street parking in 2022-23, but paid out nearly £1bn in running and enforcement costs.
Outturn data for the year published by the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) showed that councils in England had a total income including fines from on-street parking of £1,196m and £730m from off street parking, totalling £1,927m.

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10 Apr 2024 - Staff at county set to vote on strikes

Staff at Derbyshire CC working across various departments are being balloted for industrial action by one trade union.
Unison is calling on its members in children’s services, day centres, libraries, homecare, community services, tourism, and schools to vote on whether to strike due to planned recruitment freezes and expenditure controls.
This recruitment freeze would "inevitably lead to already stretched staff taking on more work and stress" there is a "sizeable number of job vacancies at the council", Unison say.

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10 Apr 2024 - Phil Swann: Local government funding reform failure goes back to Victorians

History reveals four significant obstacles to putting councils on a sustainable financial footing, writes a PhD student at INLOGOV.
An enticing set of options for the much-needed reform of local government finance was presented recently in LGC by Mark Sandford in his review of international examples. A historical perspective, however, leads to a more pessimistic assessment of the prospects for change.

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10 Apr 2024 - Levelling up: looking outward for inspiration

We often look to others to understand ourselves better. If we want to develop, professionally or personally, it can be good to examine our peers to help take stock of what is going well, where there is room for improvement and maybe highlight things we didn’t even know we were – or weren’t – doing.
Evening out the stark social and economic inequalities between regions in England is a huge policy, funding and delivery challenge for local authorities and their civic partners, and so looking elsewhere at what has worked is a useful strategy and starting point.
CIPFA’s 2022 research with the University of Birmingham looked at four international cities — Cleveland, US (above); Fukuoka, Japan; Nantes, France; and Leipzig, Germany — and identified nine common factors that were key to their levelling-up successes. These range from political will and partnerships to long-term investment to monitoring and evaluation (see panel, below).

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10 Apr 2024 - Sickness benefits claims rise by a third in Tory heartlands

Every constituency in Britain saw a rise in sickness benefit claims last year, with Conservative areas experiencing some of the biggest increases.
Affluent southern areas have seen the numbers of people claiming the main incapacity benefit jump a third or more in a year, according to constituency-level analysis by the Labour Party, with experts warning that mental health is worsening nationwide and Britain is getting sicker.
While the highest absolute number of incapacity claimants are in Labour seats, dominated by inner-city parts of Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham, as well as towns such as Hartlepool and Middlesbrough which have been hit by de-industrialisation, the biggest proportional increases are in commuter and rural areas, which traditionally have lower benefit numbers.

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09 Apr 2024 - Children living near Sure Start centres did better at GCSEs, study suggests

Children from low-income families who grew up near a Sure Start centre did better than their peers at GCSEs, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).
Its research says those living near a centre performed up to three grades better than those further away.
Sure Start centres started in 1998 to give parents of toddlers extra support, especially in disadvantaged areas, but many have closed.

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09 Apr 2024 - Campaigners publish council ‘rich list’

Campaign group TaxPayers’ Alliance has published its annual ‘town hall rich list’ today as it continues to raise the issue of public sector pay.
The list shows that 3,106 council staff in the UK received total remuneration of at least £100,000 in 2022-23, the second highest figure since the list began in 2007.

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09 Apr 2024 - Lib Dems pledge to scrap business rates

The Liberal Democrats would deliver tax reforms to ‘revive struggling high streets’, leader Ed Davey will announce today.
Under the proposals, business rates would be replaced with a new commercial landowner levy, with local authorities still able to keep 50% of tax returns from businesses.

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09 Apr 2024 - Homes England urged to strengthen relations with local government

An independent review of Homes England has urged officials to 'build closer relationships' with councils.
The review by Tony Poulter, a non-executive director at the Department for Transport, reaffirmed Homes England’s status as the appropriate national public body of scale for place-making.
However, in his report published today, Poulter makes 34 key recommendations to ministers and Homes England designed to improve the workings of the under-fire organisation.

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08 Apr 2024 - Parking costs are set to soar

Councils have increased parking charges over the last year, according to government figures. Reports suggest that councils received £1.93 billion in fees and fines in the year to April 2023, up from £1.76 billion the previous year. A spokesperson for the LGA said: “Income raised through parking charges is spent on running parking services. Any surplus is spent on essential transport projects. Motorists can avoid fines by ensuring they observe parking and traffic rules that are only there to help all drivers get around and find parking safely, smoothly and fairly.”

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08 Apr 2024 - Grant Thornton fined over pension audit

Grant Thornton has been fined by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) for ‘failures’ in its audit of an unnamed local authority’s pension fund.
The FRC’s inspection found two uncorrected material errors in the pension fund’s audited financial statements included in the local authority’s annual report for 2020-21.

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08 Apr 2024 - Association in tax havens crackdown

Council directors have praised the Children’s Homes Association (CHA) for tightening its membership criteria to crack down on firms based in tax havens.
The CHA has insisted that members must now be ultimately owned in the UK, have majority shareholders who are registered UK taxpayers and cannot receive loans originating from tax havens.

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08 Apr 2024 - Lancashire plans to build 15 new children's homes

Up to 15 new children’s homes, which aim to provide the 'right care in the right place at the right time', could be created across Lancashire.
The homes would provide a total of 40 places, including two crisis beds, for looked-after children with complex needs.

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08 Apr 2024 - Brum consults on £2.3m library cuts

Cash-strapped Birmingham City Council has launched a consultation on how it will cut £2.3m from its library budget.
The local authority, which issued a section 114 notice in September, said the number of community libraries could be cut from 35 to 25.
It has also proposed reduced opening hours, transferring library services to community groups, and expanding libraries at home and mobile provision.

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05 Apr 2024 - 'Simply not enough money in sector,' says outgoing leader

The outgoing leader of Nottingham City Council has said there ‘simply isn’t enough money’ in local government to ‘run the services our citizens depend on’.
Nottingham, which has had to make sweeping cuts to its services to balance its budget after issuing a section 114 notice, was among 19 councils forced to agree capitalisation directions this year.
In newly-published minutes of a council meeting, Nottingham’s Labour leader David Mellen said:
‘This callous and cruel-hearted Government has brought local government in this country to its knees. I would like to be clear on one point right at the start – this is not a Nottingham problem. This is a national problem caused by a government that has failed to fix social care, caused massive inflation and generated a cost of living crisis that has seen soaring rates of homelessness. A failure of central government, but for some reason the buck stops with us – Nottingham City Council, and the people we represent. We are the ones that must pick up the pieces of their broken Britain without the resources to do so. Years of Tory underfunding of councils has led us to this day - years of austerity, years of rising prices and inflation and years of a broken care system.’

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05 Apr 2024 - 'Simply not enough money in sector,' says outgoing leader

The outgoing leader of Nottingham City Council has said there ‘simply isn’t enough money’ in local government to ‘run the services our citizens depend on’.
Nottingham, which has had to make sweeping cuts to its services to balance its budget after issuing a section 114 notice, was among 19 councils forced to agree capitalisation directions this year.

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05 Apr 2024 - Government shelves rollout of council powers

The Department for Transport (DfT) has shelved the further rollout of powers for English councils to enforce moving traffic violations like dangerous driving outside schools.
Ministers were due to lay regulations in Parliament last month to allow a tranche of 22 local authorities to enforce contraventions such as driving the wrong way down one-way streets and ignoring no entry signs from tomorrow.
The DfT suggested the designation order may be shelved until after the General Election.

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05 Apr 2024 - Public sector facing “frankly impossible” SEND crisis

Teachers and support staff have warned of a crisis in funding for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), with seven out of eight saying the resources available in schools are insufficient to meet need.
In a survey of 8,000 members carried out by the National Education Union ahead of its annual conference, one in three respondents said their school had no behaviour support team whatsoever, while two in five reported no counsellor or occupational health specialist.

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05 Apr 2024 - Tony Travers: 1974 reform heralded a near permanent revolution

In the 50 years since the structure of local government was overhauled, the search for efficiency has won out over community representation again and again, writes the director of LSE London.

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05 Apr 2024 - Heseltine interview: 1974 reform was ‘not the whole step’

On the 50th anniversary of the most significant local government reform for generations, one of the ministers involved tells LGC the government should have gone further.
For those with a passion for local government, this week marks a moment in history: 50 years since a landmark restructuring of local government in England took effect.
But for one of the key figures involved passing the legislation that abolished hundreds of councils and created the system that remains in place in much of the country, the reform should have gone much further. It was “a big step” but “not the whole step”.

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04 Apr 2024 - County appoints chief from unitary

Terence Herbert is set to join Surrey CC as chief executive after Joanna Killian left to head up the Local Government Association.
Mr Herbert is currently chief at Wiltshire Council and is expected to join Surrey in the summer. The appointed should be ratified at a full council meeting next Tuesday.

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04 Apr 2024 - Think-tank's call for landfill tax devolution

A think-tank has called for a portion of the proceeds from landfill tax to be devolved to councils.
Chief executive of Localis, Jonathan Werran, said there was a ‘need to allocate a portion of landfill tax revenues to fund research and development aimed at advancing technologies for waste recovery, reuse and recycling, as well as for legacy chemical cleanup, as well as a portion allocated to funding the prevention of waste crime’.

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04 Apr 2024 - Union criticises Government’s ‘shameful’ SEND support

Teachers and support staff are ‘losing faith’ in the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) system due to inadequate resources, a union has warned.
The National Education Union (NEU) asked its members in England and Wales what provision they had at school or local authority level to support pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or who may need to be referred for one.

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03 Apr 2024 - Council payouts for pothole punctures down 13%

Council payouts for punctured tyres and damaged suspension are down 13% since 2020 despite reports of pothole-riddled roads increasing by almost a quarter over the same period.
New analysis by insurance website, Confused.com, has found that almost one million potholes were reported by drivers in 2023. This represents an increase of 24% since 2020.

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03 Apr 2024 - Public inquiry into Thurrock’s financial failure rejected

The Government has rejected a request for a public inquiry into Thurrock Council’s financial failure and significant levels of debt.
Thurrock Council members wrote to secretary of state Michael Gove on behalf of more than 1,500 residents who called for a public inquiry into the local authority’s financial issues.
Minister for Local Government Simon Hoare MP responded that a public inquiry would not ‘provide further understanding into the historical failings or management of the council that is not being achieved through statutory intervention’.

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03 Apr 2024 - Oflog co-design promises have been broken, say councils

Ministerial promises to ‘co-design’ the Office for Local Government (Oflog) with the sector have been broken, councils have claimed.
Then local government minister Lee Rowley said last year that ‘co-design will underpin the development and success of Oflog’.
But, in written evidence to MPs, the Local Government Association (LGA) said the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) ‘did not engage with repeated efforts by the LGA and colleagues in the wider local government sector to co-design’ with them.

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03 Apr 2024 - Think-tank: Give NHS England budget to local government

Local government should be given NHS England’s £169bn budget to deliver most health services, the Reform think-tank has suggested in a report.
The proposed radical shake-up would see NHS England phased out and an “appropriate tier” of local government in each area take on all but the most specialised functions, with a block grant lasting at least five years and freedom to spend it according to local needs.
As long as a centrally set minimum service level is reached, local government would be allowed to deliver services as it sees fit – part of a change in emphasis from reactive, acute, episodic treatment to a service that creates health in the first place.

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02 Apr 2024 - Council tax to double for 80 per cent of second homes

More than three quarters of England’s second home owners are set to be charged double council tax next year. An analysis by the Telegraph has found that at least 153 local authorities will impose the levy next April, in a move which is likely to affect up to 130,000 homes.

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02 Apr 2024 - Minimum wage rise

The minimum wage, known as the National Living Wage, is increasing by more than £1 for the first time. The main wage rate is rising from £10.42 to £11.44 an hour and will apply to workers over 21 rather than over 23.

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02 Apr 2024 - Parishes and towns raise council tax surcharge

Parish and town councils will spend almost £800 million in the next financial year after increasing their average council tax surcharge by 8.5 per cent, according to official figures. Data from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities shows parish and town councils will increase their spending from £708 million in 2023/24 to £783 million in 2024/25.

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02 Apr 2024 - 16 million miles of bus routes lost

Bus services supported by councils have been reduced by more than 90 per cent over the last decade, analysis by iNews has revealed. The loss of services means that across the 10 worst-affected areas, a combined 16 million miles of bus routes have been lost.

[ more...]

02 Apr 2024 - Debt relief orders fee axed

People on the lowest incomes will be able to apply to have their debts wiped out for free as rules change in April. Debt Relief Orders clear existing debt on everything from council tax to energy bills and rent and cost £90 to apply for, which charities said many people in debt could not afford, but from 6 April they will be free in England and Wales.

[ more...]

02 Apr 2024 - Concern over bridge safety

One in every 25 bridges on Britain’s local roads are unable to carry the heaviest vehicles, new figures show. The RAC Foundation, which carried out the analysis, expressed concerns over the impact of severe weather and a shortage of engineering skills. Cllr Darren Rodwell, transport spokesperson for the LGA said councils want to “focus on preventative measures to make all of our local highways infrastructure more resilient.”

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02 Apr 2024 - Oflog chair steps down due to ‘unexpected health reasons’

Interim chair of the Office for Local Government (Oflog), Lord Morse, has announced he will be stepping down at the end of March due to ‘unexpected health reasons’.
‘I am proud of the model for Oflog that we have developed in close collaboration with the local government sector and set out recently in our draft Corporate Plan,’ he said.

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02 Apr 2024 - Spending on SEND school transport doubles to £1.4bn

The special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) school transport system must be reformed or else it will ‘threaten the financial viability of councils’, council leaders warn.
The cost of SEND school transport has increased from £727m in 2019 to £1.4bn in 2024, freedom of information requests by the BBC have revealed.

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02 Apr 2024 - Sunak denies ‘crisis’ in local government

The prime minister rejected the idea that there is a crisis in council finances during a grilling by MPs at the Commons liaison committee today.
Clive Betts (Lab), the chair of the levelling up, housing and communities committee, told Rishi Sunak that while there were recent financial problems that “have been specific to some councils, there's now a more general problem. And in the next year or two, about half the authorities will be in financial distress, potentially. Isn't there a fundamental crisis in local government finance?”
Mr Sunak acknowledged that councils “face challenges”, adding that in this parliament “significantly more funding has gone into local government,” such as the £600m boost in the most recent financial settlement.

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02 Apr 2024 - PM defends pace of reform to deal with schools grant deficits

The prime minister Rishi Sunak has defended the pace of system-wide reform for councils with high dedicated schools grant deficits.
Last week four councils joined the Department for Education's safety valve programme.
During the liaison committee hearing yesterday, the education committee chair Robin Walker (Con) asked if the prime minister can “address” the high needs budgets for councils that “that seem to be getting larger and larger over the years without actually reducing or removing those deficits” despite councils being part of the safety valve and delivering better value programmes.

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26 Mar 2024 - English councils ration access to special needs tests

There has been an increase in councils not accepting requests for education, health and care needs assessments (EHCNA), according to campaigners. A Freedom of Information request by website Special Needs Jungle claimed that on average councils refused 26.4 per cent of requests for an EHCNA in 2023, up from 21.6 per cent in 2022.

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26 Mar 2024 - High rural house prices push more people into renting

There have been increasing numbers of people in rural areas forced to access the private rental market due to rising house prices, according to a report by the County Councils Network. There has been a 19 per cent increase in rural renting, which has outpaced rises in London and England's other cities. The report warned that the number of households in private and social rental properties in rural areas has increased by 550,000 between 2011 and 2021. Cllr Richard Clewer, CCN's housing and planning spokesperson, said: "It is widely accepted that the housing crisis is one that is worsening, with rising unaffordability locking hundreds of thousands out of getting onto the property ladder”. Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme, Cllr Linda Taylor, housing spokesperson for the LGA said: “What I would like to see is a change in planning use, so if anyone is renting out a private property and want to go into the holiday market they should have to apply for a change of use so you can start to control what is happening in your communities.”

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26 Mar 2024 - Councils get £295m boost for food waste collections

Local authorities in England will share up to £295m in funding to help them introduce weekly food waste collections, Recycling Minister Robbie Moore has announced.
Weekly collections of food waste will be rolled out for most households across England by 31 March 2026 as part of the Government’s Simpler Recycling plans.

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26 Mar 2024 - Ministers stand firm on tax bands

Ministers have reiterated to MPs there are ‘no plans’ to revalue council tax bands due to the cost and disproportionate impact on lower-income households and pensioners.
In its official response to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities select committee report into councils’ financial distress, published on 26 March, the government has stood firm on its refusal to consider reforming the regressive tax soon.

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25 Mar 2024 - Bristol SEND services get £54m bailout

Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) services in Bristol are to receive a nearly £54m bailout, the Government has confirmed.
The Department for Education has announced that Bristol City Council has been included in its Safety Valve (SV) Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) management programme.

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25 Mar 2024 - MPs call for benefits ‘uprating guarantee’

MPs have called for the introduction of an ‘uprating guarantee’ to uprate working-age benefits and the Local Housing Allowance rate on an annual basis.
A report from the Work and Pensions Committee also recommended that the Household Support Fund be made a permanent part of the social security system.

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25 Mar 2024 - Whitehouse named new West Sussex chief

West Sussex CC has named Surrey CC’s interim boss Leigh Whitehouse as its new chief executive.
Having recently stepped up from his substantive post as deputy chief executive and executive director of resources to cover Joanna Killian’s departure from Surrey for the Local Government Association, Whitehouse was expected to be among applicants to be Killian’s permanent replacement

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25 Mar 2024 - Complex funding stymies net-zero push

A ‘complex web’ of hard-to-reach Whitehall funding pots is hampering councils’ net-zero initiatives – with two-thirds of town halls not confident of hitting crucial targets.
A survey by the Local Government Association (LGA), published today, reveals the potential for local action on climate change is being ‘strangled’ by the bureaucratic system of bidding for central government funds.

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25 Mar 2024 - Care satisfaction hits all-time low

Public satisfaction with social care services has slumped to the lowest level ever recorded, according to a new survey.
The British Social Attitudes survey findings, published today by the Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund, found just 13% of respondents were 'very' or 'quite' satisfied with social care services.
Conversely, 57% were either ‘quite dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’ – an historic high level.

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25 Mar 2024 - Financial distress in local authorities

The government‘s response to the Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities Select Committee’s inquiry on financial distress in local authorities.

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22 Mar 2024 - DWP benefits 'too low' to cover basic living costs, government warned

The Work and Pensions Committee has called on the Government to reform the social security system with new benefit levels that take into account living costs. They said that benefit payments are “too low” to cover daily living costs and the Government must act to increase financial support. Cllr Pete Marland, Chair of the LGA’s Economy and Resources Board, said: “While it’s good that the household support fund was recently extended, councils now want to work with the government to deliver a sustainable, long-term solution to support households out of poverty and improve residents’ financial resilience and wellbeing.”

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22 Mar 2024 - Our school has been crumbling for 20 years

Schools with leaking roofs and decades-old temporary classrooms are concerned they will not be able to make repairs, as most of the last places on a scheme to rebuild schools went to those with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC). The School Rebuilding Programme aims to rebuild or refurbish 500 schools in a decade.

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22 Mar 2024 - UK rent prices up 9% in record yearly rise, says ONS

The average cost of rent in the UK rose by 9 per cent in the 12 months to February this year - the highest annual increase since records began in 2015. There were price rises in all parts of the country, according to the Office for National Statistics.

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22 Mar 2024 - Households set to be hit by 5% average council tax rise

Across the country, average council tax bills from April 2024 will be 5.1 per cent higher than 2023 – or £106 more – for band D households. LGA Chair, Cllr Shaun Davies, said councils were starting the financial year in a precarious position and scaling back or closing a wide range of services. “This means many are again left facing the difficult choice about raising bills to bring in desperately needed funding. It is unsustainable to expect them to keep doing more for less in the face of unprecedented cost and demand pressures. Keeping councils on a financial drip feed has led to the steady weakening of local services. Local government needs greater funding certainty through multi-year settlements to prevent this ongoing decline.”

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22 Mar 2024 - Regional disparities in council tax rise

Nearly all local authorities in England are raising council taxes by the maximum amount permitted, according to new data from the Department of Levelling up, Housing and Communities. While the increases were not unexpected, think-tanks and local government groups have said the data highlights stark regional disparities, with poorer areas in the north in particular forced to raise the levy more than richer areas. People across the board were paying more and more for increasingly threadbare services, they added.

[ more...]

22 Mar 2024 - Absolute poverty in UK rises

The energy price crisis caused the sharpest increase in UK absolute poverty in 30 years, new figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show. Steep price rises, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, meant hundreds of thousands more people fell into absolute poverty. The figure jumped to 12 million in 2022-2023, a rise of 600,000. This means the rate of absolute poverty in the UK now stands at 18 per cent - a rise of 0.78 percentage points.

[ more...]

22 Mar 2024 - Housing for USAC may run out this month

Accommodation for lone asylum seeker children who arrive on the Kent coast in small boats could run out before the end of this month, a council has warned, placing them at risk. Kent County Council has legal duties under the Children Act to take these children into care on arrival in the UK. Under the national transfer scheme, many of the children are subsequently moved to different local authorities around the country after arrival. However, due to high numbers of children arriving on their own on small boats and delays in moving them to other areas, Kent Council say it is struggling to cope and that its spaces for these children could run out before the end of March.

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22 Mar 2024 - Care integration in ‘retreat’

The co-operation between local government and the NHS hoped for with the advent of Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) is faltering, experts have said.
Windsor and Maidenhead LBC chief executive Stephen Evans told The MJ’s Future Forum cross-sector co-operation seen during the pandemic had dissipated since.
‘In the last year or so, we’ve retreated back into siloes – that’s a massive missed opportunity,’ he said.
‘I feel like that collaboration has gone backwards.’

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22 Mar 2024 - ‘Hope’ for council tax overhaul

Labour could be presented with an opportunity to reform council tax if election polls are borne out, The MJ’s Future Forum has heard.
Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Paul Johnson, was asked if the chance for an overhaul of the system had passed.
He said there could be hope for reform of the ‘out of date and regressive’ tax should Labour win a comfortable majority after the General Election, but harboured doubts over whether the political courage was there.
‘That’s an opportunity to do radical stuff. I don’t know how willing they will be to do something radical.’

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22 Mar 2024 - Reflections on the West Midlands trailblazer devo deal one year on

This week marks the first anniversary of the signing of the West Midlands trailblazer devolution deal.
A good time then to take a step back and reflect on what we have learned about being at the vanguard of English devolution.
There will of course be a range of perspectives, but here are five reflections from the ‘frontline’ on negotiation and implementation.

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22 Mar 2024 - EV charge point rollout gets £185m boost

Forty-four local authorities are set to receive a share of £185m to help accelerate the rollout of electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure, the Department for Transport has announced.

[ more...]

21 Mar 2024 - Bank of England says 'not yet' time to cut interest rates

The boss of the Bank of England has said it is "not yet" the time to cut interest rates leaving them unchanged for a fifth time in a row at 5.25%.
The widely-expected decision means the cost of borrowing remains at its highest level for 16 years.
Eight of the nine Bank rate setters voted to leave rates unchanged, with only one voting in favour of a cut.
The Bank has kept interest rates at a high level in a bid to slow the pace consumer prices have been rising at.

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20 Mar 2024 - Social care reform plans have once again gone awry, MPs say

A new cross-party report from MPs has warned that the Department of Health and Social Care is failing to provide the leadership required to deliver a social care sector sufficient to meet the country’s future needs. Initiatives to support the workforce have so far only been short-term, while a long-term and comprehensive workforce plan is lacking, the Public Accounts Committee said. The LGA said it strongly supports the call for long-term financial support and certainty, as it described the sector being in “a precarious position, with overstretched budgets, significant unmet and under-met need, and remaining instability within the provider market”.

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20 Mar 2024 - Record £16bn local roads repair backlog

The rate of pothole repairs on local roads in England and Wales has reached an eight-year high, according to a new report. The Asphalt Industry Alliance said highways are heading towards “breaking point” after its ALARM survey found that councils expect to fix two million potholes in the current financial year. Meanwhile, the amount needed to fix the backlog of local road repairs has reached a record £16.3 billion, up 16 per cent from £14 billion a year ago. LGA transport spokesperson Cllr Darren Rodwell said: “This report reveals in stark terms the huge challenge facing councils in maintaining the local roads network, which nearly everyone relies on. The backlog of repairs now stands at almost double the extra amount that government has promised over the next 11 years.”

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20 Mar 2024 - Councils could be stopped from making profits out of traffic fines

Ministers are considering removing the power for councils to make profits when fining motorists for minor traffic offences, such as stopping in yellow box junctions or driving in bus lanes. The Department for Transport has put out a call for evidence on “restricting the generation of surplus funds from traffic contraventions.”

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20 Mar 2024 - UK inflation falls to 3.4%

The pace of general price rises has slowed, falling to 3.4 per cent in February, according to official figures from the Office for National Statistics. This is down from 4 per cent in January and December, and the lowest rate for nearly two and a half years, but the rate of inflation is still above the Bank of England's 2 per cent target.

[ more...]

20 Mar 2024 - Chancellor hints at October general election

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has hinted a general election could be held in October. He told a Lords Committee the Government's next spending review had to be completed before next April and “if the general election is in October that will mean it's very, very tight”.

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20 Mar 2024 - Northeast to pay £400 more council tax than London — see how your area compares

A survey of more than 200 LAs in England and Wales prompted warnings that entrenched regional disparities would only be exacerbated, resulting in “levelling down”. Poorer areas of the country will pay more council tax than wealthier ones, warned CIPFA which carried out the survey.
It found that band D properties, which are used as the baseline for setting other band rates, will rise by 5.2% across England and Wales from April — 0.3% more than this year. The contrast was most stark between the northeast and London. Households in the former will pay £420 more for an average band D property in council tax next year than those in Greater London.
“The continuous council tax gap between London and the rest of the country further reflects the profound regional inequalities that exist,” said Iain Murray, Cipfa’s director of public financial management.

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19 Mar 2024 - Potholes: Roads in England and Wales at 'breaking point'

Roads in England and Wales are at "breaking point" due to potholes, with repairs at an eight-year high, according to a new report.
The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) said councils were expected to fix two million potholes in the current financial year. That is up 43% on the previous year and the highest annual total since 2015-16. Ministers highlighted their pledge to provide £8.3bn of extra funding over 11 years for road improvements in England.
The AIA's annual report found that 47% of local road miles were rated as being in a good condition, with 36% adequate and 17% poor. The survey also found that average highway maintenance budgets increased by 2.3% in the 2023-24 financial year compared with the previous 12 months. But the impact of rising costs due to inflation meant local authorities "effectively experienced a real-terms cut".

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19 Mar 2024 - Social Care Spending Accounts for Two-Thirds of Spend

Now analysis of council budgets by Pixel Financial Management for the CCN finds that social care and children’s services account for 65% of LA spending, up from 57% in 2014. This ranges from 77% in Devon to 39% in Westminster. But only three councils, all in London, spend under half their budget on these two services.
Roger Gough, CCN spokesman for children’s services, said that councils were increasingly asking “what is left after spend for care services is factored in? These services are some of the most important we provide — they change peoples’ lives and they protect the most vulnerable in our society — but the fact remains they are not used by the majority of the population.”
He said: “With more than two thirds of the average county LA's budget now spent on just children’s services and adult social care, rising to three quarters in some areas, there is simply less and less each year for us to spend on highly valued services such as libraries, road repairs and street lighting.”

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19 Mar 2024 - Not Enough Homes to go Around

Some coastal councils have warned of growing pressures on housing services due to a steep decline in landlords in the long term private rented sector. Hastings Borough Council has seen over 1,000 properties become Air BnB’s, with this pushing up rents in the long term rental market and forcing more households into temporary accommodation. Analysis by the LGA shows that the number of households living in temporary accommodation is the highest since records began in 1998, costing councils at least £1.74 billion in 2022/23

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19 Mar 2024 - Revealed: Spiralling cost of children’s homes

The amount councils spent on placements at children’s homes has risen by 72% in five years, LGC analysis has found, but sector leaders claim the quality and quantity is not reflected in the price.
According to the Department for Education’s latest data, local authorities spent £2.5bn on residential placements last financial year, £1.1bn more than 2018-19. More than two-fifths of that increase occurred in the last year.

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18 Mar 2024 - Rishi Sunak pledges to create 20,000 more apprenticeships

Rishi Sunak is promising to create up to 20,000 more apprenticeships with a series of reforms including fully funding training for young people and cutting red tape for small businesses.
The government will pay the full cost of apprenticeships for people aged 21 or under at small firms from 1 April.
To enable this, it is pledging £60m of new investment for next year.

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18 Mar 2024 - Vital services or financial ruin? England's town hall dilemma

From bin collections and street lighting to child protection and elderly care, councils provide services we all use, but in England more and more are in danger of going bust. BBC Panorama has followed the struggles of one such authority and the people who rely on it.

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16 Mar 2024 - Rishi Sunak wastes over £33million of taxpayers' cash by chickening out of May election

Rishi Sunak has wasted tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money by chickening out of a May election.
The PM still refuses to say when he will go to the polls - but has ruled out holding a general election on May 2, the same day as local elections, as Labour did for every election when they were last in power. Doing so would save the country around £33.2m, according to the Mirror’s analysis of previous election costs.

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16 Mar 2024 - ‘Desperate neglect’: teachers washing clothes and finding beds as poverty grips England’s schools

Schools are finding beds, providing showers for pupils and washing uniforms as child poverty spirals out of control, headteachers from across England have told the Observer.
School leaders said that as well as hunger they were now trying to mitigate exhaustion, with increasing numbers of children living in homes without enough beds or unable to sleep because they were cold. They warned that “desperate” poverty was driving problems with behaviour, persistent absence and mental health.
The head of a primary school in a deprived area in north-west England, speaking anonymously to avoid identifying vulnerable children, said: “We have a child who we put in the shower a couple of times a week.” He described the family’s bathroom as “disgusting” and said they couldn’t afford to buy cleaning products.

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16 Mar 2024 - Ed Davey: ‘We need a cross-party agreement on social care’

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer have been challenged to sign up to cross-party talks finally resolving the impasse over social care, as part of a Liberal Democrat plea to “grasp the nettle” after years of failure.
Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, said that his party would include in its forthcoming manifesto a promise to attend cross-party talks on social care after the election. He called on both the Tories and Labour to do the same in a bid to agree a financial package that helps the NHS and deals with the high costs some face.
“We’ve got lots of ideas to bring to the table,” Davey told the Observer. “But we’re only going to ultimately solve this if we have a cross-party consensus. It’s just been knocked out for far too long. We need to do it right this time. We cannot wait.

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15 Mar 2024 - 2 May general election ruled out

The Prime Minister has ruled out holding a general election on the same day as local elections on 2 May. The Prime Minister told broadcasters it would be in the “second half” of the year.

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15 Mar 2024 - Potholes: Wet weather brings more misery on country’s crumbling roads

There are an estimated one million potholes on Britain’s roads and last year the AA received 632,000 callouts to vehicles damaged by road defects, a 16 per cent increase. Research by Halfords found that a quarter of motorists say their vehicle has been damaged by a pothole in the previous 12 months, causing an estimated £7.5 billion in damage. The LGA said central government spending on local road maintenance fell from £4 billion in 2006 to £2 billion in 2019.

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15 Mar 2024 - Councils lobby for reduced audit fees amid backstop plan

Fees for councils should be slashed if auditors are forced to give qualified opinions due to failing to meet the backstop deadline later this year, English councils have said.
Public Sector Audit Appointments has strong powers to impose variations to reduce fees for audit work that has not been carried out but said last week it was ‘not currently able to quantify fees’.
In a consultation response, the Local Government Association (LGA) called for ‘clear proposals’ to be brought forward.

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15 Mar 2024 - National Transfer Scheme Judgment day

Ministers will today come under fresh pressure at a High Court hearing to enforce a mandated National Transfer Scheme (NTS) for asylum-seeking children.
The Home Office and Kent CC have been told to reveal improvements to the scheme after a High Court judge gave them until the end of last month.
Sources familiar with the High Court case said there was ‘little chance’ of a lasting solution being agreed this week.

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15 Mar 2024 - No pay offer until after local elections

Local government employers will not make a pay offer until after the upcoming local elections in May.
They are consulting on trade unions’ 10% pay claim - which would increase the national pay bill by more than £1.94bn - throughout this month but are not expected to meet to discuss the results until April.

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15 Mar 2024 - Four-day week council decision 'disappointing and arrogant'

South Cambridgeshire DC’s decision to continue with its four-day week is ‘disappointing and arrogant,’ local government minister Simon Hoare has said.
Hoare suggested the Government could legislate to stop councils adopting the practice after the Government said ‘financial levers’ would be used from 2025-26 to ‘disincentive’ councils from following South Cambridgeshire.

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15 Mar 2024 - Adult social care receives £20m boost

The struggling adult social care system is set to benefit from a £20m boost, the Government announced today.
The Accelerating Reform Fund will expand community-based care models such as Shared Lives, a service that matches people aged 16 and above with approved carers.

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15 Mar 2024 - Structures should be 'rationalised,' Hoare tells DCN

Council funding should have been reformed by now and structures need to be ‘rationalised’ the local government minister told the District Councils’ Network (DCN) conference.
Simon Hoare told delegates: ‘At some point, we are going to have to look at what the birds eye view of local government looks like from above.’

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15 Mar 2024 - Levelling up plagued by ‘astonishing delays’

The Government’s levelling up agenda has been characterised by ‘astonishing delays’ and blind optimism, according to Parliament’s spending watchdog.
The Public Accounts Committee has found that councils have only spent £1.24bn of the £10.47bn available to them to reduce inequality.
The PAC also discovered that by December 2023 only £3.7bn had been given to local authorities out of the total allocation by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

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15 Mar 2024 - Landfill tax changes key to tackling organised crime and saving £1bn

Overhauling the charges for landfill waste could cut crime and costs for councils, according to a report by the Localis think-tank.
It argued that the current charging regime’s gap between standard levels of landfill tax at £102.10 per tonne for ‘active’ and lower levels at £3.25 per tonne for ‘inactive’ material, has led to an escalation of waste crime, in the form of illegal dumping and fly-tipping.
The report, ‘Cleaning up our act - reforming landfill tax for place resilience and best local outcomes’, claimed there are too many incentives for commercial waste operators to either mis-classify loads or simply dump material in rural areas.

[ more...]

14 Mar 2024 - Wilko and other closures leave 5,000 fewer stores

There was a rise in new outlets opened by UK chains last year, dominated by coffee drive-throughs, bubble tea shops and fast food restaurants, mostly located outside city centres.
But they were not enough to outweigh the places where chains shut up shop, new figures show.
High profile failures at Wilko, Lloyds pharmacy and Paperchase meant in total there were more closures than openings.
The result was a net decrease of 5,000 in stores across the UK.

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14 Mar 2024 - Please, can we make this the last circus budget?

The period after most “fiscal events” ushers in a wave of disappointment. Last week’s budget is no exception.
Conservative MPs have realised that it will not transform the economy and their political prospects. Economists recognise that unreasonable assumptions about future policy flatter the public finances. And then there’s been the host of complaints from lobby groups, MPs, think tanks and trade bodies about all the wonderful policies the chancellor failed to deliver.
After the 2021 budget, I observed a growing trend of PR agencies and campaigners branding each overlooked budget policy as a “missed opportunity”. Since then, I’ve been collating these reactions. The sheer number of “missed opportunities” and the range of issues covered sheds light on the farce that budget days have become and the inflated hopes pinned on them as cure-alls for every social problem.

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13 Mar 2024 - Sunak warned off May election

Senior Conservative MPs are said to have warned the Prime Minister against a May general election, amid reports that some No 10 advisors are pushing to hold the poll alongside local elections on May 2. Downing Street insiders, however, insist the chances of a May poll remain “vanishingly small”.

[ more...]

13 Mar 2024 - UK growth picks up

The UK economy picked up in January, boosted by stronger sales in shops and online and more construction activity. The Office for National Statistics said the services sector led the bounce back.

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13 Mar 2024 - Private care home closures

Private care homes in England are being shut down at a rate that is 22 times higher than state-owned facilities, a study has found. The Care Quality Commission has closed 816 care homes between 2011-2023, of which 804 were for-profit facilities, according to an analysis of the CQC data by a team at Oxford, Michigan and Roskilde universities.

[ more...]

13 Mar 2024 - Adult social care demand reaches unprecedented high

Demand for adult social care services has reached an unprecedented high.
The King’s Fund’s annual social care report published today found adult care requests hit a record high of two million while costs for councils have outstripped inflation, with average weekly fees rising from £670 in 2015-16 to £840 in 2022-23.
It found the sector’s vacancy rate of 152,000 was its second-highest-ever level - despite the arrival of 70,000 overseas workers.

[ more...]

13 Mar 2024 - Oflog should consolidate financial results monthly, say accountants

The Office for Local Government (Oflog) should consolidate the financial results and position of local authorities on a monthly basis, accountants have suggested.
A submission to MPs by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) said Oflog was ‘handicapped by the lack of a monthly financial consolidation and the absence of an ability to mine monthly financial reports’.
It added introducing the change would bring local government in line with ‘basic practice in the private sector’.

[ more...]

13 Mar 2024 - Welsh council tax rises finalised

The average council tax rise for Welsh local authorities will be just over 8% next year.
Unlike counterparts in England, Wales’s 22 councils do not face a cap on increases and rises from April are set to range from 4.9% in Rhondda Cynon Taff to 12.5% in Pembrokeshire.
Pembrokeshire stepped back from imposing a proposed hike of 16.3%.
Deputy leader Paul Miller said: ‘We have listened to concerns from colleagues across the chamber regard the budget and the representations they have put forward on behalf of constituents.

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13 Mar 2024 - Who can solve the council tax conundrum?

Council tax sits at the heart of the debate about the funding of local public services and the balance between the citizen, local democracy and central Government.
Since its introduction in 1993, it has remained unreformed, and while the Lyons inquiry findings may be almost 20 years old, they remain as relevant as ever.
Council tax holds a dual purpose – first as a local tax, and second, as a way to fund local government. But concerns persist about its perceived fairness – in terms of both the way it distributes the tax burden and the weight of spending pressures it has to support.
Both challenges have been exacerbated by the depth and duration of austerity and subsequent developments in the housing market. Prior to any reform of council tax, we need to be very clear about purpose.

[ more...]

13 Mar 2024 - A quick fix – but is there any choice?

Local government has almost become immune to the news of financial failures as more and more councils struggle with budgets and warn of impending section 114 notices, and last week’s Budget offered no respite.
Even so, the startling news a fortnight ago that 19 authorities have been given capitalisation directions totalling £2.5bn was a stark reminder of how difficult it has become to balance the books.

[ more...]

13 Mar 2024 - Only government can solve social care crisis, say council leaders

Social care services for adults ‘continue to stagnate’ due to a lack of government reform, the King’s Fund has concluded.
Its annual review of the sector confirmed another year of huge pressure, high staff vacancies and a lack of funding needed to improve provision.
The health think-tank confirmed the warnings from local authority leaders that the crippling costs of provision are increasing at a rate faster than budget provision.

[ more...]

13 Mar 2024 - Social care in meltdown as shock report warns crippled system is busier than ever

Social care is under ‘intense pressure’ and must be reformed after a record 2million adults asked for support last year, a report warns.
Local authorities have seen a surge in applications for publicly-funded care over the past decade but the number receiving it has actually fallen.
The Social Care 360 report, published by the King’s Fund think-tank, reveals thousands of people are being left to struggle without the support they need.

[ more...]

12 Mar 2024 - Council tax alert with increases as high as £178 set to hit Britons in just weeks

Despite a £600 million package of support granted to local government before the Spring Budget by the Government, the LGA has warned that it is not enough to plug the funding gap that councils are facing over the next two years and making council tax rises ‘vital’. Cllr Peter Marland, Chair of LGA Resources Board, said: “Councils have led the way at finding ways to save money and reduce costs and this work will continue, but they will still need to raise Council Tax this year and many will need to make further savings to local services in order to plug remaining funding gaps.” This comes ahead of council tax rises in the new financial year, set to begin in 20 days, with 3 in 4 councils preparing to increase council tax by at least 4.99 per cent.

[ more...]

12 Mar 2024 - Experts in fresh push for fiscal devolution

An independent group of experts is preparing to pile pressure on ministers to back fiscal devolution, The MJ understands.
A number of key members of the Levelling Up Advisory Council’s London steering group, which last week met for the second time, are believed to be supportive of fiscal devolution.
One source close to the group said they would be lobbying for a ‘rewiring’ of local government finance, which was too grant-based, to provide a ‘much stronger incentive for growth’.

[ more...]

12 Mar 2024 - Deprivation of Liberty backlog 'may never be eradicated'

A report has called for councils to get more resources to tackle the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) backlog.
The report by the charity Age UK found the number of cases awaiting authorisation had remained at more than 100,000 since 2015-16 and was ‘so big it will probably never be eradicated’.

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11 Mar 2024 - Labour will not bail out bankrupt councils

Speaking during an interview on Sky News' Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips, the Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said Labour will not bail out bankrupt councils and she is "not going to be able to fix all the problems straightaway.” She added that her focus was “on reforming the planning system to get Britain building again.”

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11 Mar 2024 - Schools are at risk of closure after a massive fall in the birth rate

The population of young children is expected to fall by more than half a million by 2030, new analysis suggests. This is the equivalent of 17,000 primary school classes - or 1,800 primary schools. New data suggests the issue is also transferring to secondary schools with 4,000 fewer children applying for places this year.

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11 Mar 2024 - Council spending on diversity doubles to £23m

The amount spent by local authorities on promoting equality and diversity almost doubled in a three-year period, campaigners have revealed.
Research by the TaxPayers’ Alliance has found that spending on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) roles rose from just over £12m in 2020/21 to almost £23m in 2022/23.

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11 Mar 2024 - Limited exemptions for empty homes powers

Councils will face only a limited number of exemptions from new powers allowing them to levy higher taxes on empty homes, ministers have confirmed.
In what will be viewed as a positive step for the hard-up local authority sector, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) today revealed there will be few exceptions to the planned crackdown on long-term empty homes.

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08 Mar 2024 - Budget did little to diffuse ticking timebomb for local councils

Political editor Beth Rigby writes about the fallout from this week's Budget, and the impact on councils and local services. In a discussion on new Sky podcast Electoral Dysfunction, the recent LGA survey showing 1 in 5 council chief executives fear having to issue a section 114 in the next two years was referenced alongside the LGA warning that "severe pressures" remain on council budgets despite additional government funding for 2024/25.

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08 Mar 2024 - Right to Buy lobbying fails as Treasury ends temporary boost

The Treasury has confirmed councils will no longer keep 100% of Right to Buy (RTB) receipts after the current financial year despite lobbying by the sector.
To help boost social housebuilding, the Treasury had announced a temporary two-year measure to allow councils to retain receipts in full until the end of 2023-24 - a policy thought to have raised up to £400m across local government.

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07 Mar 2024 - Minister gives update on three councils under intervention

The local government minister Simon Hoare has "commended" the progress at four local authorities that have either been placed into statutory intervention or under independent review.
Sandwell MBC, Liverpool City Council, Thurrock Council and the Tees Valley CA were the subject of a written ministerial update this lunchtime.

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07 Mar 2024 - Budget: County councils given more funding powers

Warwickshire County Council has been given more powers over its funding in a devolution deal announced in the Budget. It was one of three county councils to be given more control over their funding announced by Jeremy Hunt yesterday. The Chancellor also announced £100 million of levelling up funding for areas to “support cultural projects in these communities”. The LGA said it was disappointed the Government had not announced “measures to adequately fund the local services people rely on every day”. LGA Chair Cllr Shaun Davies said: “It is unsustainable to expect them to keep doing more for less in the face of unprecedented cost and demand pressures.”

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07 Mar 2024 - Inside the towns where councils have issued section 114

Local people have been speaking of their experience living in areas which have issued a section 114 notice. Some of these councils have reportedly been struggling to provide some basic services, such as bin collections and street cleaning. A recent LGA survey of council chief executives found 85 per cent of local authorities continue to plan reductions in spending on key services, despite the Government making an extra £600 million available for 2024/25.

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07 Mar 2024 - Households worse off despite tax cuts – think tank

Tax cuts announced in the Budget will not make up for the impact of tax increases and rising prices, a leading think tank has said. The Institute for Fiscal Studies said households would be worse off at the election, expected this year, than they were at the start of this parliament despite the Chancellor announcing a cut to National Insurance worth £10 billion.

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07 Mar 2024 - Budget: ‘Real decisions kicked into the long grass’

The chancellor has "kicked the real decisions" around local government finance "into the long grass" after yesterday's Budget failed to provide long-term solutions, say finance experts.
Sector leaders shared their frustration more about what was not included in the Budget that are impacting local government finance. The omission of proposals on net zero, adult social care and homelessness.
Chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (Cipfa) Rob Whiteman accused the chancellor of using the Budget as "a political announcement rather than an economic budget event, doing little to help move the needle in boosting public sector productivity".

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06 Mar 2024 - Council urged to reduce spend on diversity schemes

The Government will use the Budget to urge councils to “do more for less” and reduce their spending on consultants and diversity schemes, it has been reported. Cllr Shaun Davies, Chair of the LGA, said this is a “distraction” in the debate around council funding. He added that councils have led the way in finding efficiencies but that many councils use consultants in order to bid for an increasing number of pots of government funding allocated through competitive bidding processes.

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06 Mar 2024 - Stand or deliver: Hunt to set out Budget choices

The chancellor will seek to appease a raft of powerful critics in the last Budget before the general election.
Jeremy Hunt is expected to set out plans aimed at reducing tax that will appease backbenchers demanding cuts in personal taxation while meeting demands from the International Monetary Fund for the UK to focus on long-term stability.
It follows a weekend of negotiations between the chancellor and the prime minister – with the PM making clear he thinks there is room to put more cash in the public’s pockets.

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06 Mar 2024 - Invest in public services instead of cutting taxes, government told

The government should avoid “prioritising politically driven tax cuts while decimating services” during Wednesday’s Budget, public sector unions have said.

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06 Mar 2024 - Budget: Chancellor launches productivity push

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has unveiled a Budget with little respite for local government but demands for increased public sector productivity.
As expected, he announced a further 2p cut to employee National Insurance to ‘make employment pay’, and pledged to continue to cut the tax when it was affordable.
Patrick Melia, Solace spokesperson for local government finance, said: ‘The Government has, once again, failed to properly address the extreme financial pressures facing local government.

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06 Mar 2024 - Budget: Boost for preventative services

Funding for preventative services has been announced as part of the Budget in an attempt to relieve local government’s demand pressures.
In his speech, chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced £105m would go towards creating 15 new special free schools, with locations to be confirmed by May.
Another £45m of match funding will also be provided to local authorities to provide 200 open children’s home placements, alongside £120m for maintenance of the secure children’s home estate.

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06 Mar 2024 - Budget: Trailblazer devo deal for North East

The North East has secured a trailblazer devolution deal that could provide a package of new funding potentially worth more than £100m, chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced in his Budget.
Hunt’s announcement comes ahead of the election in May of a mayor for the expanded North East region.
It comes after trailblazer deals with the West Midlands and Greater Manchester committed the Government to confirming a single financial settlement for the two regions in the next Spending Review.

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06 Mar 2024 - Budget: Household Support Fund extended

A scheme aimed at supporting the most vulnerable households will be extended for another six months, chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced in the Budget.
The Household Support Fund, which has provided £2.5bn in Government funding for local welfare support over the past two-and-a-half years, was due to end at the end of this month.

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06 Mar 2024 - Budget: ‘Disappointment’ over Treasury’s productivity drive

The Treasury's productivity drive ignores "real issues we are facing and instead makes misleading statements about councils’ spending," a senior council chief said following the Budget.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt today confirmed a "public sector productivity programme" that also includes funding for the NHS and the criminal justice sector, as well as local government.
Mr Hunt said: "Good public services need a strong economy. But a strong economy also needs good public services."

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06 Mar 2024 - Budget: New devo deals, expanded long-term plan for towns and levelling up funding

Three counties are to get devolution deals, the North East has got a trailblazer deal and 20 more towns have joined the government's towns programme under plans announced by the chancellor this afternoon.
During the Budget speech chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced that Buckinghamshire Council, Warwickshire CC and Surrey CC would get level two devolution deals.
These areas had been in-line for level two, non-mayoral devolution deals for county areas that do not have a nearby unitary to combine with, which were announced at the Autumn Statement.

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06 Mar 2024 - Budget: £165m for children’s social care as part of productivity drive

The chancellor Jeremy Hunt has confirmed an additional £165m for local authorities towards the creation of 200 more children's social care placements to "combat profiteering" and strengthen "preventative action to reduce demand on public services".
Mr Hunt announced in the Budget today that the Treasury will match funding of up to £45m to build children's homes placements and an additional £120m to fund the maintenance of two secure homes in Devon and Hampshire.

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06 Mar 2024 - Budget: Chancellor ramps up pressure on LGPS to increase UK investment

The chancellor has announced new reporting requirements designed to increase the amount council pension funds invest in the UK.
The move, announced in today’s Budget, ramps up pressure following previous action over past two years. In 2022, it set a target for the Local Government Pension Scheme in England and Wales to invest 5% of its assets in levelling up, and last year it added an aim for it to invest a further 10% in private equity.

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05 Mar 2024 - LGA warning on council finances

Chair of the LGA, Cllr Shaun Davies, spoke to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning about the financial challenges facing councils, as many are having to approve cuts to services to set balanced 2024/25 budgets. Ahead of this week’s Budget, Cllr Davies said: “We’ve been a lot doing more with a lot less and that is not sustainable going forward. The demand for services is at a record high, the cost of providing those services is at a record high. This is a systematic issue that the Government needs to address.”

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05 Mar 2024 - NHS funding faces biggest real-terms cuts since 1970s, warns IFS

Health spending in England is due to suffer a 1.2 per cent cut – worth £2 billion – in the new financial year starting next month, according to an analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The health budget, almost all of which the NHS gets, is to go from £168.2 billion in 2023/24 to £166.2 billion in 2024-25, after adjustment for inflation, in 2022/23 prices.

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05 Mar 2024 - Lending rates could spike after audit reset, LGA warns

Proposals to reset the local audit system and clear the backlog of accounts could drive up the lending rates offered to the sector, councils have warned.
With almost all local authorities in England two years behind with their audited accounts, auditors are expected to issue a raft of qualified and disclaimed opinions later this year.
It comes after the Government proposed implementing a ‘backstop’ date of 30 September for the publication of audited accounts for all outstanding years up to 2022-23.

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05 Mar 2024 - CIPFA pleads for Oflog costs to be kept down

It is ‘unrealistic’ to think the Office for Local Government (Oflog) will not pile fresh resource pressures on councils, finance experts have warned.
In written evidence to MPs, the Chartered Institute for Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) said there would be a cost to the sector that ‘should be kept to a minimum’.
CIPFA’s evidence urged Oflog to maximise its use of existing data - including local authority accounts and its financial resilience index - to avoid creating onerous data collection costs.

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05 Mar 2024 - Councils face ‘difficult decisions’ after leisure service funding delay

A delay allocating government funding to safeguard the future of England’s leisure centres and swimming pools has left local authorities and pool operators confronting "difficult decisions" about the future of their facilities.
Only a third of the funds announced in last year’s Budget to keep leisure centres "afloat" has been distributed. The first tranche was allocated in November with nearly 200 leisure centres receiving a share of £20m in response to increased operating costs.

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05 Mar 2024 - Exceptional financial support interest premium branded ‘payday loan’

The higher borrowing rate for authorities that have been granted in principle exceptional financial support has been compared to a "payday loan" and branded a "bit of a telling off" by affected council leaders.
All of the 19 local authorities that were granted exceptional financial support in principle for next financial year will face a 1% "premium" on any borrowing they undertake to fund capitalisation directions. Under the terms of EFS they must borrow from the Public Works Loan Board where the basic interest rate is currently just under 5.7%.

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05 Mar 2024 - Tony Travers: Government’s lack of coordination has unintended consequences

The impact of Birmingham’s cuts on the arts and cultural sector is worrying – and not unique, writes the director of LSE London.
Spending cuts being made by Birmingham City Council include the end of support, by 2026, for the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Rep and other important arts organisations. The Hippodrome, another local icon, is in a better position, because West Midlands CA mayor Andy Street (Con) has recently provided resources for it to expand.

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05 Mar 2024 - So-called exceptional financial support is no such thing

The government’s short-term plan to address the funding crisis will only make places poorer, writes LGC editor Sarah Calkin.
It is hard to overstate the seriousness of the announcement on 29 February that 19 councils are set to receive exceptional financial support to balance the books next year. Many of them are also set to receive support to allow them to close their accounts for previous years, with the broken audit system meaning issues as far back as 2019-20 are only now being resolved.

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04 Mar 2024 - LGA and councils call for Household Support Fund extension

More than 160 councils have signed an LGA letter warning that thousands of vulnerable families are facing a cliff edge of support ahead of the end of the Household Support Fund. The fund will end in a few weeks, unless an extension is announced in the Budget this week. Cllr Shaun Davies, LGA Chair, said closing the fund risks more households falling into financial crisis, destitution, and homelessness. "That increases pressure on already overstretched public services such as the NHS, social care and temporary accommodation," he added.

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04 Mar 2024 - Garden waste collection charges

Figures have shown that 254 of the 314 councils in England charge to collect green waste. The LGA said: “It should be for individual councils with their residents to decide how to carry out waste collections locally and whether the costs of providing green waste collection should be met by all taxpayers or just those that use the additional service.”

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04 Mar 2024 - Public want public service investment over tax cuts

Improving public services ranks significantly higher in the list of voter priorities than the level of tax on earnings, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. It is reported that Jeremy Hunt is drafting plans for up to £9 billion worth of tax rises and spending reductions in next week’s Budget in an effort to pay for a potential 2p cut in National Insurance. In media interviews yesterday, the Chancellor appeared to rule out public service investment, instead arguing that efficiency gains can be found to improve the quality of services while freeing up cash for lower taxes.

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04 Mar 2024 - Budget children’s social care measures

The Budget will contain an £800 million package of technology reforms aimed at freeing up NHS and police time, the Treasury has announced, as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said there was "too much waste in the system". Other key measures include £165 million to cut last year's local authority overspend of £670 million on children's social care places across England, by making 200 additional child social care places available, reducing the reliance on costly emergency places for children.

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04 Mar 2024 - Care firms accused of squeezing cash from councils

Care companies are insisting on unnecessary and expensive support packages for vulnerable children to boost their profits, a council leader has claimed. Cllr Barry Lewis, the Conservative leader of Derbyshire County Council, said that former family-run businesses acquired by private equity groups were trying to get “as much cash as possible” out of local authorities.

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04 Mar 2024 - Chancellor targets second-home owners

The Chancellor is to launch a £300 million tax raid on second-home owners who make money from holiday lets. He will reportedly abolish a series of tax perks for landlords who rent out their properties to short-term holidaymakers rather than long-term tenants, arguing it will help tackle the housing shortage in coastal areas and holiday hotspots.

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04 Mar 2024 - Tax and spending cuts will backfire, economists warn Hunt

Leading economists have warned that Jeremy Hunt will “cost the country dear” if he gambles on pre-election cuts to tax and spending in this week’s Budget. Former Treasury advisers Dimitri Zenghelis and Anna Valero, backed by other economists, said the Chancellor should focus on the long-term national interest with measures to spur investment and growth.

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04 Mar 2024 - Cash for plastic scheme delay ‘disappointing’

Major retailers including Danone have labelled the delay to the Government’s flagship recycling scheme as “disappointing”, as a three year delay is anticipated. The Government’s plan to give consumers cash to return recyclable bottles and cans is reported to have been halted by ministers until 2028, meaning the policy will have been under development for a decade.

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04 Mar 2024 - Less than 20% of levelling up projects completed

Fewer than a fifth of projects backed by the Government's £3.6bn Towns Fund were on track to be completed by the end of February, freedom of information (FOI) requests have revealed.

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04 Mar 2024 - A ‘united local government’ calls for Spring Budget funding boost

Local government associations across the UK have taken the ‘unprecedented’ step of penning a joint letter to the chancellor with a plea for additional funding.
Ahead of this week’s Spring Budget, the associations have urged Jeremy Hunt to provide councils with extra cash to prevent cuts to essential services cut, manage an emerging housing crisis and stave off job cuts.

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04 Mar 2024 - Out of office – has the council workplace changed for ‘good’?

Changing workstyles are affecting organisational culture, staff wellbeing and value for money, says Martin Forbes, senior strategy director at Local Partnerships. Sponsored comment from Local Partnerships.

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04 Mar 2024 - Treasury reveals £165m for children’s social care in productivity drive

The Treasury has announced an additional £165m to make an additional 200 children’s social care placements available as part of a productivity drive in the public sector.
With the chancellor Jeremy Hunt due to deliver the Budget on Wednesday the Treasury announced a raft of plans that it says will deliver £1.8bn in savings by 2029.
The Treasury pointed to a £670m overspend on children’s social care places and said it aims to reduce “local government reliance on costly emergency places for children”.

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04 Mar 2024 - Children’s costs drive exceptional financial support requests

Three councils have told LGC they plan to use exceptional financial support for next financial year to plug the gap in funding for children’s services.
Last week, the government announced in principle support for 19 councils for 2024-25 which in principle is worth around £1.5bn to enable them to use capital receipts from asset sales or borrowing to fund day-to-day costs up to that amount. Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Medway Council and West Northamptonshire Council have said they plan to invest in children's services.

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04 Mar 2024 - Somerset ‘rummaging through the attic’ for assets to sell

Somerset Council is “rummaging through the attic” for assets to sell because “the family silver has already been sold”, after the government agreed in principle to its request for exceptional financial support, its leader has told LGC.
Less than a year after it came into existence the council declared a financial emergency due to a £100m gap and applied for capitalisation direction and permission to increase its council tax by 9.99%, above the referendum limit. The council tax request has been denied.
Bill Revans (Lib dem) told LGC: “The family silver has already been sold and we’re now rummaging through the attic looking for any old thing we can flog.”

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02 Mar 2024 - Budget £2bn black hole warning

The Chancellor and Prime Minister have been warned by the Office for Budget Responsibility that their draft proposals for next week’s Budget were £2 billion more expensive than allowed by the Government’s “headroom” – the amount of spare cash against a promise to get debt falling in five years. They have reportedly since been working to repackage the Budget, amid intense pressure for tax cuts which can drive economic growth.

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02 Mar 2024 - Two million set for ‘stealth tax’ rise in next year without Budget help

Nearly two million people will be hit with higher tax bills in the next year if Jeremy Hunt does not take measures to ease the burden on workers in next week’s Budget, Conservative MPs and economists have warned. Senior Conservatives are among those putting pressure on the Chancellor to ease the burden on workers who face a “substantial” hit to wages as a result of fiscal drag – the stealth tax caused by frozen thresholds which do not keep up with inflation.

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01 Mar 2024 - Additional council financial flexibility

Nineteen councils have been given exceptional financial support by the Government to help them manage increasingly levels budgetary pressure. The Government has given these councils capitalisation directions, giving them permission to use capital funds, often generated by selling assets, to top up spending on services. The LGA said the additional flexibility given to councils should not be a "substitute for a long-term plan to sufficiently fund local services".

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01 Mar 2024 - Community services at risk of severe cutbacks

More than two thirds (67 per cent) of councils warn that neighbourhood services, including waste collection, road repairs, libraries and leisure centres, are likely to see severe cutbacks due to funding shortages, an LGA survey of council chief executives has found. 85 per cent of councils report that, despite a £600 million funding increase from Government, they will still have to make cost savings to balance their 2024-25 budgets. Cllr Shaun Davies, Chair of the LGA said: “Acute funding pressures remain and are forcing many councils to make stark choices about what popular services to cut. Without further funding, cost and demand pressures will continue to stretch council budgets to the limit and lead to more of the cherished services our communities rely on every day from having to be drastically scaled back or lost altogether as councils are increasingly forced to do more with less.”

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01 Mar 2024 - Senior council officer pay

The Taxpayers Alliance and MPs are calling for all council officer salaries of more than £100,000 to be voted on and approved by councillors. Conservative MP Paul Birstow is introducing a Private Members Bill to make this law.

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01 Mar 2024 - Unions submit pay claim for 2024-25

The three unions representing local government staff have submitted a pay claim asking for "£3,000 or 10% whichever is higher" to the National Employers.
Unison, GMB and Unite who represent 1.4 million council and school staff in England, Wales and Northern say that a wage rise above inflation is the "only way" to maintain the staff levels necessary to deliver public services.
The unions added that council staff have seen 25% wiped from the value of their pay since 2010. The joint claim would apply from the start of April.

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01 Mar 2024 - How adopting Wiltshire’s financial approach could transform the wider sector: Richard Clewer interview

Wiltshire Council is in a strong financial position because of an approach to running the authority that combines preventative investment with taking a continual long-term view – and there could be lessons for others in local government to learn. Jason Holland spoke to council leader Richard Clewer.

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01 Mar 2024 - Councils forced into service cuts and worrying use of reserves, finds LGA survey

Two thirds of councils will see cutbacks to local services this year as a consequence of the growing financial pressures facing authorities.
That figure was revealed in a survey conducted by the Local Government Association (LGA), which also showed that 7 in 10 councils are using reserves to set a balanced budget in 2024/25.

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01 Mar 2024 - Half of English councils ‘face bankruptcy within next parliament’

More than half of English councils are likely to issue a section 114 notice within the next five years, according to a new report from the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU).
LGIU’s ‘The State of Local Government Finance in England 2024’ report, which anonymously surveyed council leaders, chief executives, chief finance officers and cabinet members for finance, has revealed the worrying statistic.

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01 Mar 2024 - Nottingham leader: ‘Local government is in a broken state’

The exceptional financial support that was announced yesterday "fails to address the underfunding" of local government, according to the Nottingham City Council leader.

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01 Mar 2024 - Majority of northern councils face ‘financial failure’ within five years

More than half of councils in the north of England are at risk of ‘financial failure’ within the next five years, analysis has found.
Financial adviser Grant Thornton found 40% of councils face their reserves falling below 5% of their net revenue expenditure – described by the firm as ‘financial failure’ – within the next five years, rising to 55% of councils in the North.

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01 Mar 2024 - LGA 'strengthens' peer challenge but still won't name and shame resistant councils

The Local Government Association (LGA) has launched its ‘strengthened’ corporate peer challenge (CPC) to help neutralise the threat from Oflog.
However, the LGA has refused to name and shame the 10 councils that have still not committed to a date to have a CPC – 13 years after the programme was launched.
Chief executive of the Office for Local Government, Josh Goodman, has said councils failing to have a CPC for a ‘very long time’ would be a ‘clear warning sign’ but the watchdog has ‘no plans’ to publicly list councils that have not had one.

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01 Mar 2024 - Rayner to go ‘further and faster’ on devolution

Shadow local government secretary Angela Rayner has promised to go ‘further and faster’ on devolution if elected to Government.
Speaking at the Convention of the North today, Rayner promised to be a ‘Deputy Prime Minister for the North’ and that the North would be 'in control of its own destiny’ should Labour clinch victory at the next General election later this year.
She reiterated her party’s proposals for a 'Take Back Control Act' to quicken the pace of devolution, and extend powers over skills, planning, housing and economic growth for combined authorities.

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01 Mar 2024 - More areas get level four devolution powers

West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and the Liverpool city region will all receive level four devolved powers, local government secretary Michael Gove has announced.
Speaking at the Convention of the North in Leeds today, Gove said the spread of devolution deals currently under way was the 'most profound change to the way England has been governed in generations’ and pledged a ‘power surge for the North’.
Greater Manchester and the West Midlands are the only combined authorities to have previously negotiated level four deals, which include a move to single pot financial settlements and retention of business rates.

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29 Feb 2024 - School absence fines for parents to rise by £20 in England

Fines for parents taking children out of school without permission will rise across England from September.
The minimum fine will increase from £60 to £80 per parent as part of a government drive to return attendance to pre-pandemic levels.
One school told BBC News one out of every three of its pupils absent without permission had been on a family holiday during term time.

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29 Feb 2024 - Nineteen councils allowed to sell assets to pay for services

Nineteen cash-strapped English councils will be allowed to sell property and other assets to pay for services next year, the government has announced.
Councils are normally banned from selling assets to cover day-to-day spending.
But the government is relaxing the rules for authorities in deep financial trouble, including Birmingham and Nottingham.

[ more...]

29 Feb 2024 - Bradford issued best value notice with exceptional financial support

The government is minded to grant Bradford MDC £220m in exceptional financial support for two financial years but also handed out a best value notice due to concerns around “financial resilience”.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) has approved the council’s application for the use of capitalisation direction, but told the met to set up an independent advisory panel to provide “assurance of improvement” over financial performance.

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29 Feb 2024 - National living wage increase will wipe out new funds

LGA analysis found that the impact of statutory minimum wage rises and other cost pressures in social care have wiped out any new funds, and still leaves leaving a £2.4 billion gap this year and a £1.6 billion gap in 2024/25. This is alongside it getting harder for the public to access social care as backlogs grow and demand is pushed around the system.

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29 Feb 2024 - Councils face new era of austerity

Local government could be left to shoulder the burden of public sector cuts in a new age of austerity, experts have warned.
It is one of a handful of sectors that could be sacrificed in chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s pursuit of tax cuts in next week’s Budget.
In a new report this week, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think-tank revealed commitments to health, schools, defence and overseas aid left a £20bn gap in funding for local government, further education, courts and prisons – ‘areas which bore the brunt of the cuts to public service spending in the 2010s’.

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29 Feb 2024 - Former children’s minister: ‘Councils role in Send should be redefined’

The architect of legislation that introduced a new system for children with special educational needs and disabilities calls for new funding models
Councils need more funding in order to fulfil the “original ambition” of legislation reforming the system for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, the former minister responsible for its introduction has told LGC.

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29 Feb 2024 - Charities fear ‘doom spiral’ of council budget cuts

More than half of charities fear financial challenges in local government pose a threat to their own future, a survey carried out as part of a major new analysis has found.
New analysis, titled Tethered Fortunes, by the charity sector think tank Pro Bono Economics (PBE) found that between 2009-10 and 2020-21 local authorities funding for charities had fall by 23%, equating to a £13.2bn cut over that period.

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29 Feb 2024 - £220m boost for homelessness services

The Government has announced £220m for councils to prevent families from becoming homeless and provide support for people sleeping rough.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said the funding was targeted towards the areas most in need.

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28 Feb 2024 - Councils in the North most at risk amid warnings that 127 could fail financially in next five years

Councils across the North of England are almost twice as likely to fail financially within the next year as those in the South - according to an exclusive analysis for ITV News.
It reveals that 30% of northern Councils could be at risk of financial failure during the next 12 months - with 55% at risk within five years.
That compares to 17% in the first year for those in the South of England, rising to 35% within five years, according to the research by Grant Thornton, published a week before the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announces his latest budget.

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27 Feb 2024 - MPs urged to protect domestic abuse services

Victims and survivors of domestic abuse will be placed at risk if support services are cut due to the councils funding crisis, ministers have been warned. The domestic abuse commissioner for England and Wales, Nicole Jacobs, said that because local authorities were under no legal obligation to fund most such services, they faced being reduced or scrapped by councils facing acute financial pressures. Heather Kidd, Chair of the LGA’s Safer, Stronger Communities Board, said: “Ongoing funding pressures and competing demands are making it increasingly difficult for councils to ensure that victims have access to all the help they need. Only with long-term, reliable funding can councils help safeguard individuals and families from the physical and psychological harm caused by domestic abuse. Investment in the prevention and early intervention measures are needed to tackle the root causes, support more victims and stop domestic abuse occurring in the first place.”

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27 Feb 2024 - Jeremy Hunt plans national insurance cut and vape tax for budget

Jeremy Hunt is expected to use next week’s Budget to cut national insurance rather than income tax as he announces a new levy on vaping. The Chancellor has significantly scaled back his planned cuts after official forecasts suggested he will have much less money to spend than expected. The two main tax cuts expected in the Budget are a 1 percentage-point reduction in employee national insurance, at a cost of about £4.5 billion a year, and an extension of the fuel duty freeze at a cost of £1 billion a year.

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27 Feb 2024 - Budget tax cuts warning

The Government should not cut taxes in the upcoming Budget, unless it can spell out how it will afford them, a leading think tank has warned. The Chancellor has hinted he would like to lower taxes in what could be the last Budget before a general election. But the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said the case for tax cuts was "weak". The Government said it would not comment on whether further cuts to tax would be "affordable in the Budget".

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27 Feb 2024 - Martin Reeves: Learning the lessons from Oflog’s first early warning pilot

An intense process used meetings with members, officers and external partners to explore seven broad lines of enquiry, writes the chief executive of Oxfordshire CC.

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27 Feb 2024 - Audit Commission fears continue to haunt Oflog

A senior sector figure has expressed concerns about the Office for Local Government’s (Oflog) direction of travel.
Conservative Paul Bettison, a former member of the Oflog political leaders’ group and ex-chair of the Unitary Councils’ Network, said: ‘Right from the early stages we were conscious that if this was going to be accepted by everybody we didn’t want it to be the Audit Commission by another name.
'It’s amazing how much like it it’s started to look.’

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26 Feb 2024 - Cuts to school budgets

Almost three-quarters of schools in England are facing real-terms cuts since 2010 due to government funding decisions, analysis from a coalition of education unions suggests. New data released from School Cuts suggests before the Spring Budget next month that £12.2 billion of investment is needed to reverse the cuts 70 per cent of English state-funded schools have faced in the last 14 years. That would include funding to repair crumbling school buildings and tackle the crisis in special educational needs funding, the unions said.

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26 Feb 2024 - Public services will buckle under planned spending cuts, economists warn

Britain’s stretched public services will buckle under the weight of the spending cuts being planned for after the election, economists have warned, as the Chancellor reportedly prepares for another round of tax reductions in next week’s Budget. Experts say the level of public sector spending pencilled in for the next parliament would mean cuts equivalent to those undertaken by David Cameron’s government from 2010 to 2015, with some warning the next government will not be able to implement them and be forced either to raise taxes or borrow more to fund emergency spending.

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26 Feb 2024 - Midlands and northern England to get 'reallocated' HS2 funds

The Government has outlined further details of how it would redirect funding from the cancelled northern legs of the HS2 rail line. Around £4.7 billion from cancelling the high-speed routes is due to be handed to councils outside big cities in the Midlands and northern England, with councils responsible for allocating funds to specific projects, in line with government guidance.

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26 Feb 2024 - Concern as more councils in England and Wales plan to turn off street lights

The county of Norfolk contains some of the best stargazing spots in the UK and was one of the few places where it was possible to see the spectacle of the aurora borealis this winter, thanks to its dark skies unsullied by light pollution.
But the council’s attempts to plunge Norfolk roads into further darkness are being contested by groups worried about personal safety, particularly for women out alone.
The majority of councils across England and Wales have introduced measures to dim or cut street lights altogether over the past 15 years, some saving millions of pounds a year.

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26 Feb 2024 - Councils call for ‘autonomy’ under EPR

Councils must still have the autonomy to run waste services according to local need under new packaging reforms, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said.
The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme, which will shift the cost of dealing with waste from councils to producers, is set to be introduced next year after being delayed from 2023.

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26 Feb 2024 - MPs told of concerns over Oflog independence

Local government bodies have raised concerns about the Office for Local Government being “subject to political direction”.
In written evidence to the Commons’ levelling up, housing and communities committee’s inquiry into Oflog the Local Government Association said the lack of independence has “potential implications for public trust in Oflog”.

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26 Feb 2024 - Confusion remains over what Oflog is for

The chair and chief executive of Oflog were grilled for almost two hours by MPs on the Commons' levelling up committee yesterday.
But despite some startling admissions the experience did little to clear up the confusion over what Oflog is actually for.

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26 Feb 2024 - Mark Sandford: How other countries fixed local government funding

Public services provision is seen as a partnership effort by central and local government in Japan, Germany and Italy, writes a senior research analyst at the House of Commons Library.

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23 Feb 2024 - Heseltine and Clark hit out over LEPs

Two former Conservative Cabinet ministers have hit out at plans to wind up England’s 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP).
The Government is to transfer LEP functions to combined and local authorities from April after arguing there is more scope for efficiencies.
But writing in The MJ this week, former local government secretary Greg Clark said LEPs did ‘outstanding work in bringing businesses and other economic leaders like universities together with councils to improve the economic prospects of their areas’.

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23 Feb 2024 - DfE issues notice over county’s ‘systemic failings’ in Send

The Department for Education has issued Hertfordshire CC with an improvement notice following a negative report that identified "widespread and/or systemic failings" across the provision for young people with special educational needs and disabilities (Send).
The council has been instructed to "improve" its local offer to address shortcomings outlined by the Ofsted and Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection on 10 November 2023.
Concerns were raised over the variability of their provision, service gaps and delays, governance and quality assurance arrangements, the quality of their local data dashboard and the quality of educational, health and care plans (EHCP).

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23 Feb 2024 - South Cambs to continue four-day week without consultation

South Cambridgeshire DC is proposing to continue its four-day working week beyond the trial period, without conducting a consultation locally because it needs to wait for the outcome of central government's review.
However, from April office-based staff will be expected to work 32 hours per week instead of 30, aligning them with those in waste management services.
The district started the trial in January 2023 for an initial three-month period, this was subsequently extended until March 2024 after independent analysis found it had been a success.

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23 Feb 2024 - Councils offered second chance to claim housing cash

Civil servants have issued a last-minute invitation for councils to claim cash from a fund that has suffered from poor take up by local authorities.
Councils were last month given just two weeks to submit an expression of interest to claim ‘potential underspend’ from the £750m Local Authority Housing Fund (LAHF), which aims to help English local authorities obtain housing for those fleeing conflicts.

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23 Feb 2024 - Government warned against tax cuts given ‘implausible’ department spending outlook

Cutting taxes ahead of this year’s general election would only meet the government’s fiscal rule if some departments face a “fresh round of austerity”, which is unlikely given the state of public services, the Resolution Foundation has warned.

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22 Feb 2024 - Axing fund would be 'disastrous,' Hunt warned

The impact of ending the Household Support Fund would be ‘disastrous,’ urban councils have warned.
In a letter to chancellor Jeremy Hunt ahead of the Budget, chair of the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities, Sir Stephen Houghton, said ending the fund would have ‘harmful consequences’.
He wrote: ‘A failure to continue the fund will leave the communities our members serve facing hardship and will squeeze local authority budgets even further as demand for other services increase in the absence of support through the fund.’

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22 Feb 2024 - Children’s needs not prioritised, service leaders warn

Children’s services directors have raised concerns that Government policy does not prioritise children.
According to a paper from the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), the number of children living in destitution has risen threefold to 4.2 million since 2017.
The ADCS said the national system for children with special needs was ‘profoundly broken’.

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21 Feb 2024 - Over £500m of housing funding removed from councils

The government removed funding totalling £538.8m from 16 projects that had been allocated grants from the housing infrastructure fund after deciding they were not deliverable.
These projects were intended to unlock over 42,000 homes.
A letter from Sarah Healey, permanent secretary of the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to Clive Betts, chair of the levelling up committee, which was published yesterday confirmed the projects were deemed not “deliverable within the parameters of the programme or were withdrawn by the local authority”.

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20 Feb 2024 - Oflog predicts up to six early warning council reports next year

The Office for Local Government (Oflog) expects it will complete between four to six early warning conversations with councils that are at risk of failure next financial year, MPs were told yesterday.
Appearing before the Commons' levelling up, housing and communities committee yesterday, chief executive Josh Goodman and interim chair Amyas Morse told MPs Oflog plans to "improve" the early warning system for councils that may be at risk but are currently going unnoticed.

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20 Feb 2024 - Birmingham: £1.2bn ‘support’ and 10% tax rises to balance budget

Birmingham City Council is proposing to increase council tax by 9.99% for 2024-25 and again in 2025-26 and seeking a capitalisation direction worth £1.2bn to address the budget deficit.
Documents published yesterday evening ahead of cabinet meeting next week set out planned savings worth £300m over two years alongside a request for £1.2bn of exceptional financial support.
New analysis shows “significant structural issues” with a budget deficit of £165m over two years. This is in addition to the equal pay liability worth £750m.

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20 Feb 2024 - UK’s biggest council tax hikes as nearly all authorities plan maximum rise

In response to ongoing funding pressures, 128 of 136 county councils will raise council taxes by UP TO 4.99 per cent in April, according to analysis by the County Councils Network. This analysis shows that at the same time last year, 75 per cent of councils planned to raise council tax by the maximum amount allowed as opposed to 95 per cent this year. The Independent reported a previous LGA survey of council leaders which found that nearly one in five said it is very or fairly likely they will need to issue a section 114 notice either this year or next.

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20 Feb 2024 - Sunak doesn't accept the council tax system is broken

‘The Government must act now if local authorities are to survive the severe crisis and financial distress that they face.’
This is not a controversial opinion. In fact, it’s not even my opinion. These are the words of the cross-party Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, quoted directly from their recent report ‘Financial distress in local authorities’.
As the leader of Somerset Council, I have been sharing our story which highlights the scale of the national crisis, and shows just how broken the model of funding local government is. It’s a national problem. It needs a national solution.

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19 Feb 2024 - Government timetable could push councils to issue section 114s, treasurers warn

The Government’s proposed timeline for implementing changes to tackle risky borrowing by some councils could end up pushing local authorities into section 114 territory, district treasurers have warned.
A Government consultation on local authority capital flexibilities closed last week – just weeks before the new financial year, when the changes are expected to be implemented.

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19 Feb 2024 - Oflog data explorer to cover all main sector services by mid-2025

The Office for Local Government’s data explorer will cover all the main services offered by the sector by the middle of next year, the watchdog has pledged.
The watchdog’s draft corporate plan also said it aimed to rationalise a ‘complex data landscape’ and its data explorer would offer a ‘considerably more exciting and insightful user experience than at present by mid-2025.

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19 Feb 2024 - Mapley to take over from Whiteman at CIPFA

Hertfordshire CC boss Owen Mapley will take over as Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) chief executive officer when Rob Whiteman retires, it has been announced.
Qualified chartered accountant Mr Mapley was Hertfordshire’s executive director of resources for three years, a finance director in the civil service and vice-chair of the Association of County Chief Executives.
CIPFA said there had been an ‘open and extensive recruitment process’ and Mr Mapley was the ‘outstanding choice’ among a ‘strong pool’ of candidates.

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19 Feb 2024 - Cheshire East seeks £18m capitalisation direction

Cheshire East Council has become the latest council to approach the Government for ‘exceptional financial support’ in a bid to avoid a section 114 notice.
The council is to ask the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) for a capitalisation direction worth up to £17.6m across the 2023-24 and 2024-25 financial years.
Cheshire East cited the impact of inflation and high needs education spending as reasons for its financial plight, alongside £8.6m of abortive costs related to the now-cancelled leg of the HS2 rail link.

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19 Feb 2024 - Special needs responsibilities were heaped on councils as funding shrank

National figures show just under half of all education, health and care plan (EHCP) requests in England are completed within the Government’s 20-week target. The number of children and young people with EHCPs has risen from 240,000 in 2015 to 517,000 last year. Alongside calling for funding to help meet rising demand, Cllr Louise Gittins, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People’s Board said: “Improving levels of mainstream inclusion is also crucial, reducing the reliance on costly special schools and other settings. Powers to intervene in schools not supporting children with SEND should be brought forward at the earliest opportunity but should sit with councils, not the DfE.”

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19 Feb 2024 - The authorities not making the maximum council tax rise

Most councils have opted for the full council tax increase this year, but a handful of authorities are planning to increase rates by less than the maximum, LGC research has found.
Most councils this year have gone for the maximum rise permissible without a referendum. For upper tier areas this is 2.99% plus 2% social care precept, while for districts it is 3% or £5 whichever is higher.
However Rochdale MBC, Hartlepool BC, Tower Hamlets LBC, Stockton-on-Tees BC and Nottinghamshire CC have all proposed increases below the referendum cap.

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19 Feb 2024 - Chiefs submit pay claim for 2024-25

The union representing council chiefs has demanded “the same” pay award for its members as others in local government, warning that chiefs’ pay has fallen in real terms by 40%.
In 2023 chiefs were offered a 3.5% pay rise, compared with a 3.88% for those at the top of the NJC pay scale. In 2022 those at the top of the JNC pay scale received around 4% while chiefs are estimated to have seen an average increase of 1.3%.

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19 Feb 2024 - Gove sets out priorities for Oflog

The "strategic remit" of the Office for Local Government (Oflog) for the next three years has been revealed in a letter by the communities secretary Michael Gove.
Mr Gove has set out the vision, purpose, strategic objectives and priorities of Oflog to the chief executive Josh Goodman, in correspondence published yesterday.
The strategic objectives for Oflog are to "inform" on the performance of local authorities, "warn" about councils at risk of failure that have "not raised the alarms themselves" and "support" local government to improve.

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19 Feb 2024 - The authorities planning to freeze council tax

Three districts intend to freeze council tax for 2024-25, with one leader pledging not to increase costs for residents “until we absolutely must”.
Harlow BC, Fenland DC and Harborough DC have all announced that they plan to freeze council tax this year.
Most councils have gone for the maximum rise permissible without a referendum. For upper tier areas this is 2.99% plus 2% social care precept, while for districts it is 3% or £5 whichever is higher.

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19 Feb 2024 - Gove: Short-term lets to require planning permission

Second-home owners will have to seek planning permission for future short-term lets, the Government has announced.
A new mandatory national register will also give local authorities the information they need about short-term lets in their area.
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove said the move would help prevent a ‘hollowing out’ of communities and ensure local residents can access housing.

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19 Feb 2024 - More levelling up funding committed

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has announced provisional investment allocations for the second Levelling Up Fund.
One of the programmes that has been selected for funding will be the Mid Cornwall Metro project, which will work to improve transport links in the county. Benefitting from almost £50 million of investment, four of the county’s largest urban areas will be connected through an hourly direct train service on an existing line, with two sections being improved.

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16 Feb 2024 - Call to double maternity pay - as quarter of new mums say they have skipped meals

Campaigners are urging the government to double maternity pay amid fears mothers are making "drastic" choices because they cannot afford to live on the current statutory weekly amount.
The amount should be increased to £364.70, according to trade union Unison and charity Maternity Action.
Both organisations say they are concerned some women are going back to work early and skipping meals under the current amount.

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16 Feb 2024 - Suicide prevention fund

The LGA has warned that a failure to extend suicide prevention funding across England could have life or death consequences for people and is urging the Government to use the Spring Budget to extend funding for projects which it said provide “vital support” to those at-risk and the bereaved, as well as for awareness campaigns in local communities. Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “This suicide prevention funding has been a lifeline for many people. Without a commitment by the Government to extend this funding, these vital local schemes face an uncertain future which could have life or death consequences for those who rely on them.”

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16 Feb 2024 - 2p income tax cut shelved

Jeremy Hunt is said to have shelved plans for a 2p cut to income tax at next month’s Budget as it was revealed the economy has entered a recession. The Chancellor had been considering reducing the basic rate of income tax from 20 to 18 per cent and it is reported that he also considered reducing National Insurance employee contributions by two percentage points as an alternative

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15 Feb 2024 - UK economy fell into recession after people cut spending

People spending less, doctors' strikes and a fall in school attendance dragged the UK into recession at the end of last year, official figures show.
The economy shrank by a larger than expected 0.3% between October and December, after it had already contracted between July and September.
The UK is in recession if it fails to grow for two successive quarters.
The figures raise questions over whether Rishi Sunak has met his pledge made last January to grow the economy.

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15 Feb 2024 - No sign of river clean-up fund after 15 months

A key fund at the heart of the government’s plans to clean up rivers has not been established 15 months after it was promised.
The water restoration fund was first pledged by Thérèse Coffey when she was environment secretary. She said it would redirect millions of pounds of raised from fines headed to the Treasury to pay to improve polluted waterways instead.
However, the fund does not exist, there is no timetable for its establishment and The Times can reveal that steering groups to establish it have not yet even met.

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15 Feb 2024 - Food waste plans ‘unrealistic’, warn districts

District councils have warned that they face significant funding shortfalls in implementing the government’s plans to bring in weekly food waste collections from 2026.
Two thirds of councils expect not to hit the government’s deadline for introducing “simpler” recycling services.
The Simpler Recycling plan, published in October, includes plans to require councils to collect food waste on a weekly basis from 2026 – alongside the statutory collection of glass, metal, plastic, paper and card and garden waste.

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15 Feb 2024 - County starts inquiry into ‘regrettable’ £500,000 influencer payments

Essex CC will hold an inquiry into how it made payments of almost £500,000 to a local social media influencer during and after the covid pandemic.
The council’s leader Kevin Bentley (Con) admitted earlier this week that some circumstances around the payments made to comedian and campaigner Simon Harris had been “extremely regrettable and wrong”.

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15 Feb 2024 - It’s time to take stock of social care charging reform

Back in 2021, soon after the newly elected prime minister Boris Johnson vowed to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”, the government proposed changes to the way that people pay for adult social care in England.
The current charging system has remained unchanged in principle for almost a century and has been criticised for its inequity, complexity, variability and unpredictability. It’s time for change.

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15 Feb 2024 - REVEALED: Productivity plan demands toothless

Councils have been told Whitehall will be unable to force them to submit productivity plans.
The MJ understands there will be no legal requirement for councils to comply with the requirement, with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) also yet to announce any penalties for missing the July deadline.
There are thought to be no plans for the Government to issue guidance other than they should be ‘short and draw on work councils have already done’.

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14 Feb 2024 - The 20 cities and towns that could be subject to ‘brownfield presumption’

Planning authorities in England’s 20 largest cities and towns could be subject to "brownfield presumption" under new government proposals.
The proposals which were launched yesterday by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DHLUC) were designed to boost building on brownfield sites by giving developers “more certainty” and ensuring that their plans were not “unnecessarily blocked or held up by red tape”.

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14 Feb 2024 - UK inflation steady as crackers and cake drive monthly food price fall

The UK's inflation rate remained unchanged in January, despite the first monthly fall in food prices in more than two years, official figures show.
Inflation, which measures how prices rise over time, was 4% last month.
The number surprised experts who had expected a rise in energy bills to push prices up at a faster rate.
However, the monthly drop in the price of food, including items such as crackers, cake and crisps helped offset the rise in electricity and gas costs.

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14 Feb 2024 - County and districts fight over housing support axe

A bitter row has broken out between Suffolk CC and its districts over proposals to axe the county’s funding for housing-related support (HRS).
In a letter to district and borough councils, which have statutory responsibilities to provide accommodation to eligible people who are homeless, the county council warned the status quo of it being ‘expected to fund non-statutory services, which are then used by other councils to help them meet their own statutory priorities and needs’ could not continue.

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14 Feb 2024 - LGA calls for Right to Buy reforms

The LGA is proposing reforms to the Right to Buy scheme, ahead of next month’s Budget, in order to prevent the current net loss of much-needed social housing stock year on year currently being experienced by local authorities. The LGA said the main concern for councils is that rising discounts, alongside other measures that restrict councils use of Right to Buy receipts, mean that one household’s home ownership is increasingly being prioritised over another’s access to secure, safe, social housing. Cllr Darren Rodwell, Housing spokesperson for the LGA, said: “Whilst the Right to Buy can and has delivered home ownership for many, the current form does not work for local authorities and many of those most in need of housing support are simply unable to access secure, safe social housing.”

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14 Feb 2024 - Nottingham executive refuses to back budget cuts

Executive members of cash-strapped Nottingham City Council have refused to recommend a report that sets out £20m in budget cuts.
Council leader David Mellen said the majority Labour administration decided there was ‘little to recommend’ in a report that proposes cuts to library provision, the number of community protection officers and grants to the voluntary sector.

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14 Feb 2024 - Rayner: We will treat councils with respect

Shadow local government secretary Angela Rayner has claimed Labour would treat councils with the ‘respect you deserve’ if the party wins the next General Election.
Addressing the Local Government Association Labour group’s annual conference yesterday, Rayner said Labour would boost council house building. The party also intends to devolve fresh powers over housing, planning, skills and transport to metro mayors and combined authorities.

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13 Feb 2024 - Somerset asks for more help following council tax snub

A rejected request to raise council tax above the referendum limit has left Somerset Council needing £17m more exceptional government support. The authority has said it is unable to balance its 2024-25 budget without £37m of financing flexibilities from the government.
The council asked to raise council tax by 10% (double the referendum limit, which is 5% including the social care precept) and for a £21m capitalisation direction, allowing the use of capital resources for revenue spending, rising to £38m if the tax request is rejected.

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11 Feb 2024 - Michael Gove: It’s time for Britons to come first for housing

Michael Gove has promised to prioritise homes for British citizens over foreign investors as he lobbies the Treasury to tax houses bought by foreigners.
The housing secretary said he is pressing “every day” for measures on housing affordability to be ­in next month’s budget, ­including a cut to stamp duty, state-backed 99 per cent mortgages and an extension of a discount scheme for first-time buyers.
Planning permission for homes will be automatically granted in urban areas that do not meet their housebuilding targets, while offices and shops will be able to be converted into housing more readily under plans to be ­announced this week.

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10 Feb 2024 - Pavement parking ban should be extended across England, councils say

Councils across England are calling for a ban on pavement parking to ensure safer streets, according to a report. The study, commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA), warns that vehicles parked on kerbs pose risks to wheelchair users, older people and parents with pushchairs.
The investigation revealed that some vehicles completely block pavements, forcing pedestrians to walk on the road. Pavement parking can also damage the surface, creating trip hazards and leading to expensive repairs, added the report by active travel charity Sustrans and disability rights organisation Transport for All.

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10 Feb 2024 - Disastrous Truss budget forced UK councils to take out massive 50-year loans at soaring rates

Cash-strapped local authorities across the UK took out massive 50-year loans at soaring rates of interest in the aftermath of Liz Truss’s catastrophic mini-budget, according to official figures that reveal more about the long-term cost to the public of her 49 days in office.
Figures from the government’s Debt Management Office show that after the budget on 23 September, 2022, announced by Truss’s chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, 24 50-year loans of between £590,000 and £40m were taken out by councils at interest rates of up to 4.77 %, over the rest of that year.
During 2023, while rates remained high, a further 29 50-year loans, including one of £80m by Lambeth council at an interest rate of more than 5%, were taken out as local authorities remained under severe financial pressure.

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09 Feb 2024 - Public accounts deadline

Local Authorities in England are facing the possibility of a deadline to publish overdue accounts before September. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has announced that it plans to bring in a “statutory backstop” in an effort to clear a high number of audit opinions by September 30. The Department said the backlog had reached an “unacceptable level”, which sat at over 700 at the end of 2023. In its report in June last year, the Public Accounts Committee noted that the market had been severely constrained, with fewer than 100 “key audit partners” registered to carry out the work across England.

[ more...]

09 Feb 2024 - Raac: More than 100 school buildings will be rebuilt or refurbished

The Department for Education has said that all schools built with RAAC have responded to their survey and investigations into schools suspected of having RAAC have also now been completed. Of those confirmed to have RAAC concrete, 119 will be rebuilt or refurbished under the school rebuilding programme with a further 110 granted funds to remove the material. This comes as the National Audit Office revealed that 700,000 children are being taught in unsafe or ageing buildings.

[ more...]

08 Feb 2024 - Productivity plans labelled ‘a redundant exercise’

Productivity plans are “shallow” and risk over burdening local government, experts have told LGC, with one calling for the Local Government Association to “reflect” on its involvement.
On Monday the final local government settlement confirmed that in return for an additional £600m in funding councils would need to set out how they will “improve service performance and reduce wasteful expenditure” in productivity plans,

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08 Feb 2024 - MP’s ‘absolute horror’ over Somerset’s bid for council tax rise

MP for west Dorset Chris Loder (Con), who represents an "enormous county boundary" with Somerset, shared how his constituents were "looking with absolute horror" at the proposed tax rises at the unitary local authority during a Commons' debate yesterday.
Mr Loder also accused the Liberal Democrat administration of following a "mantra" to "raise taxes and cut services" after Somerset Council asked for permission to raise council tax by 9.99% to address a £100m "black hole". The government denied this request.

[ more...]

08 Feb 2024 - MPs unite in uproar over ‘inequity’ in local government finance

MPs across the political divide urged ministers to "break out of the cycle" and work cross-party to reform local government finances in the Commons yesterday.
Throughout the debate on the local government finance settlement, politicians "of all colours" called for a more "strategic approach". The motion to approve the settlement was agreed.

[ more...]

08 Feb 2024 - SEND Support

More than 1.5 million pupils in England have special educational needs, with the number of applications for a child Education, Health and Care plan rising by almost a quarter, leading to an increase in waiting times. Almost half of children are reportedly waiting beyond the statutory 20-week timeline for councils to issue a plan. Speaking to Channel 4 News, LGA Senior Vice Chairman Cllr Kevin Bentley said: “It’s not acceptable but because of the number we’re having to deal with and not having always the resources to be able to pay for that, that’s why it happens. It’s not deliberate, it’s bigger than just ‘give me more money’, it’s a society issue that we need to sit down both as politicians, as residents, as parents and have that conversation.”

[ more...]

08 Feb 2024 - Frailty in older people rose sharply during austerity years, study reveals

Austerity cuts to the NHS, public health and social care in England have been linked with a sharp increase in frailty, in the first study of its kind. The coalition government’s austerity programme in the early 2010s is associated with steeper increases in frailty with age compared with the pre-austerity years between 2002 and 2010, according to a study led by the University of Edinburgh.

[ more...]

07 Feb 2024 - Disabled Facilities Grant dropped

The Government has dropped a commitment to increase the amount of money that disabled people in England can claim to adapt their homes. The Disabled Facilities Grant is used to fund alterations aimed at easing living at home, such as installing wet-rooms or stairlifts. The LGA told a committee of MPs this week that £30,000 was "now insufficient for most major building work costs".

[ more...]

07 Feb 2024 - Academy trusts in deficit

Almost half of multi-academy trusts went into deficit last year, according to a financial health check on more than 2,300 schools in England. The benchmark report by Kreston UK, found that 47 per cent were running in-year deficits.

[ more...]

07 Feb 2024 - Audit 'backstops' could become permanent

‘Backstop’ dates designed to reset the local audit system could become a ‘permanent feature,’ the Government has admitted.
In a bid to slash the backlog, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) plans to introduce a deadline of September 30 to complete all outstanding audits – viewed as a bold and unprecedented proposal.
There would also be further backstop dates for the next five years, with the aim of ensuring backlogs do not reoccur.

[ more...]

07 Feb 2024 - Call for Hunt to lift benefit subsidy cap

Councils have called for the cap on housing benefit subsidy that councils receive to be unfrozen amid warnings about the ‘spiralling increase’ in temporary accommodation (TA).
In a letter to chancellor Jeremy Hunt, District Councils’ Network (DCN) chairman, Sam Chapman-Allen lobbied for an increase in the subsidy rate that local authorities can claim for TA to 90% of market rent.

[ more...]

07 Feb 2024 - Call for Government clarity over waste allocations

A senior sector figure has called for clarity and certainty about how much funding councils will receive when producers start paying to recycle packaging.
Chair of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport’s waste group, Steve Palfrey, had called for authority-specific funding from Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to be published by the end of last year so that councils could meet the Government’s timescales.

[ more...]

06 Feb 2024 - Councils push back budgets

Uncertainties over funding have forced councils to push back their budget-setting with the deadline looming.
Both Birmingham City Council and Isle of Wight Council have postponed meetings to confirm their budgets, while Eastbourne BC drew up four different funding scenarios as they awaited confirmation from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

[ more...]

06 Feb 2024 - Medway requests emergency loan

Medway Council has asked the Government for an emergency loan to help the struggling local authority avoid being forced to declare effective bankruptcy.
The council, which is facing a £35.8m budget gap in 2024-25 and needs to find £12m for the current financial year, requested to borrow up to £14.6m in 2024-25 and a further £16.2m in 2025-26, and has also published proposals to increase parking charges and end a free swimming programme.

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06 Feb 2024 - Council sued after cyclist hits pothole

Staffordshire County Council is facing legal action after the triathlete Paul Hughes hit a pothole while cycling breaking multiple bones and damaging a lung.

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06 Feb 2024 - Four-day week ‘financial levers’ plan met with mass opposition

A government consultation has revealed huge contentions over plans to crack down on local authorities implementing four-day working weeks.
In the consultation over the provisional local government finance settlement for 2024-25, which was published in December, the government sought views from across the sector on the use of financial levers to disincentivise councils from "operating part time work for full time pay".

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05 Feb 2024 - The Tories starved councils, thinking no one cared. Now they’re bust – and we care very much

In an opinion piece, Observer columnist Will Hutton references the LGA’s estimates that one in five councils risk issuing a section 114 notice over the next two years. He also quotes the cross-party Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee’s report from last week, which said the financial crisis in local government is now ‘out of control’.

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05 Feb 2024 - Labour plans ‘limited reforms’ of social care

Labour is reportedly planning only limited first-term reforms of social care and a smaller green investment plan, as part of a stripped-down general election manifesto. Shadow cabinet ministers are said to have been given until 8 February to make policy submissions for the manifesto.

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05 Feb 2024 - Pothole capital of Britain revealed

New analysis ranks councils based on reports from residents sent to FixMyStreet, a website which sends maintenance requests to councils and publishes the response times. Reports are marked as “open”, meaning they have not been resolved, or “fixed”. An LGA spokesperson said: “Councils are working hard to try and tackle the £14 billion backlog of road repairs. Many factors affect repair rates, such as the road profile, traffic levels and available budgets. Councils would much prefer to focus on preventative repairs but only greater, year-on-year funding for maintaining all parts of our highways will help them achieve this.”

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05 Feb 2024 - Families risk falling into poverty without funding extension, LGA warns

Ministers have been warned that more families risk falling into poverty if a “lifeline” hardship fund used to help struggling households buy food and heat their homes is not extended. The LGA said the Government’s cost of living support provision, the Household Support Fund, is due to end on 31 March and had provided £820 million in funding for millions of households in England facing financial difficulties over the last year. Its own survey of members found more than eight out of 10 local authorities that responded said financial hardship had increased in their areas over the same period. LGA Economy and Resources Board Chair, Cllr Pete Marland, said: “The Household Support Fund has provided an essential lifeline for our most vulnerable residents, but our survey shows this help is needed now more than ever. Now is not the time to scale back support.”

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05 Feb 2024 - Pension age should rise

The retirement age will have to rise to 71 for middle-aged workers across the UK, according to research from the International Longevity Centre. The UK pension age of 66 is set to rise to 67 between May 2026 and March 2028. From 2044, it is expected to rise to 68. But the research suggests that this is not enough, and that anyone born after April 1970 may have to work until they are 71 before claiming their pension.

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05 Feb 2024 - Charities warn of impact of council financial pressures

Citizens Advice and Age UK have warned of the ‘devastating impact’ of the financial pressures on councils. The charities have said that a number of councils have reduced grant funding to services run by the voluntary sector in attempt to prioritise spending on statutory services.

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05 Feb 2024 - Sector should adopt national branding campaign to boost workforce

Local government should adopt a national branding campaign to recruit and retain staff amid a worsening workforce crisis, the County Councils’ Network has urged.
A comprehensive study of council workforces by CCN, carried out by consultancy PwC and published today, concluded staffing capacity was ‘one of the biggest challenges facing local government in England, worsened by over a decade of funding challenges and exacerbated in recent years by post-pandemic trends’.

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05 Feb 2024 - New unitary to launch voluntary redundancy plan amid £100m funding gap

Somerset Council has set out plans to cut its workforce by up to 25% in a bid to close its £100m funding gap.
The Liberal Democrat executive will consider a "workforce transformation" plan on Wednesday that would open up voluntary redundancy scheme later this month and potentially save £40m from their payroll bill.
The plan outlines their hope to "move away from silo working" and "maximise the opportunity of bringing together the five predecessor councils and meet the financial challenge".

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05 Feb 2024 - Four out of five council tax referendum requests confirmed

Heightened council tax referendum limits for Thurrock Council, Woking BC, Slough BC and Birmingham City Council have been confirmed in today's local government finance settlement.
Thurrock, Working and Slough now have permission to increase their rates by up to 10%, for the social care authorities this comprises of 2% for adult social care and 8% for the rest.
However, Somerset Council's request for a 9.99% increase was not listed in this announcement.

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02 Feb 2024 - Early years recruitment drive

The government is offering £1,000 to new childcare staff amid concerns about the rollout of free childcare hours in just two months' time.
Nurseries and childminders say they are experiencing a recruitment and funding crisis which could derail plans to offer 15 subsidised hours a week to all two-year-olds in England.
Thousands of parents who have applied for the funding are thought to be in limbo as their provider hasn't been told what rate they will get for each of these hours from the local authority.

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02 Feb 2024 - Council officer hands police file on £1m pay-outs

A file relating to allegedly unlawful exit payments to managers at Northumberland County Council has been handed to police, Northumbria Police has confirmed.

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02 Feb 2024 - Culture spend down by £500m

Analysis has uncovered an almost £500m reduction in councils’ spending on libraries, culture, heritage and tourism since the onset of austerity.

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02 Feb 2024 - Momentum builds to save ‘vital’ cost of living fund

The government is under pressure over the future of a "vital" fund that councils have been using to support thousands of families during the cost of living crisis.
The "targeted and impactful support" local authorities provide through the Household Support Fund (HSF) is due to end in March, with no renewal nor any other future government grants yet to be announced.
Council leaders across the country have written to ministers calling for the fund to continue or for a new scheme that would address the challenges their residents are facing.

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01 Feb 2024 - Council financial crisis 'out of control', MPs warn

The financial crisis facing England's councils is "out of control" with even well-run local authorities at risk of going bust, MPs have warned.
A cross-party committee said the government must plug a £4bn funding gap to avoid a "severe impact" on services.
They also called for council tax to be reformed, describing the current system as "outdated" and "regressive".

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01 Feb 2024 - Roads funding

Transport spokesperson for the LGA, Cllr Linda Taylor, was interviewed live on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme about the redistribution of funds from the cancellation of the northern leg of HS2, to repair and resurface local roads. Cllr Taylor said: “We’ve had over £300 million for this year and next, but the bulk of the money which is £8 billion is going to be available from 2025/26. So we know what’s going to be happening for this year and next, but we do need to be able to have that assurance about financial commitments from the Treasury for at least the next five years.”

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01 Feb 2024 - Hunt: Less scope for tax cuts in Budget

Jeremy Hunt has said there is likely to be less scope for tax cuts in the March Budget than there was last autumn. The Chancellor said he wanted to “lighten the tax burden” to help grow the economy, but he said this had to be done in a “responsible” way.

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01 Feb 2024 - MPs call for reform of ‘broken’ council funding model

The current funding system is “broken” and the next government should consider options such as replacing council tax with a land value levy and devolving a share of central taxes to authorities, a Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee report said.

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01 Feb 2024 - Council tax collection: government response to the Select Committee report published

Government response to the Levelling Up, Housing and
Communities Select Committee report on Council Tax Collection

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31 Jan 2024 - High earners could be banned from renting council houses

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is consulting on a law that will impose a nationwide salary threshold for new social housing tenants. As part of the plans, the Government said those who commit anti-social behaviour should face a ban of up to five years under the proposals. People with the closest connections to the UK and their local areas would also receive priority for social housing. Cllr Darren Rodwell, LGA housing spokesperson, said: “The vast majority of social housing lettings go to UK nationals, and many councils already have policies relating to anti-social behaviour, criminal behaviour, rent arrears and income thresholds in their allocation policies.” Cllr Rodwell said the LGA is concerned that “restricting eligibility criteria for social housing” could result in a rise in homelessness.

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31 Jan 2024 - How a decade of austerity has squeezed council budgets in England

Analysis of local government finances shows that, between 2010/11 and 2022/23, net spending per person by councils on cultural services was cut by 43 per cent in real terms, on roads and transport spending by 40 per cent, on housing by 35 per cent and on planning and development by a third. This is a result of growing demand for social care and homelessness support. Core spending power available to councils after the recently announced extra £600m uplift will still be 10 per cent lower than in 2010/11, it is reported.

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31 Jan 2024 - Ministers plan to push English councils to sell assets

Under plans being considered by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, councils would be given greater flexibility to use money raised from asset sales to meet their budget pressures. The Government said the consultation – which closes today – aims to encourage the sale of assets held only for revenue, and not buildings or places used for the “delivering of the objectives of the local authority”.

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31 Jan 2024 - Thurrock set to lose money on solar investment after sale

Debt-ridden Thurrock Council could lose money on investment made in a solar energy company to which it lent more than £650m, it has emerged.

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31 Jan 2024 - ‘Wrong time’ for capital changes, expert says

The government is considering allowing local authorities more freedom to use capital resources to reduce the pressure on their revenue budgets amid dire warnings over the sector’s sustainability, but caution is needed, Nicole Wood, president of the Society of County Treasurers, told PF.

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31 Jan 2024 - ‘Back off Gove!’

The Government has been accused of ‘micromanagement’ of council finances with the launch of new productivity measures.
Alongside the announcement of a £600m boost to the local government finance settlement, new demands for productivity plans and a clampdown on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) programmes by local government secretary Michael Gove have sparked alarm.
Councils will be required to submit productivity plans to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) by the summer recess in July, detailing how they will ‘improve service performance and reduce wasteful expenditure’.

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31 Jan 2024 - Steep rise in council tax for Yeovil and Taunton to save services

People in Yeovil and Taunton will have to pay nearly two or three times as much council tax from April.
Both town councils approved their annual budget on Tuesday, which included setting their portion of the council tax bill paid by residents.
A Band D home in Taunton will pay an extra £192 a year. A similar household in Yeovil will pay an extra £130.

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30 Jan 2024 - Households in England face above-inflation £2bn council tax raid

Government officials have told councils they expect the maximum possible 4.99 per cent increase in council tax in April, it is reported. Local government leaders and experts have warned that raising council tax is not the answer to the financial pressures facing councils, raising different amounts in different parts of the country.

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30 Jan 2024 - Adult social care funding

Councils are facing growing challenges to provide social care services, including respite care, due to a lack of funding to meet rising demand. Speaking to Channel 4, LGA Community Wellbeing Board Chairman Cllr David Fothergill said that services remain at “crisis point”.

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30 Jan 2024 - DLUHC: Productivity plans ‘haven’t been designed yet’

The details of productivity plans that councils will need to produce “haven’t been designed yet”, the director general for local government revealed yesterday.
In a written statement last week, communities secretary Michael Gove announced that local authorities will need to set out how they will “improve service performance and reduce wasteful expenditure” in productivity plans as part of an additional £500m in funding for 2024-25 that social care authorities will share.

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30 Jan 2024 - Council to consider levelling up fund judicial review

Durham County Council will consider seeking a judicial review into how the Government allocated levelling up funding after the authority spent £1.2m on failed bids.

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30 Jan 2024 - Isle of Wight debt accounts for 42% of annual budget

Isle of Wight Council has insisted it borrows to invest in essential projects after revealing its debt amounts to 42% of the authority’s annual budget.

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30 Jan 2024 - Divided education system ‘unsustainable’, think tank warns

An education system divided between academies and council-maintained schools has become ‘undesirable and unsustainable’, according to an education think tank.
A new report from EDSK says that operating two parallel systems with different approaches to funding, curricula, governance, admissions, and oversight has created a ‘fragmented and confusing’ school system.

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30 Jan 2024 - MPs ‘disturbed’ by state of local audit

MPs have been left ‘disturbed’ by the state of the local government audit system, top officials have been told.
The Levelling up, Housing and Communities Committee questioned senior mandarins on plans to reset local audit.
Committee member Mary Robinson, said they had been ‘disturbed’ by the extent of the backlog and late completions.
Director general for local government at the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), Catherine Frances, revealed that consultation on setting a 30 September ‘backstop’ to complete outstanding audits would take place in early February.

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30 Jan 2024 - DLUHC claims four-day week council saw spike in agency staff

South Cambridgeshire DC’s controversial four-day week trial is under fresh scrutiny after data revealed a spike in agency work and opponents challenged costs.
The district was issued with a best value notice by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in November 2023, amid concerns that giving staff an extra day off weekly could become costly.
Data supplied to DLUHC indicates that, in November, South Cambs spent significantly more on agency workers across two departments – finance and waste – than normal. However, other departments have reduced agency use, and a council spokesperson said the district could still halve its total bill for agency staff.

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29 Jan 2024 - Local audit crisis contributes to gaps in WGA and hurts transparency

The government’s mooted solution to the local audit crisis needs to work, or the Whole of Government Accounts risks being stuck in poor quality for several years, a group of MPs has warned.

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29 Jan 2024 - No promise of extra funding from Rayner

Shadow levelling up secretary Angela Rayner has avoided committing Labour to providing local government with additional funding if the party wins the impending General Election.
In an interview with The Guardian, she branded the Government’s £600m boost to the Local Government Funding Settlement a ‘sticking plaster’ which was ‘cynically’ only aimed at getting the Conservatives through the election.

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26 Jan 2024 - Lower borrowing gives government ‘wiggle room’ for tax cuts

A better-than-expected outlook for public finances is likely to give chancellor Jeremy Hunt headroom for tax cuts ahead of the general election, an economist has said.

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26 Jan 2024 - Nottingham requests £65m capitalisation directions

Nottingham City Council has requested £65m of exceptional government support to balance its budgets in 2023-24 and 2024-25.

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26 Jan 2024 - Call for council tax overhaul

Work should begin now on the ‘long-overdue’ revaluation of all domestic properties in England to bolster local government finance, a think-tank has argued.

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25 Jan 2024 - PM appoints Towns Tsar

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has appointed Adam Hawksbee as interim Chair for the new high-powered Towns Unit to ensure the voices of UK towns are heard loud and clear across government and that vital regeneration comes to life.
Adam, Deputy Director of the think tank Onward, will help deliver the government’s Long-Term Plan for Towns, backed by £1.1 billion overall, to regenerate 55 towns around the country so people can feel proud of the place they call home.

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25 Jan 2024 - Challenges remain following funding boost

A £600m boost to the Local Government Finance Settlement has been welcomed, but has not resolved the sector’s funding issues, the Government has been warned.
The bulk of the extra funding announced today by levelling up secretary Michael Gove is accounted for by £500m being added to the social care grant.
It was a key demand of the County Councils Network, which led a campaign that saw 46 MPs, including a host of former minister, signing a letter calling for increased funding.

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25 Jan 2024 - Four day week clampdown a 'slippery slope'

A senior local government figure has struck back at Government efforts to curb the adoption of a four-day working week by councils.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC)’s intention to use ‘financial levers’ to ‘disincentivise’ councils has been described as a ‘slippery slope’ by ALACE honorary secretary and Wyre Forest DC chief executive Ian Miller.

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25 Jan 2024 - Clampdown threat to diversity programmes

The Government is to clampdown on diversity programmes as part of a drive to ‘reduce wasteful expenditure’.
Councils will be required to submit ‘productivity plans’ to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) setting out how they will ‘improve service performance and reduce wasteful expenditure’.
In a ministerial statement, local government secretary Michael Gove said: ‘I encourage local authorities to consider whether expenditure on discredited equality, diversity and inclusion programmes meets this objective.’

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25 Jan 2024 - Devon and Torbay devolution deal announced

The Government has announced details of a new devolution deal for Devon CC and Torbay Council.
If agreed, after a consultation with residents, the move will create a new Devon and Torbay Combined County Authority (CCA).
The new body will receive £14.8m from the Shared Prosperity Fund over three years, as well as £16m in new capital funding to support housing and net zero priorities; and will have greater collaboration with Homes England to ‘reduce the barriers to affordable housing delivery’.

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25 Jan 2024 - Funding announcement timing angers MPs

MPs have been angered by the timing of the Government’s announcement of extra funding for social care.
A ministerial statement revealing councils would receive an additional £500m for adult social care was released while the Public Accounts Committee was holding an evidence session on the subject yesterday afternoon.
Committee chair, Dame Meg Hillier, said the committee would be seeking answers on the timing of the announcement.

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25 Jan 2024 - Councils raise alarm over free childcare offer

Ahead of the roll-out of the expansion to free early education entitlements, local authorities across England have warned there may not be enough childcare places to meet demand.
From April eligible parents of two-year-olds will be offered 15 free hours per week of free childcare. In September, this will be available for children from nine months until the start school.

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25 Jan 2024 - Productivity plan demand shows ‘mistrust between Westminster and the localities’

A new requirement for councils to produce productivity plans shows “central government doesn’t trust local government," the chair of the Special Interest Group of Metropolitan Authorities has warned.
The government today announced an extra £600m for local government, but in a written statement announcing the funding communities secretary Michael Gove also said local authorities will need to set out how they will “improve service performance and reduce wasteful expenditure” in productivity plans, to be submitted before the summer recess.

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25 Jan 2024 - New interim chief for county

Leigh Whitehouse has been nominated as the interim chief executive of Surrey CC.
If approved at the full council meeting on 6 February, Mr Whitehouse would be stepping in for Joanna Killian, who has taken up the post of chief executive of the Local Government Association, from March.

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24 Jan 2024 - Government expected to announce £500m social care boost

The government is expected to announce an extra £500m in funding for social care as part of the 2024-25 local government finance settlement later today, LGC has been told.
This comes days after 46 MPs wrote to the prime minister Rishi Sunak urging for extra funding to be found, in a campaign led by the County Councils Network and the counties all party parliamentary group.
LGC understands that following this letter chair of the APPG and county council leader Ben Bradley (Con) among others have been in talks with senior ministers to negotiate these extra funds.
It is expected that around £500m will be designated to social care authorities to be spent on adults and children's services while districts will see an increase in their funding guarantee from 3% to 4% which will equate to around £40m

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23 Jan 2024 - Saving Birmingham's landmarks

Residents in Birmingham are trying to preserve landmarks and public buildings as fears grow that assets will be sold off to balance their books, with historic buildings, libraries, parks, entertainment venues, car parks and community centres all in consideration. The LGA has previously warned that councils face a funding gap of £4bn over the two years and LGA Chair Cllr Shaun Davies told Sky News that: "No council is immune to the growing risk to their financial sustainability and many now face the prospect of being unable to meet their legal duty to set a balanced budget and having Section 114 reports issued. It is therefore unthinkable that the government has not provided desperately needed new funding for local services in 2024-25. Although councils are working hard to reduce costs where possible, this means the local services our communities rely on every day are now exposed to further cuts.”

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23 Jan 2024 - Bailiff referrals rise by 20% over council debts

A Freedom of Information request to 280 councils has found that between April and October 2023 and the same period in 2022, there had been a rise of 20 per cent in occasions that bailiffs were used to recover council debts. Debts can include council tax, parking fines, housing arrears and unpaid business rates among other unpaid fees.

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23 Jan 2024 - Second home premium set to raise over £100m

Almost 30 councils are planning to make use of new powers to increase council tax on second homes in a move which is expected to collectively raise £100m in additional income, LGC research has found.
As part of measures in the Levelling Up & Regeneration Act 2023 councils are able to charge a council tax premium of up to 100% for any property left empty for more than 72 days a year.

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22 Jan 2024 - More than 40 Tory MPs call for extra council funding

Dozens of MPs, including more than 40 Tories, have written to the PM demanding extra funding for councils in England to avoid big cuts to services.
Several former cabinet ministers are among those who have signed the letter.
The group say they are "exceptionally concerned" at the measures many local authorities are planning as they try to avoid going bust, including raising council tax and cutting services.

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22 Jan 2024 - Schools in urgent need of repair

Schools in urgent need of repair have told BBC Panorama they are struggling to keep children warm in buildings that are “not fit for purpose”. The Government's own figures show the average primary in England needs £300,000 worth of maintenance or upgrades, while the average secondary school needs an estimated £1.5 million.

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19 Jan 2024 - Council deficits

The LGA’s survey which found nearly one in five councils have warned they could issue a section 114 notice over the next year was reported on BBC Radio 4’s The Briefing Room, in a discussion about the financial pressures facing local government . Recently released figures show councils across the UK are nearly £100 billion in debt.

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19 Jan 2024 - Hunt signals tax-cutting budget

The Chancellor says he wants to cut taxes at the spring budget this year, declaring that doing so will be the quickest route to getting the economy growing again. Jeremy Hunt said that while he has yet to see the fiscal numbers ahead of the March event, he is hopeful of reducing taxes.

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19 Jan 2024 - Gove defends local government settlement

An above-inflation increase in council spending power for 2024-25 shows “the government stands behind councils”, levelling up secretary Michael Gove has insisted despite warnings from the sector that it faces a financial crisis.

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19 Jan 2024 - Oxfordshire CC budget proposals ‘£900,000 short’

Oxfordshire County Council has published proposals to save over £9.8m but is still £900,000 short of what is required for a balanced budget.
The council was facing a budget shortfall of £9.1m but this increased to £11.2m in December when it became clear that grant funding from Government was not as much as anticipated.

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18 Jan 2024 - Councils apply for ‘exceptional financial support’

A number of councils have applied to the government for “exceptional financial support”, seeking a capitalization direction that allows them to fund day-to-day spending from their capital resources, including borrowing and asset sales. It is reported that the Department for Levelling Up expects only a small number of councils to issue a Section 114 notice, they do expect more to “go down the EFS route”, according to department sources. A survey by the LGA found that one in five councils believe they are fairly or very likely to issue a Section 114 notice this year or next.

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18 Jan 2024 - Council tax funnelled into gold-plated pensions as services crumble

The Adam Smith Institute think-tank has suggested public funding should not be spent servicing local government pensions when local services are facing cutbacks. Of the 10 councils that have been subject to a Section 114 notice, it is reported that seven are part of a pension scheme that recorded a surplus of assets as of the end of March 2022. One is enrolled in a scheme that was fully funded while only two reported a deficit. The LGA said that pensions are a statutory duty, are legally guaranteed and must be paid. It added that councils had been forced to find savings through redundancies or hold vacant posts open, which reduces councils’ pension payments.

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18 Jan 2024 - LGA: settlement leaves councils more exposed to cuts

An inadequate funding settlement means councils face “serious challenges” including further cuts to balance their 2024-25 budgets, the Local Government Association has said.

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18 Jan 2024 - New Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman appointed

The next Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has been confirmed as Amerdeep Somal by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove following a rigorous selection process.
Ms Somal will start in post on 1st February 2024, bringing with her a wealth of experience having previously served as the Complaints Commissioner to the Financial Regulators and Chief Commissioner at the Data and Marketing Commission.
She has also been appointed as Chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England, the official body which runs the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman service.
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman investigates complaints from members of the public about local councils and social care providers. The Ombudsman is appointed by His Majesty the King on the advice of the Secretary of State, and the Ombudsman’s investigations are independent of central government.

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18 Jan 2024 - MP calls for flexibility over s106 pots to help delayed levelling up projects

An MP has called for “billions” to be unlocked from section 106 payments to top up funding for levelling up projects.
Earlier this week the Commons’ public accounts committee took evidence from senior officials from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities on levelling up funding for local governments, reports Sarah Kennelly.
During the meeting Mark Francois (Con), MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, claimed that Essex CC has “£140m of section 106 commitments that have not yet been spent”.
Mr Francois suggested that if this was replicated across England and Wales “you're now talking about several billion pounds of resource yet to be deployed”.

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18 Jan 2024 - Unitary to apply for exceptional financial support

Middlesbrough Council is applying for exceptional financial support of up to £15m over three years.
Yesterday the council's executive board unanimously approved plans to launch negotiations for emergency funding support with the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities.
According to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the council's executive member for finance, Nicky Walker (Lab) told the meeting that this is "a move by which we seek to avoid a section 114 notice".

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17 Jan 2024 - Short-term social care funding `not having desired effect´, report suggests

Millions of pounds of funding into social care last year is said to have made no difference to the financial sustainability of the majority of providers, according to a snapshot report by learning disability charity Hft and Care England. Cllr David Fothergill, Chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “This concerning report shows the multitude of pressures care providers are facing due to lack of financial support.”

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17 Jan 2024 - Inflation rises to 4% in surprise increase

The annual rate of inflation has surprisingly risen, official figures show. The consumer price index measure of inflation stood at 4 per cent in the year to December, according to the Office for National Statistics. A fall, to 3.8 per cent, had been expected by economists polled by Reuters. But instead inflation rose from 3.9 per cent in the 12 months to November.

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17 Jan 2024 - MPs at odds with public on packaging measures

Appetite for government intervention to reduce the use of packaging, either through taxes or bans, is lower among MPs than with the public, new research has found.

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17 Jan 2024 - First North Yorkshire mayoral election to cost £2m

The election of the first mayor of a new York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority is set to cost £2.2m, a council report has revealed.
At a meeting on 22 January, a committee overseeing the formation of the new combined authority will consider its first budget, which covers a 15-month period from January 2024 to March 2025.

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17 Jan 2024 - Social care cuts ‘serve spreadsheets not communities’

Social care cuts risk being made ways that risk “removing someone’s right to dignity, choice and control”, a campaign group has told LGC.
Many councils are looking to reduce their spending in adult care services, in a bid to close a £4bn sector-wide budget gap, writes Sarah Kennelly.
In some places this could entail further restrictions on the type of support offered, care home closures and fee increases.

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17 Jan 2024 - IMPOWER recruits former LGA chief

IMPOWER has announced the appointment of Mark Lloyd as an executive director.
Lloyd, former chief executive of the Local Government Association (LGA), will take up the role later this month.
Lloyd said: ‘I’m a long-time admirer of IMPOWER, having known and worked with colleagues over the years.
‘I am excited about the prospect of working with a dynamic consultancy that is focused on delivering better outcomes that cost less.’

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17 Jan 2024 - Local government’s reputation is at stake in 2024

Distancing the sector from the most serious failures would allow a clearer focus on the struggles of the majority of councils, writes LGC editor Sarah Calkin.

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16 Jan 2024 - Cornwall Council debating call for greater protection from abuse

Cornwall Council is to debate a motion calling for greater protection for elected members against harassment, abuse and intimidation.
The motion, called Defending Democracy, has been submitted for debate by Thalia Marrington and seconded by Karen Glasson.
The motion also points out that the abuse of councillors, especially females, has increased nationally.
It will be discussed on Tuesday at the council's first full meeting of 2024.

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16 Jan 2024 - Councils in crisis: Town Hall debt levels staggering, MPs warn

The debt mountain at UK councils has reached staggering levels, posing a risk to local services, the Public Accounts Committee has said.
BBC analysis shows UK councils owe a combined £97.8bn to lenders, equivalent to £1,100 per person, as of September.
Committee chair Meg Hillier warned of an "extreme and long-lasting effect" if more councils go bust.

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15 Jan 2024 - Four in 10 councils at risk of Section 114 notice over next five years

Four in 10 councils are at risk of issuing a Section 114 notice over next five years according to analysis from Grant Thornton. The analysis found that in 2025, 25 per cent of councils will have cash reserves of less than 5 per cent of their annual budget, climbing to 40 per cent over the next five years. LGA research has found that half of council leaders were not confident they will have enough funding to fulfil their legal duties in 2024/25. Cllr Shaun Davies, LGA Chair, said: “It is unthinkable that the Government has not provided desperately needed new funding for local services in 2024/25. It urgently needs to address the growing financial crisis facing councils.”

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15 Jan 2024 - Pothole reports hit a five-year high in 2023

Almost 630,000 potholes were reported to councils in England, Scotland and Wales between January and November 2023 according to FOI requests from campaign group Round Our Way which it claims is a new five year high. Cllr Darren Rodwell, transport spokesperson for the LGA said: “Councils share the concerns of all road users with the state of our roads and are doing all they can to tackle the £14 billion backlog of road repairs, including learning from and adopting innovative techniques. Greater, long-term and year-on-year consistency of funding for the maintenance of all parts of our highways will help them achieve this.”

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15 Jan 2024 - UK council could go bust due to £60m hole in special needs spending

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council has warned that it could in effect become insolvent because of the deficits it has accumulated on special education needs. The Government has confirmed that the statutory override on dedicated school grant budget deficits will continue until March 2026 but the LGA said councils need longer-term certainty. It said: “We continue to call for the Government to write off all high-needs deficits as a matter of urgency to provide certainty and ensure that councils are not faced with having to cut other services to balance budgets through no fault of their own or their residents.”

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15 Jan 2024 - Pothole breakdowns reach five-year high

Pothole-related breakdowns reached a five-year high in 2023, new figures show.
The AA said it received 632,000 call outs to vehicles damaged by road defects last year.
That is a 16% increase compared with the previous 12 months, and is the most since 666,000 in 2018 when many roads were damaged by prolonged extreme cold weather from the so-called Beast from the East.
Common vehicle problems caused by potholes include punctures, distorted wheels, damaged shock absorbers and broken suspension springs.

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13 Jan 2024 - UK council could go bust due to £60m hole in special needs spending

A council has warned that it could in effect become insolvent this year because of the huge financial deficits it has racked up on special education needs, in the latest development in the local government funding crisis.
Most councils in England have overspent their budgets on special education needs and disabilities (Send) since 2015, when the government extended the age range of young people who qualify for Send support without providing councils with the necessary funding. These deficits have fed into councils’ overall education budgets – known as the dedicated schools grant (DSG).
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) council has accumulated a combined deficit of around £60m on its DSG budget in recent years and says it cannot eradicate it without making unacceptable cuts to Send services and mainstream school budgets. Moreover, a recent BCP council report warned that its financial solvency is at imminent risk because of government accountancy rules.

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12 Jan 2024 - Birmingham 21% council tax increase over two years request

Households in Birmingham face a 21 per cent rise in council tax, adding £350 to average bills. Birmingham City Council has asked Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove for permission to increase charges by up to 10 per cent in April and up to 10 per cent the year after. If he agrees, the increases of 10 per cent each year for two financial years could add up to a potential 21 per cent overall increase by April 2025. Birmingham, which issued a section 114 notice in September, will set out its final council tax plans next month. The LGA has warned that one in six councils is at risk of issuing a section 114 over the next two years.

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12 Jan 2024 - UK economic growth rebounds in November

The UK's economy rebounded in November after shrinking during the previous month, according to official figures. The economy grew by 0.3 per cent in the month, which was stronger than expected and came after a contraction in October.

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12 Jan 2024 - Councils lobby for extra support ahead of final finance settlement

Councils have begun 2024 by urgently lobbying Whitehall over extra financial support amid widespread concern the provisional finance settlement falls far short of what’s needed.

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12 Jan 2024 - North Northants leader warns of ‘robust action’ to stem budget crisis

The leader of North Northamptonshire Council has banned all but essential spending in an urgent bid to solve the authority’s budget pressures.
Cllr Jason Smithers has warned the council needs to ‘take immediate action' to rein in its spending.
In an email to all council staff, Cllr Smithers said that despite ‘efficiency measures’ being worked on, ‘further robust action’ was now needed ‘immediately’ to reduce spending and balance the budget.

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12 Jan 2024 - Thurrock avoids 10% council tax hike

Cash-strapped Thurrock Council has pledged residents will not face a 10% council tax rise – but still needs to confirm how much extra they must pay.
Councillors met this week to discuss a range of budget saving measures. They approved £11.3m of proposed savings for 2024/5, whilst a further £6.9m savings are still out to consultation or need further development.
Areas facing cuts include moving from weekly to alternate week kerbside recycling collections, and a restructuring of children’s social care.

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12 Jan 2024 - Middlesbrough set to ask for Government support in bid to avoid s114

Middlesbrough Council is set to ask the Government for Exceptional Financial Support (EFS) as it battles to achieve a balanced budget for 2024-25 and avoid issuing a section 114.
A paper going before councillors next week is expected to call on the unitary’s executive to allow officers to make the plea of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

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12 Jan 2024 - Backstop expected to lead to ‘hundreds’ of qualified or disclaimed accounts

Finance experts argue that the proposed 'backstop' for outstanding local audits is necessary but "hundreds" of accounts are expected to be qualified or disclaimed as a result.
A new proposed compulsory deadline of 30 September for all outstanding financial assessments was announced at the Local Government Association (LGA)'s finance conference this week.

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12 Jan 2024 - Criticism of ‘ill-timed’ government proposals for capitalisation flexibility

Finance directors have expressed “nervousness” that the timing of government plans for capitalisation flexibilities could lead to “unsustainable” debt for some councils.
Communities minister Michael Gove launched a call for views on “developing options for the use of capital resources and borrowing to support and encourage invest-to-save activity” and “more flexibilities to use capitalisation without the requirement to approach government” in December.

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12 Jan 2024 - Tony Travers: Selling the family silver is not sustainable budgeting

Proposed changes to the rules governing use of capital receipts are remarkable, writes the director of LSE London.

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11 Jan 2024 - Bank of England may cut interest rate sooner after surprise inflation forecast

The Bank of England may be forced to bring forward the date of its first interest rate cut after three leading forecasters issued a surprise update suggesting the inflation rate will halve to 2% by April.
The Oxford Economics consultancy and analysts at Investec and Deutsche Bank have reassessed their outlook for inflation in 2024 and concluded that the consumer prices index (CPI), which dropped to 3.9% in November last year, will fall below 2% within four months.
A slump in energy prices and the cost of oil on international wholesale markets will, they say, bring down inflation at a faster rate than the Bank of England expected when it reviewed price rises in November.

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11 Jan 2024 - Simon Kaye: Proper devolution would make Whitehall more efficient [opinion]

Government departments should consistently evaluate which aspects of their work would benefit from local management, writes the director of policy at Reform. Local government in England must navigate a maze of unclear mandates, overcentralisation, constrained resources and rocketing demand.

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11 Jan 2024 - Call to end £250m business rate loophole

A campaign to end a loophole which is estimated to cost councils a massive £250m in lost business rates revenue has been backed by senior politicians.
‘Box shifting’ involves landlords exploiting a legal loophole in business rates relief by placing boxes in an empty commercial property to claim the space is occupied for six weeks. The boxes are then removed to claim three months of empty rates relief, with the cycle repeated. The practice adds little or no social value and causes councils to lose more than two-thirds of their rates income every time it happens.

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11 Jan 2024 - ‘Illiberal’ bill banning boycotts of Israel passes Commons

A bill aimed at banning local authorities from boycotting Israel has passed the Commons despite being branded as ‘illiberal and draconian’.
The Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill seeks to stop public bodies joining the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
The BDS campaign aims to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians. The movement’s critics accuse it of antisemitism.

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10 Jan 2024 - Councils in England call for more powers to deal with empty homes

Local authorities across England have called on the Government to give them more powers to deal with empty properties and holiday homes. It comes as a log jam in the social rental sector, high costs in the private rental sector and the chronic undersupply of housing nationwide have forced councils to find temporary accommodation for record numbers of people. A lack of government funding has put almost one in five councils at risk of facing a Section 114 notice, according to the LGA.

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10 Jan 2024 - Whitehall reserves advice could ‘undermine’ role of S151 officer

Encouraging councils to use reserves as a one-off quick fix during the funding crisis is “misguided and unhelpful” and could put more authorities at risk of Section 114 notice, a finance director has said in response to a minister’s comments.
Local government minister Simon Hoare said “authorities can and indeed should” consider drawing on their reserves to meet any funding pressures because council cash balances have generally increased since the beginning of the pandemic.
However, Michael Hudson, executive director of finance and resources Cambridgeshire County Council, said Section 151 Officers allocate and use reserves with the full understanding and knowledge of their future financial risks.

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09 Jan 2024 - Shoppers and retailers set for 'challenging' 2024

Shoppers and retailers are set for a "challenging" year ahead, according to The British Retail Consortium. The trade body has warned that higher living costs will continue to squeeze household budgets.

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09 Jan 2024 - Minister in reserves row

Local government minister Simon Hoare has said councils ‘can and should consider drawing on their reserves’ to help deal with the financial crisis.
The suggestion has been labelled ‘ridiculous’ by the shadow minister and faced criticism from sector figures.
‘The overall balance of reserves is up post-Covid,’ Hoare told the Local Government Association’s local government finance conference this week.

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09 Jan 2024 - Pothole claims up record 40%, insurer reveals

The number of pothole-related claims increased by a record 40% last year when compared to 2022, the latest data from Admiral Car Insurance has revealed.
Ahead of National Pothole Day on 15th January, the insurer said that 2023 was set to be a record year for claims relating to potholes with a 138% increase since 2016.

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09 Jan 2024 - DWP fails to commit to continuing Household Support Fund

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has failed to commit to making the Household Support Fund (HSF) available to councils in 2024-25.
Writing in The MJ, Camden LBC’s executive director of corporate services Jon Rowney called the HSF a ‘critical feature of our cost-of-living crisis support’.

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09 Jan 2024 - Fears over digital switchover costs

Councils face multi-million pound bills as a result of the digital switchover of the telephone system.
The network is due to shift from analogue landlines to internet-based systems by the end of 2025.
Work is still under way to gauge the full extent of impacts on local government, but technology upgrades will be required in areas such as adult social care, IT, transportation and security, and the Local Government Association (LGA) has highlighted the potential for supply chain issues.

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09 Jan 2024 - Local government minister suggests struggling districts look to reorganise

Struggling districts have been advised to consider reorganisation in place of the government increasing the amount they can raise from council tax, LGC has learned, as frustration grows over the £5 cap on increases that has left the police raising more than districts in some areas.
Senior officers have told LGC that during a briefing on the provisional local government finance settlement for leaders and chief executives before Christmas local government minister Simon Hoare (Con) suggested that reorganisation could help to prevent further financial distress.

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09 Jan 2024 - More 114s ‘within weeks’

Section 114 notices risk becoming “normalised”, the chair of the Local Government Association has warned, branding it “lazy” to lay all of the blame for councils’ financial difficulties at mismanagement.
In a New Year interview with LGC, Shaun Davies (Lab) said he expected more councils to issue 114 notices declaring they are unable to balance the books “over the next few weeks”.
He also hit out at chancellor Jeremy Hunt for failing to act on social care and said the proportion of council budgets now going on adults and children’s services as well as homelessness should spark a “big debate” about what the government wants councils to provide

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09 Jan 2024 - Nottingham ordered to publish finance report

Nottingham City Council must publish a report into its accounting practices the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has ruled.
Last year Ernst & Young was commissioned to review how Nottingham managed its finances after it emerged in 2021 that the council had “unlawfully” used funds from its housing revenue account to prop up its general fund.
Nottingham released part of the review’s findings but did not disclose the full document.

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08 Jan 2024 - Digital Telephone Migration

The LGA said councils need assistance from the Government with the transition from analogue to digital telecommunication products for the most vulnerable residents, a scheme which will cost councils millions of pounds. It has said that the move towards digital, to be completed by the end of 2025 and landline calls being switched to the internet, is not being effectively communicated. The Department of Health and Social Care estimates that 1.8 million people used telecare services.

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08 Jan 2024 - Disability benefits

Official government forecasts show that disability benefit spending could rise by £17 billion a year to £48 billion by the end of the decade as a predicted 2 million more people are expected to claim disability benefit for mental health challenges. Depression and anxiety are now leading reasons for adults to receive benefits, which coupled with our ageing population could see spending rise to £80 billion a year by 2030, about half the current cost of the NHS.

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08 Jan 2024 - Free childcare plan funding ‘in chaos’

Jeremy Hunt’s key Budget promise to expand free childcare in 2024 is reportedly fast unravelling amid “chaos” over funding arrangements. The Chancellor had announced a major extension of free care for this spring, but experts say the sector has not been given enough cash or support to deliver his pledge. Eligible working parents of two-year-olds have been told they can claim 15 hours a week of free childcare from 1 April, but councils have warned the funding will not be in place for nurseries by then. Cllr Louise Gittins, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Unfortunately, information for local authorities and providers has only recently been made available by central government, and this means they are having to work within a challenging timeframe to ensure arrangements are in place to expand before the start of the April rollout.”

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08 Jan 2024 - PM pledges to cut taxes by curbing welfare spending

Rishi Sunak has pledged to curb benefits and government spending to fund tax cuts before and after a general election. The Prime Minister said he would use measures such as the hiring freeze on civil servants to bear down on Britain’s welfare bill and overall government spending.

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08 Jan 2024 - Covid inquiry report to be published before summer

Baroness Heather Hallett’s independent Covid-19 inquiry will issue a detailed interim report “before the summer” on the first batch of public hearings held last June and July. A second report from Hallett – into the political decision-making during the pandemic (module 2) – will not now be published until early 2025.

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08 Jan 2024 - Two thirds of Housing Infrastructure Fund left unspent

Around two-thirds of the £4.2bn Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) remains unspent more than six years after its launch, despite the chronic shortage of housing, according to reports.
The HIF was launched in 2017 and was designed to boost housebuilding by providing local authorities with grant funding for key infrastructure such as transport and utility connections.

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08 Jan 2024 - Suffolk council potentially facing ‘hundreds of job losses’

Plans to save Suffolk County Council £11m by restructuring its workforce could result in ‘hundreds of job losses’, Unison has warned.
The council has set out a series of measures aimed at finding nearly £65m in savings over the next two years.
The proposals include reducing staffing costs by £11m by changing the way services are delivered and restructuring across the council, and cutting funding to the art and museum sector by £500,000.

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08 Jan 2024 - New unitary looks at ‘unprecedented’ 10% council tax rise

Somerset Council will have to consider “unprecedented” and “heart-breaking” steps including raising council tax by 10% to bridge a £100m funding gap for the next financial year.
As part of the unitary's budget consultation process it revealed that the executive plans to ask the government for flexibility to increase its council tax by 10%.
Upper tier councils can increase council tax by 2.99% plus 2% for the adult social care precept without holding a referendum. In December LGC's council tax tracker found that most authorities were opting for the maximum increases this year.

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06 Jan 2024 - National insurance cut from 12% to 10%

A cut in the main rate of national insurance by two percentage points has been introduced today, from 12 per cent to 10 per cent. The move was announced in last year’s Autumn Statement and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said it means families with two earners are nearly £1,000 better off, but Labour called it a “raw deal” and economists said many households are still facing the burden of high taxes.

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05 Jan 2024 - Government to fund school ‘attendance mentors’ in worst-hit areas of England

The Government is planning to fund attendance monitors in areas where unauthorised absence rates remain above national levels. It will work in conjunction with a scheme already run by Barnardos children charity which works with 1,600 pupils across 5 areas and will target 15 areas and 3,600 children initially. The Centre for Social Justice thinktank has called for the scheme to be made national to tackle the 140,000 pupils who miss school above 50 percent of the time.

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05 Jan 2024 - Lord Morse: I do not blame all council failure on 'bad management'

From the day I started, I have been clear that Oflog will succeed only if it works closely with local government to shape the new organisation together.
I have been very grateful for the constructive engagement from a wide range of colleagues in the sector. There has been much understandable scepticism and suspicion, but I have seen, especially in recent months, increasing numbers of people begin to coalesce around broad agreement to a vision for what Oflog should do. And I think I have perceived a growing level of trust that we really mean it when we say we want to shape Oflog together.
You can imagine, then, my feelings about some of the recent coverage of an interview I did with the Times. It portrayed me – wrongly – as arguing that any financial failure in the sector could be due only to ‘bad management’. This has, quite reasonably, annoyed and alienated colleagues in the sector. I would like to set the record straight.
I told the Times that, in the case of every council currently subject to formal intervention from central government, the need for intervention has been primarily attributable to a failure of governance or management rather than a shortage of money. I do not think that is a controversial view. Indeed, I do not think I have spoken to anybody in the sector who disagrees that each of the recent cases has been principally caused by some failure of leadership, governance, management or organisational culture, rather than simply a lack of funds.
The media coverage then summarised this as me simply blaming ‘bad management’. It also implied that I was commenting on the causes of possible future Section 114 notices or central government interventions – and that any new ‘bankruptcy’ could only be caused by ‘bad management’. That is absolutely not what I said, nor think.

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04 Jan 2024 - Charity launches support scheme for at-risk libraries in wake of budget cuts

The charity representing library services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has launched a support programme for at-risk services in the wake of proposed budget cuts across the country, including in Denbighshire, Nottingham and Swindon.

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04 Jan 2024 - Statistics watchdog to examine government asylum backlog claims

The UK's statistics watchdog is looking into the government's claims to have cleared the asylum backlog.
On Tuesday, the Home Office said it had fulfilled a pledge to clear a "legacy" backlog of 92,000 applications lodged before July 2022.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also tweeted that the government had cleared "the backlog of asylum decisions".
But official figures show a decision had not been reached in 4,537 of those "legacy" cases.

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04 Jan 2024 - LGA announces new chief

The Local Government Association (LGA) has announced Surrey CC boss Joanna Killian will be its new chief executive.
Killian has been chief executive at Surrey CC since March 2018. Prior to taking up the pose she held roles as chief executive of Essex CC, Partner at consultancy KPMG, and as local government lead at the Audit Commission.

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04 Jan 2024 - Nottingham commissioners would 'undermine senior officers'

Nottingham City Council has urged the Government not to send in commissioners to oversee the running of the authority.
Communities secretary Michael Gove announced last month he was ‘minded to’ extend intervention following Nottingham’s issuing of a section 114 notice.
However, such a move would ‘undermine senior officers’ according to a letter from Cllr Steve Battlemuch, portfolio holder for skills, growth, economic development and property.

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04 Jan 2024 - Rural homelessness up 40%

Levels of homelessness in rural areas have increased by 40% over the last five years, research by a countryside charity has revealed.
A report by CPRE found that a greater proportion of people are sleeping rough in the seven worst affected rural local authorities than they are in London, Leeds, or Norwich.
The seven council areas are Bedford, Boston, North Devon, Cornwall, Boston, Bath and Northeast Somerset, Torridge, and Great Yarmouth.

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04 Jan 2024 - Cash-strapped Derbyshire council to move from historic HQ

Derbyshire County Council is planning to move from its headquarters in Matlock to a smaller office in a bid to tackle a £33m overspend.
The council is set to consider several proposals aimed at balancing the books, including changes to care services, residential facilities, and library and heritage services.

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04 Jan 2024 - Bridget Smith: ‘Some things the government has asked for are bizarre’

Being on the government’s “naughty step” has been stressful for the council at the centre of the four-day week debate, the leader of South Cambridgeshire DC has told LGC.

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03 Jan 2024 - Free childcare hours

Cllr Louise Gittins, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, spoke to BBC Radio 2 and BBC regional radio news bulletins on the changes coming into effect in April on the number of free hours of childcare working parents can receive. It comes amid warnings from day care providers that they won’t have the resources or qualified staff to manage increased demand. Cllr Gittins said that any additional help from the Government must be targeted to ensure all parents and carers can access the new support.

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02 Jan 2024 - Bus service miles driven falls by a quarter

Bus services have seen the number of miles driven falling by almost a quarter since 2010. Labour analysis of official figures show buses drove 300 million fewer miles, a fall of over 22 per cent, since 2010 despite being the most popular form of transport and there was also a 4.6 per cent decrease in services in 2022/23 compared to the previous year.

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02 Jan 2024 - 'A lot to be done' to improve councils' governance

There is ‘a lot to be done’ to improve management in failing local authorities, the sector watchdog’s chair has said.
Lord Morse, chair of the Office for Local Government (Oflog), said the growing number of councils that have suffered financial collapse is due to mismanagement rather than underfunding.
During an interview with The Times, Lord Morse said: ‘In our view the failures are not attributable to shortage of money, or not primarily attributable to shortage of money - they're to do with failures in management, or failures in governance.’

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02 Jan 2024 - Councils banned from charging for small-scale DIY waste disposal

Local authorities in England are no longer able to charge households to leave small-scale DIY waste at recycling centres in a move aimed at boosting recycling and tacking fly-tipping.
Around a third of councils charged for the disposal of waste, such as plasterboards, bricks, and bath units, at household waste recycling centres (HWRCs).
However, residents will now no longer be required to pay any fees for disposing of small-scale DIY waste – a move local authority leaders have cautioned against.

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27 Dec 2023 - Curb-side recycling plans for electricals

Kerbside collections for broken toasters, hairdryers and other electrical goods could be rolled out across the UK, under plans to crack down on household waste. The LGA has raised concerns that retailers are currently only required to offer recycling services for vaping products if they sell more than £100,000 of electrical items per year.

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27 Dec 2023 - British politics is rotting from the bottom up: pity our crisis-hit local councils

An opinion piece for the Guardian discusses the financial difficulties councils are currently facing, and the challenges that will come with the next election. The piece references the LGA’s recent survey on the likelihood of councils issuing a section 114 notice in the next two years.

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26 Dec 2023 - Retail chief warns parking fees killing high street amid quiet Boxing Day

Costly parking fees are damaging the high street, a FTSE retail chief has warned, amid a tepid turnout to Boxing Day sales.
Gavin Peck, chief executive of stationery and crafts retailer The Works, told The Telegraph that a rise in parking fees had become a “big challenge” for shops as cash-strapped councils hike prices to replace other income streams.
His warning came on what looked like a subdued year for Boxing Day sales. Bargain-hunters queued to get into some shops but others, such as Next and Marks & Spencer, stayed shut.

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26 Dec 2023 - 'Difficult decisions' as council tax rise expected

Council tax is likely to rise across Telford and Wrekin after it was frozen for two years.
Budget proposals for the 2024/25 financial year will be presented to councillors in the new year before public consultation.
Draft papers released last week recommended increasing council tax by 4.99%, meaning the average home in the borough would pay an extra £1.09 per week.
Shaun Davies, Telford and Wrekin Council's Labour leader, said "difficult decisions" were being made due to central government funding.

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25 Dec 2023 - Town halls fork out £1.7million to 23,000 motorists whose vehicles were damaged by potholes last year

Town halls forked out £1.7million to 23,000 motorists whose vehicles were damaged by potholes last year. Drivers made 63 compensation claims every day because of decrepit roads, new figures show.
The number of pay-outs rose by six per cent on the previous year.
Surrey County Council dished out the most cash, handing almost £237,000 to successful claimants. And Staffordshire County Council paid out £105,000 as a result of dodgy roads.
Many authorities were forced to make individual payments in the tens of thousands of pounds. Last year, one motorist alone was paid almost £40,000 by Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
Leeds City Council had a single £36,000 pay-out, while a driver in Kensington and Chelsea, West London, bagged £26,000 according to Freedom of Information data.

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23 Dec 2023 - Profiteering fears as global investment firms increase stakes in England’s child social care

Serious concerns have been raised over the growing influence of private equity in the provision of children’s care homes, after an Observer investigation revealed that the number of homes backed by investment companies has more than doubled over five years.
The news comes with children’s social care directors, council leaders and campaigners for those in care accusing some businesses of profiteering from their involvement in children’s social care.
Increasing numbers of councils are warning they face bankruptcy as a result of rising costs. Several care home providers backed by investment companies are also heavily indebted.

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23 Dec 2023 - Children's homes backed by private equity on the rise

The number of children's homes backed by investment companies has more than doubled over five years, according to an investigation. Close to one in four places in a children’s care home in England now have the involvement of an investment company, up from one in six in 2018. Cllr Louise Gittins, Chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said: “Private equity providers are making extremely high profits and carrying concerning levels of debt that risks the stability of homes for children in care, which is paramount if they are to thrive. We continue to call for oversight of the market.”

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22 Dec 2023 - Bradford Council funding call

Bradford Council has voted to request an urgent government bailout, as an emergency meeting heard the city faces a £73 million overspend this year, which is set to rise to £103 million for the next financial year. Council leader Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe told the meeting 87 per cent of this year's total budget was spent on essential children's and adult services. Earlier this month, the LGA warned councils face a “growing financial crisis” with one in five authorities facing running out of money either this year or next.

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22 Dec 2023 - Ministers row back on salary threshold for family visa

The Government has rowed back on plans to raise the salary threshold to bring family members to the UK to £38,700 next spring. The increase from the current level of £18,600 was announced earlier this month as part of a plan to lower legal migration, but the new threshold will initially be set at £29,000, with further increases at unspecified dates thereafter.

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22 Dec 2023 - ‘Growth zones’ for West Midlands in UK first

The West Midlands is to become the first UK region to receive new ‘growth zone’ powers, which the combined authority said could generate £1.7bn.
The councils that host the three new growth zones will be able to retain 100% of business rates for 25 years.
The powers were agreed as part of the Government’s ‘deeper devolution’ deal with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

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22 Dec 2023 - England has ‘twice as many empty homes as families stuck in B&Bs’

England has more than twice as many long-term empty homes this Christmas as there are children living in temporary accommodation, the Liberal Democrats have said, calling this a stark indication of a “broken” housing market. The numbers of families without a permanent home and in short-term housing, whether hotels and B&Bs or temporary rental properties, has reached a record high this year, with latest statistics collated by the House of Commons library showing it now affects 121,327 children.

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22 Dec 2023 - Rents to rise in 2024, forecasts suggest

UK house prices are expected to fall in 2024, according to analysts and lenders, while the cost of renting a home will continue to rise. The Government's official forecaster said property prices were most likely to drop by nearly 5 per cent, although lenders expect less of a fall, while rents on newly-let properties could go up by a further 5-6 per cent, property experts say, following a year of sharp rises.

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22 Dec 2023 - Help for first time buyers

The Government will introduce a new package of support for first time buyers, it has been reported. Options include longer term fixed-term mortgages and a new version of the Help to Buy scheme.

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22 Dec 2023 - ‘Bad management’ not inflation to blame for councils going bankrupt

Councils across England are having to issue Section 114 notices because of poor financial management and not a lack of money, according to Lord Morse, Chairman of the new Office for Local Government (Oflog). However, Cllr John Fuller, of the LGA’s Resources Board, said growing demand pressures meant many more councils face having to make the same decision. He told MPs last month: “There is a general understanding that, if not this year, next year about half of local authorities will be in [financial] distress.”

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21 Dec 2023 - New nutrient neutrality laws shelved

Plans to introduce new laws on nutrient neutrality have been shelved by the Government.
It follows the defeat of an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill in the House of Lords earlier this year.
It is estimated the issue affects the construction of around 100,000 homes up to 2030.
Communities secretary Michael Gove had suggested further legislation would be introduced to tackle the issue of developments being blocked to prevent rising levels of nitrates and phosphates in waterways.

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21 Dec 2023 - Court provides clarity on duties owed to children at home

The Supreme Court has ruled that Wolverhampton City Council did not have a duty of care to protect a child from harm from a third party because it could not be established that they had assumed responsibility to protect them.

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21 Dec 2023 - Councils consider seeking pension contribution rate cuts

Councils are considering asking for their pension contribution rates to be cut amid increasing pressure on municipal budgets and improved pension fund surpluses.
One advisor last month said the Local Government Pension Scheme currently has up to £100bn more than it needs to fund its pension promises, and cutting contribution rates could allow a typical large council to “reasonably save at least £20m a year”.
The LGPS advisory board yesterday issued a statement warning councils against seeking reductions to their employer contributions outside of the usual three-yearly pension fund valuation process, and stressing the desirability of keeping contributions stable.

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21 Dec 2023 - Dismay as HS2 funds rerouted to fix potholes in London

The Government’s decision to redirect HS2 funding to fix potholes in London under the Network North plan has been strongly criticised by Northern leaders.
The Government yesterday confirmed allocations for a £235m funding pot aimed at fixing London’s pothole-strewn roads.

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20 Dec 2023 - UK inflation drops to 3.9%

The rate of price rises significantly slowed again in November to another two year low, official figures show. Inflation stood at 3.9 per cent last month, according to the Office for National Statistics, a dramatic fall from the 4.6 per cent recorded a month earlier as price increases slowed in transport, recreation and culture, and food with the biggest downward pressure coming from fuel.

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20 Dec 2023 - The critical role of the Section 151 Officer

Grant Thornton’s Guy Clifton explains the vital part statutory officers have to play in ensuring councils’ viability in difficult financial times.

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20 Dec 2023 - Care bosses ‘blindsided’ by foreign dependents ban

Social care bosses were ‘blindsided’ by ministers’ ban on international staff bringing dependents to the UK and fear an exodus from the sector, an expert has warned.
Speaking to MPs yesterday, Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, made clear his frustration with the government’s decision to ban incoming care staff from bringing dependents – particularly as the NHS has been exempted from the policy.

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20 Dec 2023 - Council looks at minimum service level to balance budget

A struggling county council wants to determine its legal minimum service level across all services to help close a predicted budget gap.
Hampshire CC estimates that it faces a £42m budget deficit in the 2025-26 financial year – even if it meets strict savings targets before then – and wants to fully assess which costs and services it can cut while still meeting its legal obligations.
The move comes amid a snowballing belief the county faces potential government intervention if it cannot improve its financial position. Officials are even preparing for the potential arrival of Government commissioners by applying a ‘commissioner’s test’ to all spending plans. This aims to ensure future commissioners would not be able to identify instances of expenditure not already at minimum service levels.

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19 Dec 2023 - Local government ‘needs funded pay deal’

A fair and funded pay rise for council workers would help to alleviate some of the financial strain on authorities and improve recruitment and retention, a senior union official has said.

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19 Dec 2023 - Local government settlement: ‘crisis-cash-repeat’

Michael Gove has announced the government’s English council funding package for next year, but the sector has warned it will not stop the expected wave of Section 114 notices in the coming months.

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19 Dec 2023 - Gove threatens to strip councils of planning powers

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has threatened to strip local authorities of their responsibilities for planning if they ‘drag their feet’ when coming up with housing plans.
Councils in England would have three months to put in place plans to meet their housing needs, Mr Gove told The Times. If they failed, they would lose their planning powers to independent planning inspectors.

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19 Dec 2023 - Finance settlement ‘bitterly disappointing’

Local government leaders have warned about the future of council services following the publication of a “bitterly disappointing” provisional local government finance settlement.
Levelling up secretary Michael Gove today published a £64bn funding package which did not give councils the extra funding they have been pleading for.

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19 Dec 2023 - Finance settlement: Council tax accounts for more than half of core spending power rise

More than half of the projected increase in core spending power in the provisional local finance settlement comes from increases in council tax.
An LGC analysis of yesterday's settlement for 2024-25 has revealed that 53% of the 6.5% increase in core spending power (CSP) is accounted for by councils increasing tax for their residents.
Authorities with responsibility for adult social care can increase their share of council tax by up to 5% before holding a referendum, while shire districts have a limit of 3% or £5.

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19 Dec 2023 - Finance settlement ‘much less redistributive’

The provisional local government finance settlement for 2024-25 is “much less redistributive” than previous years, with counties set to see the biggest increase in core spending power, an analysis has found.
A report by Adrian Jenkins of Pixel Financial Management about yesterday’s announcement also noted that while the projected increase in core spending power (CSP) is above inflation, “notional real-terms growth is not keeping pace with budget pressures”.

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19 Dec 2023 - Kate Ogden, David Phillips: After the finance settlement, the worst is yet to come

The local government finance settlement might leave councils in choppy waters next year but the weather will only get heavier afterwards, write a senior research economist and the associate director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
If you had asked us a year ago whether growing numbers of councils would be warning about being able to balance their budgets in 2023-24 and 2024-25 we would have said we wouldn’t be surprised – but to treat those warnings with a pinch of salt.

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19 Dec 2023 - Two districts issued with best value notices over debt fears

Two district councils have been issued with best value notices due to concerns over their levels of debt.
Runnymede and Eastleigh BCs this afternoon received "formal" requests to provide "assurance of improvement" from Suzanne Clarke, deputy director of local government finance at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities.
The letter to Andrew Pritchard, chief executive of Runnymede BC, raised concerns over the authority "borrowing 71 times their core spending power" predominantly in property investments and fears over "anticipated income fail" because commercial income is considered a "substantial revenue source".

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19 Dec 2023 - Press release: Library expenditure in Great Britain rises 3%

CIPFA’s annual library survey, published today, reveals total expenditure on libraries in Great Britain rose 3% to £12,551 per 1,000 people in 2022/23, from £12,143 in 2021/22. This increase in expenditure marks a positive shift in the year-on-year decrease since 2018/19, when total expenditure stood at £12,646 per 1,000 people.
The survey also shows that the income libraries received rose by 3% over the last financial year, which sees some welcome relief to the financial pressure on libraries as high inflation continues to increase their running costs. This is an increase from £916 per 1,000 people in 2021/22 to £939 per 1,000 people in 2022/23.
Following the end of the pandemic, in-person visits to libraries have increased by 71% since 2021/22, from 1,215 per 1,000 people in 2021/22 to 2,082 per 1,000 people in 2022/23. The number of books borrowed has also increased by 24% to 2,316 per 1,000 people, from 1,868 books in 2021/22.

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18 Dec 2023 - Provisional Finance settlement

Communities Secretary, Michael Gove, will today announce a 6.5 per cent increase in funding for local councils in England, as well as a provisional package worth more than £64 billion with extra support for social care and housing, according to multiple government officials, but it will fall short of the help demanded by councils. The article referenced LGA findings that one in five councils said they were likely to issue a Section 114 notice this year or next.

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18 Dec 2023 - Birmingham to hike taxes by 10pc, finance chief reveals

Max Caller, the commissioner put in charge of supporting Birmingham City Council after it issued a Section 114 notice earlier this year told the BBC it might have to put up council tax by at least 10 per cent. Mr Caller said such an increase was “par for the course” at authorities which had issued a Section 114 notice. A number of other councils, including Nottingham and Woking, have had to do the same, suggesting theirs will also have to rise. The article referenced LGA findings that one in five councils said they were likely to issue a S114 notice this year or next.

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18 Dec 2023 - Outlawing DIY waste ‘tip taxes’ will cost £2m a year, council complains

From Jan 1 councils will no longer be able to charge for disposing of waste such as rubble, which the Government has argued will reduce illegal waste-dumping. Cllr Darren Rodwell, environment spokesperson for the LGA, previously warned: “Where councils are no longer able to charge for DIY waste at recycling centres the cost will be passed to all householders, including households that do not have a car and those with no possibility of carrying out building works, for example people living in rented accommodation.”

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18 Dec 2023 - Council 'value for money' league tables

The Telegraph has analysed council tax rates versus quality of services provided across all single-tier authorities in England in an attempt to create a league table of local authority performance. Councils deemed to be providing less value for money, according to the Telegraph matrix, have strongly refuted the findings and methodology.

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18 Dec 2023 - LGC council tax tracker: vast majority plan maximum increase

The LGC council tax tracker has obtained 2024-25 council tax proposals for 59 councils. Of these, 95% are currently planning to implement the highest permitted rise for their authority.

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18 Dec 2023 - Whiteman: Finance settlement to leave councils with ‘tough budget round’

The government is due to announce the provisional local government finance settlement for 2024-25 this afternoon.
It is expected to confirm the increase in local authorities’ core spending power to £64bn that was set out in this month’s local government finance policy statement.
All local authorities were promised at least a 3% increase in their core spending power, with council tax rises capped at 3% for upper tier authorities, plus 2% for adult social care precept, without holding a referendum.

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18 Dec 2023 - Gove announces finance settlement

Michael Gove today announced England’s provisional local government finance settlement for 2024-25, with councils set to receive an above-inflation average 6.5% increase in funding.
The proposed spending package for next year is £64bn – some £3.9bn more than the current fiscal year - and includes extra support for social care and housing.
Mr Gove’s deal means England’s councils will receive an average funding increase 1.9% above October’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation rate ‘in recognition of the pressures being faced by local authorities’.

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18 Dec 2023 - Call for MPs' help over ‘inadequate’ settlement

Councils are to turn to MPs to make the case to the Government following the announcement of an ‘inadequate’ £64bn finance settlement.
Finance spokesperson for the County Councils Network (CCN), Barry Lewis, said they had held ‘several meetings’ with ministers to make the case for emergency funding over recent days, but to no avail.
‘We will now be making our case to county MPs ahead of the parliamentary vote on the final local government settlement to ensure that they are aware of the extent to which highly valued local services will have to be cut next year unless further funding is provided,’ he added.

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18 Dec 2023 - Five unitaries moot devolution deal

Five unitary councils are proposing a devolution deal covering Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire.
A ‘non-binding expression of interest’ is expected to be submitted to the Government in February for a level 2 deal including Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP), Dorset, North Somerset, Somerset and Wiltshire.
Dorset Council’s leader Spencer Flower told a meeting last week that an executive advisory panel will be established to work on the mooted deal.

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17 Dec 2023 - Your council may well go bust next year if it can’t escape the grip of the ‘frightful four’

Columnist Robert Colvile debates the funding crisis affecting councils, citing the LGA's recent survey on the number who fear they may have to issue a Section 114 notice in the coming years. He says councils are facing growing costs on statutory services, concluding that "in the longer term we need to think very seriously about what we are asking — and legally obliging — councils to do".

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15 Dec 2023 - More councils in s114 warning

Nearly a million households face council tax rises of up to 15 per cent after two more local authorities announced they were at risk of effective bankruptcy.
Bradford Council and Cheshire East Council, both Labour-run, said on Thursday that they may have to issue a section 114 notice, meaning they are unable to balance their budgets by the end of the financial year.
They join councils including Birmingham, Nottingham and Woking which have already taken the draconian step.

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15 Dec 2023 - Many local authorities ‘only two or three’ wrong decisions away from serious risk of failure

The many common “causes, symptoms and consequences” of financial failure at local governments can be identified and used to help prevent future problems, according to a new report from Grant Thornton.
Noting that the specific circumstances at struggling authorities have been “unique”, the professional services firm said that repeated causes of failure include poor decisions, often accompanied by a lack of transparency; risky investments made without the necessary commercial skills and knowledge; the lack of an effective top team; over-reliance on interims in key roles; and the failure of members to ask the right questions.

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15 Dec 2023 - Hampshire asks ‘what is a legal minimum service level?’ and considers all options in face of s114 threat

Hampshire County Council is looking at defining and establishing a legal minimum service level, while exhausting “all options for saving money”.
But doing even this is not expected to achieve the recurring £41.6m of savings needed to balance the authority’s budget in 2025/26.
Instead, the council is aiming to pass the ‘commissioner test’. This, in essence, means that if commissioners were sent in to review Hampshire’s financial position, they should not be able to find any instance of expenditure that was not already at the legal minimum service level.

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15 Dec 2023 - FRC seeks greater audit competition as report highlights extent of Big Four dominance

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) is hoping a series of market studies will generate information and proposals for improvement to help increase competition in the UK’s audit market for public interest entities (PIE).
A new report providing an updated overview of competition in the space showed that while there was a small increase in market share for challenger audit firms, the audit market remains highly concentrated.
The Big Four accounting firms – Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC – continue to dominate, earning 98% of FTSE 350 audit fees in 2022.

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15 Dec 2023 - Leicestershire’s toughest ever budget

Leicestershire County Council has warned of an £85 million budget shortfall by 2028, which may force the council into its “toughest ever budget”. The council has said that this shortfall has been driven by a £113 million rise in wages precipitated by the new rise in the national living wage, as well as the need to invest a further £127 million in social care due to the rise in demand and in the cost of delivering these services.

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15 Dec 2023 - Bradford on verge of section 114 in ‘financial emergency’

Without "exceptional" government support Bradford MBC will have no choice but to issue a section 114 notice, according to a new council report.
The report, that is going before an extraordinary meeting of the council’s cabinet meeting next Thursday, outlines how reserves will be "exhausted" by the end of this financial year so "exceptional" financial support "will be required" to keep their budget balanced or the next two financial years .

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15 Dec 2023 - Eight councils to trial new kinship care allowance

An allowance for kinship carers will be trialled in up to eight local authorities next year as part of a £20m national kinship strategy, the government has announced today.
The strategy, along with an extra £36m to improve recruitment and retention in children’s social care and extra foster care funding, form part of the government’s response to the MacAlister independent review of social care.

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15 Dec 2023 - Council warns of S114 risk over HS2 costs

Cheshire East Council has warned that it may have to issue a section 114 notice after spending £11m preparing for HS2, as it continues to press for compensation.
The local authority described the cancellation of the HS2 scheme north of Birmingham as a ‘devastating blow’ for the region.

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14 Dec 2023 - FRC: backlog ‘severely restricted’ local audit inspection

A lack of auditor capacity and complex accounting requirements worsened the local audit crisis and meant the Financial Reporting Council could only inspect four financial statements in 2022-23.

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14 Dec 2023 - IFRS 16 Leases: A Guide For Local Authority Practitioners 2023 Edition

This publication provides guidance on IFRS 16 Leases for 2022/23, which is applicable to those authorities deciding to voluntarily implement the requirements of Appendix F of the Code (which includes the specifications applicable to those entities implementing IFRS 16 as of 1 April 2022). It will also be of interest to those intending to apply as of 1 April 2023 and those mandatorily implementing as of 1 April 2024.

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14 Dec 2023 - Tories told to 'grasp nettle' and pay social care workers decent wage

Conservative ministers were today urged to “grasp the nettle” and pay carers a decent wage as fears the latest Conservative plan to cut net migration will further exacerbate social care workforce shortages. Former LGA vice-president, Lib Dem Lord John Shipley, said: “Local authorities are seriously underfunded for adult and children's social care and are cutting other public services as a consequence.”

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14 Dec 2023 - ADASS joint chief executive appointed

The Association for Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) has announced that Anna Hemmings has been appointed as its new joint chief executive.
She will work alongside Cathie Williams in the role early in the New Year.
Ms Hemmings said: ‘Having worked with people who draw on social care throughout my career, I’m delighted to be joining ADASS as joint CEO at this important time.

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14 Dec 2023 - Government admits councils spending 75% of budgets on adult social care

A Government minister has admitted around three quarters of council budgets are now being spent on adult social care and this was ‘not a good situation’.
Asked by Lord Forsyth of Drumlean during parliamentary questions what percentage of councils’ expenditure was now being spent on social care, health and social care minister Lord Markham said local authorities were on average spending around 74-75% on the function.
The minister added: ‘I think that we would all agree that is not a good situation because obviously a local authority has got a number of matters it needs to deal with. I think those are part of the issues around long-term reform that we will need to consider.’

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14 Dec 2023 - £2.5 million bill for pupil with special needs

A specialist school has billed a Leeds City Council almost £2.5 million for the education of a single child with special needs. The placement spanned several years and included accommodation on-site. The LGA has warned of increased costs for children’s placements and rising profits for providers. Cllr Louise Gittins, Chair of the LGA's Children and Young People’s Board: "Councils continue to face significant challenges managing the ever-increasing rise in demand for support from children with SEND. To help alleviate the huge strain they are under, we are calling on the Government to use the upcoming local government financial settlement to eliminate councils’ high needs deficits, which have arisen as a result of the spiralling costs of providing support outstripping the SEND budgets available to councils."

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14 Dec 2023 - Housebuilding targets set to ease in England

The Government is due to relax housing targets for local authorities in England, reports suggest. The changes are expected to allow authorities to allocate less land to future development if local officials can argue that more development would damage the character of an area or require building on greenbelt land.

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14 Dec 2023 - Extra 40,000 people in England could be homeless this Christmas

Nearly 40,000 more people than last year are expected to spend this Christmas homeless, the charity Shelter HAS warned. IT IS predicting a 14 per cent increase in people spending the festive season in hotels, B&Bs and other temporary accommodation.

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14 Dec 2023 - Interest rates expected to be frozen

Economists are predicting the Bank of England to freeze interest rates later today. The figure was held at 5.25 per cent for the second consecutive time last month.

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13 Dec 2023 - UK economy falls unexpectedly in October as higher rates bite

The UK economy shrank by more than expected in October, as higher interest rates squeezed consumers and bad weather swept the country.
The economy fell 0.3% during the month, after growth of 0.2% in September.
Household spending has been dented by rate rises as the Bank of England tries to tackle inflation. It is due to make its next rate decision on Thursday.

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11 Dec 2023 - More than a million living in pockets of hidden poverty in England, says study

New analysis by Queen’s University in Belfast has revealed over a million people in England are living in pockets of hidden hardship, meaning people could be missing out on vital help because their poverty is masked by neighbours who are better off.

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11 Dec 2023 - Funding cuts hit ‘pupils in poor areas harder’

A new report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests secondary schools with the most disadvantaged pupils have been hit hardest by funding cuts. It found rising costs are placing increasing pressure on all areas of education.

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11 Dec 2023 - London’s councils half a billion in the red

London’s councils are facing a collective deficit of over half a billion pounds, research has found. The figures suggest that council tax across the capital will have to increase further to meet these growing deficits. The LGA recently warned councils across England faced a £4 billion funding gap over the next two years.

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11 Dec 2023 - Council seeks to recover £1.2m for failed Levelling Up bids

Durham County Council has asked the Government to repay the £1.2 million costs of its failed levelling up bids. The council took action after five of its bids were unsuccessful during the funding process.

[ more...]

11 Dec 2023 - The levelling up act: what local government needs to know

As well as paving the way for more devolution, the levelling up act will mean significant changes for the planning system, but not all will come into force straight away. LGC pulls out the key points for local government.

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08 Dec 2023 - Gove concedes difficulties

The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, has conceded that “local government faces significant funding pressures” in comments made to the Levelling Up Committee. However, Mr Gove has also claimed there is a link between “poor leadership” and the subsequent Section 114 notice at those councils that have issued it. These comments have been made despite grants to local authorities falling by 40 percent in the last 10 years, according to the Institute for Government. The LGA has warned in a recent survey that one in five Council leaders and Chief executives are very or fairly likely to have to issue a section 114 notice by the end of next year.

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08 Dec 2023 - Fears Council's spending cuts will hit most vulnerable

There are fears that further reductions in spending by councils to ensure that budgets are balanced will hit the most vulnerable. Newcastle City Council has reported plans to save £15.4 million by the end of 2024 by halving the money spent on homelessness, closing its crisis support service and reviewing free home to school transport for special educational needs and disabilities students over the age of 16. The council said these measures are due to a lack of funding from government, as well as increased demand and inflation. The LGA has warned that councils across England face a funding gap of £4 billion over the next two years.

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08 Dec 2023 - Child cruelty and neglect cases more than double in five years, police data obtained by the NSPCC shows

The number of child cruelty and neglect cases has more than doubled in the past five years, police data collected by the NSPCC shows.
The data from police forces in England shows there were 29,405 offences between April 2022 and March 2023 compared to 14,263 offences between April 2017 and March 2018.
The figures, obtained by the NSPCC children's charity by using the Freedom of Information Act, reveal the number of cases increased steadily year on year during that period.

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08 Dec 2023 - Wales passes workplace recycling law

New Workplace Recycling Regulations have been passed in Wales, which will require all businesses to separate recyclable materials.
The new law, which will come into force on 6 April next year, means all businesses, charities and public sector organisations will have to separate key recyclable materials for collection.

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08 Dec 2023 - Councillors recommend 300% empty properties’ council tax

Owners of long-term empty properties in Lewes are set to be hit by council tax premiums of up to 300% from April 2024.
Cabinet councillors yesterday recommended the increase to tackle the ‘scandalous’ situation of homes sitting empty while there is a shortage of houses.
Subject to approval by Full Council, the premiums would begin at 100% for homes that are unoccupied and substantially unfurnished between one and five years of becoming empty. They would then rise to 200% for between five and 10 years, and 300% for more than 10 years of becoming empty.

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08 Dec 2023 - Fears government has ‘traded’ one cost of living fund for another

Increasing the local housing allowance will not cover the loss of a council fund designed to help those struggling with the cost of living crisis, sector leaders have warned.
As part of the Autumn Statement, chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced that housing benefits for private renters will be increased to the 30th percentile of local market rates, but papers appeared to suggest that in return the household support fund (HSF) would not be extended.

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08 Dec 2023 - ADCS president: ‘Tensions with colleagues over rising costs’

Children’s services directors are in an “exceptionally difficult” position where they have to “make the case” for funding to finance colleagues, John Pearce told LGC.
In an interview last week, the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), said that being a “key pressure” during financial crisis makes it harder to “make the case” for funding preventative services.
Mr Pearce warned that staff were increasingly at risk of burnout due the way they are being asked to work, and called for better regulation of the “Wild West” private provider market.

[ more...]

07 Dec 2023 - Birmingham looks to £2.4bn property portfolio to bridge £300m budget gap

Birmingham City Council, which is currently under government intervention, is set to consider selling assets within its £2.4bn property portfolio to help address its £300m budget gap over the next two years.

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07 Dec 2023 - CIPFA: what Section 114 can teach us

Section 114 notices are the last resort for local authorities in financial trouble. Once rare, there have been several high-profile examples since 2018, with councils of different sizes and located across the country sending out a distress signal over their financial position. Although each situation is unique, there are some common trends and themes around financial management and governance issues, which will be explored in this report. By looking at what went wrong, we can identify preventative actions that will help improve and maintain resilience across the sector.

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07 Dec 2023 - Low reserves edge borough to S114 declaration

A metropolitan borough has become the latest to warn of financial distress due to care demand.
Low reserves and the lack of capacity are key risks to Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council balancing its budget with “urgent action” needed to avoid a Section 114 notice, local leaders have said.

[ more...]

06 Dec 2023 - Fifth of councils facing S114, chiefs reveal

Almost a fifth (18%) of council leaders and chief executives could be forced to issue the statutory notice either this year or next year, according to new figures from the Local Government Association.
A survey, based on responses from 114 chief executives and 71 council leaders, said around half (54%) were not very confident of funding statutory services up to the end of 2024-25.
Almost two-thirds of respondents (63%) said there was nothing in the Autumn Statement that would help them deal with their financial position.
The County Councils Network (CCN) is also warning that councils are in a ‘significantly worse financial position’ after the Autumn Statement, with seven in 10 county councils now unsure if they can balance their budget next year according to its own survey.

[ more...]

06 Dec 2023 - Finance policy statement: Core spending power to rise 6% to £64bn

Local authorities’ core spending power will increase by £4bn to £64bn next year but the sector should not expect any major reforms, the local government finance policy statement published this afternoon has said.
The document, published by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, says the revenue support grant will be increased in line with consumer price index inflation, but the government has not confirmed which month’s figures it will use. October’s figure is 4.6%, while September’s is 6.7%, according to the Office for National Statistics. LGC has asked DLUHC for clarification.

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06 Dec 2023 - Government to ‘increase transparency’ over children’s homes costs

The government has pledged to "work closely with councils to increase transparency around the costs of residential placements for children" in the local government finance policy statement.
The commitment follows warnings from councils about the spiralling cost of placements for some vulnerable children putting huge pressure on council budgets.
The statement said the work to increase transparency is set to be a "precursor" to the launch of Regional Care Cooperatives, designed to bring together local authorities to commission fostering and residential care for children.

[ more...]

06 Dec 2023 - Government to ‘consider’ representations on council tax

Representation from local authorities, including on council tax provision, will be considered the government has announced today as part of the local government finance policy statement.
The statement sets out the government’s intentions ahead of the full details of the local government finance settlement for 2024-25 , which is expected to be announced later this month.
Since 2020 the government has agreed to provide a small number of local authorities with additional resources via the Exceptional Financial Support Framework, following requests from these councils for assistance to manage financial pressures that they considered unmanageable.

[ more...]

06 Dec 2023 - LGA poised to shift position on Right to Buy

The Local Government Association has long called for councils to retain 100% of Right to Buy receipts, and Treasury permission to combine receipts with other government grants.
But a meeting of the LGA’s local infrastructure and net zero board on 23 November was asked to consider further lobbying positions – including extending the five-year time limit in which receipts must be spent and altering the current cap on acquisitions.

[ more...]

06 Dec 2023 - Low reserves edge borough to S114 declaration

A metropolitan borough has become the latest to warn of financial distress due to care demand.
Low reserves and the lack of capacity are key risks to Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council balancing its budget with “urgent action” needed to avoid a Section 114 notice, local leaders have said.
The council is facing a “serious financial challenge” due to rising care demands and shortfall in commercial income, which could lead to the further use of already low reserves, an LGA corporate peer challenge said.
Local leaders said current forecasts indicate there could be just £3m in the general fund reserve at the end of this year with cost pressures set to rise.

[ more...]

06 Dec 2023 - Finance policy statement: ‘difficult to see how it will help authorities balance their budgets’

The local government finance policy statement provides “nothing to address the general situation” facing council finances, making it “difficult” to see how all authorities will balance their budgets, sector professionals have said.

[ more...]

06 Dec 2023 - Gove: Nottingham’s s114 was the fault of poor governance not central government

Levelling up secretary Michael Gove has stated that Nottingham City Council’s issuance of a section 114 notice (s114) was not caused by a lack of central government funding despite its spending power decreasing by 28% since 2010/11.

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05 Dec 2023 - Section 114 notices

An article explores the financial challenges faced by councils, after Nottingham City Council issued a section 114 notice last week. The LGA has warned councils in England face a funding gap of £4 billion over the next two years. Cllr Shaun Davies, Chair of the LGA, said: “This is just the start of a massive upward trend. I know from speaking to a lot of cross-party councils and councillors that there is not a single one of them that can look past the next three years without falling off a cliff (financially).”

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05 Dec 2023 - Cash-strapped councils will see no extra funding from Labour, Gove claims

Communities Secretary Michael Gove has said councils would have little hope of seeing spending pressures relieved under Labour. Mr Gove suggested Labour MPs would be “raising false hopes” if they suggested a victory for their party at the next general election would mean extra funding for councils. Meanwhile local government minister Simon Hoare told the Commons he would not name councils in financial trouble. He said: “I have said to the LGA and to the others that I don’t think it’s right for us to name and shame.”

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05 Dec 2023 - Care sector fears migration changes are a step back

Care companies fear the announcement overseas care workers will no longer be able to bring their families will put potential recruits off moving to the UK. Home Office figures indicate nearly 144,000 care workers, who arrived in the UK in the year up to September 2023, brought almost 174,000 family members with them.

[ more...]

05 Dec 2023 - Bath doubles council tax on second homes

Council tax on second homes in Bath is set to double as the local authority seeks to tackle the local housing shortage.
According to Bath and North East Somerset Council, the increase will come into force from April 2025 and will apply to furnished homes that are only periodically occupied.

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05 Dec 2023 - Autistic adults without care entitlement face 'breakdown'

More than 11,000 autistic adults in England are not receiving the care they are legally entitled to, a group of autism charities has found.
Autism Alliance said it means the Care Act 2014, which states that eligible adults must receive support, ‘is being broken daily’.

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05 Dec 2023 - Croydon disposes of over £72m of assets to combat debt

Croydon Council has disposed of over £72m of assets since 2021, with a further £52m expected to be sold by the end of the financial year.

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04 Dec 2023 - Dozens more councils could issue Section 114 notice within weeks

Dozens more councils will learn within weeks whether they will need to issue a Section 114 notice restricting their spending, due to the impact of inflation and a lack of funding. The Government will this month set out its proposed councils funding plan for next year, which MPs will vote through before Christmas. Cllr Pete Marland, Chair of the LGA’s Resources Board, said: “Councils are being faced with tough decisions about cutting valued services, increasing council tax and fees and charges during a cost-of-living crisis.

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04 Dec 2023 - Right-to-buy receipts and a catch that’s holding up new homes

To build more homes, councils don’t need false limits and a Kafkaesque sting set by central government, writes Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s deputy leader.

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04 Dec 2023 - Free childcare pledge ‘doomed to fail’

Thousands of nurseries have shut their doors amid a staffing crisis, leaving the Chancellor’s flagship Budget pledge to expand free childcare for British families “doomed to failure”, according to the chief executive of the Early Years Alliance. New figures from school inspectors Ofsted show that 3,320 of the 62,300 nurseries and childminders for under-fives in England have shut their doors in the past year alone, leaving 17,800 fewer childcare places available.

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04 Dec 2023 - Social care pilots make workforce ‘vulnerable’

Workforces are “vulnerable” during government social care pilots, which can make it harder to recruit and retain staff, trial local authorities have reported.
Dorset Council, Lincolnshire CC and Wolverhampton City Council shared their findings from the first wave of the Families First for Children (FFC) pathfinder at the National Children and Adult Services Conference (NCASC) last week raising concerns about its progress.

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04 Dec 2023 - Norfolk leader: Rejecting devo deal would leave county ‘in the wilderness’

Norfolk CC’s cabinet unanimously agreed to accept the level three devolution deal, but with a one year delay, at a meeting this morning.
Delaying the deal means elections for the new directly elected leader will take place at the same time as the county’s elections in May 2025. This is expected to save money and lead to higher turnout.

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04 Dec 2023 - NCASC: Everything you need to know

Following the National Children’s and Adult’s Service Conference in Bournemouth last week, The MJ rounds up everything you need to know.

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04 Dec 2023 - Using data to make better decisions for our children

Only last month the County Councils’ Network (CCN) highlighted that children’s services make up almost half of its members’ overspends this year, driven by demand and costs, particularly placement costs which have spiralled as the number of children in care reaches record levels.
Yet measures in the Government’s strategy to tackle this, such as Regional Care Co-operatives, have struggled to gain support – even for pilots – as councils fear surrendering autonomy over placement commissioning may leave them even more exposed to bureaucracy and expense in this key area of spending concern.
However, the need to regain control of the market is real and for many councils that means looking at different ways of providing and commissioning care. During the last decade a group of county councils came to this conclusion, recognising the cost of care placements needed to be more connected to a child’s identified needs.

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01 Dec 2023 - Nottingham issue S114

Nottingham has become the latest council to issue a section 114 notice as inflation and growing demands for services have pushed up to half of all local authorities to “breaking point”. Cllr John Fuller, Vice Chair of the LGA’s Resources Board, recently told MPs: “There is a general understanding that if not this year, next year, about half of the authorities will be in distress.”

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01 Dec 2023 - Ban on leaseholds

The UK Government's proposed ban on the sale of new leasehold houses has not been included in its bill to reform housing rights. Ministers had said this week's new bill would ban the sale of new leasehold houses in England and Wales but the Government says the ban will be added to the bill at a later stage in its passage through Parliament

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01 Dec 2023 - 'Lack of clarity' puts recycling reforms at risk

A ‘lack of clarity’ around the Government’s recycling reforms are preventing councils from preparing for the upcoming changes, according to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

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01 Dec 2023 - Government axes Brum's £2.7bn PFI deal in shock 'betrayal'

Birmingham City Council's leader has accused the Government of 'betrayal' by axing the authority's £2.7bn highways Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract, in a move that could lose the authority more than £500m of roads investment.

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30 Nov 2023 - Pressure for LGA peer review to be strengthened

Senior Local Government Association (LGA) figures are pushing the organisation to beef up its peer review offer to help neutralise the threat from Oflog.

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30 Nov 2023 - London borough applies for capitalisation direction

Havering LBC is to apply for a capitalisation direction as it bids to avoid issuing a section 114 notice next year.
Despite making savings, reining in spending and factoring in a maximum increase in council tax, the council still faces a gap in its budget for the next financial year.
A surge in demand for temporary housing and children’s services are the chief financial pressures facing Havering, which has imposed spending controls ‘until further notice’.

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30 Nov 2023 - Nottingham section 114 shows ‘funding model is broken’

Rising service demands and a “completely broken” funding model could force more councils to declare that they cannot balance this year's budget, sector figures have said following Nottingham City Council's section 114 notice yesterday.
The council’s 151 officer issued the notice yesterday citing a general fund pressure of £57m.
A report to the council’s executive board on 21 November revealed an in-year overspend of £23.3m, against a revenue budget of £261.8m.

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30 Nov 2023 - Tony Travers: Public spending plans are unsustainable

Cuts to local government contribute to a sense of political abandonment that may drive extremism, writes the director of LSE London.

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30 Nov 2023 - Government criticised over school capital funding

A proposed real-terms cut to capital budgets risks exacerbating school maintenance backlogs and shows the government does “not care about the state of school buildings”, a union leader has said.

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30 Nov 2023 - New deputy CEO and executive director joins Gloucestershire County Council

Following an extensive two-day interview process earlier this month, Nina Philippidis has been appointed deputy chief executive and executive director of corporate resources at Gloucestershire County Council.
As well as being the council's statutory finance officer, Nina will lead a range of other corporate services such as Property, ICT, Communications, and HR.

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29 Nov 2023 - Children’s social care placements costs increase

The LGA is warning of the spiralling costs of providing support for children with the most complex needs. Its survey of councils reveals the number of placements costing more than £10,000 per week has risen from 120 in 2018 to more than 1,500 in the past year, while the proportion of councils taking these out has increased from 23 per cent to 91 per cent over the same period . The highest cost placement was £63,000 a week and for most councils, the highest cost fell between £9,600 and £32,500 a week. The LGA’s survey comes as the annual National Children and Adult Services Conference gets underway today in Bournemouth.

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29 Nov 2023 - Yorkshire councils' government funding cut by £945m

All but two Yorkshire councils are set to spend beyond their budgets this year as BBC analysis shows they have lost £945 million in government funding since 2015. The region's 13 major local authorities face a combined overspend of nearly £193 million in 2023/24, with the spiralling cost of social care using up one in every three pounds in their budgets. All of the Yorkshire councils have lost at least a third of their central government funding since 2015/16, the last year for which comparable figures are available, the analysis found. The LGA said it was "hugely disappointed" Chancellor Jeremy Hunt did not announce funding for councils in last week’s Autumn Statement and said local authorities had been "pushed to the brink" by the rising costs of social care.

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29 Nov 2023 - £400m to expand free childcare scheme in England

The Government is to invest £400 million in its plans to expand free childcare for working parents in England from April. The Department for Education has also announced an increase in funding rates for nursery places, with hourly rates available to providers increasing to £11.22 for under-twos, £8.28 for two-year-olds, and £5.88 for three and four-year-olds.

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29 Nov 2023 - Adass president: Social care ‘too fragmented’ to be seen as ‘core’

Sector leaders must “pool forces” to convince policymakers that social care is a “core” public service, urges the president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.
Beverley Tarka told the national children and adult services conference (NCASC) this morning that the sector has been “too fragmented” to secure necessary improvements to funding and social care services.
This comes a week after chancellor’s Autumn Statement, which did not deliver additional funds for adult social care or children’s services.

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29 Nov 2023 - LGA lays bare ‘astronomical’ care costs

There has been a 1,000% rise over five years in the number of children’s social care placements that cost councils £10,000 or more a week, the Local Government Association (LGA) has found.

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29 Nov 2023 - Nottingham city council sixth to ‘declare bankruptcy’

Nottingham has become the latest council to effectively declare itself bankrupt as inflation and growing demands for services have pushed up to half of all local authorities to “breaking point”.
The Labour-run council said it was set for a £23 million overspend in its budget this year when councils are legally required to balance their books.

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28 Nov 2023 - Bus services cut by more than 80 per cent

Research has found bus services have been cut by more than 80 per cent in the past 15 years in some parts of England and Wales. The study by the University of Leeds, in conjunction with the charity Friends of the Earth, found outside London, bus services plummeted by more than 60 per cent in 80 local authority areas.

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28 Nov 2023 - Average rent in Great Britain up by more than a quarter since start of Covid

Analysis by the estate and lettings agent Savills has found average private rents in Great Britain have soared by more than a quarter since the start of the Covid pandemic and will keep rising.

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28 Nov 2023 - Andy Smith: Next government needs to reset Send system

Any incoming administration must prioritise making this a country that works for all children, writes the vice president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.

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28 Nov 2023 - Norfolk may delay devo deal by one year

Norfolk CC may delay implementing its devolution deal by one year until May 2025 to bring elections for a directly elected leader in line with county council elections, after negotiating timing flexibility from government.

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28 Nov 2023 - MPs demand answers on Oflog independence

MPs have called for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to outline the degree of independence the Office for Local Government (Oflog) will have.

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28 Nov 2023 - MPs press Government to resolve audit crisis

The Government should show more urgency in tackling the local audit crisis, a committee of MPs has said.
A report by the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee published today concluded the system was ‘currently in an unacceptable crisis’ with backlogs of accounts stretching back up to seven years.

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28 Nov 2023 - The King's Fund: Health and care lack shared understanding on delayed discharges

Health and care systems lack a shared understanding of the causes of hospital discharge delays and short-term Government funding fails to address this.
These are the findings of a report by The King’s Fund charity looking at the impact of last winter’s £750m investment by Whitehall in addressing the issue of hospital bed blocking.

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28 Nov 2023 - McMahon returns to Labour frontbench

Former Oldham MBC leader Jim McMahon has returned to the opposition frontbench as shadow devolution and local government minister.
He joins shadow communities secretary and deputy leader Angela Rayner’s team, alongside Liz Twist as local services and communities minister and Maeve Sherlock as faith minister.

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28 Nov 2023 - MPs warn services on ‘knife edge’

MPs have warned key services are on a ‘knife edge’ due to the poor financial health of councils in England.
Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, Clive Betts, has written to local government secretary Michael Gove to highlight the funding pressures councils are under when it comes to the provision of services such as social care, children’s services and homelessness.

[ more...]

28 Nov 2023 - Councils welcome PWLB rate extension

Councils have welcomed chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s decision to extend preferential Public Works Loan Board borrowing rates for Housing Revenue Account (HRA) expenditure.

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28 Nov 2023 - LUHC Committee demands answers from Michael Gove on local authorities’ financial health

Greater central government support is “clearly required” for local authorities, a parliamentary committee has told secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities Michael Gove.
Clive Betts, chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee, has written to Gove to highlight concerns over the financial health of councils in England that were heard in recent evidence sessions.

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27 Nov 2023 - Council funding fears - LGA

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has been warned a lack of additional funding for Local Government in this week’s Autumn Statement will trigger a fire sale of public assets, reduce councils to an emergency service and put the vulnerable at greater risk. Cllr Shaun Davies, Chair of the LGA said, there could be a big increase in the number of councils in financial distress. “Any suggestion of any further cuts on top of the current deficit we face and we’ll see the number of councils set to go bankrupt rise from one in 10 to a significantly higher number. My concern is that there is a wave of councils that will effectively return the town hall keys back to the government because there is just no way out of this.”

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27 Nov 2023 - Hunts New Wave of Austerity: Public service cuts

A return to “austerity” is about to hit a huge range of public services from courts and social care, swimming pools, libraries and roads; with more councils facing bankruptcy, ministers are being warned. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s failure to boost public spending in the Autumn Statement will push some Government departments back to the last decade, experts say. Cllr Peter Marland, Chair of the LGA's Resources Board, said: “Councils end up cutting back right to the bare bone and the public end up saying ‘what are we paying our money for?’ Meanwhile council tax will have to go up so people are paying more for less.”

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27 Nov 2023 - Pothole breakdowns hit record levels

The AA have responded to 52,541 callouts in October for vehicles damaged by road defects. This is a 12 per cent increase compared with the same month last year, and is slightly ahead of the previous October high of 52,152 set in 2017. Cllr Darren Rodwell, Transport spokesperson for the LGA said: “Investing in cost-effective and resilient roads resurfacing, rather than retrospectively dealing with potholes, is a priority for councils. The recently announced extra £8.3 billion of funding will help with bringing more of our local road network up to scratch. Longer term, the Government should award council highways departments with five-yearly funding allocations to give more certainty, bringing councils on a par with National Highways so they can develop resurfacing programmes and other highways improvements, tackling the scourge of potholes.”

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27 Nov 2023 - Leaseholder reform bill to pass before next election

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said he is confident a bill reforming the leasehold system in England and Wales will pass by the next general election. The Bill would make it easier and cheaper for homeowners to extend their lease or buy their freehold.

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24 Nov 2023 - Fiscal outlook based on ‘possibly implausible assumptions’

The government has only met its target to show debt will fall by “pretending” certain measures, including the fuel duty freeze, will end this year, economists at the Institute for Fiscal Studies have said.

[ more...]

24 Nov 2023 - OBR: £2.3bn of council reserves required to meet spending needs

The latest analysis from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has predicted that local authorities will have to draw down £2.3bn of reserves over the next two years, compared to previous assumptions of no drawdown.

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24 Nov 2023 - Council officers: Autumn Statement ‘not helpful’ as ‘threat of severe difficulties’ remains

In the wake of chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement, section 151 officers and chief executives have reflected on what was an ‘unhelpful’ and ‘extremely disappointing’ financial update.
In his statement, Hunt chose to prioritise boosting business investment and cutting tax instead of increasing funding for public services, vowing to “reject big government, high spending and high tax because we know that leads to less growth, not more”.

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24 Nov 2023 - Which public services will suffer most to pay for tax cuts?

The LGA’s warnings of a funding gap for council services over the next two years have been referenced in an article on the effect that tax cuts announced in the Autumn Statement will have on public spending. Public spending will drop by £20 billion a year by the end of the next parliamentary period at the current rate, it is reported, placing pressure on councils who are dealing with unbalanced budgets and an increased demand for services to cut non statutory services to maintain underfunded services, like adult social care. LGA Economy and Resources Board Chair Cllr Peter Marland also featured in iNews, who said that many councils had “shaved” around their services and “will not be able to deliver their statutory obligations”.

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24 Nov 2023 - Plan to turn care home block into rooms for homeless

A former care home could be converted into temporary accommodation for people who are homeless. Great Yarmouth Borough Council is applying for planning permission to use 20 of the rooms for up to three years as temporary accommodation. In October, LGA analysis found that £1.74 billion was spent by local councils in 2022/23 on provide temporary housing.

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24 Nov 2023 - Welfare cap breach

The welfare cap, a non-binding limit on tax credits and selected social security, has been breached for the fourth time since its introduction in 2013. The Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast an overspend of £8.6 billion in 2024/25.

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24 Nov 2023 - Autumn Statement ‘fails to protect services people rely on’

Local government figures warned that today's Autumn Statement does not do enough to address funding pressures facing councils.
Throughout the day local government experts have told the LGC how even with "positive steps" such as devolution deals, investment zones and the decision to unfreeze local housing allowance rates, their concerns have not been addressed.

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24 Nov 2023 - Household support fund’s end ‘leaves a major hole’

The end of the household support fund "leaves a major hole" that councils and charities will not be able to fill, anti-poverty charities have warned after the Autumn Statement.
The fund was first launched in October 2021 by the Department for Work and Pension (DWP) with £500m and has been extended three times. Between the launch and March 2024 £2.5bn has been made available through the fund.

[ more...]

24 Nov 2023 - First ‘vanilla’ county deal in the works

Surrey CC has announced that it is negotiating a level two county deal with the government, after the chancellor announced plans to extend devolution in two-tier areas.
These deals are being offered to single council areas that do not have a neighbouring or island unitary to form a combined authority with. Level two deals do not require a governance change or directly elected mayor or leader.

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24 Nov 2023 - Autumn Statement: Lancashire devolution ‘amazing news for county’

The Lancashire devolution announcement in the Autumn Statement is ‘amazing news for county’, local authority leaders in the region have said.
The announcement to offer the deal to create a Lancashire Combined County Authority. was made by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt as part of yesterday’s Autumn Statement.
Leaders from Lancashire County Council, Blackburn with Darwen Council and Blackpool Council have been working to progress a devolution deal over the past six months.

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24 Nov 2023 - Autumn Statement: Councils remain ‘chronically underfunded’

More support for private renters, devolution and local planning departments is welcome but cash-strapped councils remain ‘chronically underfunded’, council chiefs say in response to the Autumn Statement.
Cllr Shaun Davies, chair of the Local Government Association (LGA), welcomed the Chancellor’s decision to unfreeze Local Housing Allowance rates and allow councils to recover planning costs.

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24 Nov 2023 - Consultation reveals overwhelming opposition to LGPS private equity target

The chancellor’s decision to go ahead with plans to pressure the Local Government Pension Scheme to invest 10% of its assets in private equity came despite overwhelming opposition from the sector, the results of the government's own consultation have shown.

[ more...]

22 Nov 2023 - Autumn Statement: Hunt devolves but councils face new costs

The chancellor has unfrozen housing benefits and announced positive devolution news in his Autumn Statement, but signaled tighter public spending despite raising the National Living Wage.

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22 Nov 2023 - Autumn Statement: Level 4 devolution unveiled

More powers will be offered to areas with a level 3 devolution deal, the Government has announced as part of the Autumn Statement.
A framework for ‘level 4’ deals has been published, which will allow combined authorities with elected mayors to apply for devolved powers over adult skills, local transport and housing on a par with the trailblazer deals in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands.

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22 Nov 2023 - Autumn Statement: Councils to be able to recover planning costs

Councils will be able to recover the costs of business planning applications in return for being required to meet faster timelines, the Chancellor said in the autumn statement.
Mr Hunt also confirmed people living near new pylons and electricity substations will receive up to £10,000 off energy bills over a decade.

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22 Nov 2023 - Autumn Statement: Housing benefits unfrozen

Housing benefits for private renters are set to increase as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirms the uprating of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates in the autumn statement.
LHA rates, which determine the level of housing support people receive for rent, have been frozen in cash terms since 2020 despite high inflation and rising rental prices.
Rent can represent more than half the living costs of private renters on the lowest incomes, the Chancellor said.

[ more...]

22 Nov 2023 - Autumn Statement: Unprotected departments face further cuts

So-called ‘unprotected’ Whitehall departments face further budget tightening despite a pledge in the Autumn Statement to increase public sector productivity.
The Office for Budget Responsibility’s fiscal outlook published today says ‘it is mainly due to the Chancellor’s decision to leave departmental spending broadly unchanged’ that borrowing is reduced by £27bn in 2027/28 compared to its March forecast.

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22 Nov 2023 - Autumn Statement: Living Wage hike places council budgets under pressure

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has confirmed the biggest-ever hike in the UK minimum wage – but the move places strained council finances under fresh pressure.
As expected, Mr Hunt announced that the National Living Wage (NLW) will increase by £1.02 in April 2024: from £10.42 per hour for over 23-year-olds to £11.44. The new rate will also apply to 21 and 22-year-olds for the first time.
Mr Hunt said the new rate was worth an extra £1,800 per year to the UK’s lowest-paid workers.
But while the increase will provide a much-needed boost to public sector personnel at the lower end of wage spines – such as social care staff – the move will increase many councils’ pay bills considerably during continued sector austerity.

[ more...]

22 Nov 2023 - Autumn Statement: Business rates measures to be fully funded

Plans to extend business rates relief will be fully funded for local authorities, the small print of the Autumn Statement has confirmed.
Chancellor Jeremey Hunt extended business rate relief further, following on from moves instigated during the pandemic, when he announced his plans to Parliament today.

[ more...]

22 Nov 2023 - Autumn Statement: Hunt announces surprise LGPS plan

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced a surprise target to ensure all Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) funds are invested in asset pools of £200bn or more by 2040.
The ambitious target goes well beyond ongoing reforms to LGPS guidance on pooling first revealed in the chancellor’s Mansion House speech earlier this year – which requires that all LGPS asset pools reach a minimum of £50bn by 2025.

[ more...]

21 Nov 2023 - Pressure grows on Hunt to cut income tax

Pressure is mounting on the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to cut taxes in tomorrow’s Autumn Statement. It comes as figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation show almost 4 million workers are to pay income tax by the middle of the decade.

[ more...]

21 Nov 2023 - Gove hints at autumn statement gifts

Levelling up secretary Michael Gove hinted Christmas may come early for councils when chancellor Jeremy Hunt unveils his autumn statement this week.

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21 Nov 2023 - Britain faces 'highest tax raising parliament in history', CCN told

Britain currently has the ‘highest tax raising parliament in history’, a leading economist has pointed out.
Despite huge levels of taxation, and increased investment in public services, there is still not enough funding to undo a decade of austerity.

[ more...]

21 Nov 2023 - Mixed economic news for chancellor ahead of autumn statement

The chancellor has received mixed news on the economy the day before the autumn statement, with official figures showing record borrowing last month and higher interest payments offset by better-than-expected tax revenues.
Borrowing in October was £14.9bn pushed up by benefit payments, the second highest October borrowing since monthly records began in 1993 – only beaten by October 2020 during the pandemic.

[ more...]

21 Nov 2023 - Minister backtracks on council tax ‘review’

The government is not conducting a formal review of council tax, the new local government minister has said.
Last November levelling up secretary Michael Gove told the Commons levelling up, housing & communities committee he had asked then local government minister Lee Rowley to look at the council tax system.

[ more...]

21 Nov 2023 - Four-day week trial to continue despite ‘time-consuming’ reporting

South Cambridgeshire DC will continue its four-day working week trial after agreeing to answer up to 80 questions, totalling 186 individual data requests, from the government every week.
At an extraordinary council meeting yesterday, councillors voted to agree to provide the data requested by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) every week for the next six months. This covers staffing, costs, service delivery, performance and resident feedback.

[ more...]

21 Nov 2023 - Gove: Send services need ‘reform’

Current provisions for home to school transport need to be “revisited,” levelling up secretary Michael Gove has said.
Speaking at the County Councils Network conference on Monday, Mr Gove said he understood the pressures facing councils in adult and children’s social care as well as services for children and young people with special education needs and disabilities, and revealed he was looking to "secure more resources".

[ more...]

21 Nov 2023 - Autumn Statement: ignoring local government would be wrong ahead of election

Not giving councils additional funding in the Autumn Statement could lead to numerous authorities issuing Section 114 notices, and could damage the government close to a general election, a senior councillor has told PF.

[ more...]

21 Nov 2023 - Local government settlement to be ‘above inflation’

Councils are likely to receive an above-inflation funding settlement for 2024-25, a senior civil servant has said amid sector-wide concerns over resources.

[ more...]

21 Nov 2023 - Energy price cap

Household energy prices will rise in January putting more financial pressure on billpayers. Energy regulator Ofgem said the typical annual household bill would go up from £1,834 to £1,928, a rise of £94 or 5 per cent.

[ more...]

20 Nov 2023 - 3rd round of Levelling Up Fund allocated

The third round of the Levelling Up Fund has been awarded to unsuccessful bids from round two.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said the aim was to ‘move away from the competitive approach’ of the first two rounds, in response to criticism from the sector, and in line with the department’s approach of simplifying funding.
It also acknowledged ‘the large volume of robustly assessed, high-quality projects that were not able to be funded in the second round’.

[ more...]

20 Nov 2023 - Councils set out Autumn Statement priorities

The Government is facing calls to provide emergency funding for children’s social care in this week’s Autumn Statement.
The Local Government Association (LGA) and 28 other charities and campaigners including the NSPCC and Barnardo’s have made the case in a joint open letter to chancellor, Jeremy Hunt.
The letter warns of a ‘perfect storm’ of financial pressures and increasing demand that have seen social care budgets increase by £1.5bn in the last year alone.

[ more...]

20 Nov 2023 - MPs slam ‘beyond unacceptable’ condition of schools

Thousands of children are learning in potentially unsafe buildings, with MPs ‘extremely concerned’ about the Department for Education’s understanding of the risks, a new report says.
In its report, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) found that 700,000 children are learning in schools that need major rebuilding or refurbishment.

[ more...]

20 Nov 2023 - SCT Council hit by improvement notices

Oldham MBC and Oxfordshire CC have received improvement notices for their services for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
They follow inspections by the Care Quality Commission and Ofsted that uncovered ‘widespread failings’ at Oldham in August and a sense of ‘helplessness’ among families at Oxfordshire in September.

[ more...]

20 Nov 2023 - Councils ‘pushed to the brink’ by children’s social care pressures

A ‘perfect storm’ of financial pressures and rising numbers of children needing support are putting more local authorities at risk of bankruptcy, council leaders have warned.
Ahead of the Autumn Statement on Wednesday, the Local Government Association (LGA) has joined with charities and other organisations in calling on the Chancellor to provide the funding children’s social care ‘desperately needs…before it is pushed to the brink’.

[ more...]

20 Nov 2023 - Third investment zone announced

The government launched the UK’s third investment zone in West Yorkshire today, to potentially "unlock" up to £220m of private investment.
The hope is that this opportunity for stamp duty, business rates and national insurance contributions relief would enable the region to create more than 2,500 new jobs over the next five years.
This zone, the third to be announced out of twelve, will be focused on Huddersfield, Bradford and Leeds as hosts of universities and life sciences businesses.

[ more...]

20 Nov 2023 - Roger Gough: We need to debate means testing home-to-school transport

Dire overspends mean controversial measures have to be considered, writes the children’s services spokesperson for the County Councils Network and leader of Kent CC.

[ more...]

20 Nov 2023 - Autumn Statement: Don’t expect much long-term thinking

Eyes will be on chancellor Jeremy Hunt and the Treasury this week as the Autumn Statement is due to take place on Wednesday, chief reporter Caitlin Webb looks at what could be in store for local government.
While the appearance of the chancellor at the dispatch box comes as no surprise, the funding allocations are not as predictable.
This year is no different and council leaders are even holding back on signing off devolution deals in anticipation of the statement

[ more...]

19 Nov 2023 - Roads unsafe for cyclists, warns Lancashire rider's widow

Cycling campaigners have called on the Government to go further than its £8.3 billion increase in funding for local road repairs in light of recent accidents. Cllr Darren Rodwell, transport spokesperson for the LGA said that the funding was important but "it's not the £14 billion it is estimated we need" to bring local roads up to scratch.

[ more...]

19 Nov 2023 - Homes close to new pylons to get £1,000 off bills

Reports suggested that households living close to new pylons and electricity substations could receive up to £1,000 a year off energy bills for a decade under new plans to be announced at the Autumn Statement. The plans will also include changes to the planning system to speed up the building of new pylons.

[ more...]

19 Nov 2023 - Government considers cuts to National Insurance in Autumn Statement

The Government is considering cutting either National Insurance or income tax in the Autumn Statement, it has been reported. The move is due to improved public finances and better than expected inflation forecasts.

[ more...]

19 Nov 2023 - Government leasehold reforms could increase property prices by 10 per cent

Proposed government reforms to leaseholds could increase the value of homes with short leases by 9.9 per cent on average, according to analysis published by property consultancy Knight Frank and Bayes Business School. Reforms set out in the King’s Speech on November 7 would give leaseholders the right to extend the lease to 990 years.

[ more...]

18 Nov 2023 - Nursery places shortage

Nursery and childminder places are becoming harder to find for parents because of the plan to expand government-funded childcare hours for working parents in England over the next two years, analysis by the BBC has suggested. Estimates show that demand is likely to rise by about 15 per cent - equivalent to more than 100,000 additional children in full-time care. The LGA has warned that provision was already challenging particularly in more deprived and rural areas. Cllr Louise Gittins, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People’s Board said: “We can't control new providers coming into areas that already have sufficient provision. And then other areas not having enough provision will create a system of inequality - and parents will be disappointed."

[ more...]

18 Nov 2023 - Council tax rise

There have been warnings that a number of councils will raise council tax to the 5 per cent limit when they set their budgets at the beginning of next year. Cllr Pete Marland, Chair of the LGA’s Resources Board said: “Severe funding and demand pressures mean that council finances are under pressure like never before. Some councils have warned of being unable to meet their legal duty to set a balanced budget and are close to issuing Section 114 notices.”

[ more...]

18 Nov 2023 - North Northamptonshire Council wants long-term money from government

North Northamptonshire Council has warned of a £17 million funding gap due to a rise in demand for services and historic reductions to local budgets. Analysis by the LGA has shown there to be a £4 billion funding gap facing councils over the next two years unless this is address as part of the Government’s Autumn Statement.

[ more...]

18 Nov 2023 - Special needs transport costs

A report by the County Councils Network has found that councils are spending nearly double on special needs transport compared to five years ago. Their report found that councils are spending more than £700 million a year on school transport for 85,000 children with special education needs and disabilities compared with less than £400 million five years ago.

[ more...]

17 Nov 2023 - Government ‘hinting’ at new devo level in Autumn Statement

Norfolk CC is waiting for the government to confirm what new devolution arrangements may be available before the county makes any decision about proceeding with the current deal it has on the table.
At a meeting this morning council leader Kay Mason Billig (Con) told members that the government has been “hinting about all sorts of things” ahead of the Autumn Statement, which may affect Norfolk’s options.

[ more...]

17 Nov 2023 - Unaccompanied asylum seekers numbers rise 29% in a year

The Department for Education has published statistics showing the number of unaccompanied child asylum seekers has risen by 29 percent from this time last year. An LGA spokesperson said the figures show “how vital it is that next week's Autumn Statement ensures that children's services are adequately funded so councils can meet this rising demand and ensure children and their families get the support they need, as soon as they need it".

[ more...]

17 Nov 2023 - Derbyshire denies facing ‘bankruptcy situation’

Derbyshire County Council said ‘serious challenges’ lie ahead despite its progress in tackling its financial shortfall.
A report released in September had forecast £46.4m overspend for the current year.
The latest report, due to be considered by the cabinet on 23 November, says the overspend has been reduced to £33m through measures including the use of reserves, freezing all but essential recruitment, reducing overtime and the use of agency staff, and only carrying out health and safety repairs on properties.

[ more...]

17 Nov 2023 - £8bn of HS2 savings to be spent on ending pothole ‘blight’

Transport secretary Mark Harper has confirmed the allocations of an £8.3bn plan to resurface England’s pothole-marked road system, set out in the wake of HS2 cuts.
Under the Network North plan, local highway authorities will receive £150m this financial year, followed by a further £150m for 2024/2025. The remaining funds will be allocated through to 2034.

[ more...]

17 Nov 2023 - Levelling up projects face delay

Inflation and government delay will probably mean many levelling up projects miss their deadlines, the National Audit Office warned.

[ more...]

17 Nov 2023 - New cabinet urged to focus on council finances

New government ministers have been urged to make the council funding crisis a top priority.
Leading experts had warned action is needed to plug the gap in budgets and find funding for the long-term to offset the huge rise in inflation.
The drop in the rate in inflation announced in official figures today should not be seen by Whitehall as a fix in itself, ministers were warned. Councils will still be grappling with costs for projects that have increased with no extra funding to counter it.

[ more...]

16 Nov 2023 - Thousands at risk of poor home care because of low fees

Thousands of people who need support at home face an increased risk of poor care because of low fees paid by the NHS and councils, care companies say.
Only one UK public authority in 20 pays enough to fund the minimum wage and other staff costs, research suggests.
This means some companies struggle to find enough staff to support people with complex needs, while others face going under.

[ more...]

16 Nov 2023 - Nearly 250,000 people awaiting adult social care needs assessment – report

Nearly a quarter of a million people in England were waiting to have their care needs assessed by the end of summer, according to a report which warns of ongoing “significant budgetary challenges” impacting on the social care sector.
Almost a third of directors of adult social care services said they had been asked to make savings collectively totalling £83.7 million for the year to March 2024, research by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) said.
The organisation, which has published the results of its autumn snap survey – sent to every director in the 153 English councils with adult social care responsibilities – said those savings come in addition to the £806 million in savings which directors across England already committed to make in their budgets this year.

[ more...]

16 Nov 2023 - Oflog pushes ahead with early warning system

Senior Oflog officials are pressing ahead with their plans to create an early warning system for councils in trouble despite continuing Local Government Association (LGA) resistance, The MJ understands.
Whitehall sources claimed staff at the new local government watchdog had been ‘reaching out proactively and thoroughly’ to the LGA but suggested Smith Square officers had been initially dismissive of Oflog’s work on the early warning system.

[ more...]

16 Nov 2023 - Social care leaders forced to find millions in extra savings

Council social care leaders are having to find millions of pounds of extra savings this year despite winter pressures approaching, a new survey has revealed.
The findings by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) and the Local Government Association (LGA) show at least a third of English councils face having to find an extra £84m despite the sector already planning care budget cuts of £806m.

[ more...]

16 Nov 2023 - Social care staff doing NHS work ‘unfunded’

Social care staff are undertaking activity that would have previously been done by the NHS on an unfunded basis, report 70% of adult social services directors.
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) has published findings from its autumn survey report today outlining its members' views on financial pressures councils are facing to balance their books and maintain care and support services.

[ more...]

16 Nov 2023 - Patrick Melia: Autumn Statement must address children’s social care crisis

A council’s technical financial sustainability is very different to the true sustainability of the place it serves, writes the local government finance spokesperson for the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers and chief executive of Sunderland City Council.

[ more...]

16 Nov 2023 - Warning not to ‘cry wolf’ about council finances

Local Government financial experts have warned against “crying wolf” amid an increase in councils publicly “threatening” to issue section 114 notices.
At the annual summit of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy hosted a talk on councils in financial difficulty issuing 114 notices.
Joanne Pitt, principal advisor for local government at Cipfa, told councils not to expect to be “bailed out” if they threaten a section 114 notice.

[ more...]

16 Nov 2023 - 35% of authorities have now finalised 21/22 accounts but ‘still long way to go’ to fix backlog

New analysis has revealed an increase in the amount of finalised 2021/22 accounts, showing that the audit backlog is being addressed but there is “still a long way to go”.

[ more...]

16 Nov 2023 - Broken markets and missing money: parliamentary committee hears s151 officers’ concerns

A “perfect storm” of service pressures, a “broken” children’s social care market, risky commercial investments, and the need for a “wholescale” long-term financial settlement were all discussed by section 151 officers at the latest evidence session of a parliamentary inquiry into financial distress in local authorities.
The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee inquiry session was held earlier this week at Portcullis House.

[ more...]

16 Nov 2023 - Highways maintenance funding allocations published

Allocations of the local highways maintenance funding by authority for the financial years from 2020 to 2034.

[ more...]

16 Nov 2023 - Councils call for adult social care funding in Autumn Statement

The LGA and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) have called for further funding and support for adult social care in the Autumn Statement. The ADASS Autumn Survey found that nearly a quarter of a million people in England were waiting to have their care needs assessed by the end of summer. Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board called for “immediate investment” in the autumn statement “to address unmet and under-met need and ensure timely access to social care for all who need it”.

[ more...]

16 Nov 2023 - Care homes fees risk poor care

Thousands of people who need support at home face an increased risk of poor care because of low fees, care companies say. The financial pressure councils and trusts are under means they are paying companies less than the work actually costs, according to the Homecare Association which represents UK home care providers.

[ more...]

15 Nov 2023 - Inflation falls to 4.6%

New data shows a sharp fall in UK inflation in the year to October, down to 4.6% It's the lowest rate since November 2021 - the fall is mainly down to lower energy prices.

[ more...]

15 Nov 2023 - PM says cash-strapped council is ‘no longer fit for purpose’

Prime minister Rishi Sunak said Kirklees MBC is "no longer fit for purpose" during prime minister's question time today.
His assessment came after his Conservative colleague and Dewsbury MP Mark Eastwood shared his concerns that the council is "destroying the high street" and "punishing hard-working families".
Yesterday the council announced that its financial position had improved since the summer but it still faces a £16.1m in-year overspend.

[ more...]

14 Nov 2023 - More than a million empty homes

More than a million homes across England are empty long term, equivalent to over one per cent of all the nation’s properties, a new report from the LGA and the Empty Homes Network published ahead of the Autumn Statement has found. The figure from last year is an increase of nearly 60,000 on four years earlier in 2018 and comes despite the introduction of an empty homes premium in 2013, aimed at encouraging owners to bring such properties back into use. There are more than a million people on council housing waiting lists and 104,000 households living in temporary accommodation. Councils warn that the closure of Afghan bridging hotels and wider asylum and resettlement pressures are driving increases in homelessness. LGA housing spokesperson Cllr Darren Rodwell said: “At a time when we face a chronic housing shortage across the country it is wrong for so many homes to be left empty.”

[ more...]

14 Nov 2023 - Cabinet reshuffle

Rishi Sunak has reshaped his government ahead of next week's Autumn Statement, with Suella Braverman replaced by James Cleverly as Home Secretary and former prime minister David Cameron unexpectedly being appointed as Foreign Secretary. Steve Barclay has replaced Therese Coffey as Environment Secretary, with Treasury minister Victoria Atkins promoted to replace him as Health and Social Care Secretary.

[ more...]

14 Nov 2023 - Pay rises outstrip inflation by most for two years

Pay growth has outstripped inflation by the most for two years, in a further sign that the pressure on living costs may be starting to ease. Official figures show regular pay rose at an annual rate of 7.7 per cent between July and September, which was higher than average inflation over the same three months, but the number of job vacancies fell for the 16th month in row.

[ more...]

14 Nov 2023 - Ministers urged to expand cost of living support

Ministers have come under further pressure to expand the financial support for Britons struggling with the cost of living crisis, after a committee of MPs found some had “slipped through the safety net”. The cross-party Work and Pensions Committee said that support payments designed to help people cope with soaring household bills had proved insufficient to meet the scale of the problem and offered only a “short-term reprieve” for many.

[ more...]

14 Nov 2023 - Former councillor named as new local government minister

Simon Hoare has been appointed local government minister at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities as part of the prime minister’s reshuffle.
Mr Hoare is a former councillor and has previously held roles with the Local Government Association. He replaces Lee Rowley who Rishi Sunak made housing minister after sacking Rachel Maclean from the role yesterday.

[ more...]

14 Nov 2023 - Wales consults on council tax reform

The Welsh Government has launched a consultation on redesigning the country's council tax system.
It said it is looking to address the current ‘unfair’ system, which sees people in the lowest council tax bands paying more in relation to the value of their homes than those living in more expensive properties.
The Valuation Office Agency is also preparing to carry out the first revaluation of Wales' homes for 20 years.

[ more...]

14 Nov 2023 - Financial director job ‘not as desirable as it once was’

Becoming a council financial director is “not as desirable as it once was”, a senior audit expert told MPs yesterday.
Giving evidence to the Common's levelling up, housing and communities inquiry into financial distress in local government yesterday, Paul Dossett from Grant Thornton warned of a “gap” in generations moving into senior management.
Mr Dossett, head of public sector assurance for London & south-east at Grant Thornton, shared his concerns that council accountants are not “aspiring” to build their way up the ranks.

[ more...]

13 Nov 2023 - Sunak reshuffling cabinet

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is reshuffling his cabinet, with Suella Braverman sacked as home secretary, James Cleverly replacing her and former prime minister David Cameron going into the Foreign Office in an unexpected return to government.

[ more...]

13 Nov 2023 - Homeless tents destroyed during Met Police operation

Homeless people's tents in central London have been destroyed during a Met Police operation.
Refuse workers threw the tents into the back of their lorry on Huntley Street, Camden, at about 15:00 GMT on Friday.
Elodie Berland, who volunteers with outreach organisation Streets Kitchen, recorded the scene after being called there by some of the homeless men.

[ more...]

13 Nov 2023 - Welfare reductions worth billions reportedly planned by ministers

It is reported that ministers have drawn up large benefit changes for people who are unable to work due to health conditions. The changes, affecting hundreds of thousands of people from 2025, would save £4 billion from the welfare budget.

[ more...]

13 Nov 2023 - Charities ‘near insolvency’ after subsidising public sector contracts

Voluntary sector leaders have warned charities are on the brink of insolvency after subsidising heavily underfunded local authority and NHS contracts. Donations, will legacies and charity shop profits are being used to support thousands of state-funded services in danger of closure, including care homes, homeless shelters, addiction projects and physical rehabilitation support schemes.

[ more...]

13 Nov 2023 - Woking set to take out almost £80m extra in PWLB loans

Woking BC can now access nearly £80m in Public Works Loan Board borrowing to “minimise the overall impact on the public purse”, new documents have revealed.
A report, published ahead of the council’s executive meeting on Thursday, revealed that further borrowing has been approved by the government to keep the development firm solvent and to complete construction works in a suburb.

[ more...]

13 Nov 2023 - Housing minister sacked

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has asked Rachel Maclean to step down as housing minister as part of his cabinet reshuffle.
Ms Maclean posted a statement on X formerly known as Twitter confirming her departure.
It read: "I’ve been asked to step down from my role as housing minister. Disappointed and was looking forward to introducing the Renters Reform Bill to committee tomorrow and later the Leasehold and Freehold Bill. It has been a privilege to hold the position and I wish my successor well."

[ more...]

13 Nov 2023 - Places must adapt for ageing population, says Whitty

Places and infrastructure must be adapted to support an ageing population, particularly in rural areas, according to England's chief medical officer.
In his annual report, Professor Chris Whitty focussed on how to maximise the independence of older people and minimise their time in ill health.
The report argues that efforts should focus on ‘more rural, coastal and other peripheral areas’, which have larger elderly populations and ‘relatively sparse services’.

[ more...]

13 Nov 2023 - South Cambridgeshire to save £750k from four-day week trial

A council criticised by the Government for failing to demonstrate Best Value has announced projected savings of more than £750,000 from its four-day week trial.
South Cambridgeshire DC became the first UK council to trial a four-day working week in January but the Government has called on local authorities to stop any trials.

[ more...]

13 Nov 2023 - New housing minister named

Lee Rowley has been appointed as the new housing minister as part of prime minster Rishi Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle.
He replaces Rachel Maclean who was sacked by Mr Sunak earlier today.
Mr Rowley has been local government minister since last November and was briefly housing minister last autumn.

[ more...]

11 Nov 2023 - Councils call for 20% uplift for Healthy Start to meet food inflation

Healthy Start payments need to increase by 20 per cent to compensate for increases in the cost of food, councils have said. The LGA said the scheme, which helps pregnant women or families with children under the age of four with the cost of food and milk, does not currently cover the price of any available first infant formula. It is asking for the Government to use the upcoming Autumn Statement to increase Healthy Start payments in line with current inflation and commit to reviewing the value of the scheme every six months. Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Healthy Start is a vitally important programme which has helped families get access to healthy and affordable food since it was established nearly 20 years ago. However, the scheme has not kept pace with rising food inflation and does not fully meet the value of essential items such as baby formula.”

[ more...]

11 Nov 2023 - Hunt could extend tax relief for businesses and boost planning

Jeremy Hunt could extend an investment tax relief for companies and announce planning reforms to boost growth in lieu of any new tax cuts for businesses in the Autumn Statement. It is reported the Chancellor will make announcements on infrastructure and planning, as part of a package of measures to help businesses and drive economic growth.

[ more...]

11 Nov 2023 - Sunak set to hit UK inflation target of 5%

Inflation is poised for a “seismic drop” to its lowest level in two years, figures are expected to show next week, which will result in Rishi Sunak hitting his target to halve the rate by the end of the year. The rate of price growth in the UK is expected to have fallen to 4.8 per cent in the year to October from 6.7 per cent in September, which would be the largest decline since 1992.

[ more...]

11 Nov 2023 - PM under pressure from ministers to raise housing benefit

Rishi Sunak is reportedly under pressure from ministers to increase housing benefit amid record numbers of people in temporary housing. Housing Secretary Michael Gove and Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride are said to have written to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor calling for an increase in Local Housing Allowance rates, with a final announcement likely in the Autumn Statement later this month.

[ more...]

10 Nov 2023 - Social care shake-up budget stripped of £1bn and hit by delays, says watchdog

Plans to reform social care have lost more than £1billion and been hit by delays, according to a watchdog. Publishing its latest report, the National Audit Office said the Government’s “ambitious” blueprint faces “significant risks” and that more than a billion pounds of the £1.7 billion committed to reforming the adult social care system in December 2021 has been diverted to other care priorities. It also said the Government has delayed its plans to cap lifetime care costs that a person pays and scaled back plans for reforming the system, despite progress in some areas. LGA Community Wellbeing Board Chairman Cllr David Fothergill said: “Adult social care remains in a precarious position, with overstretched budgets, significant unmet and under met need, and remaining instability within the provider market.”

[ more...]

10 Nov 2023 - UK economy stagnates between July and September

The UK's economy failed to grow between July to September compared to the previous three months, official figures show. Many economists had expected the UK to shrink over the period by around 0.1 per cent, but a stronger September meant the economy showed zero growth, according to the Office for National Statistics.

[ more...]

10 Nov 2023 - Whitty says UK faces rural and coastal ageing crisis

The UK faces an ageing crisis and healthcare must step in, England's Chief Medical Officer, Prof Sir Chris Whitty, warns in his annual report. People are living longer but some spend many of their later years in bad health, which he said has to change and that based on projections, the elderly boom will be in rural, largely coastal, areas which are often poorly served when it comes to provision.

[ more...]

10 Nov 2023 - Land value tax could redistribute billions

A plan to reform business rates could lead to billions of pounds being redistributed from high land value areas to other parts of the country.
The report by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) think-tank called for the land value amassed in places like London to be exploited.

[ more...]

10 Nov 2023 - Government behind on scaled-back care reforms

The Government is behind even on its revised plans to overhaul adult social care, a National Audit Office (NAO) report has found.
Two years into its ten-year plan to reform the sector, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) has not established a long-term funded plan or an overarching programme to coordinate reforms, making it difficult to know if it is on track to achieve its objectives, the NAO said.

[ more...]

09 Nov 2023 - Birmingham outlines ‘precarious financial’ position with £177m funding gap

An unaddressed “structural” budget deficit and a lack of usable reserves mean Birmingham City Council must make £200m of cuts in the next two years, casting doubt over its ability to set a lawful budget.

[ more...]

09 Nov 2023 - ‘Broken’ and ‘dodgy’ markets to blame for financial pressure

A “broken” market where private providers make “inexorable” profits is causing financial distress for local government, sector figures told MPs yesterday.
MPs on the Commons’ levelling up, housing and communities committee were told how increasing costs and pressures to meet statutory duties in children’s services, adult social care and housing are to blame for authorities being on the brink of filing section 114 notices.

[ more...]

09 Nov 2023 - System for struggling councils is not fit for purpose

The current system of support for struggling local authorities does not address issues early enough, local government leaders told MPs yesterday.
Representatives from the local government bodies gave evidence to the Commons' levelling up, housing and communities inquiry into financial distress in local government.
Vice chair of Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities (Sigoma), Graham Chapman (Lab) shared his experience as a whistleblower for Nottingham City Council-owned energy company Robin Hood.

[ more...]

09 Nov 2023 - Somerset declares ‘financial emergency’

Somerset Council has declared it is facing a ‘financial emergency’ and agreed that ‘urgent actions’ are required to tackle a £100m shortfall.
The unitary authority, which came into being in April, said the funding gap for 2024-25 is due in large part to an expected £70m increase in the cost of adult social care next year.

[ more...]

08 Nov 2023 - Clearing local audit backlog a ‘five-year task’

Signing off the mounting backlog of historical local authority audits could take up to five years as capacity issues restrict progress, an expert has told Public Finance .

[ more...]

08 Nov 2023 - Concerns over costs raised by election-focused King’s Speech

Fresh concerns over funding pressures have been raised following the announcement of new government legislation.
The traditional King’s Speech contained measures that will create extra costs for the public sector.
But there was also criticism from local government and legal sector leaders that problems impacting on local communities have not been addressed.

[ more...]

08 Nov 2023 - Our public services are crumbling

Last year's Performance Tracker painted a picture of a sector in crisis, and this year's is no different. Public services that have for years been creaking, are now crumbling. The public is experiencing first-hand the consequences of successive governments’ short-term policy making.
The report demonstrates that the sector has not been able to recover since the pandemic. In fact, eight out of the nine public services featured performed worse in 2023 than on the eve of the pandemic.

[ more...]

08 Nov 2023 - Causes of section 114 warnings now systemic, parliamentary committee told

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee has heard how the issuing of section 114 notices in local government has moved from being ‘idiosyncratic’ to being ‘systemic’.
Two evidence sessions held today (8 November) and attended by Room151 featured representatives from local government discussing the topic of financial distress at local authorities.

[ more...]

07 Nov 2023 - Emergency Housing Payment Rejections Have Soared After Government Slashed Funding

The success rate of applicants for emergency housing payments has declined significantly in some parts of England after the Government reduced funding available for the scheme over the last two years. Cllr Pete Marland, Chair of the LGA’s Resources Board said: “Councils are seeing a rise in requests for financial support and advice from households who are struggling to meet their essential living costs, Government permits councils to top-up their Discretionary Housing Payment funding from elsewhere in their budgets, which has enabled some to offer additional support. But given the deepening financial difficulties faced by local government many councils are finding this increasingly hard to do.

[ more...]

07 Nov 2023 - Plan for 40% of train services to run during strikes

Around 40 per cent of rail services will run during strikes under planned minimum service rules for train operators in Great Britain, the Government has said. It will also specify minimum service levels for ambulance workers in England and border security staff in England, Wales and Scotland.

[ more...]

07 Nov 2023 - David Holloway: Send capital allocations are unfairly skewed towards schools

There should be greater accountability over how councils allocate funding to stop further education colleges missing out, writes the senior policy manager, Send, for the Association of Colleges.

[ more...]

07 Nov 2023 - King’s speech: Gove moots votes on appointing council staff with six figure salaries

Local authorities could have to vote on whether to appoint staff on salaries of more than £100,000, in a bid to save taxpayers money, according to The Sun.
Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove has reportedly written to cabinet ministers to seek approval to pass new laws which would enable elected councillors to have the final say on all salaries over £100,000, the plans could feature in the King’s Speech later today.

[ more...]

07 Nov 2023 - County to hire a full-time chief after three-year job share

West Sussex CC is looking for a its own full-time chief after three years of sharing with a neighbouring county.
Following Nathan Elvery's departure from the crisis-stricken council a local leadership partnership was set up with East Sussex CC's chief Becky Shaw overseeing both councils since January 2020.
Ms Shaw has been East Sussex chief since 2010 when she was promoted from its director of policy and communications role.

[ more...]

07 Nov 2023 - ‘Nothing for local government’ in King’s Speech

Councils have expressed disappointment that the King’s Speech offered no commitment to improving local government finances or furthering devolution.

[ more...]

07 Nov 2023 - King’s speech: Requirement for councils to map road networks

A new requirement for local authorities to digitally map their road networks has been outlined in the King's speech today.
This is part of a proposed Automated Vehicles Bill, that the government hopes will "unlock a transport revolution by enabling the safe deployment of self-driving vehicle".
Local highway authorities in England will be required to upload any traffic regulation orders to a central publication platform to create a digital map of the road network.

[ more...]

07 Nov 2023 - King’s speech: £140m funding for stop smoking services

The government announced a funding package for local stop smoking services would double to £140m in today’s King’s speech.
The Tobacco and Vapes Bill set out the government's plans to restrict the sale of tobacco so that children currently aged 14 or under will not be able to legally buy cigarettes.
The funding will start from April next year and is set to support a total of around 360,000 people a year to set a quit date.

[ more...]

06 Nov 2023 - DLUHC to be hit by real term budget cuts, think-tank warns

The levelling up department is to be hit by real term budget cuts over the next five years despite buoyant tax revenues, a pre-Autumn Statement report from the Resolution Foundation think-tank has warned.
Higher tax revenues due to pay rises gives chancellor Jeremy Hunt fiscal headroom of £13bn but the foundation warned the Government’s current plans have not been changed to reflect recently-agreed public sector pay settlements, which would cost a further £13bn.
Public service spending plans were agreed in cash terms before the recent inflation surge.
Per person spending on unprotected departments, such as the Home Office, transport, justice and levelling up, housing and communities is now due to fall in real terms by 16% or £20bn a year between 2022-23 and 2027-28.

[ more...]

06 Nov 2023 - Just 1% of English councils published audited accounts by deadline

Ninety-nine per cent of councils in England did not have their 2022/23 financial accounts signed off by the deadline this year. Over 900 sets of accounts for councils and other public bodies going back to 2017 remain unaudited.

[ more...]

06 Nov 2023 - What’s in the King’s Speech?

The King’s Speech tomorrow will be the first in 70 years and the last before the next General Election. The Government is expected to announce about 20 bills, with new laws on smoking, football and “zombie knives”.

[ more...]

06 Nov 2023 - £15bn windfall for the Treasury raises prospect of tax cuts

The Chancellor is facing renewed calls from Conservative colleagues to cut taxes after figures showed a multi-billion-pound improvement in the public finances since March’s budget.

[ more...]

06 Nov 2023 - Just 1% of English councils published audited accounts by deadline

The early warning system designed to identify English councils in serious financial difficulty is in crisis, with hundreds of local authorities failing to meet the legal deadline to publish audited accounts covering £100bn of public spending.
The vast majority – 99% – of English councils did not have their 2022-23 financial accounts signed off by the deadline this year, which experts say is increasing the risk of financial irregularities and risky behaviours going undetected..
More than 900 sets of accounts for councils and other public bodies going back to 2017 remain unaudited. Ministers are considering an amnesty whereby incomplete past audits would be cancelled to clear the backlog.

[ more...]

06 Nov 2023 - Chancellor warned of ‘urgent need’ to deal with audit backlog

Clearing the audit backlog is "fundamental" to the health of local government finances , a leading accountancy body has told the chancellor.
Ahead of the Autumn Statement, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has highlighted the "urgent need" to address the growing crisis in local authority audits, with 918 opinions outstanding.
Publishing up-to-date financial inspections would strengthen governance in local authorities and mitigate weaknesses that have led to the failure of certain local authorities and potential failures of others, according to ICAEW.

[ more...]

06 Nov 2023 - Charlotte Alldritt: Give councils 2% of income tax to rebuild from bottom up

Allowing places to retain a proportion of the local income tax base would let them plan and deliver more strategically over the long term, writes the chief executive of the Centre for Progressive Policy.

[ more...]

05 Nov 2023 - Labour to reverse some education reforms

Labour is planning set out plans to give councils powers to close down undersubscribed academy schools. It comes as the number of children attending state nurseries and primary schools is projected to fall by more than 400,000 in 2028.

[ more...]

04 Nov 2023 - Hunt to set out spending plans

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to use the Autumn Statement to announce that public spending will not increase by more than 1 per cent a year for much of the next decade. It means that unprotected departments face real terms spending cuts in the coming years.

[ more...]

04 Nov 2023 - New law set to phase out smoking

Only 13 per cent of people aged 16 to 24 smoke cigarettes, compared to 34 per cent of the age group in the 1990s. It is reported that next week's Kings Speech will set out legislation to bring this rate down to zero. It also expected to include legislation around leasehold reform, criminal justice and motorist measures.

[ more...]

04 Nov 2023 - South Cambs leader hits out at government ‘overreach’

The leader of South Cambridgeshire DC has accused the government of “overreach” in intervening in the council over its trial of a four-day working week.
The council was issued with a best value notice earlier today, warning that if the trial continues the council would be required to submit weekly data to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities to prove it was still meeting its best value duties.

[ more...]

04 Nov 2023 - South Cambridgeshire best value notice ‘puts a lid on innovation’

Senior figures in local government have hit out at the government's decision to issue a best value notice to South Cambridgeshire DC, with one saying today's letter amounts to “using legislation against its original purpose”.
Earlier today the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities issued the formal warning to South Cambridgeshire and said that if the council continues with the four-day week trial, it will be subject to extra monitoring.

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03 Nov 2023 - Parish precepts increase by £52m

Parish councils in England increased the amount they raised through council tax precepts by £52.6m in 2023-24.
According to analysis by the National Association of Local Councils, a total of £706m was raised by town and parish councils, which receive payments from their billing authority twice a year in April and September.
Overall this is an 8% increase in income for the lowest-tier local authorities.

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03 Nov 2023 - DLUHC issues best value notice over four-day week

South Cambridgeshire DC has today been issued a best value notice over “its trial of a four-day working week” by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLHUC).
A best value notice is a formal warning about concerns. DLUHC told South Cambridgeshire that if it continues with the trial it will have be subject to extra monitoring.
The district began an initial three-month trial in January, after only being able to fill around eight out of every ten of its vacancies. The trial was subsequently extended until the end of March 2024, with independent analysis finding that the initial pilot had been a success.

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03 Nov 2023 - Interest rates frozen

The Bank of England have frozen interest rates at 5.25 per cent for the second time in a row. The Bank of England warned that interest rates would have to remain high for “some time” to bring down inflation with a risk of the UK entering a recession.

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03 Nov 2023 - £100 million to fund childcare places

The Department for Education has announced £100 million in extra funding to ensure that childcare is accessible for families of primary school age children between 8am and 6pm and therefore able to cope with an expected surge in demand.

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03 Nov 2023 - DCN writes to Hunt over temporary accommodation pressures

Following a summit attended by 158 councils, the District Councils’ Network (DCN) has warned chancellor Jeremy Hunt about ‘unprecedented’ numbers of people turning to councils in the face of homelessness.

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03 Nov 2023 - Call for Government write off of Croydon debt

The Government should write off Croydon LBC’s £1.3bn of General Fund debt, a senior opposition councillor has urged.
Chair of the council’s scrutiny and overview committee, Rowenna Davis, said that if this was ‘unpalatable’ to Government it should ‘bundle up’ the council’s debt, allowing Croydon to pay it back with a low interest rate over ‘many years’.
She said: ‘The people paying for these mistakes are the Croydon taxpayers who haven’t done anything wrong.’

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03 Nov 2023 - Unions agree employers pay offer

Trade unions representing the local government workforce have accepted the 2023 pay offer, seven months after it was made.
Two of the three unions, Unison and GMB, have agreed to the pay deal, while Unite is continuing to take industrial action in some councils.
The pay rise is £1,925 for all staff. This ranges from a 9.42% pay rise for the lowest paid who currently earn £20,411 to 3.88% for those at the top of the pay spine.

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03 Nov 2023 - Children's services 'absolute carnage'

The state of children’s services has been described as ‘absolute carnage’ after years of underfunding.
Children’s services are understood to have been discussed at a recent meeting of the R9 group of council chief executives with senior officials at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, with direct Government funding and caps on pricing believed to have been floated as measures to help deal with the crisis.
Cuts in welfare benefits have led to increasing poverty and more children being referred to councils for care while the largest independent providers of children’s social care bring in profits of more than £300m per year.

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03 Nov 2023 - Oflog performance data demands criticised for ‘lack of depth’

Local government’s new watchdog has revealed the performance data it will be requesting, prompting fresh concerns over how it can help a sector in crisis.
Proposals to expand the scope of the Office for Local Government will help give a “sense of how a local authority operates”, its chief executive said amid sector-wide concerns over the role of the watchdog.
Oflog’s now-confirmed chief executive, Josh Goodman, wrote to councils proposing new draft metrics covering a range of service areas including planning, highways, economic growth, finance and fly-tipping.
He said officials will be using existing datasets because it doesn’t want to “create unnecessary new burdens” for authorities.

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03 Nov 2023 - Tony Travers: Ministers can’t question local government’s competence after covid inquiry revelations

The government was dysfunctional at a time of national crisis, writes the director of LSE London.
Next time there is criticism of local government’s management, competence or capacity to deliver, it might be worth observing revelations from the Covid 19 Inquiry. Or, for that matter, the government’s management of HS2.

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03 Nov 2023 - Somerset Council could sell investment portfolio amid section 114 warning

Somerset Council is set to dispose of its £220m commercial investment portfolio amid a £100m budget gap for the next financial year and a section 114 notice warning.

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02 Nov 2023 - Interest rates predicted to be held again

Interest rates are expected to be left unchanged as the Bank of England looks to balance the impact of higher rates on the UK economy.
Sluggish economic growth and signs that the country's job market is slowing down have led to predictions that rates will be held at 5.25%.
Rates had been hiked previously in a bid to slow the pace of price rises and are at the highest level for 15 years.

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01 Nov 2023 - Short-termism leaves public services in ‘doom loop’

Most public services will remain worse in four years’ time than they were just before Covid-19 – and most of them were already worse than they were in 2010 – CIPFA and the Institute for Government’s annual stocktake has found.

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01 Nov 2023 - Lansley: ‘significant under-funding’ of public health budgets hindering progress

Cuts to public health budgets following responsibility being transferred to local government restricted the expected benefits, the architect of the policy has said.

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01 Nov 2023 - ‘Numerous authorities’ at S114 risk due to DSG deficits

Growing costs of supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities are creating huge deficits in school budgets and could force some councils to issue Section 114 notices, a senior officer has said.

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01 Nov 2023 - Warning one in 10 county councils face effective bankruptcy [from SCT Survey]

One in 10 county councils in England is facing effective bankruptcy - putting vital services at risk, local government leaders have warned.
In September Birmingham City Council was forced to slash spending after declaring itself effectively bankrupt. More local authorities fear they could be next, according to a survey by the County Councils Network.
Labour-run Birmingham City Council faces a bill of up to £760m following equal pay claims and a flawed IT system that spiralled over budget, leading to questions about the council's governance. However, local government leaders are warning other, "well-managed" county councils could follow suit.
County councils are forecasting they will overspend their budgets in 2023/24 by £639m this year - an average of £16m per council.

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01 Nov 2023 - Woking chief resigns

The chief executive of Woking BC, which has been under government intervention since May, has announced that she is stepping down from the role.
Julie Fisher, who joined the council in April 2021, will remain with the council until February 2024 when the council will agree its budget for 2024-25.
Before joining Woking Ms Fisher served as senior responsible officer for Thames Valley and Surrey Local Health and Care Record Partnership and change consultant from October 2018 to May 2020.

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01 Nov 2023 - One in 10 biggest English councils risk bankruptcy over child protection bill

“Out of control” increases in child protection spending since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic have put one in 10 of England’s biggest councils at risk of effective bankruptcy in the next few months, a survey has revealed.
Many county councils and unitary authorities are “running out of road” to avoid insolvency as they grapple with high inflation, increases in children being taken into care, and massive bills for children’s homes, the County Councils Network (CCN) said.

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31 Oct 2023 - Councils scale back levelling up ambitions as costs rise

Councils are scaling back projects supported by the Levelling Up Fund in the face of inflation and tight deadlines, it is suggested. Data obtained by the PA news agency shows only around 15 per cent of the money awarded in October 2021 has been spent in the two years since, with £1.4 billion left to spend. Freedom of Information Act responses also show many projects are still in the design phase and yet to submit planning applications. The LGA warned that “crucially important projects” were “at risk” without further support from the Treasury. Cllr Martin Tett, Chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said: “Highly skilled council officers are working to mitigate against these increased costs where it is possible to do so. To help them with this work they should also be provided with additional support in the Autumn Statement to ensure all projects supported by the Levelling Up Fund can be delivered successfully.”

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31 Oct 2023 - Oflog’s permanent chief executive announced as Josh Goodman

Josh Goodman, who has been the interim Chief Executive of Oflog since its launch on 4 July, has been appointed for the permanent position.
This will see him continue to work alongside Oflog’s interim chair, Lord Morse, to provide authoritative, accessible data and analysis about the performance of the local government sector and support its improvement.

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31 Oct 2023 - Meals on wheels ‘heading for UK-wide collapse’

The National Association of Care Catering (NACC) has called for meals on wheels to become a statutory responsibility for councils after it found provision of the services continued to fall.
The association said the services were 'heading for UK-wide collapse' after its 'damning' report revealed that just 29% of UK local authorities run a service like meals on wheels, down from 48% in 2016.

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31 Oct 2023 - AA seeks new pothole cash as councils face cut

Councils ‘desperately need’ more highway maintenance funding to address the deteriorating condition of local roads, the AA has said after its worst September fixing ‘pothole-related’ breakdowns for five years.
The motoring organisation said it attended 47,223 pothole-related breakdowns – for issues such as tyre, wheel, suspension or steering damage – last month, up 10% from September 2021 (42,152).

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31 Oct 2023 - Matt Prosser: ‘It’s not right children’s providers make super profits’

Solace president Matt Prosser on the simple reforms the government can make to ease the pressure on budgets and why councils will need to think hard about service reform

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30 Oct 2023 - Public services in ‘perpetual state of decline since 2010’

Public services are crumbling and risk getting stuck in a perpetual state of crisis, a leading think tank has said.
In its annual report on the state of public services, the Institute for Government (IfG) said they were performing worse than before the pandemic and much worse than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010.
Funding cuts, a lack of capital investment and disruption caused by strikes have all contributed to the decline, the IfG said. Its report claimed that the government’s refusal to negotiate on public sector pay for months had extended the duration of strikes and brought more disruption.

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30 Oct 2023 - Councils in England facing bankruptcy as lack of housing pushes up costs

England’s housing crisis will push many local authorities into bankruptcy as the increasing cost of emergency accommodation for thousands of homeless families threatens to overwhelm council budgets, leaders have warned.
The worst-hit councils are now spending millions of pounds a year – in some cases between a fifth and half of their total available financial resources – to try to cope with an unprecedented and rapid explosion in homelessness caused by rising rents and a shrinking supply of affordable properties.
The scale of the crisis means smaller councils, often in affluent shire counties, are struggling to supply enough emergency homes to meet their legal duty to support homeless families. Homelessness rates in some districts have more than doubled year on year.

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30 Oct 2023 - Great disappointment as vital Meals on Wheels service could be facing collapse

The UK's Meals on Wheels service is ‘heading for collapse' without Government intervention leaving many thousands of lonely, frail or sick pensioners without a crucial service, a damning report has warned.
n 2014, two thirds of local authorities funded a Meals on Wheels service (MoWs) in their area. That is now down to 29% across the country and just 18% in England, according to the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE).
The largest declines are in London (-29%), the East of England (-27%) and the East Midlands (-25%).

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30 Oct 2023 - South Cambridgeshire defiant over four-day week trial

South Cambridgeshire DC will continue with its four-day week trial until there is “good reason to rethink”, despite new government guidance demanding a halt. The non-statutory guidance, which was published on 26 October, also stated that councils that were considering the scheme should not pursue.

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30 Oct 2023 - S114 ‘almost inevitable’ for Leicester

Leicester City Council is ‘rapidly running out of options’ to cut costs and faces financial crisis ahead of its 2025-26 budget, its mayor has warned Michael Gove.
In a letter to the levelling up secretary, Mayor Peter Soulsby said: ‘Whilst we can probably avoid receiving a section 114 report in 2024-25, a 114 report is becoming almost inevitable before we set the 2025-26 budget.’
Mayor Soulsby said Leicester was facing huge cost increases for social care, with services set to cost an extra £50m a year by 2025, and added that the costs of housing homeless people were being exacerbated by government policies on asylum seekers.

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28 Oct 2023 - Biggest private children’s homes in England made £300m profit last year

The biggest private providers of children’s homes in England made profits of more than £300m last year, as concern mounts over the conditions some children are being placed in and the spiralling costs for councils.
Fee income for the 20 largest operators of independent children’s homes totalled £1.63bn last year, a 6.5% increase on the previous year. And 19% of that – £310m – was recorded as profit, according to an independent analysis. Half of the top 20 providers have some private equity or sovereign wealth fund ownership.
Council spending on privately-run children’s homes in England has more than doubled in six years. In 2021-22, spending on independently-run residential care for vulnerable children increased by 11% on the previous year.

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26 Oct 2023 - Shops can’t save UK high streets but a dose of local character could help them thrive again

Cratering consumer confidence and the collapse of major UK retailers like Wilko are causing concern about the future of the UK high street.
Both of the major UK political parties proposed solutions to this challenge at their recent annual conferences. The Conservatives announced a £1.1 billion package to help revitalise high streets and towns that have been “overlooked”, while the Labour conference included a panel discussion on the future of high streets.
This focus should not come as a surprise. High streets have traditionally exemplified the historical, cultural and economic vibrancy of British communities. But today they’re more likely characterised by modest footfall, derelict buildings and boarded-up windows.

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26 Oct 2023 - The UK’s ‘official’ labour data is becoming a nonsense

The UK’s official measure of unemployment stood at 4.2 per cent in the three months between June and August this year. The definition is precise. It means that of the population aged 16 or above who are either working or actively seeking employment and ready to start in the next two weeks, 4.2 per cent did not have a job.
A longstanding problem with this official definition is that it does not accord with most people’s view that you are unemployed if you are of working age and do not have a job. That should make us think about how we regard unemployment. But the more immediate crisis is that the official figure is probably nonsense.

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26 Oct 2023 - Just one in 10 councils publish accounts voters are meant to see with dozens failing to file any audited accounts in the last four years in 'transparency crisis'

Hundreds of councils are failing to publish their accounts – some for years – at a time when many are teetering on the brink of disaster.
An audit found less than one in ten town halls have published fully audited accounts for 2022/23, leading to what campaigners have called a 'transparency crisis'.
Just 31 of around 380 major (non-parish or village) councils released audited accounts for the last financial year – not one in Labour-run Wales.
And 27 have failed to file any audited accounts for the last four years. Town halls have a statutory duty to publish audited accounts annually.

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26 Oct 2023 - Carers recruited from abroad subjected to 'widespread exploitation' in the UK

Widespread exploitation of carers recruited from abroad is the "the number one priority" for the agency that investigates criminality affecting workers in England and Wales.
The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) told Sky News the Health and Care Worker visa system is being abused by criminals, leading to "a constant stream of allegations" of fraud and modern slavery.

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26 Oct 2023 - Levelling up Bill to become law

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is due to become law later today.
Royal Assent is scheduled to take place later today, when the Bill will officially become an Act of Parliament.
It comes after the House of Lords admitted defeat on the thorny issue of enabling remote council meetings.
Baroness McIntosh told the Lords she was ‘baffled and bewildered’ by the Government’s stance.

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26 Oct 2023 - EXCLUSIVE: Nightmare before Christmas?

The provisional local government finance settlement will be published just before Christmas, council chiefs have been told.
Speaking at a recent event with around 30 council chief executives from across England, senior Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) officials admitted the provisional settlement would be late due to delays to the Autumn Statement.
A source said: ‘It’s likely a spreadsheet on the settlement will land with local authorities on Christmas Eve.’

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26 Oct 2023 - Councils’ prudential borrowing falls by almost 4%

Local authorities’ prudential borrowing decreased by £353m in the last financial year, new government data has revealed.
According to data published by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) capital grants were the largest source of financing of capital expenditure in 2022/23.
The figures revealed that the use of capital grants, which are provided by government departments or organisations, increased to £11.5bn in 2022/23, which is up £599m (5.5%) in real terms compared to 2021/22. However, prudential borrowing decreased to £9.6bn, down £353m (3.7%).

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25 Oct 2023 - Rural buses: Councils opt for 'on-demand' services in face of cuts

Councils are increasingly opting to provide "on-demand" bus services to plug some of the gaps left by cuts by commercial operators.
The County Councils Network, which represents rural councils in England, says three in four have rolled them out.
But it warned that many services were making a loss and extra funding was needed to keep them going in future.

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25 Oct 2023 - Levelling up should be led by ‘left behind neighbourhoods’

Levelling up should be led by the most deprived ‘left behind neighbourhoods’ if it is to be a success. A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Left Behind Neighbourhoods claims that successive governments have not recognised the scale of the challenges in these areas and entrust local decision making to tackle these.

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25 Oct 2023 - EXCLUSIVE: Home Office accused of misleading council over asylum plans

The Home Office faces accusations in the High Court it misled a council over controversial plans for an asylum centre at a former military base.
Lawyers for West Lindsey DC have obtained Home Office correspondence showing that civil servants and ministers privately planned a multi-year asylum project at the former RAF Scampton base despite publicly using Class Q powers to circumvent local planning permission, which can only be used for up to a year.

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25 Oct 2023 - Council seeks HS2 compensation over 'levelling down'

Cheshire East Council is pursuing a compensation deal over the Government’s decision to scrap HS2 north of Birmingham.
HS2 would have been ‘the catalyst to reverse Crewe’s fortunes’; instead the town has come out as the ‘biggest loser’ after the line’s second phase was abandoned and the subsequent ‘Network North’ announcement gave no mention of investing in Crewe, council leader Sam Corcoran said.

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25 Oct 2023 - £42m boost for social care innovation

The Government has announced £42.6m to fund local innovation projects that improve the quality and accessibility of adult social care.
The Accelerating Reform Fund includes a previous commitment to provide up to £25m to support unpaid carers, the Department for Health and Social Care said.

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25 Oct 2023 - Demand responsive buses won't fill gap, CCN says

Three in four large rural councils in England are rolling out demand-responsive transport (DRT) bus services but councils have warned that they are not financially sustainable or a substitute for government bus service subsidies.

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25 Oct 2023 - Frustration as funding for deprived communities shifted to small towns

The government intends to direct new funding from dormant accounts towards small towns instead of deprived communities.
A cross-party group of parliamentarians has said it is “dismayed” by the change, which means most deprived neighbourhoods are likely to miss out, and urged the government to change its mind.
In March the government backed the idea of using dormant assets to set up a community wealth fund that would invest at neighbourhood level in deprived areas, but the government now plans to restrict access to small towns in the first instance, prompting a call to revert to the original plan.

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25 Oct 2023 - EXCLUSIVE: Oflog base 'focus' on Wolverhampton

The new local government body responsible for identifying financial problems in councils earlier and strengthening accountability aims to base most of its staff outside London, The MJ understands.
A Whitehall source suggested there would be a ‘particular focus’ on Wolverhampton as the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities' (DLUHC) part of a civil service wide reform programme that will move 22,000 roles out of London before 2031.

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24 Oct 2023 - Councils could be forced to cut back on waste collection and green spaces as funding shortfall reaches £550m

District councils in England have warned that they could be forced to reduce local services, such as waste collection and park maintenance, in the next two years to cope with dwindling funds. The District Councils Network has predicted funding shortfalls of over half a billion pounds in both of the next two financial years.

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24 Oct 2023 - Real Living Wage rise

Hundreds of thousands of UK workers are due to see a 10 per cent pay rise because their employer is signed up to the voluntary Real Living Wage scheme. The rise would be a "lifeline" for low-paid workers, the Living Wage Foundation said

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24 Oct 2023 - 'Victory for common sense' hailed on waste

Councils have claimed a ‘victory for common sense’ after ministers watered down plans to standardise waste and recycling collections.
Ministers have settled on a standardised approach to what can be recycled across the UK, but councils will retain significant flexibility over how they collect waste.

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24 Oct 2023 - Jones warns of s114 impact

The lead commissioner for Thurrock and Slough councils has warned fellow chief executives of the ‘devastating’ impact of issuing a section 114 notice.
Gavin Jones, who is also chief executive of Essex CC, told the Solace Summit in Birmingham: ‘You don’t want it to happen to your organisation.’
He said the consequences of having to issue a s114 was that it would take years to pay off a council’s debt and services would not be able to support people as much as they should.

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24 Oct 2023 - No prospect of sector spending boost after General Election

Council chief executives have been told Whitehall spending is unlikely to change quickly regardless of who wins the next General Election.
Chief executive of financial forecasters Oxford Economics, Adrian Cooper, said the need to bring down public debt would constrain the next Government from making a real difference to how much funding public services received.
He said, even with Labour’s commitments to build more housing, change planning processes and invest more in the green economy, it would still be beyond a full election term before the changes started to be felt.

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24 Oct 2023 - Over £12bn of council pensions invested in fossil fuel

Over £12bn of local government pensions are invested in the fossil fuel industry, environmental campaigners have revealed.
Friends of the Earth and Platform London have warned that investments in oil and gas by the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) are turning ‘public savings into fossil fuel playthings.’

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24 Oct 2023 - Firms want clarity as DfT hands out £150m for buses

Bus operators have expressed frustration over the Government’s pledge to allocate nearly £1bn of redirected HS2 cash for bus improvements in the North and Midlands after ministers allocated just £150m of the promised cash.

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24 Oct 2023 - Districts warn of ‘disastrous’ service cuts

The forecast funding shortfall is equal to 15% of district authorities’ net spending and will require councils to make cuts of around 9% this year, according to research from the DCN.
The analysis, based on survey responses from 48% of district councils, found temporary accommodation, council tax support and financial advisory services are key pressures this year.
The DCN forecast authorities could face a funding shortfall of £610m in 2024-25 (equal to 16% of net spending), mainly fuelled by inflation in pay, contracts and capital projects.
Elizabeth Dennis, DCN’s finance spokesperson, said: “Any further scaling back of district council services would be disastrous.

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23 Oct 2023 - Modern slavery helpline calls surge from care staff

A national helpline for victims of modern slavery is reporting a steep rise in calls from overseas workers who came to the UK to help plug staffing gaps in the care sector.
Many said they had paid huge sums to the people who brought them over after visa rules changed last year.
Unseen UK said more than 700 care staff used its helpline in 2022.

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23 Oct 2023 - Billions in local government pensions invested in fossil fuels - analysis

Billions in local government pensions have been invested in the fossil fuels industry, according to new analysis.
Environmental campaign groups Friends of the Earth and Platform London analysed data gathered through Freedom of Information requests.
The groups said they were able to analyse data covering 75% of the assets under management for the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) – one of the largest schemes in the country – for the financial year 2021/2022.

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23 Oct 2023 - The trouble with Oflog

The host of issues they raise includes the risks of its metrics being used as ‘league tables’, the challenge of gathering enough ‘soft’ intelligence on councils’ performance without seeing it at first-hand, and the temptation for politicians to use Oflog as a political tool ahead of the General Election.
Leigh Whitehouse said:
"It is not controversial to say something needs to be done to address the pressure and tipping point facing local authorities across the UK.
We’re seeing a growing number of councils issuing section 114 notices and some of the triggers for that are things that could and should have been picked up and addressed some time ago.
Could additional external scrutiny have prevented those issues? In some cases, perhaps, but even having spotted the signs, the actions necessary to shift course may not be easy to achieve. It is also self-evident that as the financial tide falls, the shortcomings of organisations, or the impact of poor choices, are more exposed.
It’s certainly a good thing Oflog will be data-led, hopefully maintaining its objectivity and avoiding too much political influence.
The early metrics seem unavoidably partial, but it’s clear these will evolve over time. We must be careful not to be solely guided by hitting narrow metrics targets across these Oflog areas or see them as a sort of ‘league table’. Each place has its own drivers, demographics and determinants, and while neighbour comparators can be useful, they rarely tell the whole story.
From early engagement from Oflog chairman Lord Morse, and its interim chief executive Josh Goodman, I’m confident (in the short term at least) its focus will be very much on supporting the sector rather than undermining it. But how Oflog and its priorities evolve over time is more uncertain.
Whether Oflog is the answer to the current difficulties facing local authorities, or even part of the solution, is unknown – ultimately it’s too early to tell – but it’s clear there are risks and nervousness in the sector, as well as potential opportunities.
We need to work with Oflog and help it focus on the right things, and it’s important engagement takes place between all partners in our areas – not just local councils – to recognise that sector sustainability requires a whole-place, whole-system approach."

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22 Oct 2023 - Calls for strategy on ‘social prescribing’ in England amid youth mental health crisis

Every pound spent on helping young people access activities and support in the community could save nearly twice as much in dealing with longer-term mental health problems, according to new analysis.
The children’s charity Barnardo’s is urging the government to introduce a national strategy for “social prescribing” for young people in England amid a youth mental health crisis that is placing unprecedented demand on child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs).
Social prescribing refers to non-clinical treatments targeted at children who are experiencing mental health problems such as isolation, anxiety, low mood and low self-esteem, and is aimed at preventing these from deteriorating into more serious conditions.

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21 Oct 2023 - Recycling 'postcode lottery' to end under new government plans

The recycling “postcode lottery” will end from 2026 under Government plans to standardise what can be put in household waste bins.
Food waste will have to be collected once a week, and councils will be urged to pick up black bin bags at least every fortnight.
Councils will all have to collect the same glass, metal, plastic, paper and card, food waste and garden waste under Government plans to encourage recycling.

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20 Oct 2023 - Councils warn of financial pressures ‘like never before’ ahead of Autumn Statement

The LGA has warned that councils face a £4 billion budget shortfall over the next two years without increased funding at the Autumn Statement. The LGA said that councils faced an “inflationary storm” and that no council was immune to inflationary pressures as well as rising demand for adult social care. Cllr Pete Marland, Chair of the LGA’s Resources Board said: “Councils remain firmly in the eye of the inflationary storm and severe funding and demand pressures mean that council finances are under pressure like never before. None are immune to the risk of running into financial difficulty and others have already warned of being unable to meet their legal duty to set a balanced budget and are close to also having to issue section 114 notices.”

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20 Oct 2023 - Warning that reductions to home care risks leaving families overwhelmed

The Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) annual report warns that cost of living pressures and NHS backlogs are creating a two-tier health service in England, where people who cannot afford to pay wait longer for care. The CQC say local authority budgets have been unable to keep pace with rising costs and the increase in the number of people needing care. Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board said: “As this important report highlights yet again, social care needs a dedicated workforce plan to address the recruitment and retention crisis, especially as we approach winter, including action on staff pay, conditions, skills, training and development. Immediate investment is needed in the Autumn Statement to end the gridlock, address unmet and under-met need and ensure timely access to social care for all who need it, not just those who are able to afford it.”

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20 Oct 2023 - Increasingly poor road conditions

According to a survey by the RAC, drivers’ concerns at the condition of local roads has reached an eight-year high, with 49 per cent of respondents saying the condition of local roads was their biggest motoring concern. The LGA has been calling for the Government to award local authority highways departments with five-yearly funding allocations to give more certainty and bring councils on a par with National Highways. Cllr Darren Rodwell, transport spokesperson for the LGA, said: “Councils share the frustration of all road users about the conditions of our local roads. The LGA has long called for longer-term funding to tackle the issues facing our roads.”

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20 Oct 2023 - Pension funds at PLSA: ‘levelling up agenda not our job’

In July, chancellor Jeremy Hunt outlined that he was looking to UK pension funds to help boost the economy in his Mansion House speech.
He set out the ambition to double Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) investments in private equity to 10%, claiming that the shift in asset allocation would “unlock” £25bn of investment by 2025.
Talking at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association’s (PLSA’s) annual conference in Manchester, Neil Mason, chair of the PLSA’s local authority committee, highlighted that the LGPS has already been investing in private markets for “very many years” and is supportive of this asset class, but warned that the timing of the reforms could be better for the scheme.

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20 Oct 2023 - Woking commissioners warn of ‘more to come’ as pressures grow

Woking BC's commissioners have described the council’s financial situation as “very difficult” after publishing their first report since intervention began.
Woking’s debt stands at £1.9bn. The council has been under government intervention since May and issued a section 114 notice in June.
The report, which was published today states the council remains in a “serious position” in terms of its outstanding debt, on which it will work closely with the government to find a long-term solution.

[ more...]

20 Oct 2023 - Government blocks remote meetings

A levelling up Bill amendment that would have enabled virtual council meetings has been stripped out by the Government.
The amendment was one of a host agreed by the House of Lords to be removed as the legislation returned to the Commons.
Despite winning cross-party backing, planning minister Rachel Maclean said of councillors: ‘It is important that they are present, active participants in local democracy.’

[ more...]

20 Oct 2023 - Top civil servant warns ‘failures’ mean devolution chances ‘suffer’

Local government is making “headlines for the wrong reasons” which is not helpful for those making the case for further devolution, the permanent secretary of the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Sarah Healey warned.
Speaking at the Solace Summit this afternoon, Ms Healey explained to councils officers how the interventions into local authorities is affecting the enthusiasm of ministers to hand over further powers.

[ more...]

19 Oct 2023 - Government debt will rise to 140% of GDP, think tank forecasts

High levels of national debt will hurt the UK's ability to fund public services and respond to economic crises, a think tank has said.
Not in the last 300 years has there been as large a peace time increase in the amount of government borrowing, the Resolution Foundation said.
In the last 15 years alone there's been a trebling of the ratio of debt to a measure of economic output, called gross domestic product (GDP), the foundation's Built to Last report said.

[ more...]

19 Oct 2023 - Shops and pubs face quadruple tax bill next year

Shops, pubs and restaurants are facing a quadrupling of their tax bills next year, after the latest inflation data suggested business rates would rise by almost £2bn.
Estimates compiled by advisory group Altus showed that retail stores will be struck by a £15,300 business rates bill for an average site from next April.
This is compared to £3,600 for the current year, subject to caps on tax reliefs. For a restaurant, the bill is poised to jump to £21,600 from £5,000, while at pubs, it is expected to hit £16,800, from £3,900.

[ more...]

19 Oct 2023 - s114 a 'last resort,' say finance experts

Section 114 notices should be a very last resort when all else fails, local government finance experts told a Solace Summit session.
Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) director John O’Halloran said the consequences of a s114 notice were losing control of the authority, bringing commissioners in and potential reorganisation.
CIPFA director Joanne Pitt told the session: ‘It’s incredibly tough to make savings but it’s nowhere near as hard as working under a s114.’

[ more...]

19 Oct 2023 - Chiefs split on need for improved assurance but united in Oflog discontent

Senior council officers are split on whether improved assurance measures are needed but broadly agree Oflog will fail to improve performance or warn of failure. A members’ survey by the senior local government officers’ group Solace revealed an even split on the question of whether current assurance arrangements for local government were sufficient.
With the emergence of the Office for Local Government (Oflog) watchdog being hailed by ministers as the solution to council assurance, 45% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that current arrangements were already sufficient while another 45% disagreed or strongly disagreed.
The survey found just 8% of respondents were confident Oflog - in its current form - would ‘act as an effective early warning system for councils at risk of financial failure’. Some 63% were either unconfident or very unconfident.

[ more...]

18 Oct 2023 - Food prices in first monthly fall for two years

Food prices saw their first monthly fall in two years in September, but fuel prices rose sharply, official figures show.
It came as the overall rate of inflation held steady at 6.7%, ending a run of three consecutive monthly falls.
The price of milk, cheese and eggs all decreased, easing the pressure at supermarket tills, the Office for National Statistics said.

[ more...]

18 Oct 2023 - September CPI is 6.3%

The ONS has published the September 2023 CPI figure - which is a key determining factor in much of the LG Finance Settlement.

[ more...]

18 Oct 2023 - Government must soon make visa and funding decisions for Ukrainians in UK – NAO

Ukrainians who fled to the UK from war must be given certainty over their futures including around visa extensions and in the face of rising costs and the risk of homelessness, a report has said.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said the generosity of the public in opening their homes to Ukrainian refugees had allowed the Government to work quickly to help tens of thousands come to safety since March 2022.
But decisions will need to be taken by ministers about future funding and visas and consideration given to the “threat of homelessness as sponsorships end”, according to the head of the body which scrutinises public spending for Parliament.

[ more...]

18 Oct 2023 - Councils call for rethink over ‘failing’ support for economically inactive

A complex variety of schemes that should support the economically inactive back into work do not meet the needs of people affected and will fail to boost growth, councils have warned.
Research commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) found many risk being left out of the labour market as the 51 national job support programmes identified are not joined up and few address economic inactivity specifically.
Figures published by the Office of National Statistics show about a fifth of adults aged 16 to 64 in the UK, totalling 8.7 million people, were economically inactive between May and September.

[ more...]

18 Oct 2023 - UK infrastructure needs more investment

The UK’s infrastructure needs more investment, with public transport, home heating and water networks all in need of renewal, the National Infrastructure Commission has said. The investments would result in savings to the average household of at least £1,000 a year, higher economic productivity, and a better quality of life in the future, the commission said.

[ more...]

18 Oct 2023 - Prosser: Poor behaviour leaving officers to ‘sink or swim’

A national “shift away from civility” has led to “deteriorating standards” of behaviour in local government with “devastating” consequences for some council’s finances, England’s leading council chief executive has warned.
In a speech this morning, president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers Matt Prosser hit out at the lack of an effective standards regime for councillors which he said leaves officers with few options for dealing with persistently poor behaviour. Since the abolition of the Standards Board for England in 2012, councils have not had the power to suspend or remove councillors.

[ more...]

18 Oct 2023 - Government ‘avoids scrutiny’ after levelling up bill amendments

The government won a series of votes on amendments to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill when MPs considered changes made by the House of Lords yesterday.
MPs also voted to block a Lords amendment that would have allowed council meetings to take place remotely, by 303 votes to 157.
The proposed amendment for “local authorities to be allowed to meet virtually” was agreed upon by Lords in July.

[ more...]

18 Oct 2023 - EXCLUSIVE: Sector to plot solutions for 'broken' finance system

Local government is planning to collectively come up with some innovative ideas about how the ‘broken’ finance system could be improved, The MJ has been told.
Senior officers’ group Solace, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and the Local Government Association (LGA) are said to be ‘in the early stages’ of exploring a number of potential ideas between now and the General Election.

[ more...]

18 Oct 2023 - Rejected £90m reallocated to other councils

Some £90m for councils to reduce the risk of homelessness for new arrivals to the UK has been reallocated after local authorities rejected the cash.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities had offered £500m to 182 councils and the Greater London Authority based on a formula used to determine the local authorities with the greatest need.

[ more...]

18 Oct 2023 - ADEPT: Ministers have undermined confidence in new burdens doctrine

Confidence in the new burdens doctrine has been ‘undermined’ by ministers, council directors have warned.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has advised that the cost of banning councils from being able to charge households to leave DIY waste at recycling centres will not be subject to new burdens and local authorities will need to meet the additional costs.

[ more...]

17 Oct 2023 - Civil service relocation commitment for West Midlands

The Government has reiterated its commitment to opening another civil service hub in the West Midlands, as the Deputy Prime Minister met with Mayor Andy Street.
Despite the location of the hub not yet being finalised, the Birmingham Hub 3 has been confirmed as going ahead, with hopes being that the hub will become a specialist office. This would see the building housing up to 4,000 officials from the Department for Transport and National Highways, with 27 UK government organisations already being based out of the city.

[ more...]

17 Oct 2023 - Birmingham agrees job evaluation scheme

Birmingham City Council has agreed to implement a new job evaluation scheme in a major step towards meeting its £750m equal pay liabilities.
The council was forced to issue a second section 114 notice last month after initially failing to secure an agreement, with costs increasing by £5-14m per month.

[ more...]

17 Oct 2023 - Local authority pension schemes invest £330m in renewables

Six local authority pension schemes have agreed a multi-million-pound deal to invest in renewables projects in the southwest.
The £330m commitment with Schroders Greencoat, the specialist renewables manager of Schroders Capital, will see the Local Government Pension Schemes (LGPS) – part of the Brunel Pension Partnership – investing in renewable infrastructure and energy.

[ more...]

17 Oct 2023 - Starmer promises council funding reform

The way local government is funded is too short-term and has resulted in local authorities such as Birmingham City Council being forced to declare bankruptcy, Sir Keir Starmer has told the BBC.
Speaking to BBC Radio WM, the Labour leader said his party would fix how councils are funded were they to be elected in the next general election.
‘It's almost impossible to plan properly, we've got to fix that,’ he said.

[ more...]

17 Oct 2023 - EXCLUSIVE: Polling finds public open to further devolution

Exclusive polling by Savanta and LGC finds significant support for local government having more powers but less enthusiasm for mayors

[ more...]

17 Oct 2023 - Mayor refunds £51m to councils

The Mayor of West Yorkshire has announced £51m of unspent transport levy will be returned to five cash-strapped councils.
Tracy Brabin (Lab) told the combined authority board yesterday how this refund will “support our local authorities at a time of extreme financial pressure.”
Councils said the extra funding was welcome but that they still facing funding pressures.

[ more...]

17 Oct 2023 - Local government finances

Urban and rural local authorities and of all political colours have warned of the intense financial pressures they face. Councils are facing surging demand for the services they have a statutory duty to provide, such as social care, just as the cost of delivering them has increased sharply as a result of high inflation. Cllr Pete Marland, Chair of the LGA’s Resources Board said he expects councils’ funding gap to increase to meet rising demand and highlighted the lack of options to close it.

[ more...]

17 Oct 2023 - Pay overtakes inflation for first time since 2021

Average pay growth rose above inflation for the first time in almost two years, in a sign that the squeeze on living costs may be starting to ease. Wages rose by 7.8 per cent between June and August, according to official figures, which is higher than average inflation over the same three months.

[ more...]

17 Oct 2023 - No room for tax cuts or spending increases with recession forecast, says IFS

A recession is on the horizon and the Chancellor "is in a terrible bind" as low growth and high-interest payments on debt mean little room for manoeuvre, according to a respected think tank. The UK economy is stuck between the possibility of low growth and persistently high inflation, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said in its green budget report and as a result, it said there is no capacity to cut taxes or increase spending.

[ more...]

17 Oct 2023 - Labour calls for inquiry into English schools funding

Labour is calling for an independent investigation into the Government’s £370 million funding error over school budgets in England. Shadow Education Secretary, Bridget Phillipson, has written to the Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case, to request an investigation by the National Audit Office, to ensure the “extremely concerning” errors in funding for schools in England would not be repeated.

[ more...]

17 Oct 2023 - Councils' readiness to adopt new accounting standards questioned

Doubts have been raised over the readiness of local authorities to adopt international accounting standards.
Responding to a consultation on the update to the Code of Practice on Local Authority Accounting for 2024/25, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) has said that greater understanding is required of the readiness of councils in adopting IFRS 16 on accounting for leases.

[ more...]

17 Oct 2023 - WMCA trailblazer devolution deal ratified

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has ratified a ‘deeper devolution deal’ worth an estimated £1.5bn.
The deal, announced in the Spring Budget, includes a ‘Single Settlement’, which will for the first time see a region treated ‘as if it were a government department’, enabling the WMCA to decide how funding is allocated from its next spending review onwards.

[ more...]

17 Oct 2023 - No room for tax cuts or spending increases with recession forecast, according to the IFS

A recession is on the horizon and the chancellor "is in a terrible bind" as low growth and high-interest payments on debt mean little room for manoeuvre, according to a respected think tank.
The UK economy is stuck between the possibility of low growth and persistently high inflation, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said in its green budget report.
As a result, there is no capacity to cut taxes or increase spending, it said.

[ more...]

17 Oct 2023 - Wages overtake inflation for first time in nearly two years

Average pay growth rose above inflation for the first time in almost two years, in a sign that the squeeze on living costs may be starting to ease.
Wages rose at an annual rate of 7.8% between June and August, figures show.
That was higher than average inflation over the same three months, which measures the rate at which prices rise.
Revised figures showed pay overtook inflation in the three months to July, meaning wages are outpacing prices for the first time since October 2021.

[ more...]

16 Oct 2023 - Tories tell Rishi Sunak to take on Keir Starmer over housebuilding plans

Rishi Sunak is being told to take on Sir Keir Starmer on housebuilding by cutting the opportunities for communities to veto new developments and giving a right to build in urban areas.
Senior Tories have backed the call after Labour said it was “reckless” for the government to have ditched mandatory housebuilding targets.
The issue is set to be a key battleground at the next election as Starmer pledged to reform planning laws and build a string of new towns.

[ more...]

16 Oct 2023 - Labour to omit funding of social care reform from manifesto and scale back Lords plans

Labour is preparing to omit details of how to fund a reformed social care system from its next election manifesto, scale back its plans for House of Lords reform during a first term in office, and recalibrate the way it presents its £28bn-a-year green prosperity plan as it prepares to put a “bombproof” offer to voters before polling day.
After a successful conference in Liverpool last week, which resulted in the party extending its poll lead over the Tories, shadow cabinet ministers are now turning their minds to the precise shape of a manifesto for an election next May or October. Senior figures said the focus would be on producing an offering that was “affordable” in a difficult financial climate, as well as being “credible” and “deliverable”.

[ more...]

16 Oct 2023 - Bank of England has more ‘work to do’ to control inflation, says chief economist

The Bank of England has more “work to do” to ensure inflation is brought back under control, Threadneedle Street’s chief economist Huw Pill has said.
Raising the possibility of an increase in borrowing costs from the Bank, Pill said the fact that the headline measure of the cost of living was now falling was not enough to claim victory.
Speaking at an event in London, the Bank official – one of nine members of Threadneedle Street’s interest-rate-setting monetary policy committee – said persistent price pressures had to be met with a persistent response.

[ more...]

16 Oct 2023 - ‘Millstone of debt’: how risky investments left Camberley struggling for funds

A trickle of shoppers wanders past the faded concrete facade of a former House of Fraser and into The Square, a leaky glass-roofed retail complex that squats in Camberley town centre.
“It would be really nice if it was a really good department store, but I think everyone’s shopping online now, aren’t they?” says Kerry Summerley, on the hunt for maternity tights for her daughter.
This empty store, like so many across the UK, is a visible manifestation of the decline of bricks-and-mortar retail and the weak economy.

[ more...]

13 Oct 2023 - Increase in parking revenue for councils

Annual revenues from council parking operations in England have reached nearly £1 billion, new figures show. Analysis of Government data found that English local authorities made £962 million in the 2022/23 financial year. An LGA spokesperson said: “Income raised through on-street parking charges is spent on running parking services. Any surplus is spent on essential transport projects, including fixing the £14 billion road repairs backlog, reducing congestion, tackling poor air quality and supporting local bus services.”

[ more...]

13 Oct 2023 - Councils spend £1.7bn on temporary accommodation

Spending on temporary accommodation by council homelessness services in England rose to more than £1.7 billion in the year to March, with bed and breakfast costs up by a third, according to government figures. Cllr Darren Rodwell, Housing spokesperson for the LGA, called for local housing allowance rates to be “urgently reviewed“ to make the market more affordable for people, for the Government to develop a cross-departmental homelessness prevention strategy and to give councils powers to build 100,000 social homes a year “to address the national shortage of affordable housing”.

[ more...]

13 Oct 2023 - Chancellor urged to unfreeze Local Housing Allowance

Nineteen bodies, including the LGA, have written to the Chancellor urging him to increase Local Housing Allowance. He has been warned that more people will be forced into homelessness unless a three-year freeze on housing rental benefits is ended.

[ more...]

13 Oct 2023 - Birmingham 'actively exploring' action against s151

Birmingham City Council is ‘actively exploring’ possible action against its former director of council management Becky Hellard for her role in the collapse of the council.
It comes amid a growing debate over whether the budget was legal if senior finance officials knew the scale of the equal pay liability and failed to include it.
According to a senior Birmingham source, officials were warned of a potential £800m equal pay liability on 3 February – three weeks before the budget was set.

[ more...]

13 Oct 2023 - Councils’ reserves are reducing at an ‘unsustainable’ rate

Local authorities’ reserves are already in a “precarious position” and reducing at an “unsustainable” rate, the financial resilience director at consultancy LG Improve has said.

[ more...]

13 Oct 2023 - London boroughs could be at risk of S114 notices

Continued high demand following more than a decade of funding cuts could put outer-London boroughs at risk of issuing Section 114 notices in the next 12 months, a senior officer has said.

[ more...]

12 Oct 2023 - White pupils have slipped further behind since Covid

White pupils have fallen behind their classmates since the pandemic, a report has suggested.
The annual report, by the Education Policy Institute think tank, also concluded that the attainment gap between poorer pupils and their wealthier peers had widened in the same 2019-22 period.
Children classed as persistently disadvantaged — eligible for free school meals for at least 80 per cent of their schooling — are more than a year behind their peers by the end of primary school and almost two years behind by the end of secondary school.

[ more...]

12 Oct 2023 - UK economy returns to growth in August

The UK economy grew in August following a sharper fall in July as the education sector recovered from strike action, according to official figures.
The Office for National Statistics said the economy expanded by 0.2% in August, in line with forecasts.
Updated figures showed that July performed worse than originally thought.
But despite this, the ONS said overall the economy had grown "modestly" over the past three months.

[ more...]

12 Oct 2023 - Social care workforce departures show ‘leaky bucket which needs urgent repair’

Almost 400,000 people left their jobs in social care in the year to March, with around of third of these exiting the sector altogether, according to a detailed annual report on the workforce which reveals a “leaky bucket” on staffing.
Skills for Care, which is the strategic workforce development and planning body for adult social care in England, said its projections suggest that in just over a decade from now, a quarter more posts in the sector will be needed.
In its annual State of the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce in England report, published on Thursday, it said that equates to some 440,000 posts needed to keep in line with the projected number of people aged 65 and over in the population by 2035.

[ more...]

12 Oct 2023 - Interest rates expected to be held after small economic growth

The UK economy returning to growth in August has fuelled expectations that interest rates will be left unchanged again next month.
The economy grew marginally by 0.2% in August following a sharp fall in July.
Analysts described the figures as "lacklustre" and said higher borrowing costs and the higher cost of living was weighing on consumers and businesses.

[ more...]

11 Oct 2023 - Just five 2022-23 audits published on time, says PSAA

More than 900 local authority audit opinions are outstanding and the government must take urgent action to clear the swelling backlog, Public Sector Audit Appointments has said.

[ more...]

11 Oct 2023 - Investment, living wage and ‘ironclad’ fiscal rules – Reeves speaks to conference

The shadow chancellor has set out the potential next government’s spending agenda, and shown off an endorsement from a former Bank of England governor.

[ more...]

11 Oct 2023 - Better training tipped to help public sector workforce crisis

Public bodies should prioritise investment in long-term training to “carve new pathways for career progression” to improve recruitment and retention, researchers at Mazars have said, with finance teams the subject of particular concern.

[ more...]

11 Oct 2023 - Freezing income tax thresholds is ‘largest tax rise in at least 50 years’

Persistent elevated inflation could see the government bank £40bn from having frozen tax thresholds, the Resolution Foundation has said.

[ more...]

11 Oct 2023 - Labour pledges return of Sure Start to tackle youth offending

Hubs dedicated to supporting young people with mental health issues will be created if Labour wins power, the shadow home secretary has pledged.
Yvette Cooper announced a priority will be opening centres similar to the Sure Start hubs created during the Blair era that were cut by David Cameron early in austerity.
The party’s Liverpool conference got an early indication of changes to the way Whitehall funding could be used to boost preventative work.

[ more...]

11 Oct 2023 - RAAC school closures

A number of schools affected by RAAC have remained closed or partially closed since the material was discovered last month. According to the latest figures, which were released on 14 September, 174 schools in England were confirmed to have RAAC. Figures were originally supposed to be updated once a fortnight.

[ more...]

11 Oct 2023 - Unsafe buildings leave 'forgotten' pupils learning from home

Eleven-year-old Elliott was excited about moving up to secondary school this year. He was out meeting another child, who was also due to start at the same Durham school, when the government announced that school buildings constructed with a particular type of concrete had to close immediately.
Elliott has not had much chance to speak to his new friend since then, nor to any of his other classmates - because his school was one of those impacted by the announcement.
St Leonard's Catholic School was told it could not fully open at the start of term, due to the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) on the school site.

[ more...]

11 Oct 2023 - Just five 2022-23 audits published on time, says PSAA

Only five of 467 local government bodies had audit opinions on their 2022-23 accounts published by the 30 September deadline, PSAA said.
The body, which procures audits on behalf of authorities, found the incomplete opinions from last year has more than doubled the number of outstanding accounts to 918.
Steve Freer, chair of the PSAA, said: “It is now very clear that an extraordinary intervention of some sort is urgently required to put the system back on track.

[ more...]

11 Oct 2023 - Liverpool to write off £25m council tax debt

Millions of pounds worth of unpaid council tax is set to be written off by Liverpool City Council as ‘irrecoverable’.
A report into the local authority’s finances recommends writing off over £25m in uncollected council tax debt from the period between 1997 and 2017.
The report, which will be considered at a cabinet meeting next week, also advises the council to forgive £14m in business rates and £1.3m in housing benefit overpayments.
‘Whilst it is important that all debt is pursued vigorously, it is not considered good practice to continue pursuance of debts that are clearly irrecoverable,’ the report says.

[ more...]

11 Oct 2023 - Turning around towns will take longer than 10 years [opinion]

The prime minister’s initiative faces serious challenges, not least the impact of a 13-year squeeze on council budgets, writes the director of LSE London.
While HS2 dominated the headlines during the recent Conservative party conference in Manchester, yet another ‘levelling up’ initiative was launched. This one is called Our Long-Term Plan for Towns and will provide a £20m ‘endowment’ for 55 towns across England, Wales and Scotland that have been ‘overlooked’.
Each £20m will be spent over 10 years, particularly on regenerating high streets and improving public safety. The use of the resources will be in the hands of a town board which will produce plans which will have to be “put to local people”. There will be a Towns Task Force in Whitehall, reporting to the prime minister and levelling up secretary.

[ more...]

11 Oct 2023 - More than two million drivers per day could be wrongly fined

More than two million motorists could be wrongly identified for fines by Ulez or speed cameras every day, a Government commissioner has warned ministers.
Professor Fraser Sampson, the surveillance camera commissioner, said the ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) camera network’s three per cent error rate for reading car number plates meant there were “significant risks” of penalty notices being wrongly issued to innocent motorists.
In a letter to Transport Secretary Mark Harper Professor Sampson warned it could also be a breach of data protection laws through the misuse of inaccurate data, a problem that he said he has asked the Information Commissioner John Edwards to investigate.

[ more...]

10 Oct 2023 - ‘More men and young people needed’ as social care recruitment campaign launched

A social care recruitment campaign is being launched to help build the “vital workforce” with the hope more men and younger people will consider such roles. With over 150,000 vacancies in social care, the Government is hoping this year’s Made with Care campaign sparks interest to help address staff shortages.

[ more...]

10 Oct 2023 - High-debt councils defend investment strategies

Several councils whose with total debt of more than £100m have argued that their investment strategies are financially sound after their high borrowing was highlighted in a recent report.
The analysis by Moody’s Investors Service is titled ‘More to fail as weak governance amplifies the impact of property and rates cycles’. It names the top 20 local authorities in England that have “high debt levels” by looking at how much councils have borrowed relative to their core spending power, housing revenue account income and total borrowing.

[ more...]

10 Oct 2023 - DLUHC expresses ‘strong view’ against remote meetings

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has expressed a "strong view" that council meetings should be held in person in order for citizens to be able interact with local representatives.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has yet to publish the findings of a consultation on local authority remote meetings it held 2021.

[ more...]

10 Oct 2023 - Exclusive: DfT drops self-assessment process

The Department for Transport (DfT) has ended the highways self-assessment process, removing the incentive element of local maintenance capital funding in its current form, Highways understands.

[ more...]

09 Oct 2023 - Ditch the autumn statement, Britain’s manufacturers urge Jeremy Hunt

Manufacturers have urged Jeremy Hunt to do away with the autumn statement, insisting that the constant “flip-flopping” on policy is holding back investment and is making the UK “uncompetitive”.
The chancellor gives two fiscal statements a year, the budget in the spring with a second statement in the autumn, which is an update on how things are going. However, Make UK, which calls itself the “voice of UK manufacturing”, has urged Hunt to return to a single annual fiscal statement.
It blamed “frequent changes to policies”, especially around investment and research and development incentives, for having “significantly hampered businesses’ investment plans”.

[ more...]

09 Oct 2023 - Labour chancellor Rachel Reeves pledges overhaul of UK's 'antiquated' planning system

Rachel Reeves will promise to speed up planning processes to revive the economy as she branded the Tories the "single biggest obstacle" to the economy.
The shadow chancellor will pledge an overhaul of the UK's "antiquated planning system" in order to "get Britain building again".
Business and the economy is set to dominate the second day of Labour conference in Liverpool and as the party looks to capitalise on the Conservatives' controversial decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2 to Manchester.

[ more...]

09 Oct 2023 - Thousands of Covid generation under-fives excluded from schools in England

Children as young as four are being excluded from schools in England in increasing numbers as they struggle to cope in a classroom setting, with many still in nappies or unable to talk fully.
According to the latest government data, 11,695 children aged five and under were given fixed-term exclusions in England in the 2021-22 academic year, which was 11% higher than 2018-19.
In some schools in deprived areas up to 40% of reception children are also now arriving at school not yet potty-trained, the Observer has been told. Experts say many more children are starting school with undiagnosed language and learning difficulties which can lead to behavioural problems.

[ more...]

09 Oct 2023 - 15 minute cities 'don't exist'

Civil servants are battling to explain to ministers that concepts like ’15-minute cities’, said to restrict people’s ability to go shopping, ‘don’t really exist’, a top Department for Transport (DfT) official has revealed.
Ministers have recently announced plans to push back against local authority road safety and traffic reduction measures, including the launch of the DfT’s new Plan for Drivers, billed as ‘a new 30-point plan to support people’s freedom to use their cars and curb over-zealous enforcement measures’.
The DfT described ‘so called 15-minute cities’ as an example of ‘schemes which aggressively restrict where people can drive’ and said the Government aimed to stop councils from implementing them.

[ more...]

09 Oct 2023 - Birmingham commissioners are ‘important backstop’, says opposition leader

Birmingham City Council has “one last chance” to show commissioners that they understand the gravity of its financial situation, according to its opposition leader.
On Thursday the levelling up secretary confirmed that six new commissioners and two political advisers had been appointed to the Labour-led council.
Last month Birmingham issued a section 114 notice, effectively declaring bankruptcy amid a £760m bill to settle equal pay claims.

[ more...]

09 Oct 2023 - Shadow minister promises local government would be ‘equal partner’

A Labour government would respect local leaders and treat councils as an “equal partner”, the shadow local government minister said yesterday.
Speaking at the local government rally at the Labour party conference in Liverpool yesterday, Sarah Owen said the sector could expect an “end to bidding wars” if Labour forms the next government.
Ms Owen told the auditorium: “We would create longer term funding for councils so that they have that certainty and can plan for the future.”

[ more...]

09 Oct 2023 - High street facing ‘terminal decline’, union warns

The high street may be facing a ‘terminal decline’ as more than 420,000 traditional retail jobs have been lost since 2010, the union GMB has warned.

[ more...]

09 Oct 2023 - Additional £8 billion for road repairs

An additional £8.3 billion will be provided to councils to help them maintain local roads, it has been reported. The funding will be delivered over 10 years and is as a result of money that is no longer being used to build the northern leg of HS2. The LGA previously highlighted that annual spending on road maintenance had been reduced from £4 billion in 2006 to £2 billion in 2019.

[ more...]

09 Oct 2023 - Inquiry ordered over England schools funding mistake

Schools may have to redraw budgets for the next academic year after the Department for Education miscalculated their funding plan. An original plan of a 2.7 per cent increase per pupil in England for 2024/25 has now been revised to 1.9 per cent due to an underestimation of the increase in pupils.

[ more...]

09 Oct 2023 - Greg Clark says Goodbye Two-Tier

I was alarmed by how fragile much of local government is. When I was secretary of state between 2015 and 2016 there was always a handful of councils in difficulty. It was usually down to particular mismanagement. This time, I was shocked by the large number of authorities that were close to the edge. And although some – like Birmingham – had been troubled for years, unlike six years ago many others were councils that have been generally well-run. When I left the department I had become convinced that there are some big changes coming local government’s way.
I will write in future weeks about the funding of statutory services in the face of ever greater demands and costs. But one change I think is coming is a recognition that we cannot go on with 317 councils; especially in a time of combined authorities (now covering more than half of England’s population) the age of doubled-up tiers of local government is about to draw to a close. Without a big injection of cash to sustain it in existence – which I don’t expect from any party – a two-tier structure of councils will be deemed no longer sustainable.

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08 Oct 2023 - Rayner pledges greater powers for local leaders

Council housing will be a key part of Labour’s plan to build 1.5 million new homes over five years and more powers will be devolved if the party wins the next general election, the party's deputy leader has said.
In her speech to the Labour party conference in Liverpool on Sunday Angela Rayner, who is also shadow housing and levelling up secretary, set out a vision for the “biggest boost in affordable and social housing for a generation” which will include building more council housing.
“A council house changed my life,” Ms Rayner said, as she spoke of “salvaging the system the Tories have taken a sledgehammer to”.

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06 Oct 2023 - Government spends more maintaining Houses of Parliament than housing

The Government spends more maintaining the Houses of Parliament than on improvements to England’s 20 million privately rented and owner-occupied homes, according to a new report.
An average of £100m is spent annually to maintain the Houses of Parliament while the average yearly spend issued for home improvement grants is £93m, according to the report from the Centre for Ageing Better and the Healthier Housing Partnership.

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06 Oct 2023 - Questions raised over enforcement of smoking ban

Local authority leaders have welcomed the PM’s ambition to eliminate smoking but have also called for ‘clarity’ on how new restrictions on the sale of cigarettes will be enforced.

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06 Oct 2023 - No dates for HS2 pothole cash

The Department for Transport (DfT) has admitted it does not have a timescale for the billions of pounds for road resurfacing that it announced on the back of the decision to curtail HS2, suggesting that the claim may merely be a pre-announcement of future routine funding.

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06 Oct 2023 - County agrees to pursue ‘thin gruel’ devo deal

Leicestershire CC has reluctantly opted to work on a level two devolution deal, with the leader describing the move as "thin gruel" after failing to reach an agreement over having a regional mayor for Leicester, Leicestershire, and Rutland.
The area was among the first batch of councils invited to negotiate a devolution deal and initially, there were proposals for a top-tier agreement with a regional mayor.
However, the elected mayor of Leicester City Council Peter Soulsby (Lab) has openly criticised this idea because his county is already “awash with mayors”.

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06 Oct 2023 - County moves towards ‘bare minimum’ services

Hampshire CC says it is moving towards providing a “bare minimum” of local services as it looks to cut almost 300 jobs to address a financial “cliff edge”.
A report on Hampshire’s medium-term financial strategy and savings proposals to 2025 will be discussed at a cabinet meeting next week.
The document says the council is facing a budget deficit of £86m next year, rising to £132m in 2025-26, which “remains unaddressed”.

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06 Oct 2023 - Reform call ahead of vehicle tax widening

A senior local government figure has called for the expansion of vehicle excise duty (VED) to zero-emission vehicles to be an ‘opportunity to reform’.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt last year announced that electric vehicle owners would be hit by a new tax from April 2025, with an annual charge of up to £165 for cars and £290 for vans estimated to raise an extra £1.6bn by 2027-28.

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06 Oct 2023 - LGA seeks assessment over mental health withdrawal cost

The Local Government Association (LGA) is seeking an assessment of how cash saved when police attend fewer mental health callouts could cover fresh social care demand.
It is understood that LGA policy experts and politicians are pushing the Home Office and Department of Health and Social Care to provide detailed evaluations of the Right Care, Right Person (RCRP) approach to policing mental health-related incidents.

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06 Oct 2023 - EXCLUSIVE: Elected mayor in law change call

Croydon LBC’s mayor Jason Perry has called for the law to be changed to give councils greater powers to hold officers and councillors to account.
In an exclusive interview with The MJ, Conservative Mayor Perry said it was ‘fundamentally wrong’ for officers and councillors suspected of wrongdoing to be able to resign and walk away.

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06 Oct 2023 - Government appoints new commissioners at Thurrock Council

Local government minister Lee Rowley has announced the next phase of intervention at Thurrock Council by appointing a lead and finance commissioner.

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06 Oct 2023 - Coventry S114 risk ‘very real’

Rising care demand without additional government funding could put Coventry City Council at risk of a Section 114 notice next year, a senior councillor has warned.

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06 Oct 2023 - Birmingham commissioners appointed for five years, with Chris Tambini focusing on finance

The government has confirmed its intervention package at Birmingham City Council, which includes the appointment of six commissioners for five years – longer than in previous interventions.
The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove required the lengthier period as it “reflects the severity and size of the challenge at Birmingham, in comparison to other intervention areas”.
The commissioners will exercise specific functions of the authority, if necessary, while the intervention also includes directions to the authority. A local inquiry has not been commissioned by Gove, but discussions between government and the council are expected in “due course”.

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06 Oct 2023 - Thousand pools shut since 2010

More than 1,000 publicly accessible pools have closed since 2010, England’s governing body for swimming has found.
Swim England also said a further 1,500 pools are more than 40 years old and coming towards the end of life.
Financial pressures on local councils, increased costs and ageing pools mean many facilities have an uncertain future, warns the organisation’s report, Value of Swimming.

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06 Oct 2023 - Labour leaders’ plan to end power ‘hoarding’ by centre

Procurement reforms, three to five year budgets for councils and a public sector impact duty form part of a plan Labour council leaders want their party to adopt if it is successful at the next general election.
A coalition of seven Labour council leaders has unveiled a roadmap for overhauling public services and rebuilding trust under a Labour government in a report co-authored with think tank New Local titled, ‘A Labour vision for community power’.

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06 Oct 2023 - Threat to councils' planning powers lifted

Nine councils have avoided being stripped of their planning decision-making powers after drastically improving their performance figures.
Local government secretary Michael Gove wrote to the planning authorities in April to inform them he was minded to hand their powers to the Planning Inspectorate.
The councils were deemed to be guilty of ‘poor performance,’ meaning they were routinely missing the target of deciding 70% of applications within eight weeks and 60% of ‘major’ applications within 13 weeks.

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05 Oct 2023 - Rising costs faced by schools in England growing faster than inflation – IFS

Rising costs faced by state schools in England are growing faster than inflation, a report has found.
School funding and costs are growing at similar rates leaving school budgets to “largely stagnate in real terms” when cost pressures are taken into account, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).
The analysis has projected that school spending per pupil in England will be around 3% higher in 2024 compared with its past high-point in 2010, after adjusting for economy-wide inflation.

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04 Oct 2023 - Nothing new for councils in Gove’s conference speech

Thanks to councillors and local authority staff were all the levelling up secretary had to offer the sector as he spoke to the Conservative Party conference.

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04 Oct 2023 - Hampshire outlines £132m funding gap

Growing care demand and rising costs following a decade of underfunding have created a forecast £132m gap in Hampshire County Council’s finances by 2025-26.

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04 Oct 2023 - Hunt announces civil service expansion freeze, benefit reform and living wage boost

The Conservative Party “will always protect public services”, the chancellor insisted as he announced his ambition to cut civil service numbers back to their pre-pandemic level.

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04 Oct 2023 - Woking launches consultation on cuts

Woking BC has launched a consultation on proposals to cut services, in an attempt to tackle its £1.9bn debt which is set to increase by £2.4bn by 2024-25.
The six-week consultation on plans in the council's medium-term financial strategy began this week. The strategy recommends a revised 2024-25 budget that includes £12m of savings.
Proposals include the reduction or removal of discretionary services unless they can become "self-funding", and "internal measures" such as reducing the size and cost of civic offices and management costs.

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04 Oct 2023 - County leader questions districts’ ‘capacity to deliver’ levelling up projects

Districts can lack the capacity to deliver large levelling up projects quickly enough, the Nottinghamshire CC leader and East Midlands CA mayoral candidate said yesterday.
Speaking at a Conservative party conference fringe event, organised by the Institute for Government, Ben Bradley (Con) said he has concerns about the “capacity to actually deliver these projects” when funding is awarded to districts.
Cllr Bradley is also the MP for Mansfield, which was awarded £20m this week for an endowment style fund to set up a town board.

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04 Oct 2023 - New Oxfordshire cabinet following damning SEND report

A new cabinet has been formed at Oxfordshire CC after its previous coalition fell apart following a damning recent inspection of its children's services.
There have also been changes to the council's management structure after the departure of its director of children's services.
Oxfordshire's Liberal Democrats have now partnered with the Green Party after Labour left the council’s alliance last month.

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04 Oct 2023 - Tory MP criticises ‘obsession’ with elected mayors

The government should end its “obsession” with elected mayors and allow areas more flexibility around devolved governance models, a Conservative MP said yesterday.
Jack Brereton, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent and a member of the Commons transport select committee, was taking part in a panel discussion organised by the Institute for Government at the Conservative party conference. He called for more consideration of alternative arrangements for areas seeking devolution.
“There is an obsession around the perfect fit,” Mr Brereton said.

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04 Oct 2023 - Sunak confirms HS2 Manchester leg axed

Rishi Sunak has confirmed the cancellation of the HS2 north of Birmingham but has said that the high speed rail line will still go to Euston, albeit with the scheme taken away from HS2 Ltd.

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04 Oct 2023 - Seven in 10 councils struggling amid cost of living crisis

Seven in 10 councils are struggling to support people hit by the cost-of-living crisis, according to new research published today.

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04 Oct 2023 - EXCLUSIVE: Select committee looks to launch financial distress inquiry

Senior local government figures have been approached to give evidence as MPs consider launching an inquiry into financial distress in the sector, The MJ understands.
In the wake of Birmingham City Council becoming the latest in a slew of councils to issue section 114 notices as a result of financial distress, the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee has written to the Local Government Association and other sector organisations to invite them to talk about any issues they are facing to inform its monitoring of the growing problem.

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04 Oct 2023 - Tory-run Hampshire council says it faces ‘financial meltdown’

One of the UK’s largest Conservative-run councils has warned it faces “financial meltdown” and has called on ministers to fix the “broken” local government funding system to avoid it and many other authorities plunging into effective bankruptcy.
Hampshire county council said without a major overhaul of council finances in England – which it admitted was unlikely to come in time to prevent cuts – it would be forced to push ahead with drastic reductions to local services over the next 18 months, and could face insolvency by 2026.
The council has to find £132m by April 2025 to help fill a widening budget gap but has said it cannot rely on operational cuts and council tax rises alone to balance the books without ditching “safe” levels of core service.

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04 Oct 2023 - Press release: Rob Whiteman to retire as CIPFA CEO

Rob Whiteman has today announced his plans to retire in June 2024, stepping down from the role of CIPFA CEO that he has held for the past decade.
Under his leadership, the organisation has gone through significant transformation and tackled many initial challenges. It has seen strong growth in its international student numbers and advisory services while continuing to grow and support its UK membership, establishing itself as the leading global voice of sound public financial management.
Most recently, Whiteman announced an exciting new partnership with ICAEW, culminating in both Institutes signing a joint declaration to work closely together including an accelerated route for students to gain CPFA and ACA designations and dual membership.

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03 Oct 2023 - Calls for a big increase in UK spending on preventative policies

A report by the think-tank Demos says government spending on preventative policies from vaccines to family hubs should be significantly increased and the Treasury should create an accounting category to monitor it.

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03 Oct 2023 - Food prices see first fall for two years as stores compete

Fierce competition between supermarkets has led to the first monthly drop in food prices for more than two years, an industry body has said.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said prices in September were down 0.1% from the previous month.
Prices of dairy goods, margarine, fish and vegetables - which are often own-brand lines - all saw falls, it said.
Grocery inflation - the annual rate at which food prices are rising - remains high but is starting to ease.
The BRC said food prices rose by 9.9% in the year to September, down from a rate of 11.5% in August.

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03 Oct 2023 - Local government minister: ‘There is substantial money in the system’

The local government minister has said that despite the financial challenges facing some councils, there remains a “substantial” amount of money in the funding system overall.
Lee Rowley was speaking at a panel discussion organised by the Local Government Association at the Conservative party conference, where he said part of his role is to offer “gentle challenges to you”.

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03 Oct 2023 - Council's ‘low-risk approach’ questioned

A council has been urged by Local Government Association (LGA) peers to take more risks to improve its financial outlook.
LGA peers described East Sussex CC as a ‘financially prudent’ authority but found ‘significant gaps’ in its medium-term financial plan.

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02 Oct 2023 - Brum kicks off job cuts

Birmingham City Council has started a wide-ranging programme of job cuts under emergency plans discussed by councillors on Monday.
A report to Birmingham’s full council, which met to sign off the authority’s initial response to its section 114 notice and Government intervention, revealed details of its Mutually Agreed Resignation Scheme (MARS).
The report by Birmingham’s director of strategy Richard Brooks for chief executive Deborah Cadman said the redundancy programme ‘allows staff to express an interest in voluntarily resigning and, if this is agreed, receiving a non-negotiable exit payment’.

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02 Oct 2023 - Gove pledges to halt council four-day weeks

Michael Gove has pledged to stop local authorities from implementing a four-day week and said councils could face budget cuts if they adopt one.
During the interview with The Sun ahead of the Conservative annual conference, the levelling up secretary said he wanted to change the law to stop ‘quiet quitting’ and ‘slacking’ at councils.
Mr Gove said: ‘People who pay council tax work five days a week or longer. They deserve 100% of the service, not 80%. The idea that everyone should be slacking in this way at the expense of hard-working taxpayers is completely wrong.’

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02 Oct 2023 - Fifty-five ‘left-behind’ towns to share £1bn

Fifty-five towns across the UK are set to benefit from a £1.1bn levelling up investment, the Prime Minister has announced.
The ‘left-behind’ towns will each be given £20m over a 10-year period to help regenerate high streets and tackle anti-social behaviour, the PM said yesterday on the eve of the Conservative Party conference.

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02 Oct 2023 - Hunt to confirm national living wage to rise to £11 an hour

The national living wage is set to increase to at least £11 an hour from next April, the Chancellor is to confirm. In a speech to the Conservative Party conference, Jeremy Hunt is expected to say the move will benefit two million of the lowest-paid workers and will also say he intends to toughen sanctions for people on benefits who do not take steps to find work.

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02 Oct 2023 - Catholic and CofE primary schools in England ‘take fewer SEND pupils’

Church of England and Roman Catholic primary schools take fewer pupils with disabilities or special needs than other local schools in England, according to research which suggests faith-based admissions requirements deter pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. The findings led the author, Dr Tammy Campbell of the London School of Economics, to conclude that faith schools “serve as hubs of relative advantage” for children from more affluent families who were less likely to have special needs.

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02 Oct 2023 - Sunak to spend £700m on buses

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is said to be preparing to invest up to £700 million in bus services as he seeks to soften the blow of the rumoured scaling back of HS2. A package to reverse cuts, deliver new routes and allow councils to set up London-style integrated transport networks is reportedly being worked on in Downing Street.

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02 Oct 2023 - £80m bus funding confirmed

The Government has confirmed the funding allocations of £80m to support local authorities’ bus service improvement plans (BSIPs) in 2024-25.
The funding will be shared between 64 English councils.
Roads minister Richard Holden said: ‘We are providing a further £80m to help local authorities improve and protect essential services, delivering for local communities across the country by enhancing transport connections, supporting passengers and growing the economy.’

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02 Oct 2023 - DLUHC names first £20m levelling up partnerships

The government has announced the first levelling up partnerships (LUP) at Hull City Council and Sandwell MBC, with each authority receiving £20m in new funding.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has been working in the areas over the last six months in recognition of challenges which require place-based solutions.
Both areas will be awarded funding in the coming weeks and DLUHC will continue to work as a strategic partner with Hull and Sandwell.

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02 Oct 2023 - ‘Scrap council tax cap and we can prove Tories cost you less’

Conservative councillors have called on ministers to remove the council tax cap and start allocating highways budgets on a five-year basis.
The Local Government Association Conservative Group launched their manifesto at the party’s annual conference on Sunday evening.
Colin Noble (Con), a former leader of Suffolk CC, who chaired the manifesto working group, said that the “guiding principle” in the manifesto was to avoid asking for money.

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29 Sep 2023 - Compensation claims for flash flooding

Councils in England have received hundreds of compensation claims for flash floods amid cuts in funding for maintaining local roads and drainage systems, according to research. Analysis by public sector insurer Zurich Municipal found that between 2020 and 2022 councils received at least 740 claims from property owners for flood damage caused by sudden downpours. LGA transport spokesman, Cllr Darren Rodwell said: “Instead of paying for costly compensation claims, councils much prefer to use their budgets to keep our roads in a good condition, in turn reducing the risk of damage to vehicles and personal injuries. However, this has become increasingly challenging, with an estimated and growing £14 billion backlog of repairs to bring all local roads across the country up to scratch.”

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29 Sep 2023 - London borough at risk of S114 this year

Rising service demand following a decade of underfunding has put the London Borough of Havering at severe risk of issuing a Section 114 notice in the next 12 months, its finance director has said.

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29 Sep 2023 - Council capital projects ‘paused indefinitely’

The continued rise in construction costs and high interest rates have forced some councils to halt their capital projects, and some are unlikely to be restarted, a treasury advisor has told PF.

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29 Sep 2023 - Scrapping inheritance tax could cost £15bn a year

The government might lose around £15bn a year by 2032 if it decides to ditch inheritance tax, economists at the Institute for Fiscal Studies have warned.

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29 Sep 2023 - UKIB reduces lending rates below the PWLB for infrastructure projects

The UK Infrastructure Bank (UKIB) has reduced its local authority lending rate to gilts + 40bps, which is currently lower than the rate on offer from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) for infrastructure projects.

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29 Sep 2023 - County areas behind on EV charging

The number of publicly available electric vehicle (EV) charge points in England’s county and rural areas lags ‘far behind’ major towns and cities, according to a report.
One charge point is available every 10 miles in county locations, compared to one every three quarters of a mile in London, analysis by the County Councils Network (CCN) found.

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29 Sep 2023 - Southampton seeks expert help amid S114 warning

An improvement board of senior local government experts will support Southampton City Council amid concerns from external auditors who have warned there is a “real” threat of a Section 114 notice.

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29 Sep 2023 - Businesses urged to prepare for single-use plastics ban

Businesses and individuals in England should prepare for the upcoming ban on some single-use plastic items, councils have warned. The LGA has said councils are concerned that not enough businesses or individuals are aware of these changes. Cllr Darren Rodwell, environment spokesperson for the LGA said: “Councils are sure that businesses want to comply with these new regulations and keep plastic waste to a minimum. However, we are concerned that some local businesses and consumers are not aware of the impending ban on these materials and would encourage everyone to take a look at the materials impacted by it. This is a valuable policy to reduce waste but there is still more to do. We are keen the Government introduces extended producer responsibility to incentivise producers to reduce waste and increase recyclable packaging, as well as enable councils to work with communities to improve recycling.”

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29 Sep 2023 - Council financial pressures

Research by union Unison has found considerable financial pressures on councils which could lead to cuts to services. Their survey which included councils in England, Scotland and Wales found that councils were facing a £3.6 billion gap in their finances for the coming financial year. They have predicted this could rise to £7 billion by 2025/26.

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28 Sep 2023 - Southampton seeks expert help amid S114 warning

The board, chaired by Theresa Grant, who oversaw the financial turnaround of Northamptonshire County Council and including CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman, will first meet next month to support and challenge the authority’s improvement plan.
The council said it has adopted tight cost controls to manage spending following a critical CIPFA review in July, which found the authority is at a heightened risk of a Section 114 notice over the next two years.
Officers said rising demand for children and adults social care and higher contracting costs and staff pay are significant budget pressures.

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28 Sep 2023 - Councils face record £3.5bn shortfall

Research has uncovered a £3.5bn shortfall facing councils over the next financial year, revealing the ‘true scale of the dire state of local government funding’.
Just 14% of local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales said they were on course for a balanced budget in 2024-25, the analysis by trade union Unison found.
It discovered that 114 councils are at least £10m short of their planned spending requirements – and 15 are £40m short.

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27 Sep 2023 - Health and social care are crucial to the economy, says Davey

The Liberal Democrats will prioritise health spending as a way of improving local communities and the lives of the people who live in them.
Party leader Sir Ed Davy will use his keynote speech at his party’s conference in Bournemouth to set out health and social care spending as a clear dividing line between him and his political rivals.
Ahead of his speech, Sir Ed told PF that the party believes it can achieve significant electoral gains based on recent by-election successes.

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27 Sep 2023 - Fine parents for school absence in England only as last resort, MPs urge

Mental health difficulties should be a valid reason for children to miss school while fines aimed at parents should be kept as a “last resort”, according to MPs on the Commons education committee.
The committee’s report into rising levels of persistent absence among disadvantaged families in England warns that fining parents for absences may be less of a deterrent since the Covid pandemic, and even counterproductive among low-income families with financial struggles.
“We heard that fines do not address the barriers that low-income families face and can be counterproductive by adding to difficult financial circumstances. Families are struggling with high school costs and in some cases, fining is not an appropriate, compassionate, or helpful response,” the MPs reported.

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27 Sep 2023 - Newcastle clean air zone brings in £500k

Newcastle City Council’s clean air zone (CAZ) has brought in over £500,000 in the first six months of its operation, new figures from the council reveal.
A total of £311,290 was paid in CAZ charges during this period and a further £214,996 was paid in penalty charge notices (PCNs).

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27 Sep 2023 - £5.5m for EV charging in West Sussex

West Sussex County Council has received £5.5m to pay for the installation of up to 1,000 electric vehicle (EV) charge points.
Working with district and borough councils across the county, West Sussex aims for the charge points to be installed at 230 locations on-street and within council car parks by April 2024.

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27 Sep 2023 - Whiteman announces Cipfa departure

Rob Whiteman is to retire as chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy next summer, after more than ten years in the role.
In a letter to the Cipfa board earlier today Mr Whiteman said he will leave the organisation at the end of June 2024, “very content with the progress made to create a modern and successful organisation that is financially secure with a strong voice”.

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27 Sep 2023 - Unions delay next steps discussion

Trade unions have agreed to reconvene to discuss their next steps on the ongoing pay dispute within days of GMB’s strike ballots closing, The MJ understands.
The GMB is conducting industrial action ballots targeted at some councils that are due to close on 24 October while Unite, which is currently striking in a small number of local authorities, has called for employers to return to the negotiating table.
Unison has confirmed that it will not be taking industrial action and wishes to settle the pay dispute.

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26 Sep 2023 - SEND legal disputes

Councils in England have spent millions of