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News Headlines

UK public finances start new tax year on strong footing

The deficit in April stood at 7.840 billion pounds, compared with 8.953 billion pounds a year ago, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. A Reuters poll of economists had pointed to a reading of 8.6 billion pounds.

The ONS also cut its estimate for the deficit over the entire 2017/18 financial year, excluding public sector banks, by 2.1 billion pounds to 40.487 billion pounds.

The deficit for 2017/18 now stands at 2.0 percent of gross domestic product — the smallest budget deficit as a share of GDP since 2001/02.

Full Article

German police stop 'truant' families at airport

Police carrying out checks at an airport in southern Germany discovered several school-aged children travelling ahead of the holidays.

Reports concerning 10 families have now been sent to education officials in Bavaria, German media report.

It is believed the families caught at Memmingen Airport were trying to avoid travelling at the peak holiday time, which can be a lot more expensive.

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Northamptonshire County Council sells off old sites

Disused care homes, a former children's centre and several old school sites have been put up for sale by Northamptonshire County Council.

The financially-troubled authority is selling the 10 sites in a bid to plug a £12.7m gap in its reserves.

The Conservative-run council being run by two government-appointed commissioners following a highly-critical inspector's report.

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Other Headlines

Obesity rate in UK children doubles during primary school years to top US figure

Britain is starting to overtake America in obesity rates, with the latest figures showing that more children in England are classed as obese at the age of 11 than in the US.

The proportion of US children aged 9 to 11 who are obese is 18.5%. The figure for children in their final year of primary school in England is at a record high of 20%.

Secondary-school children are also more obese. In the Health Survey for England, 23% of children aged 11 to 15 were obese in 2016. In America, 20.6% of children aged 12 to 15 were obese.

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Council told to 'grip financial situation'

Somerset CC must ‘grip its financial situation’ and become more focussed on its ‘immediate financial challenges,’ a group of Local Government Association peers have urged.

The corporate peer challenge report said ‘significant overspending’ was primarily occurring in children’s services, with the council failing to fully achieve the savings agreed at its annual budget setting meeting.

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Drop in apprenticeships sparks calls for reform of levy-based system

The 25 per cent drop in the number of apprenticeships in the space of a year has sparked criticism that the introduction of a levy-based system has adversely affected the scheme.

Data released by the Department for Education (DfE) reveals that the number of apprenticeships dropped from 309,000 in the six months to February last year to 232, 700 over the same period this year.

On a month-on-month basis, there was a 40 per cent decline in apprenticeship starts from 36,400 in February last year to 21,800 this year.

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Social care funding plans branded costly and unfair

The government's plans for reforming social care in England - at the heart of a planned green paper - have been criticised as costly and unfair in a report on the future of funding care for older people.

The report from two think tanks, the Kings Fund and the Health Foundation, finds that the idea of increasing the number of people paying for care, and how much they pay, put forward in the Conservative manifesto last year, would be almost as costly as making all care free.

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Fair funding: eyes on the prize [opinon]

In the days when schools had mottos rather than mission statements, mine was, in translation, ‘not without dust the prize’. This was a reference to games played in a sandy arena where victory could not be gained without getting dirty. This set me wondering whether this is a suitable epithet for the Fair Funding Review and the wider debate about local government finance following the demise of the Local Government Finance Bill.

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Singing from the same hymn sheet [opinion]

‘It ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it. And that’s what gets results.’ They’re words that take some of us back to the 80s and a Fun Boy Three/Bananarama record: or is it Ella Fizgerald from the 30s; Lisa Stansfield from the 90s; or the Puppin Sisters from as recently as 2016? Things get recycled, restyled and repositioned in all industries, including local government. It is a normal cycle in life and work.

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The Seattle battle is a warning over tax raising (Opinion)

Seattle City Council has faced the wrath of big business recently in a bid to raise levies to help fight homelessness.

While Seattle may be outside The MJ’s usual remit, there are some salutary lessons for UK local government. Not least, beware of raising business rates.

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Plan for single 'unitary' Northampton council rejected

Northampton Borough Council has voted against its own plan for the town to be run by a single "unitary" authority.

Currently, local services are split between it and the county council, which faces being scrapped after severe financial problems.

A government-appointed inspector recommended the county's eight councils should be replaced by just two.

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Spiraling drug deaths blamed on swingeing funding cuts to services

Spiralling numbers of drug deaths across England are being blamed on swingeing budget cuts to addiction services – as new figures suggest spending on treatment has been slashed by £117m in just five years.

Councils have reduced drug and alcohol schemes as their own health budgets have been squeezed by government cuts, according to the Office for National Statistics.

It estimates that just £631m will be spent on such services in 2018-19 compared with £749m in 2013-14. In a similar period, drug-related deaths increased from 2,734 in 2013 to 3,450 in 2016.

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Three in four Britons felt overwhelmed by stress, survey reveals

Three in four Britons have been so stressed at least once over the last year that they have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope, according to the biggest survey into the impact of stress.

Stress can be so damaging to wellbeing that one in three people have been left feeling suicidal, and one in six have self-harmed as a direct result, the findings show.

Mental health experts said the huge number of people affected should prompt employers, NHS staff and ministers to do more to reduce stress’s debilitating effects and provide more help.

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Patients trapped by care closures: Elderly face being stranded in hospital wards

Elderly patients face being stranded on hospital wards for months as soaring numbers of care homes go bust. Every month last year, more than 12 care homes went bankrupt as owners fought to find the money to cover increasing running costs while being forced to take less cash from councils.

In the past financial year, 148 care home businesses entered insolvency – an 83 per cent rise on the 81 failing in 2016-17.

The figures sparked a call for urgent action from the Government to tackle a growing crisis in social care which could impact badly on the NHS.

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Grammar and faith schools get green light to expand

Grammar schools in England will receive £50m to create new places and local councils will have funds to open new faith schools, Education Secretary Damian Hinds has announced.

The government has ditched its original plans to make it easier for religious groups to open free schools.

Instead councils can open faith schools with 100% faith-based admission.

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Pothole 'epidemic' costs £1m a month in motoring claims, says AA

Drivers and insurers are losing £1m a month repairing damage to vehicles caused by potholes, the AA says.

The motorists' organisation says the number of claims for the first four months of 2018 already equal those for the whole of last year.

It said there was a pothole "epidemic" that was a "national embarrassment".

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MPs urge government to release cash for removal of Grenfell-style cladding

MPs have called on the government to urgently release cash to accelerate the removal of combustible Grenfell-style cladding which remains fully in place on 54 social housing blocks and dozens more private apartment towers across England.

Legal disputes over who should pay to refit buildings which failed fire tests in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire are holding up works and 44 MPs have now told the housing secretary, James Brokenshire: “Our constituents … need you to act now.”

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Taskforce Drafted In To Run 'Bankrupt' Tory-Led Northamptonshire Council

A taskforce of commissioners has been drafted in to run crisis-hit Northamptonshire Council after the authority was declared effectively bankrupt in February.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said he “cannot ignore the scale of the problems” facing the Tory-run council and commissioners will take over governance and strategic financial management with immediate effect.

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High street rents 'killing more and more retailers' says Debenhams chairman

The chairman of Debenhamswarns that the increasing popularity of online shopping has left many high street retailers paying rent they can no longer afford.

In an interview with ITV News, Sir Ian Cheshire urged landlords to wake-up to the changes in shopping habits and, where appropriate, renegotiate leases which he compared to a “straight jacket...killing more and more retailers”.

Since Christmas a series of established retailers have experienced problems, some of them terminal.

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Somerset £28m unitary savings claim 'unrealistic'

Claims that up to £28m a year could be saved by scrapping Somerset's councils are "unrealistic", according to the leaders of the county's five districts.

Last week, Somerset County Council said it wanted to consider the abolition of all six councils, replacing them with one or more unitary authorities.

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Interest rates on hold as Bank cuts growth outlook

The Bank of England has said the UK economy has hit a "temporary soft patch" as it kept interest rates on hold at 0.5%.

The Bank cut its growth forecast for the year to 1.4%, down from the forecast of 1.8% made in February.

However, the Bank says that cut is almost entirely due to the disruption to the economy caused by bad weather in March.

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Northants makes ‘unprecedented’ use of reserves to balance books

Northamptonshire County Council has balanced its 2017-18 budget with an “unprecedented” use of reserves to cover a £12.7m overspend.

In February the council’s executive director of finance issued a section 114 notice, halting all but essential spending in the authority.

This week, the council released its provisional outturn statement showing the books had only been balanced by using all £12m of its general fund balance, plus a further £700,000 of earmarked reserves. The latter was in addition to £5.2m from earmarked reserves allocated earlier in the year.

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Marsham Street's top official has told MPs she cannot give them a ‘categorical assurance’ there will not be another Northamptonshire-style collapse.

Asked by Public Accounts Committee (PAC) member Gareth Snell whether another council would issue a Section 114 notice before next year’s Spending Review, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) permanent secretary, Melanie Dawes, said she was unable to guarantee this would not happen.

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Brokenshire announces Northamptonshire commissioners

New local government secretary James Brokenshire has today announced the two commissioners appointed to help rescue troubled Northamptonshire CC.

In his first major decision, Mr Brokenshire said the commissioners would be led by former Lincolnshire CC chief executive, Tony McArdle, who chaired the Association of County Chief Executives from 2015 to 2017.

Mr McArdle will be supported by finance commissioner Brian Roberts, immediate past president of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy and former deputy chief executive of Leicestershire CC.

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‘Cash-strapped care sector needs public image boost’

The care sector is in “precarious state” and needs a sustainable funding plan this year - as well as a public image boost, a group of MPs has warned.

Adult social care is underfunded and there is an “urgent need to reverse [its] poor public image” to boost recruitment and retention, the Public Accounts Committee said in a report published today [09-05-2018].

“The care sector is in a precarious state but the Department of Health and Social Care has not yet said how it intends to put in place a long-term, sustainable funding regime to meet the ever-increasing demand for care,” the MPs urged.

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Simon Edwards: 'No guarantee county unitary moves will snowball'

The head of the County Councils Network has said a majority of his organisation’s two-tier members would seek to become a unitary if ministers gave a clear steer they supported restructuring.

In an LGC interview Simon Edwards also predicted no counties would follow Northamptonshire CC in issuing a section 114 notice, and claimed the credit for his organisation in winning the wider sector extra resources in the final local government financial settlement.

Mr Edwards was speaking at the end of March, a month in which housing and communities secretary Sajid Javid rocked the make-up of the English shires by approving the reorganisation of two-tier Dorset largely into a county unitary and saying he was minded to support the same structure in Buckinghamshire.

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Government pledges £28m to help disadvantaged children

The Government has pledged £28m to provide disadvantaged children and young people with education and training.

The funding, which is part of the second round of the £80m Life Chances Fund, will go to 10 projects across England.

Sheffield City Council, for example, will receive £19,294,766 to set up local projects aimed at tackling a range of issues from mental health and wellbeing to homelessness and youth unemployment.

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Social care could be ‘rescued’ with £2.3bn boost, report says

The struggling social care system can be ‘rescued’ with a funding boost of over £2bn raised from taxing property, an intergenerational commission argues.

The commission, which includes Lord Willetts, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady and CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn, has published its final report on fixing the social contract between Britain’s generations.

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Parks provide over £34bn of health benefits, report says

Parks and green spaces across the UK provide people with over £34bn of health and wellbeing benefits, report says.

Green spaces are increasingly under threat as councils are forced to cut public spending. This can have a negative impact on public health.

The Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) has found 95% of parks professionals are concerned that a lack of investment in them will have health and social impacts.

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Tax on pensioners proposed to heal inter-generational divide

A £10,000 payment should be given to the young and pensioners taxed more, a new report into inter-generational fairness in the UK suggests.

The research and policy organisation, the Resolution Foundation, says these radical moves are needed to better fund the NHS and maintain social cohesion.

Its chairman, Lord Willetts, said the contract between young and old had "broken down".

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Business Rates Bill and additional information

Business rates information letters are issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government at regular intervals throughout the year.

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Minimum wage for sleep-in shifts poses ‘existential threat’ to care sector

The financial viability of nearly 70% of the care sector is threatened by the looming funding crisis over sleep-in shift pay, according to a survey by the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG).

In addition, the growing concerns over a potential tidal wave of back payments to workers back-dated up to six years is already affecting the provision of care services via local authorities and other bodies.

Care providers have already decided not to bid or negotiate for 273 new contracts because of their financial situation directly related to sleep-in back pay, the VODG survey found. Further, job losses are predicted, with nearly half (46%) of providers responding saying they would have to make redundancies.

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Anne Ashworth: Brokenshire must mend the market [opinion]

Mystery surrounds the future for housing policy in the wake of the cabinet reshuffle. Sajid Javid has left the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for the Home Office, causing people to speculate if direction will change under his replacement, James Brokenshire.

Javid regarded Generation Rent’s exclusion from homeownership and the Nimbyist aversion to development as significant threats to the Tories’ hold on power. Brokenshire’s name may hint that he is the minister to mend the “broken” housing market, but his stance is more difficult to discern. How do his views compare, for example, with those of Toby Lloyd, the former policy boss at the charity Shelter? Lloyd is the prime minister’s new housing adviser.

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Local election results 2018: Mixed picture for Labour and Tories

Labour and the Conservatives have both lost control of key councils in local elections across England.

Labour failed to take several targets from the Tories, including Wandsworth in London, but won back Plymouth and became the largest party in Trafford.

The Tories won Barnet and gained from a collapse in UKIP's vote, celebrating wins in Basildon and Peterborough.

The Lib Dems regained control of Richmond, in London, from the Tories and gained seats elsewhere.

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Election 2018: Council polls taking place across England

Voters will head to the polls on Thursday for council and mayoral elections across England.

Elections are being held in 150 local authorities, spanning metropolitan and district councils, unitary authorities and London boroughs.

Watford, Hackney, Newham, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets will elect mayors while the first-ever mayor for the Sheffield City Region will also be chosen.

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Schools could be forced to weigh pupils for Ofsted obesity checks

Schools could be judged on how well they help their pupils to lose weight as part of the government’s national obesity strategy.

Schools across England could be required to weigh and measure their pupils every year. Those identified as obese would receive intensive and funded support to lose weight, including free gym classes and home visits.

In the long term the progress schools make in helping children to maintain a healthy weight could be examined when Ofsted carries out inspections. At present one in five children is obese by the time they finish primary school.

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Cities express doubt over four-county 'combined authority'

Talks between leaders in the East Midlands on forming a strategic alliance across four counties which would operate like a combined authority and pave the way for a devolution deal are a long way off and unlikely to be successful, according to Nottingham city’s leader and Leicester city’s mayor.

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Scrapping Somerset councils 'may save £28m a year'

Abolishing all six local authorities in Somerset could save £18m to £28m each year, the county council leader says.

Conservative David Fothergill has asked for work to begin to look at how a unitary arrangement could work.

The plan would see several single-tier authorities - or one - replacing local councils including the county council.

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James Brokenshire: ‘Clear space and scope’ for more unitaries

James Brokenshire has given a clear steer on local government reorganisation in his first interview with LGC since being appointed housing and communities secretary.

Mr Brokenshire said “there is a clear space and scope for unitary authorities”, adding that he wanted to engage with the sector on restructuring proposals.

Plans for new unitary councils in Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire are already being considered by the government but LGC research recently revealed how a number of other areas are also holding discussions on this issue. Today, Somerset CC became the latest council to get a unitary debate underway.

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LGA gets £1.5m to help boost councils’ cyber security

The Local Government Association has been given £1.5m to help councils tackle cyber threats.

The funds come from the Cabinet Office’s National Cyber Security Programme and will be used to conduct a “stock take” of local authorities’ existing cyber security arrangements.

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David Simmonds: Brokenshire is 'good news' for councils

The new housing and communities secretary is a details man who should prove to be more accessible to councils than his predecessor and take a broader approach to policy, according to the Conservative group leader on the Local Government Association.

Cllr Simmonds said: “He’s very efficient. He’s quite strategic and data-driven. He is very interested in having clear objectives about what each policy is going to deliver and how you measure that… having performance indicators and targets against which you can measure progress... He is a positive person to work with in relation to local government."

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Javid to be new Home Secretary, Brokenshire to MHCLG

Sajid Javid has been named as the new Home Secretary after Amber Rudd's resignation.

Following Mr Javid's promotion, No 10 also announced that former Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire will return to the cabinet as Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

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Cornwall proposes post-Brexit plan to create 20,000 jobs

Cornwall Council has called on Whitehall to devolve more powers to the south western peninsular as part of a plan to help it cope with the impact of Brexit.

An estimated 66% of Cornwall’s exports go to the European Union (EU), earning the county £1.2bn. This is above the 48% national average.

In order to prepare the county for potentially losing direct access to EU markets, the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly (IoS) Leadership Board has proposed a ‘post-Brexit plan for the region’.

Called New Frontiers, the plan calls for more devolution and outlines changes for the region’s economy that could bring in an additional £2bn and create 20,000 new jobs by 2030.

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Councils warned not to cap personal care budgets

Councils have been told they are not allowed to set maximum budget levels when calculating the cost of people’s care by the sector’s ombudsman.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman said that capping personal budgets goes against the requirements of the Care Act.

It made the announcement after an investigation found Wiltshire Council was placing people into bands rather than paying for care based on need. It also found the council was using an outdated matrix tool to calculate the amount of support offered to the family.

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Incremental pay rises - an endangered species?

The recent case in Nottingham where a number of council employees successfully challenged the city council's freeze on their annual incremental pay rises was an undoubted victory for those concerned.

The right to an automatic pay rise every year, long-enshrined in local government and other parts of the public sector, has some obvious benefits from the employee's - and the employer's - points of view.

Being sure of an annual increase, albeit perhaps a relatively small one, rewards experience and promotes loyalty, thus potentially improving cohesiveness and morale and reducing the expense of dealing with staff turnover.

But the annual increment has been disappearing in the local government world. For a number of reasons, it is beginning to look like an endangered species.

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Concern over Northants' future amid rushed reorganisation claims

The leader of Northampton BC has said he is “extremely concerned” over the future of local government reorganisation in Northamptonshire, warning that the long-term sustainability of any future council is not being properly considered.

Jonathan Nunn (Con) spoke with LGC of the “danger” of passing Northamptonshire CC’s debts on to any newly-created unitaries without providing any additional resource.

Cllr Nunn said: “There is a danger that we’ll create councils that just won’t be financially sustainable if we’re not careful. We’re passing that [financial debt] on without actually adding anything that solves the problem. Even when you throw in the operating savings from a unitary authority… you still have a large funding gap.”

Full Article

Councils urged to implement effective interpretation and translation services

Councils could do more to help people facing language and communication barriers to access public services, according to the findings of a new report.

The 'Speak my language’ report from the Wales Audit Office focuses on interpretation and translation services for people who are deaf and use sign language, and people who do not speak English or Welsh as their main language.

It found that public bodies differ in how well they understand the language and communication needs of the communities they serve. It calls on councils and other public bodies to put in place effective interpretation and translation services to ensure equal access for all.

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Grayson Perry backs borough’s £3.5m ‘artists’ house’ plans

The Turner prize winner Grayson Perry has thrown his weight behind council plans to build affordable housing for artists in Barking town centre.

Barking and Dagenham Council have launched a consultation on a £3.5m plan to build 12 apartments for artists with workshops as well as a community arts space.

Developed by the council’s regeneration company Be First, in partnership with Create London, the new accommodation will be offered at below market rates.

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Social care system needs £10bn to stay afloat, report warns

Adult social care will require an extra £10bn by 2030 just to maintain the existing system of provision, a review of health and social care warns.

The interim report of an independent review of health and social care provision has revealed the pressures on social care are ‘even greater’ than those faced by the NHS.

The report, authored by Lord Darzi and published by the think tank IPPR, estimated the NHS will require £200bn by 2030 to meet increasing demand, while the social care system needs at a minimum £10bn just to maintain the current level of provision.

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Inquiry into child sexual abuse warns of ‘lack of transparency’

There has been a ‘lack of transparency’ on the part of some leaders in relation to the failures of their institutions to protect children from sexual abuse, inquiry finds.

The independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, chaired by Professor Alexis Jay, has published its interim report based on its discoveries in five public hearings and seven seminars.

It also heard from over 1,000 victims and survivors of sexual abuse through its Truth Project, a confidential way for those who have suffered abuse to share their experiences.

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NHS hospitals face vital vote to free them of £400m a year tax bill

Under-pressure NHS hospitals are waiting on a crucial MP vote on Friday on a Bill that could free them entirely from business rates – saving them nearly £400 million a year.

In details of the Bill only published for the first time last Friday, it confirms that MPs will be voting not only to abolish controversial car parking charges for patients and visitors at NHS Hospitals, but also on the complete rates exemption.

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Lib Dems slam use of property profits at Surrey County Council

Liberal Democrat councillors have criticised Surrey County Council for failing to spend profits from its £298m commercial property portfolio on council services.

In November, the council transferred £3.8m of rental income from the properties into its revolving infrastructure and investment fund.

However, Liberal Democrats complained that the original investment strategy, agreed by the council in July 2013, promised to use income to support the delivery of functions and services.

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Councils defended for management of £375m in section 106 receipts

Senior figures have defended councils after a report that they are hoarding hundreds of millions of pounds set aside for affordable homes.

The Huffington Post this week ran an article showing that local authorities have a total of £375m unspent cash from section 106 agreements.

However, many in the sector say that there are practical reasons why the section 106 money — not all of which has been allocated for affordable housing — is yet to be spent.

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Concern over Northants' future amid rushed reorganisation claims

The leader of Northampton BC has said he is “extremely concerned” over the future of local government reorganisation in Northamptonshire, warning that the long-term sustainability of any future council is not being properly considered.

Jonathan Nunn (Con) spoke with LGC of the “danger” of passing Northamptonshire CC’s debts on to any newly-created unitaries without providing any additional resource.

Cllr Nunn said: “There is a danger that we’ll create councils that just won’t be financially sustainable if we’re not careful. We’re passing that [financial debt] on without actually adding anything that solves the problem. Even when you throw in the operating savings from a unitary authority… you still have a large funding gap.”

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Conservatives pledge 'cheaper and better' local councils

The Conservatives say their councils offer "cheaper and better services" as they target Labour seats in the local elections across England.

Party chiefs have previously admitted the 3 May elections will be "really difficult" for them, with London representing a particular challenge.

Chairman Brandon Lewis said the Tories were fighting for "every single vote".

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Ministers are wilfully blind to austerity's decimation of preventative services [opinion]

High social worker caseloads are often like the overcome canary in the mine: an indicator of something being wrong with a council’s support for vulnerable children and families.

While one cannot automatically equate higher caseloads on an individual council with a worsening of its social work – social workers can take on more cases if supported by greater investment in back office staff – it is hard to believe a dramatically worsening national picture indicates anything other than a sector reeling from austerity.

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Leaders discuss 'combined authority' across four counties

Leaders in the East Midlands have started talks on developing a strategic body across four counties which would operate like a combined authority and pave the way for a devolution deal.

Preliminary discussions involving Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire CCs have focused on a way to “counter-balance” the power of the West Midlands CA, with an acceptance this may lead to some reorganisation of local government structures in the region.

Leicestershire leader Nick Rushton (Con) told LGC the government “could not ignore” a combined authority proposal which also included the three counties and Derby, Leicester and Nottingham city councils, all unitaries.

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MPs: Councils need grants as well as increased business rates

Councils should be allowed to keep cash from business rates increases as well as existing grants, a group of MPs has demanded.

The housing, communities and local government select committee estimated £6bn extra will be raised from business rates when councils will be able to keep 75% of the revenue they raise in 2020-21, up from the current 50% retention rate.

The government’s plan is this extra revenue will replace current funds from the revenue support, rural services delivery, Greater London Authority transport and public health grants.

But Clive Betts, Labour MP and chair of the committee, said: “Many councils across the country are in a difficult financial position, with huge pressures on a whole range of provisions from children’s services through to road repairs.

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Government achieves first current budget surplus for 16 years

The Government has achieved its first current budget surplus since 2002, according to latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

Public borrowing was £1.35bn in March, £800m lower than March 2017.

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Are social care services improving people's wellbeing? [opinion]

If the 2014 Care Act has one widely known ambition, it is that individuals’ wellbeing should be the over-arching consideration in all that councils do. Social care should focus on what makes the lives of each older or disabled person better. So, if promoting wellbeing is the acid test of the personalisation programme, how are councils doing?

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Philip Hammond accepts £2 limit for addictive fixed odds betting terminals

A move to cut the maximum stake on highly addictive gambling machines to £2 is set to be announced within weeks as the Treasury signalled a deal last night.

Philip Hammond had delayed signing off the move in a Whitehall dispute over how lost taxes would be replaced. However, the chancellor is understood to have accepted expert recommendations that stakes for fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) should be reduced to £2. His allies said that there was growing optimism that an agreement with Matt Hancock, the culture secretary, was imminent. “We are very nearly there,” one said.

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County accused of lack of candour over '£60m black hole' report

Worcestershire CC has been accused of burying a report by independent experts which called for it to take “urgent” financial action to avoid a budget black hole of £60m in two years’ time.

An investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for LGC has revealed the contents of a Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy financial resilience review of the council which raises yet more concern for the finances of the county sector.

The review of Worcestershire’s medium-term financial plan, undertaken in June last year, described the council’s future “transformation savings” as being “overly optimistic”. At the time, the council was said to be in danger of being £10.2m short of its £21.3m cost-cutting target for 2017-18.

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Areas which rejected devolution deals left with mixed feelings [opinion]

“We will hand power from the centre to cities to give you greater control over your local transport, housing, skills and healthcare… [But] with these new powers for cities must come new city-wide elected mayors who work with local councils. I will not impose this model on anyone. But nor will I settle for less.”

Those were the words of George Osborne after the 2015 general election. As chancellor, Mr Osborne was undoubtedly the driving force behind the devolution agenda but he also drove a hard bargain with areas wanting to secure a deal.

The payoff for increased local control and powers was their adoption of the controversial elected mayor model.

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Food bank use four times higher in Universal Credit areas

Rent arrears, evictions and food bank use are soaring in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out, new figures have revealed.

The raft of figures sheds new light on the impact of the Government's flagship welfare policy.

The number of claimants using Universal Credit (UC) in the UK is set to double this year, with more than seven million people - both in and out of work - expected to be registered by 2022.

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Business rates pilot payout proves costly to the sector

Local authorities are missing out on millions of pounds because of an £870m cash boost to business rate pilot councils, according to a study today from the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think-tank.

The IFS report found that the 147 councils that have been selected to experiment with a 100% business rate retention scheme (BRRS) will between them benefit by £873m in 2018/19.

Had the £873m instead been handed out to all English councils they would have received 2% extra funding worth £16 per head while one in 10 areas would have received £9m in extra funding. Some metropolitan boroughs like Dudley and Oldham would have been actually better off receiving this extra cash rather than being pilots.

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Sector backs MPs' business rates call

Local government bodies have thrown their support behind a call by MPs for retained business rates to be treated as extra income.

Their unanimous response comes after the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee said the sector should be allowed to use the £6bn additional revenue gained from 75% retention to fund existing cost pressures and a system of grants should continue.

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Councils Have Failed To Spend £375m Earmarked To Ease The Housing Crisis

Councils across the UK are hoarding hundreds of millions of pounds set aside for affordable homes, HuffPost UK can reveal.

Data obtained by this website shows more than £375million is sitting in councils’ bank accounts instead of being used to tackle the housing crisis.

Two-thirds of that cash - £235million - is being held by just 14 councils.

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Promise broken to compensate councils for business rate changes

In the autumn Budget the Treasury said “local government will be fully compensated for the loss of income” as a result of introducing measures including switching from the retail price index to the consumer price index, and addressing the so-called staircase tax following a Supreme Court ruling.

However, it has emerged the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government wrote to councils two days after the Budget to clarify that while it would compensate for any lost income from the CPI switch, and rates relief for pubs, it did “not plan to compensate local authorities in relation to any income lost” as a result of reinstating previous Valuation Office Agency practice in relation to properties located in multi-occupancy buildings. That point was also subsequently made by the ministry in a consultation on the matter.

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Outsourcing giant Capita warns of £500m losses

Capita - the outsourcing company responsible for providing services to local authorities throughout the UK - has reported losses of more than £500m.

Capita says it wants to raise £701m through a rights issue to fund a major reorganisation of its business which is currently £1.7b in debt.

Its profit was wiped out by one-off costs totaling £850.7m mainly from writing down the value of acquisitions made under previous management.

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MPs demand government explains business rate U-turn

A group of MPs has called on the government to explain its U-turn on a promise to compensate councils fully for losses over changes to business rates.

The chancellor promised in the autumn Budget last year that councils would be compensated for losses in income they incurred over changes to the so-called ‘staircase’ tax.

This would be a return to a previous method of business rates collection, and follows a Supreme Court ruling in August last year, which lead to communities secretary Sajid Javid publishing draft legislation to reverse the tax.

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Sun, sea and stonkingly large council tax bills

The Dorset countryside is famed for its natural beauty and Jurassic Coast, but the region has also acquired a more dubious distinction: it has the most expensive council tax in England, according to analysis for Money by the TaxPayers’ Alliance pressure group.

The tranquillity and glorious weather that many were enjoying last week was punctured by disgruntled locals as they responded to the news.

“There are still potholes on the roads,” said a newsagent in Wareham, Dorset, who had just been told that residents in her area have endured some of the biggest increases in council tax since the charge was introduced 25 years ago. “And there are fewer police on the streets than there used to be.”

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Britain left behind as growth slows

Britain’s economy remains stuck in the slow lane despite the surge in global growth, official figures are set to show this week.

City forecasts point to a 0.3% expansion in the first quarter, the weakest pace of growth in a year, although a sizeable minority of economists think the figure could be even lower because of the impact of last month’s cold snap on output.

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Councils ‘could save millions on energy’

Councils could save tens of millions of pounds in energy costs after a survey found that more than 95 per cent still rely on the “Big Six” energy suppliers.

Of 273 councils, 92 were contracted to Npower, 45 to EDF Energy, 8 to SSE, 5 to Eon, 5 to Scottish Power and 3 to British Gas. A further 85 used other large suppliers, 9 used smaller suppliers and 21 did not know.

This means that only 3.6 per cent of councils use small suppliers, whereas about 20 per cent of British households have switched to get a better deal.

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UK inflation falls to 2.5%

UK consumer price inflation fell in March to 2.5%, the lowest rate in a year, according to the Office for National Statistics.

It fell from 2.7% in February after prices for clothing and footwear, in particular womenswear, rose at a slower rate compared to this time last year.

Alcohol and tobacco also helped ease inflation pressures..

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Pothole related breakdowns soar following harsh winter

Pothole related breakdowns have doubled in the space of three months following the harsh winter, the RAC has revealed.

The breakdown rescue firm said the proportion of call-outs caused by issues such as damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels reached 2.3 per cent between January and March.

This is almost double the rate during the previous three months and equates to 5,540 cases.

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UK pay squeeze comes to an end

The UK pay squeeze has come to an end as wage rises have moved above the rate of inflation for the first time in a year.

Latest estimates show that average weekly earnings for employees in Britain in real terms increased by 0.2% excluding bonuses, and by 0.1% including bonuses, compared with a year earlier.

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Minister raises possibility of social care funding boost

Social care minister Caroline Dinenage has hinted more funding could be made available to prop up the social care system ahead of any long-term reforms that emerge from the green paper.

Addressing the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services Spring Seminar yesterday, Ms Dinenage also said she has urged the leadership of NHS England and NHS Improvement to place a greater emphasis on the social care system.

During her speech she said she “completely” understood why funding was a big issue for delegates, but highlighted variation across the country in the effectiveness of provision, adding even with “all the money in the world, we may not necessarily choose to keep doing things the way that we are doing them.”

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Hospitals launch legal challenge to save £300m a year in rates relief

A group of 20 NHS hospital trusts has launched a legal bid for business rates relief in a landmark case that could save under-pressure hospitals nearly £300 million a year.

The trusts have begun court proceedings against 49 local authorities seeking to be treated the same as private hospitals for tax relief.

More than one in four of all private hospitals in England and Wales are registered as charities, allowing them to enjoy 80% relief on their business rates bills, while NHS counterparts have been hit with crippling hikes after the recent tax overhaul.

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Amendment to protect free bus passes announced

The Government has announced a change in legislation that will ensure free bus passes for older and disabled people will be protected for the future.

The English National Concessionary Travel Scheme means bus passengers aged over 65 or with a disability have been entitled to travel free of charge on any off-peak local service in England since 2007.

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Home education compulsory registration?

The Department for Education is raising the prospect of a compulsory register for an estimated 45,500 home-educated children in England.

Ministers have launched a "call for evidence" on ensuring children taught at home get a good quality education.

There is also £3m to check against "harmful practices" in "out-of-school settings", such as clubs and societies.

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Holiday town's hidden fight with deadly drug problem

In a report last week Bournemouth was revealed to be in the top ten areas in Britain for drug deaths, along with six other coastal places including Blackpool and Thanet, Kent. The town, however, is not usually associated with the deprivation linked to drug use in the report by the Office for National Statistics. It and its neighbour Poole are home to some of the most expensive properties outside London. Tech entrepreneurs live alongside football managers, rich pensioners and second homeowners.

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Businesses and councils offered own PCSOs for £37k a year.

A PCC is promoting a scheme for councils and businesses to pay for their own dedicated PCSOs as a new way to beat budget cuts.

Daventry Town Council in Northamptonshire has become the first to buy its own support officer as part of the initiative which sees personnel dedicated to the area which covers its costs.

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How can we tackle the pothole crisis? Scourge of the roads is a £9.3bn headache that's only getting worse

Potholes are the scourge of every driver and are a problem that is only getting worse.

They are even more dangerous to cyclists and motorcyclists, with Roger Hamer, 83, killed in March 2016 when thrown off a push bike.

His inquest heard government guidelines that relaxed rules on pothole repairs could lead to more cyclist deaths.

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What is the gender pay gap at your company?

UK companies have submitted their gender pay figures ahead of Wednesday's midnight deadline.

Just over 10,000 companies did so ahead of the deadline, with more than 1,000 firms reporting on the last day. The median pay gap among all companies that have reported is 9.7%.

Of those that have submitted their figures, 78% pay men more than women, 14% pay women more and 8% said they had no gender pay gap, based on the median measure.

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Review of council powers over unauthorised traveller sites

The government is to review council powers to respond to illegal gypsy and traveller sites.

The consultation will be carried out jointly by the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, and the Home Office and will cover issues related to police and local authority powers, court processes, and government guidance.

Housing minister Dominic Raab said: “The vast majority of the travelling community are decent and law-abiding people. But, we are particularly concerned about illegal traveller encampments, and some of the anti-social behaviour they can give rise to.

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Rapid rise in children's centre closures causes concern

The rate of children’s centre closures may have reached a “tipping point” with evidence of a rapid increase in cuts to provision following years of decline, a report has found.

Research by a team at the University of Oxford, commissioned by The Sutton Trust, found twice as many Sure Start centres - launched in 1998 under a programme established by the then Labour government - have closed than government figures show.

Official data records a 14% drop in centres between August 2009 and October 2017, from 3,632 to 3,123.

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Over 100,000 children to lose free school meals under reforms

One in eight children who would have qualified for free school meals under the old system will become ineligible under universal credit.

The Government has confirmed that families on universal credit with net earnings under £7,400 a year will be able to claim free school meals.

New research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found the new criteria means 50,000 more children will be eligible for free school meals.

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Up to 1,000 Sure Start children's centres have closed since 2009

As many as 1,000 Sure Start children's centres could have closed in the last eight years - double the amount estimated by the Government - new research has warned. Official data from the Government shows 14% of centres have closed between August 2009 and October 2017. However, research by the Sutton Trust suggests this is a "big underestimate" as there is no clear definition of a "children's centre" and data does not record closures announced locally.

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Spending on children and young people's services cut by nearly £1bn in six years, figures reveal

Spending on children and young people’s services has been axed by nearly £1bn in real terms over the past six years, new analysis shows, prompting concerns that thousands of families are missing out on “lifeline” support.

The Labour Party has accused the government of “slashing support for those that need it most” after it found the planned net expenditure on services for children and young people has seen a real terms cut of £960m.

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Javid announces £30m to tackle homelessness

The communities secretary Sajid Javid announced a new £30m fund to support local authorities with high numbers of people sleeping rough.

The new package of measures to tackle rough sleeping, launched before the Homelessness Reduction Act comes into force this week, also includes the creation of a new Rough Sleeping Team.

The new team will be made up of rough sleeping and homelessness experts drawn from, and funded by, the Department of Health and Social Care, the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, and other departments and agencies

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Scrutinising care provision

A landmark ruling in the Court of Appeal has confirmed that local authorities cannot consider any financial compensation awarded to an injured member of the public when deciding if that person is entitled to after-care services.

The judgement is the result of a long-running dispute between Manchester City Council and a citizen who suffered a serious head injury in a car accident in 1998 (Tinsley v Manchester City Council). It clarifies local authorities’ duties under section 117 of the Mental Health Act 1983.

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Council decides to exhaust reserves

Troubled Northamptonshire CC has taken a ‘last resort’ decision to exhaust its entire reserves as it struggles to agree a legal budget for 2018/19.

The dramatic move follows the council’s decision to postpone the sale and leaseback of its new headquarters at One Angel Square ‘due to the likelihood of local government reform in Northamptonshire’ following Max Caller’s critical governance review.

After postponing the sale, Northamptonshire calculated that it faced an overspend of £16.7m by the end of the financial year and once again faced being unable to agree a balanced budget.

The council currently has £12m in general reserves and £4.7m in earmarked reserves initially put aside for capital projects.

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Travel training gives young people with learning disabilities a ticket to ride

Until late last year, René Lukebana Mansitu was taken by taxi to and from college. His autism and mild learning disability were judged too problematic to allow him to make his own way. Now, the 18-year-old happily walks to a station, catches a train and then changes to a bus to get to his performing arts course. He’s never been late.

René is a “travel training” success story: giving older children and young people with support needs the confidence to use public transport. It is an important step in preparing them for independent adult life, but it can also mean a significant saving for cash-strapped councils facing escalating bills for home-to-school transport.

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Child poverty: Pale and hungry pupils 'fill pockets with school food'

Malnourished pupils with grey skin are "filling their pockets" with food from school canteens in poor areas due to poverty, head teachers say.

The heads, from various parts of England and Wales, described differences in the appearance of some pupils.

One head said: "My children have grey skin, poor teeth, poor hair; they are thinner."

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Javid calls for unitary proposals from Northamptonshire councils

Councils in Northamptonshire have been invited to submit proposals for unitary structures to replace the existing 2-tier system across the county.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid has invited the district and borough councils in the county to submit a proposal for a single tier of local government in Northamptonshire.

The letter - sent to the chief executives of Corby, Daventry, East Northamptonshire, Kettering, Northampton, Northamptonshire, South Northamptonshire and Wellingborough councils - is calling for proposals by 27 July 2018.

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Councils awarded £900,000 for connected maintenance

Councils are to share £900,000 to invest in innovations using connected vehicles.

The trials aim to help councils more efficiently manage and plan maintenance works. These could include having the data to repair potholes before the occur and help prevent further road defects.

Blackpool Council has been given £100,000 to lead on a digital inspector scheme with eight councils. This will see high definition cameras mounted on vehicles to collect data on road and path conditions.

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Pupils asked to bring waste home by school

Children at King's Park Primary School in Lurgan are being told to bring their rubbish home with them due to the introduction of a charge to have their waste paper bins emptied.

The school is facing a potential cost in excess of £1,000 a year as a result of the £1.50 charge being introduced by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Council for emptying each 240 litre bin.

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MPs call for more holistic approach to improving social care

A cross-party group of 98 MPs has called for a parliamentary commission to come up with a more ‘whole system’ improvement to funding of social care.

A letter sent to Theresa May last week included the signatures of 21 select committee chairs and expressed concern that the government’s forthcoming green paper on social care focused only on older adults.

“We are seriously worried that a green paper addressing the funding solely of social care for older adults will fail to make progress,” said the letter, sent on Friday last week and written by Sarah Wollaston, chair of the health and social care select committee.

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Tories accused of manifesto breach after 60,000 homes miss out on legal right to minimum broadband speed

Ministers have been accused of breaching a manifesto pledge to give every household a legal right to minimum broadband speed after it emerged that 60,000 homes in rural areas will miss out.

The Government announced a new Universal Service Obligation which will give people the right to request access to broadband with minimum speeds of 10Mbps.

The Conservative party’s general election manifesto last year said: “Our Universal Service Obligation will ensure that by 2020 every home and business in Britain has access to high speed broadband.”

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Scale of child abuse survey 'needed every 10 years'

Thousands of children should be surveyed to build a true picture of sexual exploitation, experts have said.

The government says it does not know how many girls have been groomed in the wake of questions about sexual exploitation in Telford.

But the Centre of Expertise for Child Sexual Abuse is designing a survey of children to run every 10 years to assess the scale of the problem. 

Authorities raised 18,800 concerns of children at risk in 2016-17.

Thousands of children should be surveyed to build a true picture of sexual exploitation, experts have said.

The government says it does not know how many girls have been groomed in the wake of questions about sexual exploitation in Telford.

But the Centre of Expertise for Child Sexual Abuse is designing a survey of children to run every 10 years to assess the scale of the problem.

Authorities raised 18,800 concerns of children at risk in 2016-17.

Thousands of children should be surveyed to build a true picture of sexual exploitation, experts have said.


The government says it does not know how many girls have been groomed in the wake of questions about sexual exploitation in Telford.


But the Centre of Expertise for Child Sexual Abuse is designing a survey of children to run every 10 years to assess the scale of the problem.


Authorities raised 18,800 concerns of children at risk in 2016-17.

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Upgrading wind farms could bring £100m to communities, study says

Updating wind farms would bring millions into local communities and put the UK on track to meet its climate change targets, climate scientists say.

A new report by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) has argued upgrading wind farms with the latest and most efficient turbines rather than allowing them to close would increase the UK’s generating capacity by more than 1.3 gigawatts (GW).

This would yield more than 3 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity per year, which would be enough to power nearly 800,000 homes. 

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Council leader welcomes independent inquiry into child sexual abuse

The leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, Shaun Davies, has welcomed the decision to bring an independent inquiry into child sexual abuse to Telford.

The council had contacted the inquiry chair, Professor Alexis Jay, after press coverage of multiple historic child abuse cases in the area.

The Truth Project will now come to Telford in the coming months to hear from victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in the town.

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Government intends to take over Northamptonshire's finances

Government commissioners are likely to take control of Northamptonshire County Council’s finances, the communities secretary has announced today.

Sajid Javid said he was ‘minded’ to take over the council’s financial management and reporting processes. The council now has 10 days to respond before he makes his final decision.

The communities secretary also told the Commons he could go further, giving the commissioners “reserved powers to act as they see fit across the entirety of the authority’s functions if they consider that they must step in”.

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Spending restrictions save Northants £400,000

Spending restrictions imposed on Northamptonshire CC after it issued a section 114 notice have saved about £400,000. The estimate is included in a report due to go before the council’s audit committee on Thursday.

It is now almost eight weeks since Northamptonshire became the first council in almost two decades to issue a section 114 notice.

Since then a chief executive approval panel (CEAP) made up of the chief executive, directors, monitoring officer, deputy section 151 officer, and internal audit, have formed a group that meets three times a week “to review and make decisions in respect of planned purchase requisitions, new staffing commitments and other requests to incur allowable expenditure”. Planned purchases of more than £1,000 are subject to a mini business cases.

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Commissioners to take direct financial control of Northants council

The Tory-run council which declared itself effectively bankrupt last month will have commissioners sent in to take direct control of its financial management and governance, Sajid Javid, the local government secretary, has told MPs.

An independent report this month found that Northamptonshire county council had “failed to comply with its duty” to deliver services and should be scrapped.

Javid said on Tuesday that he agreed with the “extremely serious” conclusions of the report but would give inspectors the powers to act as they saw fit to get the cash-strapped council back on track.

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Bottle deposit plan would fix ‘dirty Britain’

A deposit and return scheme for plastic bottles is needed to prevent Britain becoming the “dirty man of Europe”, countryside campaigners warn the government today.

Michael Gove, the environment secretary, is reported to be considering the introduction of “reverse vending machines” for plastic bottles and cans.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England has backed the deposit scheme in a letter to The Times today, signed by current and past presidents including Sir Andrew Motion, the former poet laureate, Jonathan Dimbleby, the broadcaster and David Puttnam, the filmmaker.

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Tory vow to repair Britain's potholes slammed as Chris Grayling pledges £100million to tackle £9billion crisis

Chris Grayling has been slammed for pledging just £100million to tackle Britain’s £9billion broken roads crisis.

The Transport Secretary will vow to invest the measly sum in repairing potholes and storm damage to roads on Monday. But council chiefs ridiculed the pitiful amount and warned it was merely 1% of the funding needed the address the scandal.

Mr Grayling admitted that an “unusually prolonged spell of freezing weather” had caused damage to local roads in England.

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Government announces £15m in cultural regeneration funds

The tourism minister today committed to giving Blackpool, Bradford and the Lake District £15m in cultural regeneration funds for the North.

The three northern areas will each receive a share of the Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund, which was created to build a lasting regional legacy from the Great Exhibition of the North.

A total of £4m will help transform the vacant former Bradford Odeon cinema into a 4,000 capacity live music, entertainment and events venue.

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Children in north 'face double whammy' of poverty and bad schools

Children growing up in the north’s most deprived communities face a “double whammy” of familial disadvantage and poor institutional performance, with up to 15% of children in some areas dropping out of education and training before they are 18, a report has found.

Despite parts of the urban north experiencing rapid regeneration as the government’s “northern powerhouse” project progresses, many children – girls in particular – feel they will not benefit from what they view as just “a few shiny new buildings”, according to the children’s commissioner, Anne Longfield.

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Taking action for those jailed over unpaid council tax

The current council tax system is not only “highly regressive” because of its weak links to property values as suggested in Phillip Inman’s article (Report, 20 March). Since council tax replaced the community charge in 1992, thousands of people in England and Wales have been jailed for not having paid their council tax. Unlike most other civil debts, people who fail to pay their council tax can be brought before criminal courts and imprisoned, despite having committed no actual crime.

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Grayling promises to fill "4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire“ and many more elsewhere

At a generally gloomy time in which most public services are nearing breaking point, the transport secretary is promising to achieve a pretty sensational result. Mr Grayling claimed that, as a result of this investment – and remember that we’re quoting direct here – “all road users” will no longer have to “dodge potholes”. And a mere £100m is hardly going to be the straw that breaks the Treasury’s back!

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Whitehall announces £3.4m for five new adoption agencies

The Government has announced it will be paying £3.4m to five new agencies in an attempt to speed up the adoption process.

The funding will go to 17 councils to speed up the matching process between children awaiting adoption and adoptive families.

The local authorities are members of five new Regional Adoption Agencies which are designed to bring together groups of local councils to work together on adoption.

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Whitehall launched £260m package to improve air quality

The Government today launched a £260m package to help local authorities tackle air pollution.

Whitehall has launched a £220m Clean Air Fund to tackle roadside emissions and ‘minimise’ the impact of local plans on individuals and businesses.

The Government recommends councils use the money to introduce measures such as new park and ride services, freight consolidation centres, concessionary travel schemes and improvements to bus fleets.

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Cash-strapped Northants criticised for paying £900,000 to former CEO's firm

Northamptonshire County Council has been criticised for paying over £900,000 to a consultancy firm owned by Damon Lawrenson, who was then handed the role of interim chief executive.

Northamptonshire CC paid £931,364 to Mr Lawrenson's firm, DDL Consultancy, between 2008/9 and 2017/18. Around £560,000 of this cost was incurred between 2008/09 and 2010/11.

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Javid approves creation of new district council

Two Somerset councils have been given ministerial approval to merge together to form one new single council.

Local government minister, Sajid Javid, has approved plans for Taunton Deane Borough and West Somerset Councils to merge.

He said that: 'The new district council is likely to improve local government and service delivery in the area, commands a good deal of local support, and that the new council area is a credible geography.’

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Government action on councils failing to plan new homes

Housing Secretary Sajid Javid has today (23 March 2018) written to 15 local authorities in England to inform them of decisions on intervention following their continued failure to produce a local plan, which are key to setting out how and where they expect to meet residents’ needs for new homes, for more than a decade.

In November 2017, the government confirmed it would commence the consideration of intervention in 15 local authorities where there has been a failure to produce a local plan.

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What to look out for in May's local elections

Voters will head to the polls on 3 May for the first England-wide test of electoral opinion since last year's dramatic general election.

Although there are no polls in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, there is plenty of action in England - with seats on about 150 councils up for grabs.

These are a mixture of metropolitan, unitary, borough and district councils. In some, all the seats are up for grabs while in others a third are being contested.

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'Radical change' needed on countryside

The UK government is failing rural communities and the natural environment, a report says.

The Lords Select Committee document says there should be radical change in how the countryside is looked after. It recommends stripping the environment department Defra of its power to regulate on rural affairs, and reforming the Countryside Code.

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Councils face 'decades more austerity' as social care set to account for half of town hall revenues

Councils could face "decades more austerity" amid spiralling social care costs unless the Government rethinks a major overhaul of town hall finding, an influential thinktank has warned.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) warned that social care could account for half of all taxes raised by local authorities by 2035, with vulnerable elderly people facing patchy access to help for basic tasks such as getting out of bed.

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Taunton Deane-West Somerset merger backed by Sajid Javid

THE merger of two district councils has this morning (Thursday) been officially approved by a Government Minister.

Although it still needs Parliamentary approval, Taunton Deane Borough and West Somerset Councils look certain to be abolished.

A new authority called Somerset West and Taunton District Council will then be set up on April 1 next year, with an election of councillors set for May 2.

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Social care faces swallowing half of all tax councils can raise by 2035

Social care costs could swallow up half of local taxes raised by town halls unless ministers pump cash into councils, experts warn.

Highlighting fresh fears of a financial black hole, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said there was a risk of a growing “funding gap” for the sector in England, with access to services increasingly varying from one area to the next.

Under current plans, general grant funding for councils is due to be axed from 2020 - leaving authorities dependent on council tax and business rates for the vast majority of their spending.

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Warning over cash for care leaver advisors

There is a significant shortfall in funding for a new duty on councils to provide a personal advisor for care leavers up to the age of 25, according to the Local Government Association.

Under the Children and Social Work Act 2017 councils, from 1 April, must extend the availability of advisors providing advice and support having previously been required to offer the service until a care leaver is 21.

But the LGA has warned the £12m provided by the government for the additional responsibility will only cover the costs for 20% of care leavers.

It also said no extra funding has been provided for councils to provide additional follow-up support, such as short-term financial assistance and housing support for care leavers up to the age of 25.

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Alison Michalska: Not investing in children is a false economy

Funding for local government is at almost half the level it was in 2010, and at the same time more children and families are in need of support. The impact of cuts across wider public services and the rising levels of children and families living in poverty are only adding to the pressures we face. This is seriously hampering our ability to improve children’s outcomes.

No one should underestimate how hard local authorities have worked to protect the services on which our communities rely. But we have had to make difficult decisions – the impact of which should not be taken lightly.

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IFS: Funding reforms at odds with social care aims

Government reforms aimed at making adult social care services consistent across the country are “fundamentally at odds” with changes to local government finance focused on encouraging councils to grow their tax bases, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

Research found a move to fund councils through 100% business rates retention and council tax revenue by 2020 was unlikely to generate enough money to keep pace with demand for adult social care.

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Council employee exploited systems 'failures' to steal £1m

Failures in ‘fundamental controls’ within Dundee City Council’s financial systems allowed a former employee to steal £1m from the authority, auditors conclude.

IT officer Mark Conway, 52, was jailed for five years last year after stealing more than £1m between August 2009 and May 2016.

The Accounts Commission, whose report into the fraud was published today, found that the extent of the fraud could have been limited if the council had addressed "significant weaknesses" in its invoicing systems.

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Benefits payment blunder will cost taxpayer £700m

Tens of thousands of people with chronic illnesses or disabilities were paid too little in benefits for several years when they were transferred from one allowance to another.

About 70,000 claimants are due repayments of several thousand pounds due to the errors, with a small number owed up to £20,000. The repayments will cost the government an estimated £680 million in one-off payments by 2023 and push up the welfare budget by £70 million to £80 million a year.

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Poor children 2kg heavier than rich

Poor children are now 2kg (4lb) heavier than rich ones, in a reversal of the pattern established throughout human history.

It has taken just a few decades for the poor to become fatter than the rich after being thinner for millennia, experts said in the first study of its kind.

The average child is a stone (6.35kg) heavier by the time they reach the age of 15 than those born in the 1940s, with a higher body mass index despite rising height. Poor children have closed a 4.1cm height gap at age 11 that existed in the 1940s to 1.2cm, but they are now heavier, a study in The Lancet Public Health found.

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Teaching union calls for 5% pay rise with possible strike backing

Britain’s largest teaching union is calling for a 5% pay increase for school staff – buoyed by the announcement of a 6.5% settlement for nurses and NHS staff – backed by a campaign to include possible strike action.

The annual conference of the National Union of Teachers, shortly to merge and become the National Education Union, will consider a motion for a pay claim of 5% alongside other school unions, and ask that the increase be funded by the government rather than from existing school budgets.

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Corbyn challenges PM over 'slash and burn' cuts in council funding

Jeremy Corbyn has used prime minister’s questions to castigate the government over what he called a “slash and burn” approach to council funding, marking the start of Westminster campaigning for local elections in England, which take place in six weeks.

The Labour leader used all his questions to challenge Theresa May on the issue, saying people were being asked to “pay more to get less” as local authorities cut services while increasing council tax and business rates, to cope with much-reduced central funding.

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Scrap 'outdated and regressive council tax,' says think-tank

Council tax is ‘outdated and regressive,’ and the Government should consider scrapping it in favour of a fairer system, according to a think-tank.

As its relationship to property values gets weaker and weaker, council tax looks increasingly like the unpopular poll tax it was introduced to replace, the Resolution Foundation has claimed.

The think-tank claims council tax is regressive due to the ‘wide bands,’ the small difference in the rates of the bands, the out-of-date property values it is based on and the regional variation.

Principal researcher at the Resolution Foundation, Laura Gardiner, said: ‘Despite replacing the unpopular poll tax, council tax has come to look increasingly like it.

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Government bails out overspending Kingston

Kingston Upon Thames LBC has been handed £4.3m funding from the Department for Education (DfE) to help control large overspends on children with special educational needs (SENs).

The Conservative-controlled borough in south-west London has announced the DfE has agreed to £1.3m of the £4.3m ‘disapplication request’ it made to Whitehall for transfers from the schools funding block and from reserves.

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Potholes leave one in five local roads in poor condition as councils face funding deficit

One in five local roads is in a poor condition as councils face a huge funding deficit to tackle potholes, according to a new report.

Some 20% of carriageways in England and Wales have less than five years of life remaining before they become unusable, researchers said. This represents more than 40,000 miles of carriageways.

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Labour council chiefs promise councils ‘ten new freedoms’

Labour’s council leaders promise to give councils ten new freedoms to build homes, schools and children’s centres on their party’s first day in power.

In a report entitled On Day One, the Local Government Association (LGA) Labour Group promised a future Labour Government would close the £7.1bn local government funding gap.

The report, published today, also laid out ten ‘new freedoms’ they argued would help to deliver ‘real change’ for local communities.

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Ministers propose reducing number of councils from 22 to ten

Plans which could see Wales' 22 councils cut through mergers to as few as ten have been resurrected by the Welsh Government.

The last set of merger plans had been scrapped after the 2016 assembly election in favour of regional joint working, which has now been dropped.

Local Government Secretary Alun Davies said councils say services are wearing down to the point of collapse.

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Sure Start funding halved in eight years, figures show

Conservative cuts to councils have resulted in the funding for Sure Start – once a flagship scheme to support children in the early years – being halved over eight years, it has been revealed.

Figures in a National Audit Office report show a £763m slump since the coalition government was first elected in 2010, while funding for services for young people has fallen by £855m.

The reductions have followed a massive squeeze on council budgets imposed by central government as a result of austerity.

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Jeremy Hunt confirms individual costs for social care to be capped

Any new system of funding social care will be capped, Jeremy Hunt has confirmed, in his first policy speech since he took responsibility for social care reform in January. He also pledged to find new ways to support councils struggling to meet the demands of a rapidly ageing population in the green paper on social care due this summer.

Addressing a conference of social workers, the health and social care secretary said: “The way that our current charging system operates is far from fair. This is particularly true for families faced with the randomness and unpredictability of care, and the punitive consequences that come from developing certain conditions over others.

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Care workers' pay for 'sleep-in' shifts case reaches appeal court

A legal action over payments for "sleep-in" shifts, which could cost the UK care industry billions if judges rule in favour of workers, has reached the Court of Appeal.

Leading judges in London will consider two recent conflicting rulings on whether care workers who sleep at their place of work, in case they are needed overnight, should be paid the minimum hourly wage.

The Royal Mencap Society is challenging a tribunal decision made in favour of Claire Tomlinson-Blake, a Mencap support worker in Yorkshire.

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Councils overpaid by £36 million in `historic´ Government error

Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid has revealed his department made “an historic error” in overpaying councils by £36 million.

The error relates to the business rates pilot scheme and impacts 27 councils and the Greater London Authority.

Mr Javid, in a statement to the Commons, said he has instructed officials not to seek to recover the money in light of the “extraordinary circumstance”. 

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Javid orders review after second council payment error

The Government has ordered a review after being forced to admit a second mistake in as many months in the way it calculates council payments.

Local government secretary Sajid Javid said he would not seek to clawback £36m of over-payments in 2018/19 after officials uncovered an ‘historical error’ in the methodology used to calculate the sums paid to business rate pilot areas.

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Call for city centre drug testing stations 'to save lives'

Drug testing stations where substances could be tested without penalty should be opened in city and town centres to help stem a startling rise in club drug-related deaths, a report has concluded.

It found that deaths linked to ecstasy and cocaine are at their highest level since records began, and that hospital admissions for these drugs and the tranquiliser ketamine have also risen dramatically.

There were 98 ecstasy-related deaths in the UK in 2016, up from 12 in 2010, and 494 attributable to cocaine, up from 148 over the same period.

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School breakfast clubs to receive up to £26 million in major boost for hungry kids

School breakfast clubs will receive up to £26 million in a major boost to hungry kids, the Government announced today.

More than 1,770 state schools will benefit from the cash, according to the Department for Education, with money targeted at the most disadvantaged areas of the country.

School chiefs will be left to decide how to run schemes, including whether the funding will cover just disadvantaged pupils or if all pupils can tuck in.

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Updated: Unison set to 'reluctantly' accept pay offer

Unison has reversed its decision to recommend members reject a 2% pay offer to most council workers after the result of the first consultation was deemed too close to be conclusive.

In a briefing to members by Unison national secretary for local government Heather Wakefield, seen by LGC, she said 50.44% of members voted to reject the offer, with 48.66% in favour of accepting it.

However, overall 62.4% of branches and eight of 11 regions voted to accept the offer.

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Local councils prepare to lobby MPs for extra powers

Town and parish councils are calling for new powers to be handed to them following Brexit in what they see as the next stage in local government devolution.

The National Association of Local Councils says a 'community proofing' process should check which powers being returned from Brussels should be given to its members when the UK leaves the EU.

The demand is among several set out in in a report titled 'A Prospectus for Ultra-Localism' being presented to MPs tomorrow as part of NALC's annual Lobby Day.

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The long road to rates retention

Changing local government finance is never easy - but the challenge of giving councils more control over business rates is proving trickier than most.

It did not help that Theresa May called a snap general election last year, so scuppering a bill that would have paved the way for 100% retention of business rates by local authorities in England.

A third set of pilots is due to start next month [APRIL], but it is tempting to think that 100% retention, initially promised by 2020, may not happen for some time.

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Eight out of 10 academies in deficit, say accountants

Academy budgets are in an even worse state than those of council-run schools with eight out of 10 in deficit, suggest figures from their accountants.

Two more years like this and the entire sector could face insolvency, says a report from the Kreston UK accountancy network which looked at 450 schools.

It follows data published on Friday which showed over a quarter of council-run secondary schools were in deficit. The government disputes the findings of both reports.

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National Insurance could rise by a penny in the pound to prevent a repeat of this winter's A&E crisis

National Insurance could rise by a penny in the pound to fund a major boost in health spending.

The radical plan is being examined by senior Tories looking for ways to prevent a repeat of this winter’s NHS crisis.

While officially still saying there are ‘no plans’ for tax rises, Downing Street is thought to be ‘increasingly keen’ on the proposal, which would raise about £5billion a year.


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Secondary school pupil numbers will rise by more than 600,000 by 2023

Senior school pupil numbers will rise by more than 600,000 by 2023 following a baby boom fuelled by high migration.

The number of secondary-age pupils is expected to increase by 21 per cent in the next five years, a Government projection states.

The rise originates from a surge in births which began in the 2000s following a period of sustained high immigration under New Labour.


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Number of secondary schools in deficit has 'trebled'

The number of state secondary schools falling into deficit in England has almost trebled in the last four years to more than a quarter, research says.

Analysis by independent think tank the Educational Policy Institute (EPI) found the proportion of local authority secondaries in deficit rose from 8.8% in 2013-14 to 26.1% in 2016-2017.

Its study of official figures also found a significant increase in the number primary schools in deficit.

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‘Bankrupt’ council’s problems not a factor in PCC fire service takeover decision.

Government inspectors say the financial problems at Northamptonshire Council Council have no impact on whether it should be governed by a PCC.

A damning report yesterday said the authority, which is effectively bankrupt, had been badly managed and should be broken up.

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‘Wholly unacceptable’ that central gov does not have clear answer to benefits of LEPs

The Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (GCGP LEP) is the latest example of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) devolving powers to LEPs in a manner “characterised by both complexity and confusion.”

The comments come from the Public Accounts Committee, which says that the MHCLG must “get its act together” and offer assurance that it monitors how LEPs spend taxpayers’ money.

In 2016, the committee reported on the governance of LEPs, and made clear recommendations for improvements, which the ministry accepted.

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MPs warn of 'poisonous air' emergency costing £20bn a year

MPs have demanded an end to the UK's "poisonous air" in an unprecedented report from four Commons committees.

The Environment, Health, Transport and Environmental Audit committees want a new Clean Air Act, and a clean air fund financed by the motor industry.

They are also demanding a faster phase-out of petrol and diesel cars - currently set for 2040.

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Northamptonshire County Council 'should be scrapped'

Cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council should be scrapped, according to a government report.

The report, ordered by Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid, recommends "a new start" which is "best achieved by the creation of two new unitary councils".

Council leader Heather Smith resigned following the report's publication.

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Care home quality and choice ‘likely to get worse’, council chiefs warn

Council leaders have warned the choice of care homes is likely to get worse as a new study reveals the quality of homes in one in five local authority areas dropped last year.

A new analysis by the older people’s charity Independent Age has found the proportion of care homes rated ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ by the Care Quality Commission increased in one in five council areas in 2017.

The charity warned the study reveals a ‘dramatic variation’ in the quality of care homes at a regional and local authority level across England — a variation driven in large part by low levels of funding from local authorities.

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Power in the country lanes

It may not be obvious what relevance a ditch by the roadside in the southern English countryside has to big policy issues about the structures of local government.

But in the picturesque south coast county of Dorset, highways maintenance is at the heart of the important question of which organs of governance can best provide services to the public.

There, the county council has decided that government budget cuts mean it can no longer keep up the same level of services maintaining the country lanes where Thomas Hardy once walked.

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Manchester to pay care staff living wage

Manchester City Council has pledged to pay an extra pound to the city’s lowest-paid home care staff in a move to help retain carers.

The wage of care workers in Manchester will now be £8.75 per hour, which is a living wage in the northern city.

In 2014 the local authority passed a resolution stating it supported introducing and maintaining a living wage for all of the council’s directly employed staff.

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Inspector slams Northamptonshire officers and members for financial failings

A government inspector has delivered a withering assessment of senior officers at Northamptonshire County Council (NCC), as well as the council’s attempts at restructuring.

Max Caller, who led a team sent in by communities secretary Sajid Javid due to concerns over financial management, also recommended the council be split into two new unitary authorities.

In his final report released today, lead inspector Caller said that former chief executive Paul Blantern failed to act on a 2015 warning from his section 151 officer.

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IFRS9 overrides could be in place before April 2019

Statutory overrides to some parts of the new IFRS9 accounting standard could be introduced in by the end of the next financial year, a government official has revealed.

Gareth Caller, head of the local government finance unit at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), told a conference this week that a consultation on the issue could be imminent. 

Local authorities have voiced worries that, although the aims of IFRS9 are reasonable, they could harm local authority financial resilience.

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Austerity will have cast an extra 1.5m children into poverty by 2021

An extra 1.5 million children will have been pitched into poverty by 2021 as a consequence of the government’s austerity programme, according to a study of the impact of tax and benefit policy by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The EHRC study forecasts dramatic increases in poverty rates among children in lone parent and minority ethnic households, families with disabled children and households with three or more children.

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Five English councils to adopt integration plans

Five English councils are to adopt new integration plans to deal with problems of segregation.

The government's Integrated Communities Strategy will see £50m invested in schemes to improve community relations over the next two years.

Bradford, Blackburn, Peterborough, Walsall and Waltham Forest in London have been selected for special help.

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UK will need to impose tax rises of £30bn to balance budget – IFS

Philip Hammond will need to impose tax rises worth at least £30bn to reach his target of balancing the public finances by 2025, undermining hopes that the chancellor will go into his autumn budget with plenty of spare cash to ease austerity, according to a leading economic thinktank.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said the government could be forced to find up to £41bn in extra taxes by the middle of the next decade once the costs of Britain’s ageing population are taken into account.

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Majority of councils have no men working in their nurseries, as parents assume they pose risk to children

The majority of councils have no men working in their nurseries, as parents assume they pose a risk to young children.

Of the 38 councils in England, Scotland and Wales which still have in-house nurseries, 26 do not hire a single male teacher.

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Government backs DoLS replacement

The Government has said it ‘agrees in principle’ that the current Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) system should be ‘replaced as a matter of pressing urgency’.

But the Government’s response to recommendations by the Law Commission – more than a year after the statutory independent body said DoLS were ‘unfit for purpose’ and called for them to be scrapped immediately - said only that it would ‘legislate on this issue in due course’.

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Spring statement sees rates revaluation brought forward to 2021

The next business rates revaluation will take place in 2021, a year earlier than expected, chancellor Philip Hammond has announced.

Last year, Hammond announced that revaluations would move to a three-yearly cycle from 2022, to ease pressure on small businesses.

However, in this week’s spring statement, the chancellor announced he was bringing forward the next revaluation, basing it on market rental values at 1 April 2019.

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Spring Statement: Philip Hammond hails better debt and growth forecasts

Chancellor Philip Hammond has unveiled upgraded projections for growth and predicted falling inflation and borrowing in his Spring Statement.

He claimed the UK economy had reached a turning point and there was "light at the end of the tunnel" and ruled out an immediate end to austerity but hinted at possible spending rises in the future.

Labour accused him of "astounding complacency" in the face of the worst ever public sector funding crisis.

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Spring Statement: Hammond opens bids for £840m transport pot

In his Spring Statement, chancellor Philip Hammond opened bidding on the remaining £840m from the Transforming Cities Fund for improving transport in English cities, boosted skills funding and pledged a consultation on cuts to VED for businesses that buy cleaner vans.

The £1.7bn Transforming Cities Fund was announced at Autumn Budget 2017 when around half of it was given to combined authorities with mayors.

Mr Hammond announced that a £29m construction skills funds will open for bids next month and there will be a further £80m to help small business engage apprentices.

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Councils ‘struggling to balance the books,’ with no knowledge of how spending will work from 2020

The Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) has called for an urgent consultation on the future of local government funding following the chancellor’s Spring Statement.

In his speech today, Philip Hammond was positive about the UK economy, reporting that it has grown every year since 2010, with an additional three million jobs, lower unemployment and an increase in wages of almost 7% above inflation since April 2015 for the lowest paid.

Additional spending before the Autumn Budget is unlikely, but Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive of LGiU warned that for some councils that could be too late.

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Javid backs county unitary in Buckinghamshire

In a written ministerial statement, Mr Javid said he had rejected a competing proposal from the districts for two unitary councils.

Buckinghamshire CC had submitted a one-council proposal whereas the districts - Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe - submitted a joint proposal for two unitary authorities based on a north/south split.

Mr Javid said his decision to go with the single unitary proposal was based on local support but also because the two proposed councils would not have a ‘credible identity’.

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Slow broadband take-up hurting rural areas

Slow broadband and a lack of digital skills are preventing billions of pounds being added to the economy in rural areas, according to a report.

Up to £26.4bn could be added to the UK economy if rural businesses were unshackled in adopting digital technology, a report by Rural England and Scotland’s Rural College commissioned by Amazon says.

It said encouraging rural businesses to use superfast broadband, train up on computing and providing technology “hubs” for businesses in local towns could add between £12bn and £26.4bn in “gross value added” - the contribution to the economy.

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Overwhelming backing for 2% pay offer from GMB's members

Members of the GMB union have voted overwhelmingly to accept the 2% pay offer for most council staff.

The union, which did not make a recommendation to members on the offer, announced on Friday that 94% of those who took part in the ballot backed the proposal made in December by the National Employers, who negotiate pay on behalf of the majority of councils in England.

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Guy Ware: The business rates retention row of ducks [opinion]

Business rates retention is delayed but is this an opportunity to put the funding of local services on a sustainable footing for the foreseeable future? Only if four key questions can be answered, argues Guy Ware.

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Spring Statement 2018: Philip Hammond fixes his eye on the horizon while local councils drown

No red box, no official document, no spending increases, no tax changes.” The Treasury official probably regretted leaving out “no fun”. The chancellor has decided there is no need for two big financial statements each year. Big adjustments must await the budget proper in late autumn; this Tuesday he aims to get what little he has to say off his chest in less than 20 minutes.

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Philip Hammond plots £1billion VAT blitz on small firms by cutting payment threshold

Firms and tradesmen with sales below £85,000 a year are spared the tax — escaping a mountain of paperwork and higher prices for their products.

But Mr Hammond fears too many firms “bunch” just below that figure, shunning further growth to avoid the hassle of having to register for VAT. 

Changing the threshold to £25,000 would catch an extra million firms and generate £1billion more in tax for the Treasury from higher VAT receipts.

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'Light at the end of the tunnel' Philip Hammond hints at an end to austerity

Striking an upbeat note ahead of his first Spring Statement, Mr Hammond said Britain was “at a turning point”.

He pointed to the first signs that productivity, vital to higher wages, could be on the rise together with a forecast of what he described as “the beginning of the first sustained fall in debt for a generation”.

Analysts believe there are reasons for optimism with predictions Britain’s financial watchdog will bump up growth forecasts, while cutting expected Government borrowing by up to £11billion, due to increased tax revenues.

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Philip Hammond to snub ministers' demands for more money for NHS and defence as he makes Spring Statement

Philip Hammond will snub ministers’ demands for more money for the NHS, defence and other departments when he makes his Spring Statement next week despite forecasts of a £7.5billion windfall for the Treasury. 

The Office for Budget Responsibility will publish figures on Tuesday which are expected to revise down previous estimates for borrowing, prompting calls for the Chancellor to loosen the purse strings.

But his response to the figures will make clear that the extra money, which has come from higher than expected tax receipts, is needed to reduce the deficit and the national debt.

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Councils need urgent long-term funding plan, says watchdog

Ministers must rapidly produce a long-term funding plan for local councils in England because years of cuts have put their finances in a perilous position, according to a report by parliament’s spending watchdog.

The National Audit Office estimated that, as part the government’s efforts to balance its books since the financial crisis, Whitehall funding for local authorities was slashed by 49 per cent in real terms between 2010-11 and 2017-18.

Councils initially responded to the funding cuts by sharply reducing spending, but in recent years they have dipped into their financial reserves in an attempt to protect key services such as social care.


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Vulnerable children 'paying the price of Tory austerity', John McDonnell says

Vulnerable children are “paying the price” of austerity as children’s services face a gaping funding gap, Labour has warned.

A report published by the party today said the number of children in care shot up last year by more than in any year since 2010.

John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, said it was a “national scandal” that, despite growing demand, children’s services are facing a £2bn funding gap by 2020, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

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Freezing weather will lead to spike in UK potholes, motoring experts warn

The recent blast of freezing weather will lead to a further spike in potholes on UK roads, motoring experts have warned.

Initial figures show pothole related breakdowns have already doubled following last week's widespread snow and ice, according to the RAC.

Freezing water in road cracks when the Beast from the East struck has broken up surfaces already plagued by potholes, the firm said as it marked National Pothole Day.

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Class sizes up in 'two-thirds of secondary schools'

Two-thirds of secondary schools in England have increased the size of their classes in the past two years, an analysis of official figures suggests.


The analysis, by education unions, suggests the five areas with the fullest classes have all seen increases between 2014-15 and 2016-17.

In some areas, such as York, secondaries have had average rises of three more students per class, it said. However, The Department for Education said the figures were flawed.

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Chancellor's spring statement to reveal £11bn boost

Philip Hammond could reveal an improvement in the public finances worth as much as £11bn when he delivers next week’s spring statement, according to analysis of official figures.

The chancellor is set for a dual economic boost from the improving productivity of British workers and a leap in tax returns according to the Resolution Foundation thinktank, which looked at data from the Office for National Statistics to produce its own estimates ahead of the spring statement on Tuesday.

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Councils on the brink of going bust as report reveals Government has slashed funding by 50%

Councils are on the brink of going bust as a bombshell report today reveals the Tories have slashed their funding by 50% since coming to power.

Some are so cash-strapped they may be unable to repair potholes, collect bins or keep leisure centres open, a damning assessment by the National Audit Office warns.

And they are “raiding their rainy day funds” to cope with crippling demand on social services, the public spending watchdog adds. One in 10 will have used up reserves by 2020.

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Freezing weather will lead to spike in UK potholes, motoring experts warn

The recent blast of freezing weather will lead to a further spike in potholes on UK roads, motoring experts have warned.

Initial figures show pothole related breakdowns have already doubled following last week's widespread snow and ice, according to the RAC.

Freezing water in road cracks when the Beast from the East struck has broken up surfaces already plagued by potholes, the firm said as it marked National Pothole Day.

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Willetts makes case for baby boomer tax

Lord David Willetts, executive chair of the Resolution Foundation think-tank, called for the government to reconsider sources of tax revenue to support rising health and welfare costs in Britain. 

Research by the think-tank shows that by 2030, spending on education, health and social security is set to rise by £20bn a year and by £60bn a year by 2040.

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Manchester CC ‘dramatically’ increases spend in local economy

Manchester City Council has increased the amount it spends in the city’s economy by around 65% in the last 10 years, new figures reveal.

A study by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) published on Monday found the proportion of spend with Manchester based organisations has increased from 5% in 2008/09 to 71.7% in 2016/17.

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Council chiefs warn of children’s social care crisis in the north west

Local government leaders in the north west have warned of a ‘growing’ children’s social care crisis in their area.

Cabinet members from 20 councils have written a cross-party letter to Phillip Hammond warning the north west has 13,000 Looked After Children — the greatest number of children in care of any region in England.

This figure has risen by 12% since 2013 which is double the 6% increase in the rest of the country, they told the chancellor.

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Government owes £5.3trn in pensions - ONS

At the end of 2015, the ONS estimates, "total accrued-to-date gross pension liabilities of UK pension providers in respect of employment-related (workplace) pensions and State Pensions" were £7.6trn. 

The smaller chunk of outstanding pension liabilities, the other £2.3trn, represents payments promised in retirement to people working mainly in the private sector.


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Whitehall blasted for ‘over-simplification’ of social care crisis

Council chiefs have criticised the Government’s response to a report on the care home market describing it as a ‘serious over-simplification’ of the adult social care crisis.

In their response to the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) final report into the care home market, Whitehall criticised local authorities for not paying care providers enough.

They said Government had given local authorities ‘access’ to up to £9.4bn more dedicated funding for social care over three years.

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Counting the cost of adult social care as councils set spending budgets

This week Norfolk County Council met to discuss its budget for the next financial year and like many other local authorities, decided to put up council tax by 6%, half of that rise is for adult social care.

This year's budget sees an extra £40 million being put aside for caring for the older generation.

Norfolk County Council spends £1 million per day on adult social care.

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Most Yorkshire councils unite in joint devolution bid

All but two councils in historic Yorkshire have signed up to a call for devolution to the entire region.

They have said that a wide-ranging package of powers should be devolved to an elected mayor and combined authority.

The move follows a tortuous process in which a limited devolution deal took effect for the Leeds city region but progress was stymied by the refusal of North Yorkshire County Council to cede any of its transport powers over adjacent districts to the city region.

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Cuts to youth services lead to rise in crime warn councils

Government funding cuts have served to undermine years of work by local authorities in tackling youth crime, council chiefs warn.

In 2010/11 Whitehall funding for youth offending teams (YOTs) stood at £145m. By 2017/18 it had been slashed to £72m.

These cuts have been made despite evidence YOTs have been effective at preventing young people from getting involved in crime.

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John McDonnell: Spring Statement 'must help ailing councils'

John McDonnell has urged the government to ensure that the Spring Statement offers help to local councils that are struggling financially.

Mr McDonnell said: "Tories are bizarrely saying they will pass up an opportunity this month to act."

He warned that councils in England are facing bankruptcy due to what he called the government's "failed policy of austerity".

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Social Workers 'unbearable' workloads 'underestimated by Government

Overloaded social workers are keeping an eye on up to 60 at-risk children each – sparking fears of another Baby P horror.

Burnt-out child protection workers have reacted furiously to new official figures which “seriously underestimate” their workload. Government stats claim the average social worker in England has around 18 vulnerable children on his or her books.

That has caused an explosion of anger online. One social worker, who called himself Mr Ever Hopeful, revealed he had 64 cases, adding: “I don’t want a medal. I just want a job to be manageable”.

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George Osborne austerity target is hit — 2 years late

Britain has eliminated the deficit on its day-to-day budget, the target originally set by George Osborne when he imposed austerity on public services in 2010.

The rapid improvement in the public finances over the past six months means that the former chancellor’s ambition for a surplus on the current budget, which excludes capital investment, has been met, albeit two years later than planned. 

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LGA urges for social care to have ‘equal footing’ to NHS to close funding gap

Historic underfunding of adult social care is impacting on inpatient services, the LGA has warned.

The remarks come following today’s release of the National Audit Office’s report: ‘Reducing emergency admissions,’ which revealed that emergency admissions grew by 24% from 2007-08 to 2016-17.

Between 2013-14 and 2016-17 the cost of emergency admissions rose by 2.2% from £13.4bn to £13.7bn, while emergency admissions increased by 7% during the same period

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DHSC concerned about Northamptonshire’s ability to meet statutory responsibilities

Northamptonshire County Council is the only local authority that the Department of Health and Social Care has concerns about when it comes to delivering its statutory care responsibilities, MPs have heard.

Sir Chris Wormald, permanent secretary at the Department of Health and Social Care told the public accounts committee that other authorities are meeting their statutory requirements.

Committee member Gillian Keegan, Conservative MP for Chichester, said: “You can’t open a newspaper these days without reading about concerns on social care - it’s everywhere.”

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Business rates retention poses ‘some risk’ to core PH funding, says DHSC minister

Business rate implementation of public health may be delayed if risks to core health funding are not mitigated, a Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) minister has argued.

Speaking at yesterday’s LGA/ADPH annual public health conference and exhibition 2018, the under-secretary for public health and primary care, Steve Brine, said that the Department of Health and Social Care is working hard to make the transition from ring-fenced grants to business rate retention (BRR) a success.

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Nearly half of girls have self-harmed

Just under 50 per cent of young women have self-harmed, according to a survey that has prompted renewed alarm over teenage mental health.

The poll, carried out for charities who say the young are struggling to cope, found that just over a quarter of men aged 16-25 have deliberately harmed themselves.

It means that, overall, 36 per cent of people in that age group have self-harmed at some point in their lives, suggesting that the problem is much more widespread than previously believed.

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Northamptonshire county council chief cuts £40m to stave off bankruptcy

A crisis-ridden council that admitted running out of money last month has passed a £40 million package of cuts, which officials have warned could cause care services to become unsafe.

Yesterday Northamptonshire county council passed a delayed budget for 2018-19 which included ceasing to run libraries and scrapping bus subsidies. The Conservative-run council had effectively declared it was close to bankruptcy by issuing a section 114 notice banning all but essential spending.

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Council tax rises to boost bills by £81 in England

Households in England will pay on average an extra £81 in council tax from April, in the steepest increases for 14 years, as cash-strapped local authorities struggle to fill gaping holes in their budgets caused by years of austerity.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa), which represents public sector finance officers, said the findings of its survey highlighted the increasing financial pressures faced by councils as funding cuts started to bite.

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Business rate retention ‘may not achieve goal’

Business rate retention may not achieve its intended goal of promoting growth, the Institute for Fiscal Studies has warned.

While the reform is aimed at “increasing the incentives councils have to grow [revenue] and their local economies...it also risks growing divergences between the funding available to different councils”.

Spending Needs, Tax Revenue Capacity and the Business Rates Retention Scheme, released yesterday, also said if 100% retention were applied generally councils that saw the highest increases in revenues would not necessarily be those with the greatest increase in their relative spending needs.

Full Article

Hammond is unlikely to squander the fiscal dividend he is sitting on [opinion]

With March approaching fast — though somebody should tell the weather — I cannot help but feel a stirring. No, not that, but because this is usually the time of year when we would be looking forward to the spring budget. Not this year. On March 13 Philip Hammond will be on his feet in the Commons not for a budget but for a much briefer affair: his response to new official forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility.

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Cost of childcare surges to £122 a week leaving parents 'treading water', report finds

The cost of childcare in Britain has surged to double the rate of inflation leaving many families “just treading water” as parents struggle to afford the rising costs in order to go to work, a new study shows.

The average cost of a part-time nursery place for a child under two has soared by seven per cent in the past year to £122 a week, or more than £6,300 a year, according to the report by the Family and Childcare Trust.

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Projects launched to support care leavers

Three new projects to help care leavers into education, employment or training has been launched by the Government.

Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi announced up to £5m for the three new Social Impact Bonds projects to help support young people as they leave care.

Mr Zahawi said: ‘The programmes we are announcing today will help care leavers make the transition to adulthood more smoothly, improving the opportunities available to them whether in education, employment or training.

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Survey reveals ‘sharp drop’ in satisfaction with social care

There has been a ‘sharp drop’ in satisfaction with social care and the NHS in recent years due to a lack of funding and Government reforms, new research reveals.

A new report from the Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund think tanks has revealed satisfaction with social care services was 23% in 2017 and dissatisfaction increased by 6 percentage points to 41%.

Full Article

Projects launched to support care leavers

Three new projects to help care leavers into education, employment or training has been launched by the Government.

Children and families minister Nadhim Zahawi announced up to £5m for the three new Social Impact Bonds projects to help support young people as they leave care.

Mr Zahawi said: ‘The programmes we are announcing today will help care leavers make the transition to adulthood more smoothly, improving the opportunities available to them whether in education, employment or training.

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Nadhim Zahawi: Leadership key to turning round failing children's services

The new children’s minister has promised “world-class” support for social work but declared that strong leadership, rather than extra funding, is the key to turning round failing services.

Nadhim Zahawi, who was appointed in the January reshuffle to what is his first ministerial post, said he had already visited several councils including Doncaster, where services are showing improvement under a children’s trust.

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Chris Buss: Is fair funding mission impossible? [opinion]

A few weeks ago Tom Cruise was filming in London for the next Mission Impossible film. One wonders if he was actually in Marsham Street advising MHCLG on their own version of mission impossible — the fair funding review.

On the face of it, the review is straightforward: it’s about making the post-2020 local government finance settlement fair in every respect. In the words of the review, the new system will seek to be transparent, simple, contemporary, sustainable, robust and stable. In addition, the settlement will continue to provide a strong incentive for local authorities to continue to grow their economies. That’s seven objectives to be met, all of which are laudable. However, some of these are potentially contradictory, in my view.

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Revised Northamptonshire budget includes ‘regrettable’ proposals in light of severe challenges

Last week KPMG issued an advisory notice to the cash-strapped council highlighting concerns about its proposed budget and an “overreliance on the use of capital receipts.”

As a result, the council held an extraordinary meeting yesterday to discuss its revised recommendations.

These include freezing pay for all staff during 2018-19, reducing councillors’ allowances, increasing on-street parking controls across the county, closing down 21 small libraries, removing all bus subsidies from the end of the school term in July, and reducing the Trading Standards budget by 42%.

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Council tax hikes will not stop cuts to local services, authorities warn

Unprecedented increases in council tax starting in April will not offset cuts to services including children’s centres and libraries, local authorities have warned.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said councils in England would raise an estimated £1.1bn through higher council taxes in 2017-18, but this would not cover the £1.4bn lost through cuts to central government funding plus the higher wage bill of £1bn.

Nearly half of English councils with responsibility for providing social care for adults and children will increase council tax by the maximum 5.99% allowed – 2.99% for general council tax plus a further levy of up to 3% to pay for the care of older and disabled adults – but this will not prevent further cuts to services, according to the LGA.

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Dorset councils to merge in biggest local government shake-up in 40 years

Councils in Dorset are set to merge in the biggest shake-up to local government in more than 40 years.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has been considering the 'Future Dorset' proposals for more than a year which will see the existing nine authorities replaced with two unitary councils for the whole of Dorset.

The long-awaited decision was announced today in the House of Commons.

"I am today announcing that I have decided to implement, subject to Parliamentary approval, that locally-led proposal to replace the existing nine councils across Dorset," Mr Javid said.

Weymouth and Portland, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck and West Dorset will be replaced by a single unitary authority.

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Local government and health leaders urged to remake partnership

Local government and health leaders have been urged to seize the ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to remake their partnership by England’s top A&E doctor.

Professor Keith Willett said the two sectors had previously struggle to overcome their financial, cultural and operational differences. However, he said the conditions were now right for a ‘major shift; in attitude.

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Auditors warn Northamptonshire CC budget could be ‘illegal’

Auditors have warned cash-strapped Northamptonshire County Council that its proposed budget could be breaking the law.

The auditors KPMG have issued an advisory notice to the council warning it would be in breach of the Local Audit & Accountability Act 2014 if it signed off on its budget. 

The struggling authority issued a section 114 order earlier this month, calling a halt to spending due to the ‘severe financial challenge’ it was facing.

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Roll-out of lane rental plans for local authorities

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced plans to allow the roll-out of lane rental schemes across the country, giving local authorities the option to charge utility companies up to £2,500 a day for digging up the busiest roads at peak times.

The news follows successful trials of lane rental schemes by Transport for London and Kent County Council, and a consultation on different options for managing road works last year.

The Government’s response to the consultation states that new lane rental schemes will need to be approved by the transport secretary in line with existing primary legislation and approval will come with conditions attached.

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The extent of business rates relief fraud

It is estimated that there could be over £25m worth of fraud being perpetuated by businesses falsely claiming Small Business Rates Relief across England, according to data analytics experts Destin Solutions.

Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) is provided to a number of businesses across England on the basis that they either only use one property or have a rateable value of less than £15,000.

Historically information provided by small businesses claiming relief has been extremely difficult for local authorities to verify due to lack of resources and an inability to access a country-wide view of businesses and the properties they occupy.

Analysing the business rate information of 98.5% of English local authorities, Destin Solutions found that a number of businesses claiming relief have been doing this erroneously or falsely.

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Surge in poverty rates among children of public sector worker parents

Rates of poverty among children of public sector workers have surged since 2010 following the Government’s pay restrictions and in-work benefit cuts, new analysis shows.

One in seven children whose parents work in public sector jobs such as teaching and nursing are now living below the breadline – marking an increase of 40 per cent in eight years, according to the research by the Trade Union Congress (TUC).

The research shows that since 2010, an extra 150,000 children have been pushed into poverty, with families where both parents work in the public sector hit hardest by the Government’s pay restrictions and benefit changes.

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Financial faultline opens to create an east-west economic divide

There has long been an economic divide between the north and south of England but a gap is opening up between the east and west as well.

Regional data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that across the Midlands and the north, the growth of the west has been twice as fast as that of the east since the 2008 financial crisis. In the years before the crash the economies of the North East and the North West grew at similar speeds.

Full Article

Room151 survey probes sustainability of local government finance

Local government finance burst onto national newspaper headlines this month after Northamptonshire became the first council in two decades to issue a section 114 notice.

But even as central government and commentators were coming to terms with the implications, local authority officers around the country continued their work managing a raft of changes affecting the sector: Brexit, IFRS9, MiFID II, prudential code and, of course, the ongoing effects of austerity.

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Whiteman raises question of LOBO litigation and mis-selling

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman has urged local authorities who think they were mis-sold Lender Option Borrower Option (LOBO) loans to consider legal action against banks.

Whiteman made his comments this week during a BBC Radio4 news item which took a critical look at the amount of interest some councils are paying on LOBOs in the wake of Northamptonshire County Council’s financial problems.

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Northamptonshire County Council repaying £150m in LOBO loans

A cash-strapped council which has banned all new spending is currently repaying £150m in "toxic" loans.

Northamptonshire County Council has invoked the ban on expenditure as it faces a £21m overspend for 2017-18.

It said it would cost more than a quarter of a billion pounds to immediately repay the LOBO - or Lender Option Borrower Option - loans, described by critics as "risky".

Full Article

Dan Bates: Settlement reveals fragility of the system and the need to speak up on fair funding

Local government last week saw the final financial settlement. Dan Bates analyses the underlying issues revealing a council tax system that is fragile and dwindling reserves.

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Carillion: accountants accused of 'feasting' on company

MPs have accused the “big four” accountancy firms of “feasting on what was soon to become a carcass” as it emerged they banked £72m for work linked to collapsed government contractor Carillion in the years leading up to its financial failure.

Less than a fortnight before Carillion’s auditor KPMG is due to face questions from MPs on two select committees, the accountant and rivals Deloitte, EY and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) submitted evidence to the inquiry.

Full Article

UK inflation still at 3% despite fall in food prices

UK consumer price inflation remained at 3% in January, the same level as in December

 The rate, as reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), is close to November's six-year high of 3.1%.

Most economists were expecting a small fall in the CPI to 2.9%.

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Local councils want more power to be able to increase amount of fines handed to drivers

Local councils are seeking to gain new powers to impose fines on drivers for minor offences on the roads.

Councils want the power to be able to issue fines for drivers violating rules such as stopping in box junctions and cycle boxes at traffic lights and illegal U-turns.

It has been suggested by these councils that they would be better equipped to tackle these offences than the police.

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Landowners in Wales face tax in Welsh Government plans

A tax on vacant land could be introduced in Wales in plans to be announced today by the government.

The new tax would apply to land where permission to build has been granted (or land that is within a local development plan) but where no work has been carried out.

In October 2017, the Welsh government announced a shortlist of four possible taxes it was considering introducing as part of its new tax-raising powers, which will come into force in April.

These were taxes on vacant land or disposable plastics, a levy to support social care, or a tourism tax.

“A tax on vacant land could prevent the practice of land banking and land not being developed within the expected timescale,” said Mark Drakeford, cabinet secretary for finance.

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Westminster council proposes ‘voluntary’ council tax scheme

Westminster council is proposing to freeze council tax and replace it with a voluntary contribution scheme after a consultation found ‘strong support’ for the idea.

The City Council will ask residents in the most expensive properties if they will consider voluntarily paying double the amount they would normally contribute in Westminster’s share of the council tax.

For 2018/19 this is £833 for Band H properties, which excludes the GLA element. However, any voluntary amount would be up to the contributor.

Full Article

Anxiety over lack of children's sector-led improvement funding

The director of children’s services who played a leading role in Rotherham MBC’s children’s services improvement has said there is widespread anxiety over low levels of funding for sector-led improvement.

Debbie Barnes began supporting Rotherham when her employer Lincolnshire CC became practice improvement partner in 2016, with the county council’s deputy leader Patricia Bradwell (Con) also replacing Malcolm Newsom as commissioner for children’s social care.

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Schools struggle to get mental health help, says survey

A survey of UK head teachers has found that nearly half are struggling to get mental health support for their pupils.

A total of 45% of 655 of school leaders quizzed by children's mental health charity Place2Be said it was a problem.

One mother, who did receive support from her local school after a friend suggested she should ask for help, told the BBC how a violent incident with her son at home was a tipping point.

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Over half of councils plan to cut spending on children's services

More than half of councils in England are planning to slash spending on children's services such as closing children’s centres, according to a new analysis.

The Investigative Bureau of Journalism says the cost of supporting vulnerable children has pushed nearly all councils over budget and prompted cuts to services.

Full Article

Care provider Four Seasons temporarily bailed out

The struggling care provider Four Seasons has today signed a deal with a hedge fund which will see £70m invested to enable it to keep operating.

Four Seasons Health Care, one of the largest private social care providers in the country, has been struggling to stay afloat amid the ongoing social care crisis.

Its estimated net debt stands at around £525m.

Full Article

..NAO warns on ‘neglected’ social care

The head of the National Audit Office has warned that social care in England is a “Cinderella service” in danger of collapse and needs more attention from ministers.

An NAO report published yesterday said the adult social care workforce was undervalued, understaffed and lacking in investment.

NAO head Amyas Morse said: “Social care cannot continue as a Cinderella service – without a valued and rewarded workforce, adult social care cannot fulfil its crucial role of supporting elderly and vulnerable people in society.

Full Article

Anti-obesity programmes in primary schools 'don't work'

School programmes encouraging children to take more exercise and eat healthily are unlikely to have any real effect on childhood obesity, a study in the British Medical Journal suggests.

More than 600 primary school pupils in the West Midlands took part in a 12-month anti-obesity programme.

But the study found no improvements in the children's diet or activity levels.

Full Article

Council tax hikes planned 'across England'

Nearly all local authorities in England are set to raise council tax and service charges amid concerns for their financial stability, a survey suggests.

Council tax is set to rise in 95% of authorities while 93% will hike service fees, according to the 2018 State of Local Government Finance research.

The planned increases come as 80% of councils fear for their balance sheets.

Full Article

Bank of England hints at earlier and faster rate rises

The Bank of England has indicated that the pace of interest rate increases could accelerate if the economy remains on its current track.

Bank policymakers voted unanimously to keep interest rates on hold at 0.5% at their latest meeting.

However, they said rates would need to rise "earlier" and by a "somewhat greater extent" than they thought at their last review in November.

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MPs give green light to local government finance settlement

Parliament has approved the local government finance settlement following this week’s announcement of an additional £150m for social care.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid said that the settlement “strikes a balance between relieving growing pressure on local government whilst ensuring that hard-pressed taxpayers do not face excessive bills”.

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Council chiefs call for ‘locally-driven’ successor to EU aid

Council chiefs have urged the Government to create a ‘locally-driven’ successor scheme to EU regional aid as MPs warn Whitehall is too slow in allocating resources for Brexit.

A new report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warns Government departments that they have to face up to ‘hard choices’ in order to deliver Brexit.

Published today, the committee’s report identifies 313 areas of essential Brexit work and says department’s will have to prioritise these over non-Brexit tasks.

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Cash crisis forces secondary schools in England to cut 15,000 staff

Secondary schools in England have lost 15,000 teachers and teaching assistants in the last two years, resulting in bigger classes and less individual attention for pupils, according to teachers’ leaders.

Unions say the job cuts are the result of £2.8bn of real-terms funding cuts in schools, where budgets are described as being at “breaking point”. Many schools are facing deficits and more than half of the biggest multi-academy chains have issued warnings about funding.

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Council budgets: One in three spent more than planned

Northamptonshire County Council has said it is in financial trouble and is banning all new spending, raising questions about the financial health of local authorities across England.

Analysis by the BBC England Data Unit has found that around one in every three local authorities spent more on services in 2016-17 than they expected to.

How did Northamptonshire get into trouble and could it happen anywhere else?

Full Article

Northamptonshire tables unitary plans to combat ‘bleak financial position’

Transforming into a unitary authority could be the last option left to the debt-ridden Northamptonshire County Council.

Councillors suggested that only “significant local government reorganisation” could save the authority from a £78m funding gap set to develop between 2019-20 and 2021-22.

The news comes after Northamptonshire became the first council in nearly 20 years to issue a section 114 spending ban earlier this week, prohibiting almost all new expenditure.

Full Article

UK must tackle 'astonishing' cost of congestion, study says

UK drivers wasted an average of 31 hours in rush-hour traffic last year, costing each motorist £1,168, a study by traffic data firm Inrix suggests.

The UK is the world's 10th most congested country and London is Europe's second most gridlocked city after Moscow.Manchester, Birmingham, Luton and Edinburgh completed the UK's top five major areas affected.

The government said a record £23bn was being invested in road schemes.

Full Article

Poorest areas face biggest cuts to children's services

The analysis of Department for Education figures by researchers at Huddersfield and Sheffield universities shows that since 2010, council areas with the highest levels of deprivation and need have faced the biggest cuts.

Adjusted for inflation, the figures show overall spending on children's services has fallen by 16% across England - but in the poorest areas the figure is 27%, compared with 4% in the wealthiest areas.

Spending on intervention services to help families before they reach a crisis has fallen by 47% overall - but the figure in the poorest boroughs is 54%, while in the wealthiest it is 33%.

Full Article

Councils ‘will not benefit equally’ from business rate retention

Local government leaders have warned a group of MPs increasing business rate retention levels will not benefit all councils equally.

Areas that did not have a strong business economy would not be able to raise as much revenue through the rates, Rob Whiteman, chief executive of CIPFA, told the communities and local government committee yesterday.

Full Article

Javid gives councils £150m social care funding boost

Councils in England will receive an extra £150m for adult social care next year, Sajid Javid announced today as he confirmed the local government finance settlement for 2018-19. 

In a written statement to parliament, the communities secretary said the money will be distributed according to relative needs and will be taken from “anticipated underspend in existing departmental budgets”. This will not affect existing revenue commitments made ‎to local government.

The government said it increased the Rural Services Delivery Grant by £31m, which is £16m more than was proposed in the provisional settlement in December.

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Call for Javid to resign after 'misleading' House of Commons

Andrew Gwynne has demanded the resignation of his counterpart, local government secretary Sajid Javid, after the minister admitted he knew the provisional finance settlement was wrong.

Mr Gwynne said Mr Javid had now admitted he knew the provisional finance data was ‘incorrect and [he] knowingly mislead Parliament as a consequence’.

Full Article

Govt could re-nationalise East Coast line after £200m loss

Ministers are considering taking the struggling East Coast rail franchise back under public control in the next few months after the existing franchise holder ‘got its sums wrong’.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling told MPs that Stagecoach, which is in partnership with Virgin, had lost around £200m running the franchise, which ‘will only be able to continue in its current form for a matter of a very small number of months’.

Full Article

‘Tax the over 65s to fund their care’

Senior doctors and a former head of the NHS say that people over 65 who are still working must start paying national insurance to help to meet the cost of their own care.

National insurance should be ring-fenced, or hypothecated, for the NHS and social care to end the need to use council tax to pay for the needs of the elderly, say experts who want £9 billion in funding over the next three years.

The Liberal Democrats, who commissioned the report, are understood to be sympathetic to the idea of a tax on wealthy pensioners to fund NHS care.

Full Article

Parents paid £1m over 'shambles' childcare scheme

Almost £1m has been paid to parents in lieu of the tax-free childcare they should have received under a flagship government scheme.

Under the scheme, Revenue & Customs tops up what parents put in up by 20%, up to £2,000 per child per year.

But, because of glitches on the HMRC website, thousands have been unable to either set up tax-free accounts or access money they had paid into them.

Full Article

Northamptonshire MPs call for county council takeover

MPs are calling for government commissioners to take over the running of a county council which has banned almost all spending.

Northamptonshire County Council has brought in a "section 114" notice, banning new expenditure.

Despite this, legal obligations have seen it issue a budget for 2018/19 to allow a council tax precept to be set.

Full Article

Northamptonshire sparks warnings other councils could ‘fail’

Leading local government figures are warning multiple councils could be at risk of financial collapse after a county council dramatically imposed emergency spending controls.

Concerns have been raised after Northamptonshire County Council issued a rarely used ‘section 114’ notice on Friday banning expenditure on all services, except those that protect vulnerable people.

Full Article

Seven south Essex councils form 'association'

Seven councils in south Essex have taken the ‘momentous’ decision to form an association to give the region a national voice.

Essex CC, Basildon, Brentwood, Castle Point BCs, Rochford DC, and Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock Councils have decided to form the Association of South Essex Local Authorities (ASELA).

ASELA aims to improve transport connectivity, unlock land for housing, and drive business and leisure development.

Full Article

Carers for disabled adults have ‘no plans for future’, campaigners warn

Two thirds of councils are ‘unaware’ of how many disabled adults in their area are currently being cared for by family and friends at home, a disabilities campaign group has revealed.

A new report from Sense has found 1.7 million disabled people are currently supported by their friends and families, and three quarters of them have no plan for the future.

Full Article

The Guardian view on council spending: a crisis unfolding [opinion]

More than it ought to be, council finance is a niche interest. But to those who take an interest, it was only a matter of time before eight years of spending cuts drove a council somewhere in England into the wall. That unwanted accolade has now been won by Northamptonshire county council, which revealed on Friday that it had run out of cash and was banning expenditure on all services except for its statutory obligations to safeguard vulnerable people. It has already made nearly £10m of cuts. Now libraries, bus services, even road gritting, will take another round of cuts.

Full Article

Northamptonshire County Council 'warned it was unsustainable'

The leader of a council forced to ban almost all spending said she warned the government the authority was about to "fall over the edge of the cliff".

Northamptonshire County Council said on Friday it had brought in a "section 114" notice, banning new expenditure.

Heather Smith, Conservative council leader, said it was the "perfect storm" of increases in demand for services and reductions in government funding.

Full Article

Dozens of academy schools need bailouts from taxpayers

Operators of dozens of academy schools are having to rely on emergency handouts from the taxpayer as a result of mounting deficits that threaten to put some out of business.

In the latest sign of the financial pressures now on the nation’s schools, the auditors of one operator that oversees 21 schools raised concerns over its ability to keep operating after it posted a £2.5m loss last year.

Full Article

County council imposes an emergency spending ban

Northamptonshire CC’s director of finance has issued a section 114 order, calling a halt to spending at the cash-strapped authority.

In a statement, the council said: ‘The notice has been served in light of the severe financial challenge facing the authority and the significant risk that it will not be in a position to deliver a balanced budget by the end of the year.’

Full Article

Tory councillors all resign from local council

All the Conservative councillors on a town council have resigned after claims of harassment and bullying from the public.

Desborough Town Council had increased council tax by 400% in 2016, taking the annual levy from £19.10 to £96.98.

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Union attacks county plan to take over children and family services

Unite has hit out at county council plans to take over key family and children services from a local NHS partnership.

Somerset County Council put forward plans to bring some services currently run by Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust in-house by 2019.

But the union fears that the changes could mean staff pay could be in danger of dropping, while terms and conditions might also be affected.

Full Article

Welsh council proposes 12.5% council tax hike

Pembrokeshire County Council has proposed increasing council tax by 12.5% as part of an effort to close a multi-million pound funding gap.

The county council is consulting with the public on three possible council tax rises to help close a £16.9m funding gap.

Residents are being asked to choose between a 5% rise, which would generate £2.2m, an 8% rise (£3.6m) and a 12% rise (£5.7m).

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Northern education gap 'should be solved through devolution'

A new report by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership has been welcomed by northern leaders as a positive way to tackle the north-south educational divide.

Full Article

'Council wrong' to stop care home fees, says ombudsman

A council was wrong to stop paying an elderly woman's care home fees leaving a £30,000 debt, an ombudsman said.

North Yorkshire County Council stopped paying the fees after deciding the woman had deliberately reduced her savings by giving money to her family.

However, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found she had not given the money away to avoid costs.

Full Article

Capita situation is not ‘another Carillion’, says Cabinet Office minister

Senior government ministers have denied that the massive downturn in recent profits which has hit Capita is not comparable to the recent failure of Carillion.

The public sector services powerhouse has been under increasing pressure in recent days after shares plummeted nearly 50% following profit warnings 

The company is thought to employ around 50,000 people in the UK and has a significant presence in a number of central and local government services, such as the Jobseeker’s Allowance helpline and teachers’ pension schemes.

Full Article

Teacher retention: Government 'failing to get a grip'

In a report, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) says the DfE does not have a coherent plan to tackle teacher retention and development.

The report says the number of qualified teachers leaving the profession - for reasons other than retirement - increased from 6% (25,260) of the qualified workforce in 2011 to 8% (34,910) in 2016.

It says the issue is particularly critical in England's secondary schools, with the number of teachers falling by 10,800 (5%) between 2010 and 2016, from 219,000 to 208,200.

Full Article

Outsourcing giant Capita announces profit warning and massive debt

Local government outsourcer Capita has launched a major transformation programme as it grapples with a predicted £1bn debt and attempts to generate more cash.

In a bid to raise more cash, the company has decided to suspend dividends, dispose non-core businesses over the next two years and raise up to £700m this year by announcing a rights issue, which allows shareholders to buy more shares at a discounted rate.

A statement issued by the company said that dividends were suspended until it was able to generate a sustainable cash flow and that there was ‘likely to be a significant negative impact upon profits’.

Full Article

Private foster care agencies increasing cost of finding children homes

Concern about independent foster agencies (IFAs) came as an investigation revealed that one of the largest firms in the sector channelled money to Luxembourg via a complex loan arrangement. Analysis of the accounts of several private equity-owned IFAs, which charge councils to match children with foster carers, also reveals multimillion-pound dividends paid to investors and six-figure salaries for directors.

Full Article

Heads warn of 'chronic' funding shortages

Head teachers from 5,500 schools across England have signed a joint letter to Chancellor Philip Hammond warning of "chronic" funding shortages.

It comes as a primary school in west London says it is considering cutting hours because of money problems.

The heads are warning of budget gaps and unequal funding - saying schools would have an extra £5.5bn if they were funded at the same level as Hackney.

Full Article

Young black men bearing the brunt of deadly violence in London

Young black men were victims in almost a third of killings in London last year despite only making up 1.4 per cent of its population, according to figures that reveal rising knife crime.

Afro-Caribbean males as young as 13 have borne the brunt of violence that reached its highest levels in a decade.

Full Article

Councils face huge bills as foster carers jump ship to private agencies

it has been revealed that the growth of IFAs in England, many of which are run for profit by private equity investors, is pushing up the cost of placing children with families by hundreds of millions of pounds each year. The government’s imminent “stocktake” of foster care should provide the latest cost analysis. Sir Martin Narey’s 2016 review of residential care for the government found that in some areas, private sector agencies charge 92% more than the local authority spends on its own foster carers.

Full Article

Government to review 1.6m disability benefit claims after U-turn

The government is to review about 1.6m disability benefit claims made over the past four years as part of major U-turn that will see an estimated 220,000 claimants eventually receive backdated higher awards.

The exercise, which could cost billions and take years, comes after the government agreed earlier this month not to challenge a high court ruling in December that said it had been “blatantly discriminatory” against people with mental health conditions.

Full Article

Governments formally agree on first Welsh devolved taxes in 800 years

The UK and Welsh governments have come to a decision on new devolved tax powers for Wales paid directly to the National Assembly, the first new taxes for 800 years.

Following a discussion period between the two parties, stamp duty land tax and landfill tax will both be replaced in April, with the equivalent Welsh taxes taking their place.

Liz Truss, chief secretary to the Treasury, met with Welsh Government finance secretary Professor Mark Drakeford on 10 January to discuss changing the tax system as part of wider devolution plans.

Full Article

Majority of householders 'face council tax increase of up to £80' as ministers relax cap on bills

The majority of households face council tax rises this year, the country's most senior local authority leader warns today, as councils across the country prepare to capitalise on the Conservatives' relaxation of a cap on bills.

Lord Porter, the Tory peer who chairs the Local Government Association, says he expects that "the majority will have little choice" but to increase bills in April to protect services amid a £2.3 billion "funding gap" in the social care system.

Full Article

Potholes send breakdown figures flying

The RAC saw an 11% jump in breakdowns caused by poor quality roads in the last three months of 2017. The firm blamed snow and icy conditions, and warned many roads are "hanging in the balance" if conditions are particularly cold or wet in spring.

Drivers can face a bill of hundreds of pounds if their cars hit a pothole. The Department for Transport said it was investing £23bn to increase capacity and improve road journeys.

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High proportions of under-performing schools in some areas

At least a third of state secondary schools in some of England’s towns and cities are under-performing, an analysis of official data shows.

It reveals that children living in the North East and North West are significantly more likely to attend a school that is not up to scratch, compared to their peers in other parts of the country.

A Press Association analysis shows that for the second year running, Knowsley had the highest proportion of secondaries that fell below the Government’s floor standard for performance.


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Council to sell brand new £53m headquarters

A council has decided to sell off its £53m newly opened headquarters in order to cover social care costs.

Northamptonshire County Council’s offices were opened last October by Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid in a bid to save £51m in running costs over 30 years.

However, the local authority is now proposing to sell One Angel Square as a freehold and to lease it back for a period of 25 years or more.

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Pay offer to local government workers is final, say employers

Local government employers have made it clear a two-year pay offer is “final” after union leaders recommended rejection.

Unison officials narrowly voted against a proposed deal of a 2% rise for most council and support staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from April and a further 2% in April 2019.

Lower-paid staff were offered a higher wage rise of up to 16% over the two years. 


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UK employment surges to record high, wages edge up

The number of people in work in Britain surged and one measure of wage growth rose to a near one-year high, according to data that may encourage some Bank of England policymakers to think interest rates should rise again before long.

Sterling touched $1.41, its highest level against the U.S. dollar since the 2016 Brexit vote, and British government bond prices sank to their lowest level since October after Wednesday’s stronger-than-expected headline figures.

Britain’s economy slowed in 2017 as higher inflation - caused by a post-Brexit referendum fall in the pound - hurt the spending power of consumers. But forecasts of a bigger hit to growth did not materialise and job creation remained strong.

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MPs invite views on joint inquiry into long-term funding to inform social care green paper

The Health Select Committee and the Communities and Local Government Committee have launched a joint inquiry today on the long-term funding of social care.

Once completed, the inquiry is expected to influence the outcome of the government’s much-anticipated social care green paper, now only likely to be released in summer this year.

The committees say they will be attempting to develop a plan for funding reforms which will “command broad consensus to allow progress in ensuring the long-term sustainability of both the health and care systems.”

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Public health cuts ‘threaten children’s health’

Continued reductions in local authorities’ public health grant is disproportionately hitting children’s services, according to the Royal College of Paediatrics & Child Health. 

An update to the RCPCH’s State of Child Health report issued last year, which called for a moratorium on public health funding reductions, found that councils were planning cuts to the majority of children’s services.

The RCPCH gave the government a black mark on council public health spending, which, according to analysis by the King’s Fund has fallen 5% since 2013-14 to £2.52bn in 2017-18.

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County agrees £10m Carillion exit deal

Oxfordshire County Councils has paid £10.65m to terminate its contract with Carillion. The payment will cover work already completed by the liquidated company such as school meals, property services and building work.

The settlement has enabled the council to officially end its contract from 1 February 2018, without the prospect of lengthy litigation.

Cllr Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, the council’s cabinet member for property, cultural & community services, said: ‘We brought the process forward and legally terminated our contact and will be taking over those services to ensure continuity.

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MPs ‘strikingly pessimistic’ about the quality of local care homes

Two-thirds of MPs in England believe there is a lack of high-quality care homes for their older constituents to choose from, a new survey has revealed.

The research, conducted by Independent Age, also found that more than half (51%) of Conservative MPs and 83% of Labour MPs were concerned that the quality of the care homes market in their constituency will deteriorate over the next year if action is not taken.

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Council offers voluntary redundancy to its staff

All non-teaching staff at Shropshire Council have been offered the chance to take voluntary redundancy in a bid to plug a funding gap of more than £59m.

The voluntary redundancy programme is one of the ways the council is looking to address a budget shortfall of around £59.3m over the next five years.

The council hopes to save £1m before 31 March 2018, and then £9m over the next two years through its voluntary redundancy process.

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A million lonely pensioners left to starve in their homes

As many as a million older people are starving in their homes through loneliness according to MPs who have called on ministers to redirect funds into schemes such as lunch clubs.

Isolation from relatives and friends is a bigger cause of malnutrition in the elderly than poverty, they say, and the winter fuel allowance should be means-tested to free money for meals on wheels and lunch clubs.

Supermarkets should have “slow checkout lanes” so that older people can get enough to eat by shopping without rushing, the all-party parliamentary group on hunger recommends.

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Children's centres undermined by ministers, says charity

35 Children's Centres faces closure under a council plan to replace them with nine "community hubs" and save £3m a year.

A new analysis by a children's charity accuses ministers of undermining England's network of children's centres and making them vulnerable to cuts and closures by cash-strapped local authorities.

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Hinds says schools face digital challenge

Schools need to prepare young people for a digital revolution and a fast-changing jobs market, says England's new education secretary, Damian Hinds.

In his first public speech since taking up the post, Mr Hinds said schools needed a mix of traditional academic subjects and a sense of "resilience" and skills such as public speaking.

Mr Hinds said that a high proportion of new jobs would require digital skills.

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Children's services in Norfolk no longer need intervention

Norfolk County Council’s beleaguered children’s services no longer require intervention after Ofsted found the council has now improved.

Ofsted today moved the authority into the requires improvement category, five years after it was first branded ‘inadequate’.

The council’s adoption services were rated ‘outstanding’ in the latest report.

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Government announces £45m for ‘successful’ academies

The education secretary today announced £45m would be invested in ‘successful’ multi-academy trusts in a bid to drive up education standards in underperforming schools.

The funding, part of the Multi-Academy Trust Development and Improvement Fund (MDIF) announced last October, will go to more than 400 multi-academy trusts (MATs) with a proven track record. 

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Road maintenance spending at ‘lowest level’ in a decade

Newly released Government figures show that road maintenance spending by councils is at the lowest level it has been in 10 years.

Department for Transport (DfT) statistics show local authority maintenance spending on B roads, C roads and unclassified routes in 2016-17 was £1.87bn. This is the lowest it has been in a decade and is down from £2.46bn in 2004-05.

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PFI deals 'costing taxpayers billions'

Financing projects like schools and hospitals privately costs taxpayers billions of pounds more than public sector alternatives, parliament's spending watchdog says.

The NAO found 716 public projects were active under PFI and its successor PF2, with annual costs amounting to £10.3bn in 2016/17. PFI projects will cost the taxpayer a further £199bn by the 2040s, it said. The government said both PFI and PF2 improved public services.

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Councils accused of putting lives at risk after cash spent on fixing potholes on minor roads falls to lowest level in more than a decade

Councils have been accused of putting people’s lives at risk after it emerged that last year the amount spent on fixing potholes on minor roads fell to its lowest level for more than a decade.

The amount spent on the maintenance of B roads, C roads and unclassified routes in 2004/05 was £2.46billion but that dropped to £1.87billion in 2016/17 - a reduction of 24 per cent.

The fall in spending has prompted motoring campaign groups to accuse local authorities of “neglecting” smaller roads.

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Finance settlement 'shambles' after provisional data wrong

The local government finance settlement has descended into a shambles after it emerged allocations in the provisional document were wrong, The MJ can exclusively reveal.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) officials are understood to be furious after they were told that data provided to them by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) was wrong.

The errors are understood to relate to the data used to calculate the top up or tariff that councils pay into or receive from the national business rates retention scheme.

Today the VOA, which has had its capacity slashed in recent years, updated tables it first published in October that it said used an 'improved methodology to identify rateable properties on the 2017 Rating List at 1 April 2017'.

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County rejects proposal to lose control of fire services

Fire and rescue services should remain under the control of Norfolk County Council, councillors have unanimously agreed.

The council's Communities Committee has voted to recommend the Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) does not draw up a full business case to take over the governance of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS).

Councillors of all parties said an independent review failed to provide enough justification to change the way the fire service is managed.

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Council tax is a regressive tax - it's time to do something

As all of the organisations concerned with local delivery of vital public services – it is time for a concerted, collective campaign on future funding for local services.

It is not enough to rely on repatriation of business rates – itself an outdated property tax which fails to reflect the modern dot.com. gig economy era. council tax too, if it is to survive, must be made fit for purpose.

That we are employing people to translate property values back to 1991 – over a quarter of a century ago – is beyond belief.

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Minister for loneliness appointed to continue Jo Cox's work

A minister for loneliness, a project first started by the late MP Jo Cox, has been announced by Downing Street.

Tracey Crouch MP said she was proud to take on the "generational challenge" to tackle an issue affecting about nine million UK people, young and old.

She said she would work across political parties and with communities.

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Grayling’s East Coast experiment risks coming off the rails

When Chris Grayling announced last year that he was cutting the Virgin Trains franchise on the East Coast main line by three years, the transport secretary spun it as a bold experiment.

The London to Edinburgh route, run since 2015 at a loss by Richard Branson’s Virgin and the listed transport group Stagecoach, would be a pilot attempt to form “public private partnerships” between train companies and Network Rail, the state-owned track utility.


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Is social mobility really about school cash?

The BBC have done a piece on social mobility with relations to schools.

Interestingly none of the lowest-funded 20 authorities makes it into the top 50 for social mobility.


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20mph zones net £57m for police

The rise of 20mph zones across the UK means speed awareness courses now net the police £57m every year, new figures show.

Attendance at the courses, which are offered to drivers caught speeding in 20mph zones, doubled last year to more than than 34,000, up from 17,000 in 2016, according to an analysis of data from the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme (NDORS).

The number of people choosing to attend the 20mph course rather than receive three points and a £100 fine has doubled year-on-year since 2014, when figures were first recorded.

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Council tax set to increase as Kent County Council announces spending plans

Council tax payers face an above-inflation 5% increase in bills this year under spending plans set out by Kent County Council today.

The 4.99% increase means one of the biggest hikes in bills for several years.

The authority’s Conservative administration confirmed wide-ranging savings totalling £53m in its budget - but denied it would mean cuts to services.

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Union urges council staff to reject pay offer

A trade union is calling on local government members to reject the offer of a 2% pay rise this year.

Council employees have been offered a 2% uplift this April, with a further 2% the following year.

Unite has voted unanimously to reject the pay offer and is recommending members also reject it in a consultative ballot.

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James Maker: What the reshuffle means for counties

The Prime Minister’s reshuffle earlier this month provided intrigue in Westminster, but what does it mean for counties?

The LGC have interviewed James maker with his views on the reshuffle.


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Only five councils bid for electric car charge points funding

Only five councils have applied for funding to buy and install electric car charging points, the Government has revealed.

Ministers have now written to local authorities urging them to apply for the £4.5m funding pot.

The On-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme covers up to 75% of the cost of procuring and installing charge points.

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Support for apprentice levy goes up in flames

The Times have run a piece with regards to wavering support for the apprenticeship levy.

According to research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, only 20 per cent of the employers that pay the levy support the system. Nineteen per cent do not plan to use it to develop apprenticeships and 53 per cent want it to be replaced with a broader training tariff.


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Child referred to social services every 49 seconds amid rising reports of domestic violence

A child is referred to social services every 49 seconds in England and Wales, figures show, prompting urgent calls that a lack of funding is leading to “catastrophe” for the next generation of youngsters and their families.

Data published by the Department for Education (DfE) shows there were 646,120 referrals overall to councils’ children’s services during 2016/17, equating to 1,770 referrals every day – a rise of 4 per cent on the previous year.

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Councils urged to be clear on care home costs

A family had complained they were forced to pay a 'top-up' fee when their father was placed in a care home as an emergency. An investigation by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found the council had failed to give the family a choice of care home and had unclear information about care home fees on its website.

Full Article

Councils call for improvement to Apprenticeship Levy

Councils should be allowed to spend the money returned from the Apprenticeship Levy beyond the two-year deadline, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

The call comes as new research shows that more than half of employers currently paying the levy want it replaced with a training levy.

A survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found 53% of employers would prefer a training levy, compared with just 17% supporting the apprenticeship levy in its current form.

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Childcare funding 'will create 9,000 places'

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

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

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

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

Full Article

Heads warn MPs of 'extremely bleak' funding problems

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

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

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

Full Article

Inspectors sent in to probe Northamptonshire Council's finances

Local government secretary Sajid Javid has ordered a best value inspection of Conservative-led Northamptonshire CC amid continuing concerns over its financial management and corporate governance.

In a written ministerial statement this week, Mr Javid revealed he had exercised his powers under the Local Government Act to ask former Hackney LBC chief executive Max Caller to carry out an inspection of Northamptonshire’s compliance with its best value duty.

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Council proposes name change to strengthen ‘geographical identity’

A district council is proposing a name change in order to stop people confusing it with ‘a housing estate in Maidstone’.

An extraordinary meeting of Shepway District Council will take place next Wednesday to discuss changing the authority’s name to Folkestone and Hythe District Council.

The council leader, David Monk, argues this will give the area a ‘stronger geographical identity’.

Full Article

No new devolution deals agreed in 2016-17

No new devolution deals were announced in 2016-17, according to a report which has taken the Government 10 months to publish.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said it was 'disappointed' the report had taken so long to be published. It has previously warned of the dangers of 'devolution deadlock'.

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DCLG renamed Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Following the appointment of Rt Hon. Sajid Javid MP as the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the department will be renamed as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said:

Building the homes our country needs is an absolute priority for this government and so I’m delighted the Prime Minister has asked me to serve in this role. The name change for the department reflects this government’s renewed focus to deliver more homes and build strong communities across England.

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Javid: New name will focus minds of cabinet colleagues on housing

The communities secretary has claimed renaming his department the Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government will help to “focus” the minds of his cabinet colleagues on the task of building more homes.

Sajid Javid said the departmental policy leads for housing and social care had not changed – the Department for Health has been renamed the Department for Health & Social Care following this week’s reshuffle.

In his first speech after retaining his role, Mr Javid said on Tuesday: “Having a ministry for housing that is so clearly defined gets my colleagues around the cabinet table all focussed on the challenge at hand.

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Theresa May's cabinet: Who's who and how diverse are they?

The BBC have done a piece of the reshuffle giving an outline of who they are, as well as some other interesting statistics. 

Full Article

Northgate acquired by Japanese corporation NEC for £475m


Northgate Public Services has been acquired by NEC Corporation for £475 million. The deal, announced today (Tuesday, January 9), delivers “significant technological advantages” for Northgate with NEC’s cutting-edge biometric scanning and facial recognition products being integrated into some of the company’s core software platforms.

Full Article

Affordable childcare inquiry launched

MPs are to scrutinise how affordable childcare could boost the economy, in response to concerns that lack of access to services is stopping parents from being able to work.

The Treasury Committee launched an inquiry into childcare policy and its influence on the economy on Thursday last week.

MPs are to uncover the proportion of parents who are struggling to find affordable and high-quality childcare.

The inquiry will examine government initiatives designed to make childcare affordable, such as childcare vouchers, 30-hour free childcare and the childcare element of universal credit.

Full Article

Essex council claims it is on track to become UK's first self-sufficient unitary authority

According to localgov.co.uk Thurrock Council in Essex is claiming be the first local authority of its size to become financially 'self-sufficient'.

It has unveiled budgets for the next two years, which it says will not only be balanced but will increase reserves by 38% despite expected cuts in government funding.

The council said its ambition of eliminating its reliance on national funding grants was on track and extra funding would be made available to fund one-off investments on its priorities.

Full Article

Crisis in teacher recruitment as applications fall by a third

Teacher training applicants have fallen by a third in a year, the latest figures show. Head teachers’ leaders blamed concerns over classroom stress and accountability, and confusion about routes into the profession, for the drop.

By mid-December 12,820 people had applied for postgraduate routes into teaching starting this autumn. This compares with 19,330 people at the same stage in 2016 and 20,330 in 2015. The decrease of 6,510 between 2017 and 2016 equates to 33 per cent.

Full Article

Build care homes by schools to mix generations

Britain must create 500 cross-generational housing, care home, school and nursery sites to break down “age apartheid” and heal social divisions, a think tank says.

The first wave of institutions should be set up within five years, it said, to reverse decades of social change that has increasingly kept younger and older generations apart.

Full Article

Local government ‘in need of radical reinvention’

Public Finance has an interesting piece on how radical reinvention is needed within local government to ensure it's future.

Full Article

Local gov overwhelmingly ‘opts up’ to professional status as MiFID II launches

Only a handful of local authorities have not been opted up to professional client status by the sector’s two main treasury advisers under the MIFID II regime, which came into force this week.

The new European Union rules, introduced in response to the financial crisis of 2007, regulates the provision of financial instruments to clients of financial service companies.

Local government appears to have come through the process of opting-up from their default retail status relatively smoothly, according to many in the sector.

Full Article

Lone child refugees are costing British councils £70,000 a year each

Each lone child refugee costs councils in Britain nearly £70,000 a year – with the bills continuing to land until they reach 25.

The migration crisis meant there were at least 4,560 unaccompanied youngsters seeking asylum at the end of last March – a rise of 134 per cent from 1,950 in 2013.

Costs to local authorities for every 100 unaccompanied children are estimated at £6.75million a year. The Home Office provides £3.35million – leaving a shortfall of £3.4million. 

Full Article

Council warns of ‘unprecedented’ fire safety funding gap

Croydon Council has called on the Government to provide financial support to authorities struggling to pay for necessary tower block fire safety measures in the wake of the Grenfell tragedy.

The London borough, the first to retrofit sprinklers in its tower blocks after a fire killed 71 people in Grenfell Tower last June, has warned Whitehall that councils face an ‘unprecedented funding gap’ when it comes to installing safety measures.

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Telford & Wrekin council tax to rise 3.2pc

Telford & Wrekin Council says it will continue its budget strategy, which was agreed last year, and is set to raise council tax in 2018 and 2019 by 3.2 per cent each year.

The proposed council tax increase would be equivalent to an extra 58p a week for the average band B home in the borough.


Full Article

Some councils paying ‘excessive’ costs for paper, research reveals

Some councils are paying up to seven times more for paper than other authorities, an investigation by the MP for South Thanet has revealed.

Using a freedom of information request, Craig Mackinlay and the Taxpayers’ Alliance found Stratford-on-Avon Council paid £4.39 per ream of 80 grams per square meter (GSM) paper in 2016. This compares to Runnymede Borough Council who only paid just 75p per ream.

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Christchurch bids to stop Dorset councils reorganisation

A council in Dorset is to ask the government to stop plans to merge all the county's councils into two single authorities. Christchurch wants Bournemouth and Poole boroughs to combine, but does not want to be part of that new authority.

A referendum in the town saw 84% of those voting oppose amalgamation with Bournemouth and Poole.

Full Article

Educational opportunities ‘geographically unequal’, think tank says

Access to high performing schools in England has become more ‘geographically unequal’ despite the Government’s emphasis on improving schools outside of London, report finds.

The Department for Education’s recently published Social Mobility Action Plan emphasises the importance of ‘place’ when it comes to access to quality education.

It states: ’where you live will affect where you get to in life – while in some areas opportunity can become self-perpetuating, in other communities, disadvantage can become entrenched.’

However, research by the Education Policy Institute (EPI) has revealed high levels of geographical inequality when it comes to the provision of education remain despite this emphasis.

Full Article

Barnsley and Doncaster vote for 'One Yorkshire' devolution deal

People in Barnsley and Doncaster have voted in favour of a proposed devolution deal that would elect a mayor for the whole county of Yorkshire.

The results of what the two local authorities called “community polls” were announced on Thursday afternoon. Both south Yorkshire towns rejected a government-backed deal for the Sheffield city region in favour of a proposed deal for the whole county.

In Doncaster, 85% of voters (38,551) supported the proposals to devolve power to the whole of Yorkshire on a turnout of 20.1%, while 6,685 voted in favour of the Sheffield city region deal, with 234 spoiled ballot papers.

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Council tax bills in England may rise by up to 5.99%

The largest local authorities in England are to be allowed to raise council tax by up to 5.99% next year.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said councils would be able to increase core bills by 3% in April without having to hold a referendum, up from 2% now. 

Combined with the 3% "precept" for those councils funding social care, it means some bills could rise by up to 5.99% without voters having a say.

Full Article

'Extra £450m funding' for police in England and Wales

A potential £450m in extra funding for police in England and Wales in the next financial year has been announced by the Home Office.

Police and crime commissioners are to be given the power to raise the portion of council tax which goes towards policing by £12 per household annually. That would raise £270m, while £130m for national priorities, such as firearms, would come from central government.

Full Article

Child sex abuse referrals soar by nearly a third in a year, warns NSPCC

Child sexual abuse referrals have soared by nearly a third in the past year, the UK’s leading children’s charity has revealed.

The NSPCC said it is making on average 90 referrals to police and children’s services each week from members of the public reporting concerns that a child is being sexually abused.

The charity’s free and confidential helpline referred 4,677 calls and emails to local agencies in 2016/17 – an increase of 31 per cent on the previous year. There were also a further 3,912 contacts where helpline staff gave advice about sexual abuse against young people.

Full Article

Pensions: Automatic saving to start at 18 under new plans

Every worker aged 18 or over will begin saving into a workplace pension unless they opt out, under government plans to extend its automatic enrolment scheme.

At present, the scheme means employers must enrol staff aged 22 and over and earning above £10,000 into a pension.

Ministers hope to reduce the minimum age to 18 in the mid 2020s, and say it will affect about 900,000 young people.

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‘Culture change’ needed to improve local government scrutiny, MPs say

A 'culture change' is needed to make sure decisions taken by council leaders are properly scrutinised, MPs have warned.

The Communities and Local Government Committee (CLGC) says in extreme cases the lack of independent overview has contributed to severe service failures.

It says scrutiny is often 'marginalised', leading to a lack of constructive challenge to improve services for residents.

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Ofsted warns of 130 schools failing to improve for 12 years

130 ‘intractable’ schools have failed to improve since 2005 despite repeated efforts, the chief inspector of schools has said.

There were also 500 primary and 200 secondary schools judged to require improvement in at least two inspections, launching regulator Ofsted’s annual report in London today.

Full Article

Primary league tables: Special-needs pupils struggle with new tests

Pupils with special educational needs (SEN) in England are dropping further behind their classmates in national primary school tests, statistics show.

The gap between SEN pupils and their peers has risen from 48 percentage points in 2016 to 52 this year.

The figures are revealed in school league tables, published by the Department for Education (DfE), showing the results of about 16,000 primaries.

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Bus travel plummets amid funding cuts, city congestion and a rise in car ownership

The percentage of public transport journeys taken by local bus is at its lowest since records began due to funding cuts, an increase in car ownership and the popularity of online shopping.

In 2016/17, 59 per cent of all journeys taken by public transport in the UK were by local bus, compared to a high of around 85 per cent in the 1960s.

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Prudential code to drop ‘borrowing in advance’ ban

Proposed wording in capital finance guidance which could have threatened out-of-borough property investment is to be dropped.

Last month, the government released a consultation on changes to the investment regulations which announced that it considers property investment purely to raise yield as “borrowing investment in advance of need”.

Some in the sector, including the LGA, voiced worries that, read alongside proposed changes to CIPFA’s prudential code, the statement spelt the end for authorities wanting to invest in property in other areas.

Full Article

£200 million funding boost for England’s roads

The government will be investing £200 million to help improve the conditions of local roads throughout the country. This will be in the form of several graents incluuding.

£46 million to help repair potholes

£151 million for the local highways maintenance incentive fund

a £500,000 competition for connected technologies

£4 million for the Cycle Rail scheme

an extension to 3 cycle and walk to work pilot projects



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Council proposes stopping sick pay for three days

A council’s proposal to stop sick pay for the first three days of an employee’s absence has been criticised as an ‘affront’ to workers.

Hillingdon Council has put forward the proposal as part of a budget saving strategy in the face of Government funding cuts.

However, the union GMB has criticised the council and called on them to withdraw the proposal.

Full Article

ITV film reveals serious failings at UK children’s homes

Some of the most vulnerable “looked after” children in the country are being failed by privately owned residential homes that are contracted to care for them, it has been claimed.

Undercover reporters secured jobs as care staff at residential homes in Shropshire run by the two largest commercial providers of care for looked-after children: Cambian Group, which runs more than 160 homes, and Keys Group, which runs close to 90.

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Weakest schools struggle with teacher 'burnout'

Ofsted is warning of a hard core of persistently underachieving schools in England which struggle to recruit teachers and keep head teachers. The watchdog's annual report says there are about 100 schools which have not reached "good" status in inspections since 2005.

When schools were "stigmatised" by bad Ofsted reports, he said recruiting staff and pupils became more difficult and schools could be "trapped in cycles of underperformance".

Full Article

More than 1,400 NHS dementia patients well enough to go home at Christmas will be stranded in hospital, warns charity

More than 1,400 people with dementia who are well enough to go home will be stranded in hospital on Christmas Day, a charity has warned.

The Alzheimer’s Society said a £2bn shortfall in social care funding meant there was not enough support for people with dementia.

An analysis of hospital audits by the charity found people with dementia stayed an extra 500,000 days in hospital despite being well enough to leave — costing the NHS more than £170m.

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Government faces call to slow the pace of funding cuts while business rates retention is resolved

Delays to introducing 100% business rates retention mean government must take urgent steps in the forthcoming local government settlement to stop councils facing financial breaking point, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

Plans for 100% rates retention to be up and running by the end of the decade were dashed after the Local Government Finance Bill was scrapped in the wake of the June general election.

But councils still face cuts to central government grants which were slated to dovetail with the planned rates retention regime.

Full Article

Businesses hit by rate rise wait for cash relief

Thousands of companies hit hardest by business rates increases have been left waiting for emergency help that they were promised by the government because 46 local authorities have failed to distribute the cash.

Businesses that were worst affected by April’s rates revaluation were told at the time that they would share £300 million of relief. Nine months on, the local authorities are yet to start distributing their regions’ share of the funds.

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UK inflation rate rises to 3.1%

Inflation rose to 3.1% in November, the highest in nearly six years, as the squeeze on households continued. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that airfares and computer games contributed to the increase.

The most recent data shows that average weekly wages are growing at just 2.2%.

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Councils urged to unlock £7bn of untapped assets

Councils should assess the 'social value' of community businesses to help keep local areas strong and vibrant, according to a new report.

Power to Change, which supports community businesses in England, says a new framework shows public bodies how to unlock local assets worth an estimated £7bn such as community centres, swimming pools, town halls, libraries and parks for the benefit of their communities.

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£650m cut from early education

Government spending on early years education has fallen by more than £650 million since 2010, according to a Whitehall analysis.

The research found that spending on children had been reduced by nearly a billion pounds in real terms under the coalition government. The report, by the strategic analysis firm Aldaba and published by the DfE, said that funding for Sure Start and early years investment fell by nearly £700 million in real terms, a 44 per cent cut, with one in three Sure Start centres closed since 2010.

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Council spending on libraries cut by £66m last year

More than 100 British libraries closed last year and council spending on the service was cut by £66m, CIPFA’s annual survey has revealed.

Staff numbers were also down by 5% and the number of visits declined by 3% - making a 14% decline over the last five years – the research found.

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman said: “Cuts in local authority funding are forcing councils to make difficult choices about which services they can afford.

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Council funding could be cut in half in next two years

Councils face a 'cliff edge' unless the government provides urgent extra funding, local authorities leaders have warned - with some services disappearing altogether.

The Local Government Association (LGA) says councils have already faced unprecedented cuts since 2010 and now face £2.7bn reductions in central government funding - 54% - in the next two years.

It says the upcoming Local Government Finance Settlement should give 'replacement funding' to all councils in 2018/19 and 2019/20.


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Government awards councils new funding to transform local communities

The government has announced [11 December 2017] that 90% of councils are now part of a programme that will create 44,000 new jobs and release land for 25,000 new homes.

As part of today’s funding announcement, 56 council-led partnerships will receive £8.7 million funding to improve public services, stimulate economic growth and free up land for thousands of new homes.

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Unions make 5% pay increase claim for local government craft workers

Unions have submitted a pay claim for increases of at least 5% for local government craft workers who mainly carry out housing and maintenance work.

The GMB and Unite also want a 35 hour working week, an additional day’s holiday, tool allowances to be doubled from current rates and tool insurance to be paid to a minimum of £2,000.

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Norfolk County councillors award themselves 11% rise in allowance

Councillors have voted to award themselves an 11% pay rise, despite arguing the need for £125m of cuts to services over the next four years.

Norfolk County councillors will see their allowances rise from £9,401 to £10,500 and backdated to May 2017.

Cliff Jordan, the Conservative leader of the council, said allowances had "been out of sync" with other authorities for years.

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Chinese plastics ban threatens council tax rise

Councils may refuse to recycle plastic and raise taxes due to a Chinese ban on imported recycled waste, experts have warned.

Officials last night said decades of recycling progress in the UK was under threat as a result of the decision, which could see millions of tonnes of harmful plastic waste heading to landfill.

Britain currently sends around two-thirds of its used plastic to China.

But in a drive towards self-sufficiency, presented as a campaign against yang laji, or foreign garbage, the country will no longer accept recycled plastics from March next year.

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Green paper seeks to boost school mental health support

Health and education ministers have issued joint plans to improve the mental health support available to children in schools and colleges.

The green paper also proposes that a member of staff in every primary and secondary school in the UK be trained in mental health awareness.

According to the green paper, the government’s ambition is that “children and young people showing early signs of distress are always able to access the right help, in the right setting, when they need it”.

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Minister confirms £72,500 social care cap plan scrapped

Plans to cap social care costs at £72,500 from 2020 have been scrapped, the care minister confirmed yesterday.

Speaking in a Commons debate, minister Jackie Doyle-Price, said: “We will not take forward the previous government’s plans to implement a cap on care costs in 2020.”

Instead the government is seeking a public consultation on a green paper that will be published next year.

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DfE has 'growing recognition' of children's funding pressure

There is a “growing recognition” within the Department for Education of funding pressures on children’s social care services, the chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board has said. 

During a discussion on the Budget at a meeting of the LGA executive yesterday, Islington LBC leader Richard Watts (Lab) said children’s social care funding was becoming the most serious challenge facing local government and criticised the government for ignoring calls for more resources.

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'Stark' increase in overweight youngsters

There is a "stark" increase between the ages of seven and 11 in the proportion of children in the UK who are overweight or obese, new data suggests.

The study of nearly 12,000 children found 25% were overweight or obese at age seven, rising to 35% at 11.

Between 11 and 14, there was little change, however, which researchers say may be because children of this age are making more of their own food choices.

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Councils could face up to £1bn in late payment penalties, report warns

Councils could face up to £1bn in late payment penalties, according to new report into local government payment practices.

The research, conducted by Oxygen Finance, found the current late payment liability for councils stands at £160m for 2015/16. However, it warned this figure was based on the minimum penalty so could be as much as £1bn.

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£72,500 social care cap to be scrapped, MPs told

A £72,500 cap on social care costs due to come into effect in England will be scrapped, a health minister says. The proposed cap on an individual's care costs was developed following the recommendations of the Dilnot commission in 2011.

But Jackie Doyle-Price told MPs the government would not be "taking forward the previous government's plans to implement a cap on care costs in 2020".

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Number of contested business rates bills slumps under new system

The number of appeals being lodged through the Government’s new business rates system has plummeted as landlords appear to be struggling to navigate the online process.

Business rates have been overhauled in recent months resulting in both changes to the values of hundreds of thousands of properties, as well as sweeping reform of the way decisions on rates bills are appealed.

But figures released by the Valuation Office Agency on Thursday showed the number of bills contested has slumped from 182,000 at the same point in 2010, when the system was last changed, to just 5,650 this year. This is equivalent to just 0.3pc of the 1.85 million properties in England.

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Salford mother Nicola Newns fined over sick son’s school absence

A grieving mother has won a court battle with a local authority over her son’s poor school attendance after it emerged he was being treated in hospital for severe asthma attacks similar to those that killed his brother.

Jacob missed school 20 times between January and March and when the family gave no explanation of the numerous absences, Ms Newns was issued with a fine of £60. She was taken to court by Salford city council when she refused to pay. A judge at Manchester magistrates’ court threw the case out after reviewing medical evidence which showed that Jacob had been in hospital on each of the 20 times he missed school.


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More than a million council workers offered 2% pay deal

More than one million council workers have been offered a two-year pay deal worth 2% a year for most employees.

Workers on salaries starting at £19,430 would receive a 2% rise from next April 2018 and a further 2% in April 2019, with those on lower salaries receiving higher increases.

The offer was made on behalf of 350 local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and would add 5.6% to the pay bill.

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Local authority audit fees ‘may be cut’

The audit fees paid by most local authorities will be cut by almost a quarter for the 2018-19 financial year if proposals put forward by Public Sector Audit Appointments are approved.

PSAA was set up following the demise of the Audit Commission to manage the audit contracts let by the commission. It subsequently secured a new role procuring audits for those English local government and police bodies that elected to delegate their audit appointment function to a central body.

The vast majority of eligible bodies – 484 of a possible 493 – have chosen to sign up with PSAA.

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Local authority audit fees ‘may be cut’

The audit fees paid by most local authorities will be cut by almost a quarter for the 2018-19 financial year if proposals put forward by Public Sector Audit Appointments are approved.

PSAA was set up following the demise of the Audit Commission to manage the audit contracts let by the commission.

It subsequently secured a new role procuring audits for those English local government and police bodies that elected to delegate their audit appointment function to a central body.

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Poverty hits more children and pensioners, says charity

700,000 UK children and pensioners have fallen into relative poverty, households with less than 60% the median incom, over the past four years.  The charity said it was the first time in 20 years that poverty in these groups had seen sustained rises.

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Local authority audit fees ‘may be cut’

The audit fees paid by most local authorities will be cut by almost a quarter for the 2018-19 financial year if proposals put forward by Public Sector Audit Appointments are approved.

PSAA was set up following the demise of the Audit Commission to manage the audit contracts let by the commission. It subsequently secured a new role procuring audits for those English local government and police bodies that elected to delegate their audit appointment function to a central body.

The vast majority of eligible bodies – 484 of a possible 493 – have chosen to sign up with PSAA.

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‘Corbyn fear’ sees pension fund body advise Labour council to invest abroad

A Labour-controlled council has been advised to invest some of its £250m in pension assets overseas because of the “political risk” of a Labour election victory and “renationalisation” by a Corbyn-led government.

A Camden council document posted online last week summarises the advice given by London CIV, a £5.6bn fund management group set up by local authorities to manage the pension funds of London councils.

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‘Mansion tax’ proposed for £10m homes in Westminster

Westminster city council is asking its wealthiest homeowners for a voluntary council tax supplement to fund services that have been abolished over seven years of budget cuts.

The “mansion tax” plan would double council tax from £1,376 to £2,752 a year for the 2,000 owners of properties worth more than £10 million, which could raise up to an additional £2.75 million.

The borough is polling the 15,000 residents who pay the present top band of tax to see if they would back plans for an optional contribution.

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Research highlights ways to streamline local authority funding

The way funding for local authorities in England is assessed could be simpler, fairer and more transparent, according to communities and local government committee-commissioned research.

Reducing the number of indicators used could be a way of simplifying the needs assessment, according to one of four papers written by LG Futures consultancy, which will inform the committee’s scrutiny of the government’s fair funding review.

The research, released on Tuesday, pointed out the data used in the current needs assessments is now of a “very historical nature” and suggested it should be updated.

A business rate ‘rolling reset’ – where a ‘reset’ would take place every year – would be of “more benefits in terms of fairness”, LG Futures concluded, compared to a ‘fixed period reset’.

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Council cuts responsible for £1bn care home sector shortfall

The care home sector is suffering from a £1bn funding shortfall because councils are not paying high enough fee rates, an extensive review into the sector finds.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has today published its final findings following an extensive review into the residential care home sector which was launched last December.

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Care homes: Public 'pay unfair fees to plug £1bn shortfall'

Care homes have been applying unfair charges and over-the-top fees for self-funders, an official review shows.

The Competition and Market Authority found some homes had applied large upfront costs and charged families for weeks after their relatives had died. The watchdog also highlighted how those paying for themselves were charged much more than council-funded residents.

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Teacher training target missed for fifth year in a row in England

There has been a failure to attract a fifth of the trainee teachers the government says are needed for secondary schools in England.

Department for Education figures show only 80% of trainees were recruited on to schemes in 2017 and targets were hit in only two of 15 subjects. It is the fifth year in a row teacher training targets have been missed.

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Social mobility in UK 'a postcode lottery', report finds

A report finds London and other big cities are pulling away from the rest of the UK, with many rural areas being left behind.

The Social Mobility Commission says success is often tied to geography - with West Somerset the worst place in Britain for disadvantaged children and Westminster the best area for young people to progress.

The commission's State of the Nation report states that London and its surrounding areas are pulling away from the rest of the country, while many rural, coastal and former industrial areas are being left behind economically and hollowed out socially.

The report debunks the assumption that a simple north/south divide exists. Instead, it suggests there are hotspots and coldspots found in almost every part of the country.

London dominates the hotspots, while the East and West Midlands are the worst performing regions. Youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds who live there face lower rates of pay, fewer top jobs and travel-to-work times nearly four times those of urban residents.

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New industrial strategy to change Britain's productivity 'weakness'

A new industrial strategy is to be revealed by the Government later, aiming to tackle Britain's "weakness" of productivity.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said workforce efficiency was "well below what can be achieved" and pledged to address the crisis threatening to "stop us achieving our potential".

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Pullman's plea to save school libraries

Children's authors such as Philip Pullman and Malorie Blackman are calling for a halt to the "shocking decline" in England's school libraries. They, along with 148 others, wrote to Education Secretary Justine Greening, asking her to signal her belief in the "value of literacy" for learning. 

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Industrial Strategy snubs councils

Business secretary Greg Clark has snubbed councils and empowered local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) as the drivers of future local growth in the Government’s long-awaited Industrial Strategy.

Mr Clark’s blueprint for Britain’s economic growth, which has assumed greater importance due to Brexit, reveal ministers’ plan to kick-start Britain’s ailing economy in the period after its departure from the EU.

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Have there been two decades of failure to reform social care?

A politically-charged Budget has passed with no mention of social care, despite a growing sense in recent years that provision for older people and younger disabled adults is on the point of crisis.

It's nothing new - for the past two decades, successive governments have published at least 300,000 words in formal consultations, policy papers and commissions into the subject.

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Social care councils draw billions from reserves

Councils with upper tier responsibilities are burning through their reserves due to social care pressures, while other authorities add to their pots, according to analysis by the Office of Budget Responsibility, released alongside this week’s budget.

The OBR study said that in 2016-17, English councils providing social care services took £1.4bn from reserves, while councils without social care responsibilities were able to add £0.2bn to their savings, creating an unfair playing field.

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Public services face real-terms spending cuts of up to 40% in decade to 2020

Further deep cuts in spending on some public services are already planned to go ahead, whatever the chancellor announces in the autumn budget, leaving departments such as justice and work and pensions facing a real-terms cut of as much as 40% over the decade to 2020.

An analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, confirmed by recent parliamentary answers, shows that for welfare spending, the NHS and the prison system, the budget on Wednesday will not represent an end to the age of austerity experienced since the Conservatives entered government in 2010.

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UK government borrowing grows in October

UK public sector borrowing rose to £8bn in October, official figures show, up £500m from a year earlier.

The figure comes a day before the Budget, and the monthly deficit was bigger than economists had predicted.Increased debt costs, linked to the UK's higher inflation since the Brexit vote, were a factor in the shortfall. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said borrowing for the financial year to date has fallen £4.1bn to £38.5bn, from the same month last year.

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Summary of Budget 2017: Key points at-a-glance

Key Points from the Autumn Budget 2017 by the BBC.

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Apprenticeship numbers fall by 59% after levy imposed

There has been a big fall in the number of workers starting apprenticeships in England since the introduction of the government's levy scheme earlier this year.

But according to Department for Education figures, at the end of this academic year, between May and July, 48,000 people began an apprenticeship. That was less than half the 117,000 for the same period last year.

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North of England hardest hit by government cuts

The north of England has seen the biggest cuts in government spending over the past five years, official figures show. Spending in the north has fallen by £696m in real terms since 2012, while the south of England has seen an increase of £7bn.

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City regions get £1.7bn funding boost to transform transport

Prime minister Theresa May was today announcing major new government backing for UK research and development in industry and transport between cities.

A £1.7bn 'transforming cities fund' will improve transport links and promote local growth within city regions, including £250m for better transport in the West Midlands.

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Counties warn funding for public services is ‘outdated and unfair’

County councils are receiving almost 50% less funding for public services per person compared to their neighbours in England’s largest cities, research has revealed today.

The County Councils Network (CCN) said that on average they received £650 per person for public services in 2017.18, while a city or metropolitan council received £825 per person. For London boroughs, this figures rises to £1,190 per person.

The CCN is calling for an end to the ‘postcode lottery’ of government funding and for a new deal for county areas.

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Report calls for end to borough and district councils

A think-tank has called for 201 district and borough councils in England to be abolished and their powers handed over to county councils. The Respublica report said the abolition of the historic two-tier system of local government could deliver a £31 billion boost to the economy. The report will be launched at the County Councils Network’s annual conference on 20 November.

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Government accused of 'dragging feet' on social care review

A long-awaited green paper on the future of social care has been delayed until next summer. Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said there had been "too many failed attempts" to fix the social care funding crisis. She added: "Difficult, brave and possibly controversial decision-making will be required to secure the long-term future of care and support, not just for older people but adults of all ages, such as those with learning disabilities, and support for carers.

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Councils face more disclosures on their commercial property investments

The government has released proposals demanding more disclosure from councils on their commercial property investments—while the threat of a Treasury ban on borrowing for non-local acquisitions still looms over the sector.

The DCLG has published its proposed update to the Local Authorities Investment Code and Minimum Revenue Provision (MRP) Guidance to cover non-financial yield-bearing investments.

The consultation document comes in response to councils’ increasing desire to raise revenue from commercial activity due to shrinking grants and the low interest rate environment.

The document said: “The government does not want to discourage local authorities from investing to deliver local economic regeneration, even if this means taking on projects that the private sector may not consider.

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Public-sector pay rise should be guaranteed, says think tank

The government should guarantee public sector pay rises to ease the wages squeeze on vital public services employees, the IPPR has said.

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County outlines savings of £27m

Suffolk County Council is planning to increase council tax for the first time in seven years in its budget for the year ahead. It will go up by 1.99% along with proposals to cut spending by £27m.

Within these savings, it plans to save £12m in ASC and £9.7m in highways maintenance and corporate service. In its statement the council has not said whether any jobs will be at risk.

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Councils can only afford to help children in crisis, charities warn

Councils have been forced to close services designed to spot early signs of child neglect and abuse as they can only afford to help those in crisis, a report has warned today.

The report from three children’s charities found councils have cut spending on early help services by 40% between 2010/11 and 2015/16, while crisis support has risen by 7%.

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Research partner chosen for children's social care project

Cardiff University has been named as the research partner for a new centre to find out what works best in children's social care.

It will collaborate with social innovation charity Nesta, which was awarded the contract to deliver the What Works Centre last month.

Researchers at the university will develop 'a strong evidence base around effective interventions and practice systems'.

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Head teachers across England call for £1.7bn extra school funding

A letter endorsed by 5,000 head teachers across England has been handed to Downing Street calling for an extra £1.7bn in school funding.

The letter stated that the current level of funding was “inadequate” and the new funding formula would not improve matters because there is not enough money in the overall pot.

These concerns were expressed in the letter to Philip Hammond, which warned that because of forecast real-terms cut of £1.7bn between 2015 and 2020 schools face recruitment and retention problems, growing class sizes, withdrawing certain subjects and closure of sixth forms.

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Inflation remains at five-year high

The UK’s rate of inflation has stuck at 3% in October, remaining at a five-year high, according to official figures.

The ONS today published last month’s inflation stats, which showed the CPI remained unchanged from September.

Inflation has been rising in recent months, with the last increase taking place in September when it rose 0.1% from the 2.9% figure in August.

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Council mergers in Dorset and Suffolk move a step closer

Sajid Javid announced on Tuesday last week he is likely to allow nine Dorset councils to be merged into two unitary authorities.

He also said he looked favourably on an application from Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils to merge their two councils into a single, new district council.

A consultation on both proposals will now take place until 8 January next year. If Javid decides to proceed they can both go ahead, subject to parliamentary approval.

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Budget will be ‘bad news’ for public finances, says Resolution Foundation

Next week’s Budget will be “bad news” for public and household finances, the Resolution Foundation has warned.

Philip Hammond is likely to see the headroom against his fiscal rule roughly halved from £26bn to £14bn, the think-tank said in a briefing paper today.

This is because the economy will be £44bn smaller in size than previously thought. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) significantly reduced its forecasts for the UK’s economic productivity last month.

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Social care could drain local services cash dry, warns LGA

Ahead of the Autumn Budget, the LGA has warned that almost 60% of council tax, could be spent on social care by 2020, taking away from “vital day-to-day services”.

Clair Kober, chair of LGA’s resources board, said: “With the right funding and powers, local government can play a vital role in supporting central government to deliver its ambitions for everyone in our country.”

She added: “Demand for services caring for adults and children continues to rise but core funding from central government to councils continues to go down.

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Social care to cost 60% of council tax by 2020

Almost 60p in every pound of council tax could be spent on caring for children and adults by 2020, according to local councils.

Figures from the Local Government Association suggest that council budgets are becoming increasingly strained by the rising demand for adult social care and children’s services.

In 2010-11 41p of every pound of council tax was spent on these services, but the LGA predicts that this will increase by 15p per pound by 2019-20.


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Councils spend £2.7bn on risky assets in property buying frenzy

A buying frenzy by councils desperate to plug gaps in shrinking budgets has involved many taking extraordinary risks in the commercial property market, according to experts.

Almost 200 councils have made at least one investment in commercial property since 2012, with one in five spending more than £10 million and 12 spending more than £50 million.

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'Why is London getting 10 times as much transport cash per head as Yorkshire?'

The Transport for the North partnership has to develop plans for the whole region with just £10 million more than Transport for London spent on advertising in 2008, a Labour MP has said.

Diana Johnson added that London would get 10 times as much transport investment per head as Yorkshire in the next few years as she highlighted major inequality in Government spending. 

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Teachers demand funding for 5% pay rise in budget

Teachers’ leaders are calling on the government to fund an immediate 5% pay rise for teaching staff in an attempt to fend off a growing recruitment and retention crisis in schools.

In a letter to the education secretary, Justine Greening, ahead of the autumn budget, leaders of the main education unions say teacher pay is lagging significantly behind that of other graduate professions, leading to teacher supply problems.

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Boost for small businesses as Philip Hammond scraps rates rise

The chancellor will attempt to show that the Conservatives are on the side of small businesses in his budget this month with expected changes to business rates and VAT charges.

Philip Hammond is due to announce that the planned 3.9 per cent rise in business rates that kicks in next spring will be scrapped after lobbying from the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce and British Retail Consortium.


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Overnight carer back pay scheme 'unaffordable'

Care providers have dismissed a government scheme to tackle a problem over back pay for overnight shift staff, as a "suicide note".

The charity Mencap said the government was sacrificing the wellbeing of the most vulnerable in society and putting the jobs of low-paid staff at risk.

Ministers said the scheme had been designed to help ensure workers were paid what they were owed.

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First UK interest rate rise in 10 years

For the first time in more than 10 years the Bank of England has raised interest rates. 

The official bank rate has been lifted from 0.25% to 0.5%, the first increase since July 2007. The move reverses the cut in August of last year - made in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union.

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Councils respond to sleep-in back pay announcement

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board responding to the new sleep-in shift pay compliance.

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Local authorities turning to commercialisation to escape austerity

Councils are increasingly turning to commercialisation to escape austerity, a business model that has brought added moral dilemmas, report finds.

A Zurich Municipal study, published yesterday at the SOLACE Summit in Manchester, looks at the challenges and opportunities faced by decision-makers at the top of the UK’s local government sector.

Based on a series of interviews with 22 council chiefs across England and Scotland, it revealed some councils were breaking free of the ‘inertia of austerity’.

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Council staff told to take mandatory unpaid leave

Northamptonshire County Council has told its staff they must take a day’s mandatory unpaid leave as part of an effort to save £2m a month.

The council, which employs 3,000 people, first proposed the measure last month but has now confirmed they will go ahead with the move.

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More than a third of councils haven’t paid into the Chancellor’s £300m fund to help pay firms hit by tax rises

Small firms and pubs across England have now been left in the lurch for seven months since Philip Hammond announced the relief fund for small firms hit by the business rates revaluation earlier this year.

Local Government minister Marcus Jones has started to name and shame the councils failing to pay hard-pressed businesses cope with the higher business rates bills following this year’s rents revaluation.


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Councils spend doubles on social workers hired from agencies

Council spending on social workers from agencies has doubled in the past four years, figures show.

UK spending increased from £180m in 2012-13 to £356m in 2016-17.

Staff say relying on agencies to fill shortages in the permanent workforces can drain council funds and high turnover among these staff can lead to a poorer quality of service.

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England mayors call for more tax control

England's regions should be given more control over taxes instead of relying on government grants, its elected mayors have said.

At their first summit, they said the UK was "one of the most centralised states in the western world". London mayor Sadiq Khan said more regional power was "the best way to secure ongoing prosperity".

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Benefit cuts main cause of surge in demand for children’s services, warn council leaders

Benefit cuts and increased levels of poverty across the UK are a primary cause for an “unprecedented surge” in demand for children’s services in recent years, council leaders have warned.

Cuts to financial support for families such as housing benefit over the past two years, amid increased poverty and hardship for many low-income parents, have seen the demand for child protection services rise to levels local authorities say they are unable to meet.

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Budget: Hammond faces spending dilemma, says IFS

The chancellor is between "a rock and a hard place" for his forthcoming Budget on 22 November, a think tank says.

Philip Hammond may have to abandon his target for getting rid of the deficit if he wants to increase spending on public services, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said. Furthermore, he is also facing a likely cut in the forecast for productivity growth, and uncertainty around Brexit, it said.

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Hammond's £20bn black hole may mean it's time to scrap deficit target, says IFS

The Chancellor faces an increasingly stark choice on whether to prioritise deficit reduction or public spending according to new analysis predicting a near £20bn Budget black hole.

Philip Hammond may have to abandon his goal to balance the books if, as expected, official forecasters sharply downgrade prospects for productivity growth, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said.

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DfE announces pilot programmes to encourage flexible working in schools

The plans were announced today at the first flexible working in schools summit, and include a pilot to look at ways schools are already successfully working with part-time teachers in order to share best practice.

Speaking at the event in Camberwell in south-east London, the education secretary claimed the government would be working in partnership with unions and organisations from across the education sector to bring in the programmes.

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PMQs: Long term 'Full and Open' ASC Consultation to be Published 'in Due Course'

Following an opening question from Labour MP Afzal Kahn, the Prime Minister stated:

"As I have said in this House before, we recognise the pressure on social care as our population ages. I have said before that there are short-term, medium-term and long-term answers to this. In the short term, we have made extra funding available to local authorities. The announcement made in the last Budget by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor was for an extra £2 billion for local authorities. In the medium term, we need to make sure that best practice is observed across all local authorities and NHS trusts. Delayed discharges are higher in some cases than they are in others, and we need to make sure that best practice is followed. In the long term, we need a sustainable footing for our social care system. That is why we will, in due course, be publishing a full and open consultation on ideas and proposals to ensure that we can have a sustainable social care system in the future."

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Pepper the robot to take on social care tasks

Southend-on-Sea has unveiled a new mini robot which they argue will help the council transform its social care services by freeing up under-pressure staff. 

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council is the first local authority to buy and use Pepper under an academic license.

The robot, which the council describes as ‘kind’ and ‘endearing’, will be able to carry out certain social care tasks, such as running a reminiscence group or helping stroke victims with physiotherapy, freeing up staff for other tasks.


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Council councils’ face £2.54bn funding black hole by 2021

County leaders have warned the government their funding black hole rapidly is set to treble to £2.54bn in four years.

Analysis by the County Councils Network shows that “extreme” rises in demand faced by all 37 county authorities are widening the funding gap.

The CCN is calling on the chancellor to invest additional resources into the services facing the biggest pressures over the next two years, ahead of the conclusion of the fair funding review and expected introduction of business rates retention.

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Javid: Government should borrow to build more homes

Sajid Javid said the government should “take advantage” of low interest rates to fund a major house building programme.

The Communities Secreatry said “What I want to do is makes sure we’re using everything I have available to deal with the housing crisis... Where that means, for example, we can sensibly borrow more to invest in the infrastructure that leads to more housing, take advantage of some of the record low interest rates that we have, I think we should absolutely be considering that.”

A spokesperson for the DCLG said: “We will not be drawn into speculation about the Budget.”

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Childcare costs rise up to seven times faster than wages

Childcare costs for young children have risen up to seven times faster than wages since 2008, a study suggests. TUC research shows that average costs in England for parents with a one-year-old rose 48% between 2008 and 2016, while average wages increased 12%.

London and the East Midlands saw the biggest increase - childcare rose seven times faster than pay, the study said. The government said it had doubled the free childcare available to working parents of three and four-year-olds.

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Government hits 10-year low for September borrowing

The government borrowed £5.9bn in September, its lowest September net borrowing since 2007.

The Office for National Statistics data can be accessed here. It shows that the government borrowed £700m less in September 2017 than in September 2016.

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Extra homelessness funding ‘not enough’, say lower tier authorities

The government has announced an extra £11.7m in new burdens funding to lower tier local authorities to help them meet their obligations under the Homelessness Reduction Act – but councils warned this was not enough.

The act comes into force in April 2018 and the additional funds bring the total amount to £72.7m. This extra cash will be shared between local authorities over two years. Allocations are given here.

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Councils turn to lotteries in latest drive to raise income

Almost 20 councils have created their own local lotteries in just over a year, research from Room151 has discovered.

In August 2016, just one local authority lottery was in existence, set up by Aylesbury Vale District Council in 2015.

However, a Room151 analysis of Gambling Commission data shows that since September last year, a further 18 have been created at a rate of almost one and a half each month.

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Councils paid out more than £3m last year due to pothole damage

Putting all the UK's potholes together would create a 40km hole stretching down to the Earth's mantle, according to research by the comparison website Confused.com.

The research, obtained through freedom of information requests to almost 200 local authorities and a survey of motorists, found more than 1m potholes were reported by drivers in 2016.

Confused.com says a third of drivers reported damage to their car from potholes and councils paid £3.1m in compensation to victims last year.

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Local roads get £350m funding boost

The Government has announced a £345.3m funding package to improve local roads and public transport across the country.

The first wave of funding - £244m - will be given to 76 projects to build new roads, address local traffic 'pinch points', support the development of new housing and improve access to public transport.

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County funding black hole set to treble to £2.5bn by 2021

An ‘extreme’ rise in demand on county authorities will treble their funding black hole to over £2.5bn in the next four years, county leaders reveal.

New analysis from the County Councils Network (CCN) has revealed their funding gap will increase to £2.54bn by 2021 - a situation they describe as ‘unsustainable’.

In total, the analysis found, each of the 37 county authorities on average will face an additional funding gap of £70m by 2021, on top of planned service reductions.

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'Troubled services' costing £10bn to keep going by Government

The Government is spending billions keeping public services going but failing to deal with underlying problems, experts have warned.

The Institute for Government and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy say services such as hospitals and prisons are spending more but with no sign of improvement in key pressure points.

They say the Government has spent more than £10bn in five years just to keep 'troubled' services in operation.

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Hospital beds blocked twice as long while old await home help

Older people spent twice as long stuck in hospital waiting for home help last year compared with five years ago, according to analysis by Age UK.

Patients spent a total of a million nights in hospital because they were waiting for social care of one kind or another in 2016-17, up 27 per cent on the year before, the charity’s report said.

Some 342,000 of these nights were spent waiting for care in their own homes, up from 144,000 in 2011-12. The official figures are considered to be an underestimate, with NHS and council leaders arguing over who is to blame.

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Elderly patients could be put at risk by pressure to empty NHS beds, warns social care chief inspector

Pressures on hospitals to empty thousands of beds ahead of winter could risk the safety of frail elderly patients, the chief inspector of social care has warned.

Andrea Sutcliffe said she was concerned that vulnerable patients would be moved into inadequate facilities, after councils were told funding could be cut if they do not reduce bedblocking rates in their local hospitals.

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Care cap would cost counties £330m a year, warns research

The government’s proposed cap on social care costs would cost county councils £330m a year if introduced, new research has warned.

LaingBuisson was commissioned by the County Councils Network (CCN) to analyse the impact of the Conservative manifesto proposals for social care in England.

The report also found the proposal for a ‘single threshold’ - meaning no care user would be left with less than £100,000 in assets - would cost counties £308m a year.

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Woman who was abused by foster parents wins historic legal battle with 'far-reaching implications' for local authorities

A woman who was abused by foster parents has won a landmark court case which will have "far-reaching" implications for local authorities.

The Supreme Court ruled that Nottinghamshire County Council was liable for the abuse committed by Natasha Armes’ foster carers when she was a child.

Ceri-Siân Williams who acted on behalf of the council said the precedent set by the Supreme Court meant councils were now liable for any abuse committed by foster carers, historically or in the future.

She said: “Any local authority that has a fostering provision is now going to be liable through no fault of its own, so it doesn’t matter how well they have applied the checks on foster parents, if a foster parent abuses a child, the local authority is strictly liable.”

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UK inflation at highest since April 2012

The UK's key inflation rate climbed to 3% in September from 2.9% in August, its highest for more than five years.

The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) was last at 3% in April 2012, but has been driven higher by increases in transport and food prices.

The increase in inflation raises the likelihood of an increase in interest rates next month.

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Squabble over bed-blocking leaves older patients in limbo

Elderly patients are caught in a growing row between the NHS and councils over who is to blame for failing to reduce bed-blocking.

NHS England has said that unless 2,500 beds were freed by getting elderly patients off wards, there would not be enough staff to go round.

Figures published last week showed an average of 5,809 beds occupied every day in August by a patient who did not need to be there, a fall of only 4 per cent in a year.

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Richard Harbord: a clear vision needed for local government

An opinion piece by Richard Harboard giving his views on the upcoming budget and how it should be approached.

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The sleep-in care crisis

Since the NMW was introduced in 1999, care providers have paid - following official guidance - a flat rate ‘on call’ allowance for these shifts rather than the full minimum wage. If the carer was required to wake up to work, they would be compensated.

Mencap, who was delivering care on behalf of East Riding Yorkshire Council, was perplexed by the employment tribunal ruling. It effectively left them having to pay 5,500 staff members the NMW for the whole time they were on the premises regardless of whether they were asleep or not.

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Britain’s first race audit reveals extent of discrimination

Schools, police forces and councils will have “nowhere to hide” on discrimination, Theresa May pledges today as she publishes research laying bare racial divides across the country.

The first government “race audit”, said to be the most ambitious project of its kind in the world, reveals divides in health, education, employment and the criminal justice system in England.

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Ministers 'refusing to pay for fire safety measures' after Grenfell

Councils have said the government is failing to release funds to improve the fire safety of dozens of tower blocks following the Grenfell Tower disaster despite promising that a lack of financial resources should not stand in the way of essential works.

Ministers have said building owners are responsible for funding safety measures, but town hall leaders complain that they are “washing their hands of their responsibilities” and are being “dismissive”, four months after the blaze at the Kensington tower block, which claimed about 80 lives.

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Future standard of health and social care ‘precarious’

The future standard of care in the health and social sector is in a “precarious” position, according to the Care Quality Commission.

The watchdog said this was because of high demand, lack of access and cost pressures on the sectors.

However, it also recognised that the quality of care is currently being maintained despite “very real challenges”.

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Furious businesses cry ‘foul’ over time limit for rates appeals

Companies that wish to challenge their business rates bills are due to face stricter time limits, the government has indicated, despite complaints that the appeals system is in disarray after a botched overhaul earlier in the year.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has said that there are “clear benefits to introducing a cut-off point for appeals” as it looks to reduce what it sees as speculative challenges to bills that “waste public resources” and “cause uncertainty for local authorities”. It is due to put forward proposals before April next year for setting a fixed time limit for appeals.

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Tories discard plan to cap care home fees by 2020

The Tories’ pledge to introduce a cap on social care costs by 2020 has been officially abandoned.

David Cameron promised to bring in an upper limit of about £75,000 on the amount people must pay towards their own care.

But a senior Government source has said the cap will not be introduced until well into the next decade at the earliest. 

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Productivity decline is headache for Hammond

"Productivity isn't everything," wrote the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, "But in the long run it is almost everything."

What he meant by that, he went on to say, is that a country's ability to improve its living standards over time depend almost entirely on its ability to raise output per worker.

On that basis, latest productivity figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) will not have been welcomed with much rejoicing in the Treasury.

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Better for elderly to die at home

Older people are more likely to die comfortably if they spend their last hours at home rather than in hospital.

A study has found the chances of a good death are four times higher for people in their own house or a care home than those in a hospital ward.

'In the future, community care will be increasingly reliant on non-specialists, so it will be crucial that all members of the multi-disciplinary teams needed to support very frail older people near the end of their lives have good training in palliative and supportive care skills.' 


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Hammond’s budget cupboard is almost bare, Treasury document reveals

A severe revision to UK growth forecasts will drastically cut Phillip Hammond's wiggle-room in the upcoming Budget.

A dramatic over-estimation of the UK's productivity levels over the past seven years by fiscal watchdog, the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), means the Chancellor of the Exchequer's room for spending could be reduced by as much as two-thirds.

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Somerset County Council paid out £1.8million on a single pothole compensation claim

More than £1.8million of taxpayers’ money was paid out in a single compensation claim involving a pothole, the Somerset County Gazette has revealed.

In the 2016-17 financial year, a total of £2,137,167 was awarded to 31 claimants, with £1,836,000 paid out in a single claim by Somerset County Council.

In 2014-15, just £171,425 was paid out to 28 claimants, of which 15 were claims related to poor conditions of roads, and £895,716 was paid out to 33 claimants in 2015-16, of which 13 were related to roads.

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Nine-tenths of English councils ‘facing shortage of care home places by 2022’

Nearly nine in 10 councils in England could face a shortfall in care home places by 2022 unless urgent action is taken, according to research from Which?.

The consumer organisation published analysis of care home data from across England on Wednesday that suggested 87% of councils responsible for providing social care may not have enough places to meet potential demand in five years.

A spokesman for Which? said this highlighted a “looming local crisis” in care home provision.

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Nine in ten councils will run out of care homes places within five years because they are not doing enough to cope with the ageing population

The vast majority of councils will be hit by a dramatic shortage of care home places within five years, a major audit reveals today.

87 per cent of town halls will not have enough places to meet demand by 2022.

The shortfall is set to be particularly acute in 14 areas, where the number of extra care home places the council is planning is at least 25 per cent lower than needed.

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U.K. Gets Fresh Warning on Consumer Borrowing From Top Regulator

The head of the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority issued a new warning on the levels of consumer indebtedness and called for fresh thinking on how lending is run.

With borrowing surging, FCA Chief Executive Officer Andrew Bailey highlighted his growing concern about payday lenders, excessive rates on overdrawn accounts and credit-card debts. He said that about five million credit-card borrowers are experiencing difficulties paying off their balance, resulting in costs of 2.50 pounds in interest and charges for every one pound of balance they repay.

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Cancelled operations due to 'delayed discharges' thought to cause thousands of deaths each year

The scale of bed-blocking in the NHS is the worst it has ever been, with nearly 4,500 people trapped in hospital at any given time.

The problem has more than doubled in the past seven years – from 55,332 beds that were blocked for a whole day in August 2010 to 118,131 in July 2017.

Experts claim the numbers are being driven by a crisis in social care, with patients who could leave stuck in hospital because there is no suitable nursing accommodation available for them in the community.


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Council warns it may have to bring in mandatory unpaid leave

A council has warned staff that it may have to introduce one days’ mandatory unpaid leave in order to deal with ‘severe financial pressures’.

Northamptonshire County Council emailed staff last month informing them that those earning over £18,500 may have to take unpaid leave if ‘other financial options’ are not discovered.

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Hammond to announce 'more money' for Northern Powerhouse rail

Chancellor Philip Hammond is to announce an extra £300m to improve rail links in northern England, in a speech to the Conservative Party conference.

Plans to electrify the whole Trans-Pennine route have been in doubt.

But the new money will be used to ensure HS2 will link to faster trains between Liverpool and Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and York - so-called Northern Powerhouse rail.

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Are councils really afraid to innovate?

An opinion piece from LocalGov that gives reasons as to why the public sector is deemed as innovative.

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UK interest rate decision looms

The Bank of England will deliver one of the most closely watched interest rate decisions since the financial crisis later on Thursday.

Economists and investors are expecting the first increase in a decade.

In September, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) laid the groundwork for an increase "over the coming months" if economic growth remained stable.

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Universal credit rollout going ahead as planned, David Gauke suggests

Work and pensions secretary David Gauke has suggested that the universal credit rollout will continue despite warnings from Conservative colleagues that the social security system overhaul should be delayed.

A dozen Tory MPs have raised concerns with Gauke’s department that claimants were being forced to use food banks because of the mandatory six-week wait to receive money.

Speaking at a Conservative conference fringe event, Gauke gave a clear hint there would be no delay in the rollout, planned for next week, suggesting people needed to be more aware that they could claim emergency advance payments instead of waiting for six weeks.

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Counties’ funding gap could widen with business rate retention

County councils face unique challenges and retaining 100% of business rates could widen their funding gap, the County Councils Network has warned.

Analysis from the cross-party group, released yesterday, showed under full business rate retention the funding gap for county authorities could increase by £700m by 2029.

This was because business rate growth would fail to keep pace with acute demographic and service pressures for county councils, the analysis - done by local government consultancy firm Pixel Financial Management – concluded.

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Head teacher turns rebel over funding

Head teachers are usually known for getting people to stay in line, but Jules White has become a relentless rebel over school funding. The Horsham head teacher has co-ordinated a letter warning of school cash shortages, which will reach 2.5 million homes on Thursday.

This direct line to parents' kitchen tables has put MPs under pressure and Mr White, along with 4,000 other heads sending the letter, won't stop until they get £1bn extra funding.

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UK must deal with its debts, May to say

Theresa May is set to restate her determination to be tough on public spending despite political pressure to ease up on austerity.

"Continuing to deal with our debts," is the way to strengthen the economy, the prime minister will insist on Thursday.

Her speech at the Bank of England is timed to mark 20 years of political independence for the central bank.

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LGA calls for Budget to plug councils’ ‘£5.3bn’ funding black hole

The Local Government Association has called on the government to use the Budget to plug the £5.3bn funding gap by 2019/20 it says local councils are facing. Services are threatened unless town halls receive billions in extra funding, it has warned.

It stated: “It is vital that the budget recognises that councils cannot continue without sufficient and sustainable resources... Services such as children’s services, adult social care and homelessness are at a tipping point.”

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Labour promise to deliver local government ‘renaissance’

Councils would be £1.5bn better off under a Labour Government, the shadow secretary of state for communities and local government tells Labour conference.

Speaking in Brighton yesterday, Andrew Gwynne told delegates that the Government’s austerity drive was a ‘political choice’ that has hit the poorest communities hardest.

‘Police cuts. Fire Service cuts. SureStart closures. The crisis in social care. They all have the same root cause: a Tory dogmatic vision of a smaller state,’ he insisted.


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Councils call for 2% health precept to invest in prevention

District councils have called for introduction of a new health precept on council tax in order to raise £25m for preventative measures.

Analysis by the District Councils’ Network (DCN) found a 2% precept could raise up to £25m for district councils to invest in prevention measures.

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Cybercrime hit 76% of councils last year, says survey

Cybercrime has affected 76% of local councils in the last year, according to figures from the IT security firm Malwarebytes.

An iGov survey of 38 local authorities in the UK taken in June showed that more than three quarters of respondents were subject to either a malware, virus or Trojan attack while 50% were victims of ransomware attempts.

The top three concerns for local councils when it comes to a potential cyberattack according to the survey are the loss of sensitive data (53%), financial repercussions (53%) and the expected impact on service delivery (41%).

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Flu may cause bed shortages Public Health England warned

Scientists are concerned about “virological drift” where flu evolves so that even if a vaccine works in one country, it may not be effective months later.

Prof Dingwall said: “Based on the Australian experience public health officials need to meet and urgently review emergency planning procedures. Public Health England should be working with local authorities and local health services to ensure more hospital beds are freed up. We need to be prepared, alert and flexible.

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Councillors agree to creation of new Durham City authority

A new parish council is to be created for Durham City after councillors voted in favour of the proposal.

Durham County Council members yesterday agreed to the creation of the City of Durham Parish Council, which will have 15 elected members representing three parishes.

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STPs ‘under pressure’ and ‘under funded’, survey reveals

Sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) are ‘under pressure’ as local authorities and health organisations struggle to integrate, survey reveals.

A new poll from CIPFA and iMPOWER found 55 of the 56 respondents do not believe full joint working will be achieved in the next five years.

The survey also showed a quarter believe relationships are currently ‘limited’, while 54% believe them to be ‘reasonable’ and only 21% ‘very strong’.

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Job stress is 'overwhelming' teachers across the UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eddington housing estate in Cambridge scraps wheelie bins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Illegal strike threat from unions after pay cap row

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Northamptonshire County Council: Appeal for 'fairer funding'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Birmingham bin strike: John Clancy resigns as city council leader

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

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

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

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UK inflation rate rises to 2.9%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Teacher retention efforts 'not working'

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Unions demand 5% pay rise for all public sector staff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Disabled child travel cuts 'force parents to work less'

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

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

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

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Teachers' funding fears for breakfast clubs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Pay cap pressure growing on government ministers

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

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

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

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Cut business rates for premises offering toilet access, says MP

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

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

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

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

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Too many new pupils not school ready, say head teachers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Public sector pay cap 'to be lifted next year'

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

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

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

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How will councils survive the funding abyss?

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

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Riots erupt at HMP Birmingham - one wing 'lost'

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

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

Sources claim the trouble began at 3.30pm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Downing St considers plan to lift cap on public pay increases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nicola Sturgeon 'to scrap public sector pay rise cap'

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

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

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

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Government names trial areas for 'full-fibre' broadband

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

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

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

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MPs declare sports and bookies as most common donors

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

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

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

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Most adults unprepared for care costs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Council to test how Amazon Echo can support older people

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Low emission bus scheme 2015: additional winning bids

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

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Maths teachers hit out at 'extraordinary' funding decision

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

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

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

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

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Home care provider market under threat from lack of funds

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

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

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North should 'take control' of transport, says Grayling

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

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

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

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

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Lancs merger of s151 and CEO roles sparks accountability row

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Government should scrap 'undeliverable' discharge targets warn counties

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

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

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

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Scots business rate review calls for extension to new sectors

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

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

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NHS call for equality over private hospitals' tax break

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Families could get supermarket discounts if they hit NHS exercise targets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Birmingham seven-week bin strike comes to an end

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

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

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Now Labour backs clampdown on ‘crack cocaine’ betting machines

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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Pay growth to stay weak, says forecast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Darling: 'Alarm bells ringing' for UK economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Is your local care home inadequate?

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

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Council chatbots?

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

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Council vows to continue with £80m development

Rochdale Borough Council has vowed to push on with its £80m town centre development despite a major retailer’s announcement that it intended to pull out of the scheme.

The borough council has decided to continue with the multi-million pound overhaul of the town centre, arguing M&S’ decision not to take part was not valid because they had agreed to a ‘legally binding’ contract.

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Council considers cutting workforce by 20%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Most local ombudsman complaints for education and children's services

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

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

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

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Government awards councils £75m road improvement cash

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

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

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

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Government announces £54m to help councils unlock surplus land

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

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

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Closing roads for play makes 'sense for public health'

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

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

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Government looks to speed up small business rates relief

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

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

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

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

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Government looks to speed up small business rates relief

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

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

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

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Council writes off £1.2m of debt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cities in England's north pressing for more money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Essex nursery 'closes because of universal free hours scheme'

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

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

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

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Government confirms talks over second West Midlands devolution deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Education needs a revolution, not just more cash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pay row threatens overnight care for vulnerable

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

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

The government says carers should be paid fairly.

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State pension age rise brought forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Scrapping the 1% pay increase ‘could cost the Treasury £6bn a year’

Scrapping the 1% pay increase cap for public sector workers could cost the Treasury £6bn a year by 2019/20, according to Institute for Fiscal Studies research.

The think-tank has today published analysis which shows that raising public sector pay in line with inflation or private sector pay would cost around £3bn a year in 2018/19, rising to around £6bn a year the following year.

This would be extra expenditure on the £181bn the government spends annually on employing 5.1 million public sector workers

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CIL: A golden opportunity?

New property developments that result in pressure on local resources, infrastructure and services are a long-standing issue for local authorities.

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Council-owned company purchases first property

A council-owned property investment company has purchased its first property in an investment which promises an income of over £200,000 a year.

Tandrige District Council’s company Gryllus bought the property - which had previously been let to Marks & Spencer - in Maidstone’s primary shopping area for £3.25m.

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‘Decisions are being taken out of our hands’ – social workers on care cuts

Social workers feel under pressure to reduce care packages for vulnerable adults, with some fearing the reductions are unfair and unsafe, a Community Care survey has revealed.

More than two-thirds (68%) of the 469 social workers and other care assessors in England who responded to the survey said they were expected to cut people’s care because of budget pressures within their council.

More than a quarter of respondents (28%) also said they did not feel confident that the reductions they have made to care packages were fair or safe

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

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

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

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County Councillors vote themselves massive pay rises

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vulnerable children not in crisis are 'left in limbo'

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

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

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

Ministers say their social care reforms will improve support.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Betts re-elected as chair of CLG committee

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

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

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

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Emergency call-outs for mental health patients soar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The six challenges facing local councils over next 20 years

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

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

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Councils invest billions in property purchases

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

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

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

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Free schools plan under threat

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

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

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

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

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

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Thousands of special needs children left without school plan

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

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

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Wheelie bins replaced by underground waste system

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Greening calls for 'army of skilled young people'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Councillors may have limited control over combined authorities, warn auditors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Council chiefs withdraw support for Better Care Funding guidance

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Hammond says UK must 'hold nerve' over public pay

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

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

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

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Tories drop plan to end universal free lunches for infants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sajid Javid's speech to the LGA conference 2017

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

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Boris Johnson joins calls to end public sector pay cap

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

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

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

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Damning government report shows depth of public sector pay cuts

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

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

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Heads push MPs for answers on school funding

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

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

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

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Parents face £60 fines when children are late for school

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

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

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Councils given £15m to ease pressures of migration

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

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

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Schools to fine parents £60 when their children are just half an hour late for school

Parents could face prosecution or a £60 fine if their children are consistently late for school.

The clampdown can see Fixed Penalty Notices of up to £60 issued per parent, per child which can double if not paid after 28 days - meaning some families could face a £240 fine if a child is 30 minutes late. 

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Top Tories in revolt against May over public spending

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DfT reveals £6.1bn programme to improve major roads

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

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

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Queen's Speech clears Commons after abortion funding pledge

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

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

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

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LGA changes tack on business rates retention

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

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

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

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Councils save over £600m by sharing services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leaders pile more pressure on May for urgent social care reform

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

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

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Schools in England cut back on teaching hours to save money

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

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

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

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

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

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Council to sell homes on the open market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Businesses and rates relief

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

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Conservatives agree pact with DUP to support May government

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

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

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

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

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

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Single parents win benefits cap legal challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gloucester City considers co-locating with county council

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

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

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

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

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

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Tory manifesto pledges dropped from Queen’s Speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Heads warn parents of 'cash-starved schools'

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

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

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

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Plan for more grammar schools abandoned

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

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

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

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Mark Carney says time not right for interest rate rise

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

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

The pound fell sharply after Mr Carney's comments.

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Business rate information letter published following Spring Budget

Topics include:

Supporting Small Businesses

New Discretionary Relief Scheme

New Business Rate Relief Scheme for Pubs

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Philip Hammond hints at end to council spending cuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brexit: 2018 Queen's Speech cancelled by government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ONS scraps pre-release access for ministers

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

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

He said enhanced access damaged public trust in national statistics.

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Health and social care devolution deal agreed in Surrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Queen's Speech to take place next week

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

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

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

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

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Unions call for 5% pay increase for council staff


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

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

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


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Record inflation level prompts concern for treasury returns


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

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

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

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


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Theresa May will abandon free school lunch axe

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

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Austerity is over, May tells Tories

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

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

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

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Sajid Javid keeps local government role

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cabinet reshuffle: Theresa May praises Tory 'talent'

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

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

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

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

Some information on a hung parliament. 

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Interest rate rise could ruin 80,000 businesses

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

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

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A million more carers needed to cope with ageing population

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

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

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Civil servants 'dissatisfied' with pay

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

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

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Refuse collection workers threaten strikes in Birmingham

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

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

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Small firms hit by rates relief delay

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

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

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Jeremy Corbyn struggles over cost of childcare policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UK growth estimate revised down

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

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

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

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

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Cost of Tories' free breakfasts 'could treble'

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

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

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

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Conservatives not allocated enough cash for free school breakfast pledge

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

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

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

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Police investigate up to 20 deaths at mental health unit

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

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

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

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Assaults between care home residents reported daily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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General election 2017: New warning over social care plans

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

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

The Conservatives say the changes ensure fairness across the generations.

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General election: Theresa May changes social care plans

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

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

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

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What do the General Election manifestos mean for local government?

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

So, what have they promised the local government sector?

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

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

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

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

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Conservative manifesto summary: Key points at-a-glance

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

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UK inflation rate rises to 2.7% in April

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

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

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Labour pledges to increase local government funding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New mayors urged to prioritise inclusive growth

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

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

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Funding shortfall 'threatens support for vulnerable children'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Inter-authority lending rockets by £2bn

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

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

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General election 2017: Labour and Lib Dems pledge school cash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Universal basic income ‘offers public finance efficiency gains’

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



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

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

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

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

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Britons ready to pay more council tax to fund social care

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

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

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LGA publishes 10-point general election wish list

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

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

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Councils could raise enough money to reverse social care cuts

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

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

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Fly-tipping epidemic costs taxpayers £600 million a year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Magnificent Sevenoaks

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

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

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

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

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School cutbacks put 'education system at risk'

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

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

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

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

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UK economy grew by 0.3% as service sector slows

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

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

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

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GDP figures: The accidental rebalancing of the UK economy

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

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

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Government accounts 'failing to explain spending'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ministers lose pollution strategy delay bid

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cuts are 'dismantling' neighbourhood services, warns report

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

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

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Patient waits four years to leave hospital

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

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

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

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

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Theresa May should drop the state pension ‘triple lock’

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

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Snap election delays £300m relief package for small businesses

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

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

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Private parking firms pursue one million more motorists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Del Boy council scheme to sell bottled park water

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

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

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

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

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

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Housing problems causing mental illness, says charity

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

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

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Public services pressures the next government can’t ignore

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

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May to seek snap election for 8 June

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

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

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

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Thousands of children miss out on first choice of primary school

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

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

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

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

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

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Revolution in council lending could tackle irresponsible borrowing

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

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

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Next wave of free schools approved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UK inflation rate remains at 2.3%

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

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UK house price growth 'picking up'

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

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

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

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Anger as 539 council bosses paid more than PM Theresa May

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

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

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

Full Article

Essex council taken to court over care home fee rates

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

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

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

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

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

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What we need is a national social care service

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

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School budget squeeze 'is reducing pupils' subject choice'

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

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

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

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Labour pledges £10 minimum wage

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

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

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

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

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

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Teachers' union urges limits on pay of academy bosses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Landlords earn millions in benefits for micro‑flats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Half of councils yet to publish a Local Plan warns report

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

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

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

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

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

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DCLG to consult councils on spending model for Troubled Families scheme

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

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

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

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

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

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Derby school support staff vote for council pay offer

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

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

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

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New Enterprise Zones ‘go live’

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

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


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Schools to receive £2.4bn cash injection

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

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

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

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

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

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School funding cuts to hit poorer areas harder, says Labour

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

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

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

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


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

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Two million workers receive 4% pay rise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cash cuts 'threaten school standards', say MPs

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

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

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

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‘Communities provide the best solutions to their own problems’

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

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Councils face business rates cash crisis

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

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

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Business rate retention plans could come up short, auditors warn

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

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

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Surrey to quit LGA and CCN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Potholes 'the talk of the canteen'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Brexit risks sidelining grammar schools, says Nicky Morgan

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

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


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Government announces £32m for estate regeneration

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

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

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Drop in teacher training recruits revealed

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

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

Head teachers' leaders said the drop in recruits would deepen the teacher recruitment crisis.

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Bed delay transfer figures reveal areas worst affected

More than 2,500 hospital beds a day are taken up by patients whose release has been delayed due to problems in the social care system.

Analysis of official so-called "bed-blocking" statistics reveals the areas where the NHS is worst affected.

The Local Government Association said under-funded authorities had placed care providers under "huge pressure".

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Higher fuel prices take toll on retail sales

UK retail sales posted a 1.4% rise in February from the previous month, but there are signs that higher fuel prices have begun to hit shoppers' pockets.

In the three months to February, sales volumes fell by 1.4%, a sharper slide than the 0.5% decline for the three months to January.

That was the biggest three-month fall recorded by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) since March 2010.

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Councils call for full control on how to spend social care funding

Councils should be given the freedom to decide how best to spend the £2bn social care funding, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said today.

The LGA said councils should be free to determine which social care services the money will target such as supporting people with physical and learning disabilities, and people with mental health conditions.

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Surrey leader to quit LGA role

David Hodge has quit as the leader of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Conservative group following the political furore over the so-called Nickileaks affair.

Cllr Hodge sparked a high-profile row last month when Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused prime minister Theresa May of offering Surrey CC a ‘sweetheart deal’.

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Kent’s 'super council' plans put on hold

Plans to create a new single council for East Kent are being postponed after Shepway District Council voted against the proposal.

The plan would have seen the four existing councils merged - Shepway, Thanet, Dover and Canterbury - and replaced with one ‘super council’.

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School governors point to 'diabolical' budget squeeze

School governors have pointed to a "catastrophic" squeeze on budgets, as the government prepares to introduce a new funding formula for schools.

A snapshot survey of 4,000 governors by the BBC sheds light on the existing funding pressure in England's schools.

National Governors Association head Emma Knights does however back the principle of the new funding formula.

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UK inflation rate leaps to 2.3%

Rising fuel and food prices helped to push last month's inflation rate to the highest since September 2013.

Inflation as measured by the Office for National Statistics' Consumer Prices Index (CPI) jumped to 2.3% in February - up from 1.8% in January.

The increase has pushed the rate above the Bank of England's 2% target.

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'Lack of money' prompts care firms to end council contracts

Care firms have cancelled contracts with 95 UK councils, saying they cannot deliver services for the amount they are being paid, a BBC Panorama investigation has found.

Some firms said they could not recruit or retain the staff they needed.

The Local Government Association said it was the result of "historic under-funding" and an ageing population.

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MPs slam funding crisis and 'postcode lottery' of children's services

Children’s social services are being engulfed by a funding crisis in which nine out of 10 local authorities are struggling to meet their legal duties and families face a postcode lottery, a damning report has concluded.

The inquiry by MPs, led by a former Conservative children’s minister, Tim Loughton, has found “wildly different approaches” in the ways that councils intervene and how likely they are to take children into care.

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Looming countryside health crisis as stoic elderly 'won't make a fuss'

A crisis in countryside health care could be looming because of the number of older patients who are reluctant to "make a fuss" and seek out help, a new report suggests.

Almost half of rural households are at least five miles away from a hospital, when 97 per cent of those living in cities have one close at hand. And 20 per cent were more than 2.5 miles from a GP surgery, compared with 2 per cent of those in urban areas.

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Every secondary school faces losing six teachers - report

Six teachers could be axed from every secondary school due to funding cuts, a report says.

On average, secondary schools are facing losses of £291,000 each, with primaries missing out on £74,000 between 2016/17 and 2019/20, says the Education Policy Institute (EPI).

Their report calculates that this would mean losing six teachers from every secondary school and two from each primary school.

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Is robotics a solution to the growing needs of the elderly?

The receptionist at the Institute of Media Innovation, at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, is a smiling brunette called Nadine.

From a distance, nothing about her appearance seems unusual. It's only on closer inspection that doubts set in. Yes - she's a robot.

Nadine is an "intelligent" robot capable of autonomous behaviour. For a machine, her looks and behaviour are remarkably natural.

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School transport cuts causing 'distress and upheaval'

Will, who has autism and hates loud noise, was expected to walk a mile down a partly unlit route and take a bus and train to school, after his local council stopped funding a taxi for him.

Will tried it but soon became very distressed - so his mother had to drive him to and from school.

This was among 261 complaints about school transport decisions to England's local government ombudsman in 2015-16.

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A third of upper-tier councils facing ‘severe financial challenges’

At least one in three of England’s 152 upper-tier councils are facing ‘severe financial challenges’ in 2018/19, a top auditor has warned.

Head of local government at Grant Thornton UK, Paul Dossett, said if any council was to be declared technically insolvent it would be an upper-tier authority because of their demand-led social care responsibilities.

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Second major 2015 Tory manifesto pledge dropped in a week

The Conservatives have been accused of dropping a second manifesto pledge in the space of a week after ministers rowed back on plans to build hundreds of thousands of “starter homes” for first-time buyers.

Chancellor Philip Hammond sparked negative headlines after the Budget on Wednesday when he raised National Insurance for self-employed people, ditching a Conservative manifesto promise not to raise the tax.

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'Transport deserts' as hundreds of bus routes are scrapped because of Government cuts

Hundreds of bus routes across the country have been scrapped thanks to Government cuts , according to exclusive new research.

The Campaign for Better Transport study shows £30m has been cut from local authority budgets.

And it has seen more than 500 routes lost, often leaving people isolated and cut off from major cities.

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School funding cuts 'will leave councils unable to meet legal obligations'

Councils have said that funding cuts will leave many local authorities potentially unable to meet legal obligations to schools over issues such as checking staff for criminal records and ensuring buildings are free of asbestos.

The warning from the Local Government Association (LGA) comes amid a wider row about a planned new national funding formula for schools, which prompted concern from a series of backbench Conservative MPs.

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Activists to challenge council pension boycott restrictions in High Court

Pro-Palestine campaigners have been granted permission to take the Government to the High Court over law preventing councils from boycotting companies involved in Israel’s human rights violations.

Whitehall amended the rules governing Local Government Pensions Schemes (LGPS) with new guidance last October to stop councils using pensions and procurement to boycott or divest from foreign allies.

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Lib Dems call for 1p income tax rise to provide NHS funding boost

Income tax should be increased by 1p to deliver a £4.6bn boost to the struggling NHS while a long-term funding solution is found, the former Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb has said.

As the Lib Dems seek to woo traditional Labour voters and win back public trust, after being reduced to just nine MPs, Lamb will urge his party’s spring forum this weekend to back higher taxes to pay for health and social care.

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Business rates relief secure after NICs u-turn

The government’s u-turn on national insurance contributions will not scupper the £300m transitional business rates relief announced in last week’s budget, according to ministers.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced earlier this week that it will not not pursue last week’s announcement to raise class 4 national insurance contributions for the self-employed.

But speaking in the Lords this week, Lord Young of Cookham, cabinet office spokesman in the Lords, dismissed fears that the move would reduce the amount available for business rates relief also announced in the Budget.

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Commercialisation drives review of Prudential Code

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has launched two consultations covering its Prudential Code for Capital Finance in Local Authorities and the Treasury Management Code. The move reflects the increasing commercialisation of local authorities and a recognition that risk management and investment activity in the treasury function have evolved considerably in recent years.

The last time the codes were reviewed was in 2011, when the landscape of local authority finance looked very different.

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Inter-authority lending rockets by £1bn

The level of local authority lending to other councils rose by more than £1bn in the first three quarters of this financial year.

Borrowing and investment statistics released by the Department for Communities and Local Government show that more than £6bn is now invested through the mechanism.

The amount lent between local authorities is now almost double the level in March 2012, when it stood at just £3.1bn.

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Councils paying staff £15m for trade union time

Councils are spending more than £14.5m a year on providing ‘facility time’ for trade union reps, according to new research by the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA).

The campaign group said the average local authority spent 0.10% of its wage bill on subsidising the work of trade unions, with at least 371 full-time staff members working for trade unions at least 50% of the time.

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Tory councils warn on school funding

More than a dozen Conservative councils have written to Prime Minister Theresa May to warn of their "alarm" at inadequate school funding in England.

They are part of a cross-party group of councils with low levels of funding.

They had hoped to benefit from changes to the funding formula but now say the funding gap will remain unresolved.

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Public sector workers earn more than their private sector peers, analysis reveals

Public sector workers are still paid more than their private sector counterparts despite nearly a decade of central government cuts, financial experts say.

A new report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has revealed that during the financial crisis the pay premium experienced by public sector workers relative to those in the private sector grew from 3.7% in 2006-07 to 6% in 2010-11.

However, following the squeeze on public sector pay since 2010-11, this gap has come down to about 3.6% in 2015-16 - just 0.1% below pre-crisis levels.

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Budget National Insurance rises 'make system fairer'

Philip Hammond has rebuffed calls for a rethink on National Insurance increases for millions of self-employed workers announced in the Budget.

The measure, which breaks a 2015 manifesto pledge on NI contributions, would result in 1.6 million people paying £240 on average more every year.

The chancellor told the BBC that lower earning self-employed people would be better off, and the new system fairer.

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Extra social care funding welcome, but ‘bare minimum’ to shore up system

Local government leaders have responded to the social care provision announced by Phillip Hammond in the Spring Budget yesterday by saying that though the money will be welcome for struggling services, it still does not come close to plugging the funding gap of a system that is close to collapse.

It has been predicted that adult social care needed around £1.5bn to £2bn worth of fiscal support from the government to be able to fully meet growing demand, but yesterday’s news did not meet the requirements that have been laid out by local government representative bodies and MPs as the chancellor was only able to promise £2bn over the next three years, with half of that amount to be made available in 2017-18.

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Budget is out of touch, says Jeremy Corbyn

The government's Budget is one of "utter complacency" about the state of the UK economy, Jeremy Corbyn has said.

The Labour leader said the budget was "entirely out of touch with reality" of life for millions and did not address the "crisis" facing public services.

He said there were millions of workers who knew their next pay packet would not be enough.

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Budget 2017: What it means for motorists - £800 million boost in fight against congestion

He announced £90 million for the North and £23 million for the Midlands to address pinch points on roads.

And he launched a new £690 million competition for English councils to tackle urban congestion.

At the same time He unveiled a £270million pot for research into technologies including driverless cars in a bid to “enhance the UK’s position as a world leader in science and innovation”.

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Grammar schools: Budget to include funds for new free schools

Extra money for new schools in England, including free and grammar schools, will be announced by the chancellor in his Budget on Wednesday.

Philip Hammond will confirm a one-off payment of £320m for 140 new free schools on top of the 500 already pledged to be created by 2020.

He will also spend £216m to rebuild and refurbish existing schools.

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Dubs amendment: Tory backing for council refugee audit

Up to 30 Tory MPs could back steps to require councils in England to identify whether they have spare capacity to house unaccompanied child refugees.

Conservative Heidi Allen said ministers had not consulted properly with local authorities when opting to close the Dubs resettlement scheme this month (March 2017).

Campaigners want 3,000 Syrian and other minors in Europe to be found homes.

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Rethink rates now or face retail disaster, shops tell chancellor

Britain’s hard-pressed retailers have urged Philip Hammond to rethink government plans for revamping business rates amid signs that rising inflation has led to the weakest high street spending in more than five years.

A report from the British Retail Consortium and KPMG found that the spurt in consumer spending seen in the run-up to Christmas had come to an abrupt halt, with the result that non-food sales are falling for the first time since the economy was flirting with a double-dip recession in November 2011.

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Budget 2017: Hammond's 'upbeat' message over Brexit future

Chancellor Philip Hammond will use his first Budget to help prepare Britain for a "new chapter" in its history after Brexit, the Treasury has said.

In an "upbeat" speech, he is expected to say the economy has proved resilient since the referendum but admit that many families are "feeling the pinch".

Extra money is expected to be found for social care in England and to help firms facing steep business rate rises.

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Leaked tape reveals Surrey's council tax government 'deal'

The prime minister has repeatedly denied Surrey County Council was given what Labour calls "a sweetheart deal".

But on the recording, Councillor David Hodge said he had written government assurances and recordings of talks.

A government spokesman said "there was no special deal" and to imply the opposite was untrue.

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Chancellor plans tax rise to fund budget giveaways

Philip Hammond is preparing to raise tax in Wednesday’s budget after resisting calls to pay for giveaways with higher borrowing.

In his first budget the chancellor is expected to pour more money into social care and offer short-term relief for those worst affected by business-rate changes as he reveals a sharp improvement in growth and public finances.

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NHS denied budget windfall as Hammond saves for Brexit fund

Philip Hammond said yesterday that there would be no new money for the NHS in Wednesday’s budget, facing down pressure from Labour and brandishing his credentials as a fiscal conservative.

The chancellor insisted that there would be “no spending sprees” as he promised to put more cash into social care alongside a wide-ranging review, but made it clear that he was not contemplating extra cash for the NHS.

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Spring Budget will not be a 'show fest'

Like every year, decisions the chancellor makes will have an immediate impact on people's lives and livelihoods.

Tweaks to the new system of business rates will soften the impact to some firms who are hit by the steepest rises.

An expected top up of a billion or so pounds for the social care system could help alleviate the worst pressure on the service that is struggling in many parts of the country.

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Councils spend £2m a day on temporary accommodation say town hall chiefs

A ‘chronic shortage’ of affordable housing is forcing local authorities to spend £2m a day on temporary accommodation for homeless families, council chiefs warn.

The LGA has called on the chancellor to use this week’s Spring Budget to free councils from borrowing limits hampering their ability to build new homes, and to adapt welfare reforms to protect families at risk of homelessness.

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Budget 2017: No 'spending sprees', Hammond warns

There will be no "spending sprees" in Wednesday's Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond has warned.

Mr Hammond said any surplus cash would be used to ensure the UK had enough "gas in the tank" for the coming years.

He also acknowledged social care budgets were under particular pressure but said this was "not just about money".

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Vocational training shake-up 'most ambitious since A-levels'

Vocational and technical education in England is to get an extra £500m a year in a bid to train more skilled workers and boost the economy.

The plans, to be set out in the Budget, also include replacing 13,000 existing qualifications with 15 "routes" linked to the needs of employers.

Students in further education or at a technical college will also be eligible for maintenance loans.

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Funding plan will hit poor pupils hardest - campaigners

Schools in England with the highest numbers of disadvantaged children will be hit hardest by government plans to change funding, say campaigners.

Schools where over 40% of pupils are eligible for free meals will lose most, say National Union of Teachers and Child Poverty Action Group researchers.

Ministers should rethink the national funding formula, which is due to begin in 2018-19, they say.

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Business rates: Sajid Javid considers rates discount plan

Plans to help nearly 100,000 small businesses due to be hit by changes to rates next month are being considered by Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.

Out of those, some 25,000 firms face a "cliff edge" under the new revaluation of business rates, according to ratings agency CVS.

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Tory spending pledges on police, education and childcare 'at risk'

Conservative promises to protect spending on police, sixth form education and childcare are at risk as Philip Hammond demands £3.5bn in new cuts from his cabinet colleagues, according to an analysis by the IPPR thinktank.

The IPPR believes the government will not be able to hit its savings target, even allowing for proposed budget cuts, at the same time as meeting spending promises made by George Osborne when he was chancellor.

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Social care crisis: Councils to get more cash amid possible backbench revolt

Councils are to get an emergency cash injection to fund social care and a promise of wider reform in the Budget, as the Prime Minister seeks to avert the threat of a backbench blow-up.

Government sources told Sky News the Chancellor was drawing up a plan to give cash-strapped councils hundreds of millions of pounds in emergency funding to help pay for social care, with the promise of a root-and-branch review of the system later in the year.

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Families 'struggle to get first-place secondary school'

Parents in many parts of England are finding it harder to get their child into a secondary school they want, analysis of government data suggests.

Most of the country's towns and counties saw a fall last year in the proportion of pupils getting a place at their first-choice school.

The figures come on National Offer Day - the day families in England find out where they have been allocated a place.

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Rural areas lose in ‘unfair’ funding of elderly care

Rural councils receive 60 per cent less money for social care per elderly resident than those in London, because of an “unfair” cash formula, a study says.

The County Councils Network (CCN), a pressure group representing England’s shire authorities, has condemned “regressive, unfair and opaque” Treasury methodology. Counties received £279 in social care funding for each resident over 65 in 2013-14, according to a study by LG Futures.

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Nearly 150,000 care and health jobs at risk due to Brexit says TUC

Nearly 150,000 adult social care and NHS jobs could be at risk if EU workers would no longer be able to stay in the UK after Brexit, new analysis has revealed.

The TUC has published a regional breakdown of where health and social care services are most reliant on workers from the EU.

It found 145,200 workers could leave their right to live and work in the UK, with services in London, the South East and East of England most affected.

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One in ten councils to cut comms teams this year

Councils' communications teams have reached a 'plateau' on staff cuts, new research published today has suggested.

A survey by Panacea Applications Limited and LG Communications found one in ten councils are planning to reduce staff numbers in their communications teams this year.

This follows three years of 'fast and hard' cuts with 60% of councils saying they were cutting back their communications teams in 2014. The majority of councils also continued to cut staff numbers in 2015 and 2016.

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Sugary drinks levy will earn schools £415m

The levy on sugary drinks will provide £415m for sports and healthy eating in England's schools, says Education Secretary Justine Greening.

Every school will be allocated funds to help with facilities for mental health as well as physical exercise.

But schools, which have been warning of cash shortages, will not be able to use the fizzy drink levy to pay for staff.

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‘Death taxes’ on inheritance could pay for social care

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Let councils run academy chains, say MPs

Local authorities in England should be able to form their own academy chains, MPs have said.

The Commons Education Committee report echoes councils' calls to be allowed to use their expertise to help boost performance in failing academies.

The government wants all English schools to become academies, independent of local councils and funded direct by Whitehall.

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State pension age 'could rise above lifespan' in poorer areas, say MPs

The state pension age may have to rise to levels above the average lifespan of men in the UK's poorer areas, MPs say.

The Work and Pensions Committee said the age would need to rise above 70 to make the current policy of increasing the pension amount sustainable.

State pensions rise each year by the inflation rate or whichever is highest of average earnings or 2.5% - as part of the so-called pensions triple-lock.

The government said it was committed to the policy until 2020 at least.

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Council to save £94m after axing high interest loans

Newham Council has struck a deal to scrap its lender option borrower option (LOBO) loans and switch to normal fixed rate borrowing in a move that will save up to £94m.

The new financial agreement with a major high street bank will save the council up to £1.6m per year on interest payments over a 60-year period.

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MPs cast doubt on benefits of multi-academy trust expansion for schools

There is not enough evidence to support the expansion of multi-academy trusts as part of the government’s aim for all schools to become academies, the education select committee has concluded.

Responding to the report, Mary Bousted, the general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, urged the government to heed the committee’s warnings.

She called the proposal for local authorities to be able to set up MATs “entirely sensible, necessary and welcome.”

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Councils 'face funding gap' to fix roads

One in six roads across England and Wales is in such a bad state it must be repaired within the next five years, according to local authorities.

The Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance survey (ALARM) found that 17% of roads were in "poor" condition.

The government is planning to invest £1.2bn in roads this year, which includes repair and maintenance.But authorities say it will take an average of 12 years and £12bn to bring the local network "up to scratch".

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Business rates a 'ticking time bomb' for small firms

Business rates are a "ticking time bomb" for small companies in England which should be offered emergency help, the shadow business secretary has said.

Labour's Rebecca Long-Bailey said many firms faced "cliff-edge" rises when new valuations take effect in April and that the process had been mishandled.

The government says it has established a £3.6bn transitional fund to help businesses facing big jumps in rates.

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Older teenagers face biggest funding cuts, says think tank

Older teenagers have been the biggest losers as spending on sixth forms and further education has been "continually squeezed" for 25 years, says a report.

Spending on 16 to 18-year-olds has faced cuts too often while education spending overall has risen, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

However, government plans mean schools as a whole face "real-terms cuts for the first time in 20 years", it adds.

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Colleges seek academy status for the tax breaks

Dozens of sixth form colleges are to become academies to receive public funding and cut their business rates and tax bills as education funding is squeezed.

Hereford Sixth Form College will become the first this week, 18 more are at an advanced stage of the conversion process and more of England’s 90 sixth form colleges are likely to follow.

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Social mobility: Poorer children 'making less progress'

Poorer pupils are increasingly making less progress at secondary school in England compared with their more affluent peers, a study says.

The Social Mobility Commission said poorer pupils were often overtaken by their better-off peers even if they had outperformed them at primary school.

The gap, which was most apparent in poor white children, has widened every year since 2012.

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Local government: ever the bridesmaid

Next week’s Budget is unlikely to bring much comfort to local government. The sector must seize the initiative, redefining its objectives and the financial freedoms needed to deliver

Next week the chancellor will, against his earlier instincts, almost certainly announce some welcome additional resources for social care. This is good news, but I’m afraid that's about all there is to celebrate.

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Government looks for new spending cuts of up to 6%

Government departments have been told to find spending cuts of up to 6% as part of plans to save £3.5bn by 2020.

Ahead of next week's Budget, the Treasury announced Whitehall would begin coming up with ways to contribute to its "efficiency review".

It said the NHS and core schools budgets would not be included, with savings found by councils to be spent on under-pressure social services.

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The challenges for innovative procurement

Malcolm Harbour CBE, who wrote Parliament’s first report on innovation in public procurement in 2008 and now chairs the LGA Task and Finish Group on this subject, considers how the new Industrial Strategy is a great opportunity for local government to back the extension of procurement innovation support more widely across the public sector. 

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Cash boost to ease crisis in social care

Theresa May and Philip Hammond have agreed to tackle the social care crisis with an emergency cash injection and a pledge of significant reform later this year.

The prime minister and her chancellor have held a series of meetings in recent days to hammer out a plan to be announced in the budget on March 8 and officials say it is their “top priority” in the coming weeks.

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'NHS cuts have gone too far...and the revamp of business rates must go ahead': Lord Kerslake has some blunt warnings for the Government

Lord Kerslake is a real Sir Humphrey. Until recently he headed the UK civil service and was also chief mandarin at the Department for Communities and Local Government – the department at the centre of the business rates row.

Now a member of the House of Lords and free from his civil service constraints he is free to voice his worries. And he has a few.

Can the civil service cope with the workload of Brexit? Can local government cope with the care crisis? And what can the Government do to ease the burden on businesses facing huge business rate hikes?




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Cuts deeper than Thatcher ever tried

Birmingham is the local authority worst hit by seven years of unprecedented cuts in Whitehall’s grants to councils, experts said last night.

Tony Travers, of the London School of Economics, said that Birmingham’s longstanding social and managerial problems had been exacerbated by the scale of the cutbacks.

“The reductions in local government spending — which are some 30 per cent in Birmingham — are without precedent,” Professor Travers said. “They are much greater than anything Margaret Thatcher or Denis Healey tried.

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My Shop: How business rates are hitting home

There is growing unease in the business community as it braces itself for England's first rate revaluation since 2010.

The government is promising help in the Budget, but critics are calling the rates system itself "unfit for purpose in the 21st century".

As the commercial rental value of business premises are brought up to date, there will inevitably be some big losers. (You can learn more about the process here.)

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10 charts that show what’s gone wrong with social care

Ministers in England have said they are looking for a solution to the problems in social care. That has raised hope that next month's Budget could include measures to tackle what many describe as the crisis facing the sector.

But what exactly has gone wrong? And who's affected?

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School funding changes 'risk injustice'

The key group pushing for a fairer funding system in England's schools says government plans for a funding shake-up need to be rethought.

The F40 group, which campaigned for 20 years for the funding overhaul, is warning that some poorly funded areas, and schools within them, will lose out.

Its vice-chair, Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk, says it is important "one injustice isn't replaced with another".

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Services failing children with complex needs as national data ‘not fit for purpose’

Concern has been voiced by the National Children’s Bureau that government and local authority services for children with complex needs are insufficient to cater for a growing number of children and families requiring specialist care.

This worry was detailed in a report released yesterday that said the number of children with complex needs and life limiting conditions had risen by over 50% since 2004, rising from 49,300 to 73,000 children and young people.

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South West gets £191m cash boost

The South West has been given £191m in Local Growth Funding to help create jobs and encourage economic development by the Government.

The money will support projects that deliver new jobs, homes and infrastructure, such as unlocking a 91 hectare site at Bridgewater and a new roundabout in Gloucester.

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Successful business rate appeals falling, new figures show

The percentage of successful appeals made by businesses in England and Wales contesting the rateable values of their premises to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has fallen, show figures just released [pdf].

 Almost 2 million appeals were made to the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) against the 2005 and 2010 valuations up to 31 December 2016. More than a third (37%) of appeals against 2005 valuations have resulted in a change to the VOA’s decision. That number has reduced to 29% for 2010 valuations.

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Parish council tax bills rise despite squeeze

Villagers paying council tax are seeing their parish bills rise at a higher rate than the share they pay to larger authorities.

BBC News analysed the bills of more than 8,500 town and parish councils from 2013-14 to 2016-17.

Parish councillors say they are being asked to take on more responsibilities as their larger local authority counterparts make cuts.

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Communities secretary to ‘rethink’ business rates revaluation

Sajid Javid has promised to work ‘closely’ with the chancellor in order to support the small businesses who will be hit the hardest by a rates increase.

In a statement on the current business rates revaluation, Mr Javid acknowledged the concerns of backbench Tories and business leaders that some firms would lose out.

He said it would benefit or have no impact on three-quarters of businesses, but he recognised that would be ‘no consolation’ to the other quarter.

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Easing impact of revaluation could undermine business rates devolution

Giving in to pressure from businesses and MPs to scrap the forthcoming revaluation of business rates could scupper plans for 100% retention, according to sector experts.

Recent weeks have seen a crescendo of criticism about the revaluation, which will see bills rise in areas where property prices have risen the most.

However, local government finance professionals said that the government’s hands are tied unless it commits more money to soften the blow for these businesses.

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British roads are worse than Oman’s

Roads in the UK are in a worse condition than those in many other developed nations, even though Britons pay the world’s highest tax on fuel, according to a leading economics consultancy.

A study being published today by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) says that Britain’s road network is ranked 27th in the world, behind France, the United States, Canada, Germany and Spain. The main highways are in a worse state than those of relatively poor countries such as Namibia and Ecuador.

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Disabled children in England 'finding it increasingly hard to access council care'

Families of children with disabilities and complex care needs are finding it increasingly difficult to access specialist local authority help, a study has suggested.

A National Children’s Bureau (NCB) report estimates there has been a 50% rise in the number of disabled children in England with complex needs since 2004, including a doubling in the number of children with complex autism.

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Government spending billions on free schools while existing schools crumble

Ministers are choosing to give billions of pounds to build new free schools while existing schools are crumbling into disrepair, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has found.

The National Audit Office has calculated that £6.7bn is needed to bring existing school buildings in England and Wales to a satisfactory standard.

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PMQs: Theresa May suggests more business rate help

Theresa May says ministers are looking at how to help firms "particularly adversely affected" by controversial changes to business rates.

The PM acknowledged there were "particular concerns" as a result of the revaluation of premises, which comes into force on 1 April.

There has been a fierce campaign against the move, with claims some firms face "eye watering" rises.

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Sajid Javid: Budget help for firms hit by rates rise

The government has promised measures in the Budget for firms facing the "steepest increases" in business rates.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said it was "clear to me that more needs to be done to level the playing field and make the system fairer".

A fierce campaign has been waged against rises, which ministers say will affect a quarter of business in the UK.

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Taxes should be spent on improving school buildings not opening free schools, MPs say

Nearly £7bn is needed to bring school buildings up to a ‘satisfactory state’ but the Government is using taxpayers’ money to open new free schools, MPs say.

A new report from the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned the expected deterioration in the condition of the school estate is a ‘significant risk to long-term value for money’.

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Council funding freeze 'means cuts to many essential services'

A senior Conservative peer has warned that councils will need to slash a range of essential services after ministers released a funding settlement for councils that offered no additional money during 2017/18.

Gary Porter, who chairs the Local Government Association, said authorities would have to cut back on filling potholes, collecting waste, maintaining parks and running children’s centres and libraries in order to plug growing funding gaps.

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Teacher shortage getting worse, say MPs

The government is failing to take adequate measures to tackle "significant teacher shortages" in England, a committee of MPs has said.

The Education Select Committee has called for a long-term plan, as schools struggle to recruit enough teachers and pupil numbers continue to rise.

MPs want more active efforts to reduce the numbers quitting teaching.

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Academic selection: Policy group criticises 'negative impact'

A policy group run by the Department of Education (DE) has criticised the impact of academic selection.

The department's strategic planning and policy development forum also criticised a number of the department's policies for promoting inclusion.

Academic selection concentrated "lower-achieving pupils, often from socially deprived areas, into a small group of 11-16 schools", the report said.

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Minister under fire from own MPs over business rates 'misinformation'

The Communities Secretary has come under fire for apparently misleading his own MPs over business rate increases as the row over the issue intensifies.

In an attempt to quell a revolt among Tory MPs over the increases, which many fear could force small shops and pubs to close, Sajid Javid wrote to them saying the unease among businesses was based on "distortions and half-truths".

He attached an analysis of the planned increases but these have now been panned by a rating agency firm as figures from a "parallel universe".

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Councils hit out at lack of new money in final settlement

Local government figures have expressed their disappointment at a lack of new council funding in the 2017/18 settlement.

The local government finance setttlement, which was confirmed by communites secretary Sajid Javid last night, confirmed retrospective changes to the New Homes Bonus (NHB) and failed to find any new Whitehall funding for social care.

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Government finances record £9.4bn surplus in January

Government finances recorded a £9.4bn in surplus in January, £0.3bn higher than the same month last year.

Boosted by self-assessment tax receipts, January is typically a strong month for government finances.

For the financial year-to-date, borrowing stands at £49.3bn, the lowest since the comparable period of 2008.

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Tory cuts slice £1bn off real spending on social care

Tory cuts have sliced more than £1billion off spending for social care, devastating research reveals.

Theresa May has boasted she is giving councils "more money" for care as she refuses their demands for a fresh cash pot.

Yet 'real terms' spending - once inflation is counted - has plummeted 8.4% since the Tories took power, the House of Commons Library said.

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Council tax to rise while services cut, says LGA

Council leaders are warning of deep cuts to services despite nearly every local authority in England planning to raise council tax in 2017.

Increases of up to 4.99% are expected across the country, but libraries, bin collections and other services will still face funding gaps.

The Local Government Association says the cost of care for increasing numbers of elderly people is forcing up bills.

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More than half UK investment in transport is in London, says study

More than half of the UK’s total spending on transport networks is invested in London, research has found, prompting warnings of “chronic underinvestment” in northern infrastructure projects.  

The gulf in transport infrastructure investment between London and the rest of England is set to get worse, according to the analysis by the thinktank IPPR North, with £1,943 being spent per person in London on current or planned projects compared with just £427 in the north.

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One in four UK families have less than £95 in savings, report finds

The gap between rich and poor in the UK is growing, as savings and home ownership decline among the poorest families but rise among the richest, a report by insurer Aviva shows.

In a sign of growing financial strain, low-income families had just £95 of savings and investments, excluding pensions, this winter, compared with £136 in the same period last year. That figure jumps to £62,885 among high-income families, up from £50,208 a year earlier.

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Upcoming council tax rises not enough to stem social care crisis, LGA warns

Nearly all local authorities in England with responsibility for social care are set to raise council tax by the maximum 4.99% allowed without a referendum, but the Local Government Association today warned this will not solve the sector’s funding crisis.

Publishing an analysis of the likely increases across the country, the LGA said that even tax rises, there would need to be further deep cuts to local services next year.

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Javid stands firm on business rate change

Local government secretary Sajid Javid has defended the government’s revaluation of business rates, stating that thousands of businesses across the country will get lower bills as a result of the change.

Following criticism from business groups of the revaluation, with concerns that it would lead to significant rate increases for some small firms, Javid published figures showing thousands of businesses across the country are set to benefit from lower rates.

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Philip Hammond 'listening' to business rates concerns

The Chancellor Philip Hammond has told Conservative MPs he is "listening" to their concerns about an imminent re-evaluation of business rates.

Rates are being updated for the first time in seven years, to bring them into line with property values.

Business groups and some Tory MPs have warned of high street store closures.

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Council taxes set to rise by almost 5% across the country to pay for more social care but other services will still be cut

Council taxes are set to rise by almost five per cent across the country but services will still be cut, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.

Earlier this year the Government said it would allow councils to raise their taxes to pay for more social care provisions in the community – and most are considering doing so.

But councils are still warning of cuts to come, and say that the money they will get won’t be enough to offset continued cuts to their funding from central Government.

The LGA said that the cost of care for elderly people is forcing up their bills.

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Business rates blow to be 'softened' in the Budget

Philip Hammond has indicated that he is prepared to take measures in the Budget to help those worst affected by the business rates hike in an olive branch to Tory rebels.

The Chancellor has told Tory MPs he was “alive” to the impact the changes will have on some high street shops and was “open” about ways to help.

The comments are the first indication that he could seek to mitigate the impact of the business rates change in April when he unveils his Budget next month.

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Outrage from employers’ groups at ‘illegal’ changes to business rate appeals

Business leaders have hit out at the DCLG’s planned changes to business rates that are set to be voted at the next revaluation on 1 April, arguing that a clause in the proposed changes is “potentially illegal”.

In a letter signed by 13 employers’ groups, including the British Retail Consortium (BRT) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), concern is raised about a clause that would prevent firms from appealing against rate rises even if they can prove they are wrong.

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Councils going bankrupt? Don’t be Scilly!

Remember the old London bus joke: you wait for ages, then three come along at once? Well, some local government finance anoraks have been waiting ages for a 114, and now two 24s arrive, almost in mini-convoy.

Not buses, of course — but key sections of Acts of Parliament. Section 114 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 requires a councils’ chief finance officers (CFO) to issue a s114 Notice reporting to all elected members an actual or impending seriously unbalanced budget.

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Small shops recoil in the face of business rates that will more than double

Shopkeepers in Southwold are braced for a tough year. The picturesque seaside town in Suffolk is the area of Britain worst affected by the revaluation of business rates. On average, companies will see their tax bill increase by a staggering 177% from April – but for some the impact will be far worse.

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Social care cuts linked to 30,000 excess deaths

Government cuts to health and social care were responsible for 30,000 excess deaths in a single year, according to new analysis.

Research published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine concluded that failures in the health and social care system, including missed A&E targets and staff shortages, were likely to be the main cause of the significant increase in deaths in 2015.

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Liverpool council to axe 300 jobs to plug £90m funding gap

Liverpool City Council has stated that around 300 jobs would be cut while protecting frontline services as much as possible as the authority attempts to plug a £90m funding gap by 2020.

The news comes from a council meeting document outlining the mayor’s budget proposal for 2017 to 2020, which will be considered by the council next Friday 24 February and put before a Budget Council on 8 March.

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Social care system at risk of collapse warns report

One in eight older people are failing to get the care they need, showing the ‘imminent’ danger the social care system is in, a charity has warned today.

A new report from Age UK concluded that the UK is living on borrowed time to save the social care system. It also highlights the ‘major burden’ the failing system is putting on hospitals and family members.


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School budget cuts will ‘damage’ UK economy, councils warn

School funding cuts will ‘hinder’ the growth of cities and damage the UK’s economy in the long term, city councils tell Whitehall.

London Councils and Core Cities UK have written a joint letter to education secretary Justine Greening urging the Government to invest £335m to enable the new school funding formula to be introduced without any cuts.

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Senior Tory urges Philip Hammond to protect businesses from 'looming nightmare' of rate rises

Philip Hammond must back down from the "looming nightmare" of higher business rates in his Budget or risk a revolt in the Tory heartlands, a vice-chairman of the Conservative Party has warned.

Mark Field, Tory MP for Cities of London and Westminster, says that retailers in his constituency will "simply shut up shop" unless the Chancellor limits the impact of the first revaluation of business rates in seven years.

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LGA: Proper needs assessment must underpin 100% business rates retention

The LGA has welcomed the DCLG’s consultation on the move towards 100% business rates retention reform in local councils that was launched yesterday, but reiterated that the move must be “fundamentally underpinned” by a proper needs assessment.

In a statement, the association said it was glad that the government was listening to the views of councils in determining how the new business rates system would work, and insisted that a continued dialogue between local authorities and DCLG was essential in making any fundamental decisions.

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Tax cut for Amazon as high street shops suffer

Amazon will have business rates cut at most of its warehouses while high street stores are forced to pay more.

The American internet giant, which has faced allegations of tax avoidance and reported quarterly profits of $750 million this month, is expected to have the rateable value of some of its vast premises reduced from April as part of an overhaul of taxes.

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NHS to be hit by crippling business rates rise, analysis finds

NHS hospitals and GP surgeries in England and Wales face a £635 million hike in their business rates over the next five years, it emerged as health authorities threatened legal action.

A new analysis found that health authorities, many of which are already struggling to cope with huge financial pressure, will see their business rates will rise by an average of a third by 2021.

Some of the country's biggest hospitals will see their business rates double amid warnings that they will have to find further savings to fill black holes in their budgets.

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Rising business rates close four pubs a day

Surging business rates are forcing thousands of pubs to close their doors across England and Wales, with fears that more will follow when rate levels increase in April.

New research from rates and rental specialists CVS suggests a fifth of pubs closed between April 2010 and the end of 2016 - a number totaling 11,443.

That is the equivalent of four pubs every day.

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Kerslake: Devolving Treasury powers from Whitehall vital for UK

The UK would benefit from further Treasury powers being devolved away from Whitehall, a report by former head of the civil service Lord Kerslake has claimed.

The report did also state that further devolution would also require changes to the way the Treasury is run. Despite this, the report concluded that a total break-up of the Treasury would not be necessary, stating that: “such a reorganisation outweighed the benefits”.

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'Council tax bombshell' will see rates rocket 25% in the next three years

Labour has warned of a council tax “bombshell” after documents showed bills are to rise by 25% by the end of the decade.

Research by the House of Commons library revealed ministers expect town halls to scoop almost £6billion extra a year in council tax by 2020.

If shared equally across each home, it would mean the average band D household paying an extra £371 a year by then.

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Local authority announces proposed council tax cuts

The district council is proposing to reduce council tax by 2.6%. This follows a 2% reduction last year.

It has also announced a third cut for 2018/2019 which will bring its share of council tax down to the lowest level since 2006/2007.

EHDC are thought to be the first local authority to announce a council tax decrease.

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One in four care homes rated 'bad' or 'poor' by residents and their families

The number of care homes being rated 'bad’ or ‘poor' by families has doubled in past five years with one in four now deemed unacceptable, new figures show.

The Good Care Guide, a Tripadvisor-style website which allows relatives and residents to rate care services, has shown a serious decline since 2012.

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High street revolt over rates rise

Britain’s high streets face losing some of their most popular pubs and restaurants because of big rises in business rates, Philip Hammond has been warned.

Companies including the owners of Pizza Express, Greene King pubs, Wagamama, All Bar One and Slug & Lettuce have written to the chancellor to ask him to rethink a plan under which some outlets will be hit with a 42 per cent increase in their rates this year.

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Pubs and restaurants want more relief over business rates

Pubs and restaurants are calling for the chancellor to dilute the impact of business rate rises due in April.

The Association for Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has written to Philip Hammond asking for more transitional relief for the sector.

Business rates in England and Wales are being updated to take into account changes in property values.

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Grammars 'unnecessary distraction', say MPs

The Department for Education has argued that removing the ban on opening new grammars will be a way of making "more good school places available, to more parents, in more parts of the country".

The cross-party committee of MPs, responding to the evidence gathered about plans to increase selective education, said ministers still needed to demonstrate how this would improve social mobility and close the gap between rich and poor pupils.

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Councils banned from 'unnecessary' boycotts

Councils will no longer be able to boycott countries or companies unless restrictions have already been put in place by the Government under new rules published today.

The new rules will make the government’s foreign policy a legal requirement for councils when they are buying goods or services.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘We need to challenge and prevent divisive town hall boycotts which undermine good community relations.

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Parents on zero-hour contracts 'could miss out on free childcare'

The shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, has warned that parents on zero-hours contracts could miss out on the government’s election pledge of 30 hours a week of free childcare, as it emerged that fewer than half the families who receive the existing 15 free hours will qualify.

David Cameron made the 30 hours a week promise a key thrust of the Conservative party’s 2015 general election campaign, outflanking Labour’s offer of 25 hours a week, as the Tories sought to win over female voters.

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NHS Health Check: Hunt says NHS problems 'unacceptable'

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Mr Hunt said the key was to treat more people "at home and in the community" to ease the burden on hard-pressed hospitals.

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Unqualified librarians and support staff asked to give lessons amid teacher shortage

Unqualified librarians and support staff are being asked to give lessons as schools desperately attempt to plug teacher shortages without hiring expensive supply teachers, a survey shows.

Recruiting short term supply teachers to cover unfilled posts and short term absences is a major expense, with schools in England spending more than £800 million on supply staff in one year alone.

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Our budget next year isn’t enough, say most councils

Most councils across Britain are planning to increase tax, introduce higher charges, dip into their savings and borrow as a result of the dire state of their finances, according to a major survey of local government officers.

In a stark assessment of the financial crisis facing many local authorities, almost 80 per cent of senior council figures had little or no confidence in the sustainability of their budgets.

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Call to end ban on council-run schools sponsoring academies

A ban on top council-run schools sponsoring failing schools amounts to "red tape" and should be dropped, say council bosses.

In England, only schools with academy status are allowed to form trusts to sponsor weaker schools.

And, the Local Government Association said, a shortage of "good quality" sponsors often left failing schools "in the dark about their future".

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Local authorities face ‘collapse of vital services’ due to underfunding

Nearly eight out of 10 councils lack confidence in the sustainability of local government finances, survey reveals.

The 2017 State of Local Government Finance survey - conducted by the think tank LGiU and our sister magazine The MJ - revealed nearly 80% of councils have little or no confidence in the sustainability of local government finances.

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'New grammars by 2020' reveal heads after meeting ministers

The first of a new wave of grammar schools in England could be open by 2020 - the Grammar School Heads' Association has revealed, following a meeting with the education secretary.

Among the options is to admit only the top 10% of the ability range - compared with 25% in many grammar intakes.

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Customer satisfaction in local public services increases

Overall customer satisfaction in the local public services sector has increased over the past year, research reveals.

The UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), published today by The Institute of Customer Service, has given the UK’s local public services an overall customer satisfaction rating of 74.4 out of 100 – 0.6 points higher than its January 2016 score.

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Surrey’s cancelled referendum: good for Surrey, no change for everyone else

Surrey County Council has cancelled its referendum on a 15% hike in council tax aimed at paying for social care. The reason will see Surrey benefit but will leave other authorities asking how their funding issues will be solved.

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Jeremy Corbyn alleges Surrey 'sweetheart deal' on tax

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has accused ministers of agreeing a "sweetheart deal" to ensure a Conservative-controlled council dropped plans to raise council tax by up to 15%.

On Monday, Surrey County Council restricted the increase, to help fund growing social care costs, to 4.99% - meaning no referendum will be needed.

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Corbyn accuses Tories of ‘sweetheart deal’ with council

Theresa May was hit by allegations of a “sweetheart deal” with a Tory council today after private texts revealed secret negotiations to head off a threatened 15 per cent council tax rise to fund social care.

Mrs May was ambushed in the Commons when Jeremy Corbyn produced a series of texts from David Hodge, Surrey County Council leader, at prime minister’s questions.

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All councils need more cash [opinion]

The emails from voters that Jeremy Corbyn sometimes quotes at prime minister’s questions rarely help him make a point. But the communication he read out from “Nick” this morning was devastating. It allowed him to expose Theresa May’s alarming inability to explain how the crisis engulfing the NHS and social care will be resolved.

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Council tax hikes planned 'across England'

Nearly all local authorities in England are set to raise council tax and service charges amid concerns for their financial stability, a survey suggests.

Council tax is set to rise in 95% of authorities while 93% will hike service fees, according to the 2018 State of Local Government Finance research.

The planned increases come as 80% of councils fear for their balance sheets.

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Surrey council abandons plan to raise council tax by 15%

Surrey council has backed away at the last moment from a controversial plan to poll voters on a 15% rise in council tax, mainly to pay for social care, instead recommending a rise next year of just under 5%.

The Conservative-run council, whose leader David Hodge has said it faces a crisis because of central government cuts combined with ever-increasing demand for services, had planned to hold a referendum on the rise.

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‘The government must unlock the money. Because the care crisis is now’

Ask Barbara Keeley what keeps her awake at night and Labour’s shadow cabinet member for mental health and social care will tell you it’s the stories of people in “heartrending” situations whose care is being cut.

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Standardised housing need measure to decide infrastructure spend

Ministers have pledged to align strategic infrastructure spending with house building by targeting the £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund at areas with the greatest housing need.

The long-awaited Housing White Paper, published on Tuesday (7 February), suggests a 'approach' to assessing housing need could form the basis of future infrastructure funding decisions, with this change reflected in planned reforms to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

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Robots 'could replace 250,000 public sector workers'

Robots and computers could replace almost 250,000 public sector jobs over the next 15 years, according to a new report.

The Reform thinktank said using websites and artificially intelligent "chat bots" could improve efficiency and save billions of pounds - but at huge cost for workers who lose steady jobs.

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Free nursery places subsidising the rich, report says

The free entitlement to childcare for all parents in England should be scrapped in favour of a system aimed at disadvantaged children, a report says.

The Institute of Economic Affairs study says the right to 15 hours free care a week has distorted the market price.

It also argues regulations have made it more costly, with many families on average earnings spending more than a third of their income on childcare.

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IR35: Off Payroll working in the public sector

CIPFA answers some key qiestions surroundin the IR35 changes. 

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Millions face 5% council tax rise as a third of authorities plan to raise bills by the maximum amount - three times higher than inflation

Millions of households across England face the biggest rise in council tax in decades as dozens of local authorities revealed that they are to increase bills this year by nearly 5%, three times the rate of inflation.

One in three of the country's biggest councils have opted to slap a 4.99% tax rate on its residents, which is maximum amount allowed without a referendum needing to be called.

With the average band D council tax bill in England last year standing at £1,530 the price hike would put an an extra £76 a year on bills. 

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Schools have no funds to train teachers, says study

There are 20,000 teachers in schools in England without any budget to train them, according to research by the Teacher Development Trust.

Teacher quality has often been highlighted as the key to raising school standards and this research warns of a serious gap in funding.

David Weston, chief executive of the Teacher Development Trust, said the findings were "extremely concerning".

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The Northern Powerhouse is going up a gear. Let’s all back this plan to make the north great

The North of England is at a turning point. A report I’m helping launch today shows that, with effort and persistence, we can close the north-south gap that has blighted our country for almost a century. To do that we have to sustain the plans to build the Northern Powerhouse and not let them fade.

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Councils should be forced to fix potholes immediately, Court of Appeal rules

Councils should be forced to fix serious potholes immediately the Court of Appeal has ruled, after judges found in favour of a jogger who hurt his ankle.

Judges argued that a highway authority should have responded more quickly to repair "deep potholes" after they were notified of the problem the day before the accident.

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Half of academies fall short on funding

More than half of academies in England have lacked enough income to cover their annual expenditure, according to figures revealed by ministers.

An answer to a Parliamentary question shows that the proportion of academy trusts with an annual shortfall doubled in two years.

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Local authorities fear legal action due to care funding shortfall

Local authorities have warned that a series of flagship social care reforms introduced in 2015 will fail unless the government provides a funding boost for services.

The Local Government Association has said today that underfunding of the Care Act – which sets a new minimum eligibility threshold to qualify for care, and outlines plans for more personalised support – meant these changes could not be implemented.

In its submission to the government ahead of the forthcoming Budget, the LGA urged the Treasury to provide a cash boost to rescue the reforms and save local authorities from possible court challenges they could face for failing to meet the care threshold provision, set at ‘substantial’ need.

If there is no additional funding made available by chancellor Philip Hammond on 8 March then ministers must be upfront to the public about the subsequent limitations in care and support, Izzi Seccombe, LGA community wellbeing board chair, said.

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Dorset councils agree to proceed with unitary reforms

Dorset councils have obtained a mandate to go ahead with their proposals to change the county’s local government structure.

The plans, which would see Dorset’s current nine councils replaced with two new unitary authorities, have now been considered by all nine councils with six of them supporting the plans.

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Surrey Council tax rise of 15% approved before public vote

.A 15% increase in council tax has been approved in Surrey - before a referendum on the issue has been held.

Authorities are legally required to hold a vote on increases above 2%, but council chiefs gave the go-ahead on Tuesday.

If it is rubber-stamped by fellow officials, residents could be landed with the tax hike in April - a month before May's ballot on the issue

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Libraries minister promises to act if councils cannot justify cuts

Local authorities will face government action if they cannot justify library cuts, libraries minister Rob Wilson told librarians, peers and MPs at a packed meeting in the House of Lords to mark the launch of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Libraries (APPG).



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Parents responsible for care of their elderly mothers and fathers as much as their own children, minister says

Parents have as much of a responsibility to care for their elderly mothers and fathers as they do for their own children, a minister has suggested.

David Mowat, the care minister, said that Britain's ageing population means that society has to take greater responsibility for the elderly.

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Apprenticeship targets 'poor value for money', says IFS

The government's target to rapidly increase the number of apprentices risks being "poor value for money", says the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The think tank warns that it could devalue the "brand" of apprenticeships by turning it into "just another term for training".

The government has a target of three million apprenticeships and is imposing a levy on employers to fund it.

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Robots could help solve social care crisis, say academics

Humanoid robots, with cultural awareness and a good bedside manner, could help solve the crisis over care for the elderly, academics say.

An international team is working on a £2m project to develop versatile robots to help look after older people in care homes or sheltered accommodation.

The robots will offer support with everyday tasks, like taking tablets, as well as offering companionship.

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Councils may cut social care provision due to underfunding, LGA says

Older and vulnerable people could stop receiving vital help to get out of bed, washed and dressed, because the underfunding of social care has become so severe, councils have warned.

Leaders of 370 local authorities in England and Wales fear that some councils are finding it so hard to provide the right level of support they could face a high court legal challenge for breaking the law.

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Term-time holiday fines are under review in some areas

A BBC investigation has found that 35 councils in England have changed their policy on fining parents for term-time holidays.

It follows a successful high court appeal by a father last year against a £120 fine levied by the Isle of Wight.

The case will reach the Supreme Court this week where judges will consider what constitutes regular attendance.

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Homeless spikes installed to stop people sleeping rough in city centre

Metal spikes designed to prevent homeless people sleeping on the ground have been placed outside a building in Manchester city centre.

Manchester has seen an increase in rough sleepers, up to 78 in 2016 from 70 the previous year, and 1,600 children were living in temporary accommodation in September 2016.

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Treasury takes back £384m school funding

The Treasury has taken back £384m originally promised for schools in England - at a time when head teachers are protesting about a cash crisis.

The money had been announced last year to fund a plan to require all schools to become academies.

But the Department for Education has revealed that when the compulsory academy plan was ditched, the Treasury took back most of this extra funding.

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Homelessness reduction bill: a small step in the right direction

How many homeless people did you pass on the way to work today? Statistically, it’s likely that whether you noticed the rough sleepers or not, you passed twice as many as you would have in 2010.

For the sixth year running, rough sleeping statistics show a significant rise in the number of people living on the streets: last year, the figure was 3,569; this year it stands at 4,134.

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Councils warn of £5.8 billion black hole without more social care cash from Government

Morethan two thirds of councils in England will have to slash spending by millions of pounds more than they expected this year if the Government fails to provide more cash for social care, leaders have warned. 

They pleaded for “genuinely” new funds to combat a growing black hole they warn will hit £5.8billion in 2020 which they say they could not plug even if they switched off a host of crucial services including every street light.

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UK economy grows by 0.6% in fourth quarter

Strong consumer spending helped the UK's economy to grow faster than expected at the end of last year.

The economy grew by 0.6% in the October-to-December period, the same rate as in the previous two quarters, according to an initial estimate from the Office for National Statistics.

The figure indicates that the feared economic slowdown following the Brexit vote has not materialised.

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The Guardian view on local government: put up or shut up [opinion]

No one, ever, wants to talk about remote, unglamorous, local government funding. As long as the bins are emptied, most fit adults put up with the closure of the local library or reduced hours at the leisure centre as a sad but minor inconvenience. It is time to take a refresher course.

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Petition demands government abandon tax rule targeting interims

A petition calling on the government to scrap legislation which could make it harder for local authorities to hire interim staff has garnered more than 14,000 signatures.

From April, new HM Revenue & Customs rules will pass responsibility to councils for policing compliance with the tax rules, known as IR35, on off-payroll working.

A statement from the Local Government Association said that applying the IR35 rules just to public sector hires will make the sector a less attractive place for workers and recruitment firms.

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Grammar schools 'may ask parents for hundreds of pounds a year'

Grammar schools in England may ask parents for hundreds of pounds a year to cope with funding cuts, their head teachers' association has warned.

A majority of grammars will be left worse off by proposed funding changes, according to analysis by the Grammar School Heads' Association.

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Care homes rely on ‘hidden tax’ of £1.3bn to stay open

The care home funding shortfall has left self-funders paying a ‘hidden tax’ of £1.3bn to keep the sector ‘afloat’, analysts reveal.

According to the healthcare market intelligence provider LaingBuisson, residential care homes in England currently need to charge fees of between £590 and £648 per week.

However, the average fee paid by English councils for residential care of older people was just £486 per week in 2016/17.

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Number of rough sleepers rises at an 'appalling rate' says charity

The number of people sleeping rough in England has increased by 16% in the past year and more than doubled since 2010, new figures reveal today.

Statistics released by the Department for Communities and Local Government show local authorities counted and estimated 4,134 rough sleepers on a single night in 2016, up from 3,569 in 2015.

The City of Westminster had the highest number of rough sleepers at 260 per night, followed by Brighton and Hove City Council with 144 people.

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Public service delivery should be ‘local by default’, argues community group

The current trend among councils of standardising services and outsourcing contracts to big national charities and multinational companies is ‘counterproductive’, campaigners warn.

Locality, the national network of community organisations, today launched its five-step-guide to ‘Keeping it Local’, which is designed to help councillors and commissioners save money and deliver complex services.

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Surrey's referendum will deliver a verdict on ministers' approach to social care

Whether intentional or not, Surrey CC’s announcement that it plans to hold a referendum on increasing council tax by 15% could not have been timed better.

Just as the newspapers were beginning to tire of stories of overcrowded hospitals struggling to discharge patients due to a lack of available social care services, Surrey’s proposed mammoth hike gave the issue a fresh angle and kept the pressure on ministers.



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Another county looking for savings in new unitary council proposal

Lincolnshire is the latest of England’s county councils to propose a new unitary authority as a way to spur savings in the region.

Its leaders plan to hold a public referendum on the proposal, which would involve scrapping the county’s eight district and county councils to make a single unitary authority. Plans may also include North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire, which are already separate unitary authorities.

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It’s a crisis indeed when the social care rebels are Tories [opinion]

Even in the worst of times, democracy has a habit of bursting out. With no effective opposition in England and the government 16 points ahead, a primal force against one-party rule usually erupts somewhere. 

But Surrey is surely an unlikely spot for revolt against Theresa May’s continuity austerity. In this most Conservative county, all 11 MPs are Tory, including the chancellor Philip Hammond, Jeremy Hunt, Chris Grayling and Michael Gove.

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NHS bosses want to force patients into care homes

Thousands of chronically ill patients could be forced out of their homes by a new restriction on NHS funding, campaigners have warned.

In some areas the health service will no longer pay for carers to visit patients at home if it would be significantly cheaper to secure them a place in a residential care home. Charities said that the policy was extremely worrying and could deny people the choice of where they died.

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Councils call for ‘greater freedom and funding’ to deliver industrial strategy

Councils have responded to the government’s new green paper setting out the UK’s industrial strategy by asking for greater freedom and funding to deliver its aims.

The strategy outlines the government’s commitments to future developments in housing, economic growth, skills training and digital connectivity, along with specific transport infrastructure projects such as Northern Powerhouse Rail.

In the document, ministers acknowledged that its ambitious set of industrial plans for the country would only be achievable by taking a holistic approach.

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Government borrowing falls in December

Government borrowing fell by £0.4bn in December to £6.9bn, compared with 2015.

The figures, from the Office for National Statistics, means borrowing for the year is £63.8bn, £10.6bn lower than for the same period a year ago.

The last Autumn Statement indicated that the government would borrow £68bn over the full financial year to the end of April.

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One in 10 nursery schools in England face closure within months

Nursery schools in England are facing “death by a thousand cuts” with more than one in 10 facing closure within the next few months, according to a new survey..

There are only 400 maintained nursery schools left in the country, offering high-quality early years education targeted at vulnerable children from difficult and deprived backgrounds.

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Supporting local government

Sajid Javid talks to councillors about adult social care, housing, devolution and more.

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Road use charges should be tailored to drivers, says report

Motorists should be charged for using the UK's road network based on personal circumstances, a new report says.

Drivers currently pay fuel and vehicle taxes, but road pricing is limited to certain toll roads and schemes such as London's congestion charge.

However, a group of infrastructure engineers has said that approach is "failing", because revenue from those existing taxes is "drying up".

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School budgets near breaking point, say head teachers

School budgets are close to breaking point in England suggests research by a head teachers' union.

A survey of more than 1,000 schools by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) shows the number in deficit has doubled since 2015.

And 71% of the heads polled were only able to balance their budgets by making cuts or dipping into reserves, said NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby.

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Punitive business rates threaten rural way of life

Rural enterprises will be among the biggest losers in the most radical reform of business rates for a generation.

Riding schools, livery yards, stud farms, vineyards and livestock markets are facing some of the steepest business rate rises in England, according to league tables seen by The Times.

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Town hall leaders want more devolution as Theresa May launches industrial strategy

Local government leaders have welcomed the launch of Theresa May’s industrial strategy, but have called for greater devolved powers and cash to replace EU funds to help them play a bigger role in economic growth.

Lord Porter, the chairman of the Local Government Association, said the new strategy was “encouraging”, but giving local areas the power to target funds at specific projects would “improve productivity and strengthen the national economy”. 

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Devolution risks being ‘undermined’ if Whitehall tries to performance-manage mayors

The LGA is currently developing a self-assessment diagnostic to help new mayoral combined authorities (CAs) assess their own functioning, rather than being subject to a Whitehall-imposed performance management regime.

The measure, mentioned in an LGA Leadership Board report on combined authorities and elected mayors in England, is designed to pre-empt central government’s potential desire to assess the governance of mayoral CAs, which the LGA warns may “undermine” the new authorities.

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GOV: Building our Industrial Strategy

The government is holding a consultation on how they propose to build their indistrial strategy. 

There is an implication that this will be an ongoing proces and this opportunity to respond will not be the only engagement.

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Whitehall’s industrial strategy must be ‘locally led’, think tank says

The Government’s industrial strategy must be led locally, think tank says as Whitehall announces a £556m cash boost for the Northern Powerhouse.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting in the north west, Theresa May today announced the publication of the Government’s industrial strategy green paper, Building our Industrial Strategy: 10 pillars.

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Scandal of inadequate apprenticeships

Tens of thousands of apprentices are receiving inadequate training as inspectors struggle to assess a deluge of businesses cashing in on a government scheme.

After the Learndirect scandal, figures from the education watchdog Ofsted reveal that nearly half of all registered apprenticeship providers inspected last year were inadequate or required improvement.

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Bookies may sue if stake is capped at £2

Big bookmakers are weighing up the possibility of legal action against the government after suggestions that ministers have decided to cut the maximum stakes on betting machines from £100 to £2.

The reports spooked investors, who had been forecasting a cut in the maximum stake to £20. Almost £800 million was wiped off the value of the quoted betting groups, with William Hill and Ladbrokes Coral losing £336 million and £277 million, respectively.

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Anger at nearly £4k disabled parking bay charge

A woman with multiple sclerosis has criticised an "extortionate" £3,800 charge to create a disabled parking bay outside her home. Cornwall Council charges applicants for a disabled bay thousands of pounds but elsewhere people pay nothing.

Councillor Richard Pears said the authority is "effectively charging people for being disabled" and the cost should be subsidised.

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All public service contracting ‘should be paused’

The Smith Institute has called on the government to end what it called a “‘love in’ with outsourcing and PFI”, after the fiasco of the Carillion collapse.

A report Out of Contract said there should be an immediate pause in all public service contracting followed by a review of existing deals, which were valued in all at around £100bn a year

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Free childcare plan faces places pinch, warns lobby group

The government has underestimated the number of children in England eligible for 30 hours of free childcare promised from September, warns a lobby group.

The government says 390,000 three and four-year-olds will be eligible, but research for the Pre-school Learning Alliance suggests the figure will be nearer to 500,000, meaning tens of thousands could miss out.

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Rule changes pose major threat to investment and lending plans

New financial conduct rules could force councils to completely rethink their treasury investment plans and make council-to-council lending more difficult, finance directors have warned.

The new regulations, which are set to be introduced by the Financial Conduct Authority in a year’s time, would mean councils having to renegotiate their relationships with investment firms and could prompt a “fire sale” of assets, meaning reduced returns.

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The Government has dropped its one million new homes target, report claims

The government has quietly dropped its landmark pledge to build a million new homes by the end of this parliament.

The target was a major policy, announced by David Cameron and the then Housing Minister Brandon Lewis in September 2015.

But, according to a new report from the National Audit Office, the Communities and Local Government department has quietly shifted the target’s date to the end of 2020, long after the latest point at which a general election could take place.

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Jeremy Hunt's council to hold referendum on 15% council tax rise to fund social care

Surrey is to hold a referendum on increasing council tax by a massive 15% to pay for the growing crisis in social care.

It is expected that the decision could trigger other cash-strapped councils to follow suit in order to meet the growing cost of caring for people in their own homes after Theresa May refused to increase social care funding.

A 15% increase by the Tory-controlled authority would add around £200 to the average bill.

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Grammar schools lose top spots after league table shakeup

The government’s new performance measure has upended the traditional pecking order of England’s secondary schools, knocking grammar schools out of the top spots and boosting schools that dramatically improved results among their pupils.

The Department for Education’s latest performance tables, published on Thursday — including 2016’s GCSE exams and ranked by its new Progress 8 measure — reveals that the best schools in England are those which make the greatest advances in their pupils’ grades.

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Ministers back down in legal battle over disability benefits

Ministers have backed down in a row over paying higher disability benefits to 164,000 people by saying they will not contest a High Court decision.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said she would not appeal December's judgement over payments to people with mental health conditions.

Ministers had sought to limit those suffering psychological distress from claiming higher rates of benefits.

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Stretched NHS and social care 'needs more money pumped in to ease pressure'

Ministers will be forced to pump more money into the stretched NHS and social care, the Chief Inspector of Hospitals warned today.

Sir Mike Richards outlined the scale of the crisis gripping the health service and demanded more money to ease the pressure.

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Parents 'shelling out for free nursery scheme'

Parents are subsidising a new flagship "free" nursery scheme for three- and four-year-olds in England from their own pockets, a survey suggests.

Nurseries are making up losses by upping fees for younger children and charging for meals and nappies, a survey of 1,662 providers suggests.

This comes after the government made a promised of 30 hours of free childcare in September 2017.

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Four councils set to receive funding for post-Grenfell safety works

Four councils could be granted funding flexibility “within weeks” to pay for essential works to ensure the safety of tower blocks following the Grenfell tragedy, according to government officials.

Senior civil servants from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), including permanent secretary Melanie Dawes, were this week grilled over the issue by MPs.

But they hinted that only ten of the 36 councils who have contacted the department about assistance with funding appear to qualify for funding flexibilities promised by communities secretary Sajid Javid.

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Councils get £48m to expand homelessness provision

Councils will share £48m in extra funding to help them expand homelessness provision for single men and women, but local government leaders have said the money may not be enough.

The funding, announced on Tuesday by the local government minister Marcus Jones, is intended to help councils meet the costs of measures to be introduced under the homelessness reduction bill.

The private member’s bill is intended to end discrimination against single men and women, who currently have no right to immediate help with housing assistance if they become homeless, while families are guaranteed support.

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NHS will need £88bn extra by 2067, says OBR forecast

The NHS budget will need to increase by £88bn over the next 50 years, meaning governments could have to raise taxes or cut spending in other areas to fund it, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has said.

The soaring costs threaten to render public finances generally “unsustainable”, according to the OBR’s latest fiscal sustainability report. It says the government could find it hard to deliver on its pledge to balance the budget during the next parliament.

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‘Build houses in same way as cars to tackle shortage’

Housebuilding must be treated like a manufacturing industry in order to address the shortage of homes, MPs will be told today.

Mark Farmer, author of a report that last year concluded the sector must “modernise or die”, will appear before the communities and local government select committee.

It is considering ways of overcoming building constraints, including introducing pre-fabricated housing, off-site construction and direct commissioning by central government. It is part of an inquiry launched last July into whether the industry has the capacity to meet demand.

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Theresa May has handed the NHS crisis to the regions - here's why that should worry us all [opinion]

Sustainability and transformation plans (STPs) are what’s in store for the NHS in the next five years. The term ‘STP’ is contentious because it’s not really a sustainable approach, nor really a plan – and although transformative, it’s not at all clear what the NHS is transforming into. The plans are being pushed through at lightening speed, during the NHS and local government’s biggest crisis in decades.

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UK inflation rate drops back to 3%

The inflation rate dipped to 3% in December, down from November's rate of 3.1% - a six-year high.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that while air fares rose last month, it had a smaller impact than at the same point in 2016.

It added that a drop in the price of toys and games also contributed to December's fall.

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Union urges council staff to reject pay offer

A trade union is calling on local government members to reject the offer of a 2% pay rise this year.

Council employees have been offered a 2% uplift this April, with a further 2% the following year.

Unite has voted unanimously to reject the pay offer and is recommending members also reject it in a consultative ballot.

The union said the pay offer would result in a real terms pay cut for most of its members as the current RPI inflation rate is 3.9%.

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Northants s151 hits back at Daventry’s call for government intervention

Last week, Daventry District Council called on the communities secretary to take over the running of Northamptonshire County Council. In an exclusive interview, Room151 speaks to Damon Lawrenson, interim director of finance and section 151 officer at Northamptonshire.

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First-time home buyers at highest level since 2007, Halifax says

There were more first-time home buyers in 2016 than at any time since the start of the financial crisis, according to research by the Halifax.

The lender estimated there were 335,750 first-time buyers last year, the highest figure since 359,900 in 2007.

However, the average first-time deposit has more than doubled since 2007 to stand at more than £32,000.

The Halifax also found the average price of a first home broke through the £200,000 barrier for the first time.

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DfT announces £1.2bn for local authority roads in 2017/18

Ministers have announced over £1.2bn of funding for English local authority roads in 2017/18, including individual councils’ share of the pothole fund, £185m of new funding announced in the Autumn Statement and the Local Highways Maintenance Funding Needs Element.

The new funds also include the the Local Highways Maintenance Incentive/Efficiency Element, worth £75m next year, with councils given until 4 February to complete self-assessment questionnaires.

Transport Network sources close to the process say there have been no changes in the self-assessment system since last year.

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Roads funding information pack

The government has announced £1.2 billion pounds of spending on roads and infrastructure including an additional £75 that is biddable for local authorities and is designated for improving infrastructure such as bridges and street lighting.

The document also includes:

the distribution of government capital investment to local highway authorities in England outside London in the financial year ending 2018

highways and pothole repair funding for the financial year ending 2018, broken down by local highway and combined authorities

the locations of the most dangerous roads by English region for road safety funding


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Westminster exports its homeless locals

Westminster city council, notorious for the homes-for-votes gerrymandering scandal in the 1980s, has admitted that it is moving homeless people out of the borough.

From next month, residents classified as homeless and living in temporary accommodation will be relocated to other areas of London and the home counties into permanent new homes. The policy has echoes of the Shirley Porter era, where homeless people in key wards, who were unlikely to vote Conservative, were moved out to protect the party’s majority.

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NAO investigates business rates retention plan

The National Audit Office has launched a value-for-money probe into government plans to design and implement 100% business rates retention for local authorities.

Former chancellor George Osborne announced the proposal — planned to be introduced by the end of this Parliament — at the Conservative Party conference in October 2015.

And now, after prompting from senior MPs, the NAO is assessing progress by interviewing experts and stakeholders, including officials from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

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NHS bed-blocking rises 42% in a year, new figures show

Bed-blocking has risen more than 40 per cent in a year as hospitals continue to be overwhelmed with people needing care, figures showed on Thursday. 

New data from November shows a health system under strain as it got ready to enter its busiest time ever over Christmas.

It follows warnings from the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Nursing that the NHS is now experiencing its worst ever winter crisis. 

The research for England highlights acute problems with delayed discharges - where patients are medically fit to leave hospital but are stuck in beds due to problems arranging care in the community.

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Businesses unhappy with support from local councils, survey shows

Seven out of ten businesses have accused councils of failing to support business growth, in a new survey of a company leaders.

The Business Census 2017, published by Company Check, found many businesses feel business support from local government has become worse in the past year.

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Fattened precept will still ‘do nothing’ to address London social care gap

London Councils has warned against the capital’s local government finance settlement, advising that the ability to raise social care precepts of up to 3% will still “do nothing” to address the region’s £200m annual funding gap by 2019-20.

In an executive committee meeting set for early next week, borough council leaders in the capital are set to discuss the effects on London of the finance settlement, which was set out by communities secretary Sajid Javid in December and included an option for councils to raise their social care precept to 3% for the next two years.


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London health devolution MoU due imminently

London boroughs are expected to agree a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding health devolution with national partners early this year, which would be buttressed by individual agreements in pilot areas, London Councils’ executive committee has revealed.

In board papers released ahead of a committee meeting on 17 January, London Councils disclosed that discussions with the Department of Health and NHS England around health devolution funding are progressing, with an aspiration to finalise agreements and “facilitate next steps” early in the New Year.

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Top doctors tell Health Secretary to tackle A&E crisis as 18,000 patients are left stranded on trolleys in ONE week

Jeremy Hunt was told to get a grip on the NHS crisis last night as the country's top medical bodies warned that it could be ignored no longer.

In a series of separate interventions, some of the most powerful organisations warned the Health Secretary that immediate action to alleviate the pressure was essential.

The Royal College of Physicians – which represents 33,000 senior doctors – warned that lives were being put at risk in 'over-full hospitals'. It said the queues of ambulances outside A&E were 'visual testament' to the extent of the crisis.

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NHS hospitals in England face £322m tax bill increase from April

Cash-strapped hospitals in England face a £322m tax rise from April which threatens to increase the strain on the under-pressure NHS.

Changes to the business rates system mean that the 1,249 NHS hospitals liable for the property tax will see their bill increase by 21% over the next five years, according to research conducted for the Guardian by property consultant CVS.

The total bill faced by hospitals will rise from £313m this year to £377m a year on average for the next five years. This annual increase of £64m would be enough to pay for nearly 2,500 more junior doctors.

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NHS England chief contradicts May over spending

The chief executive of NHS England has contradicted government claims that the health service is getting more funding than it asked for.

Simon Stevens told MPs this was "stretching it" and there were "clearly substantial funding pressures".

And, in clashes with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the PM called claims of a "humanitarian crisis" in the NHS "irresponsible" and "overblown".

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Council ‘struggling’ to resettle refugees

A Welsh authority is struggling to rehouse Syrian refugees because of a shortage of suitable housing.

In a report on the progress of Conwy council’s participation in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (SVPRS), the council warned they were ‘experiencing difficulties in securing suitable accommodation’ for refugees.

The authority aimed to receive five families in 2016/17. However, they have only accepted two Syrian families containing six individuals in total, while two more decided not to travel to the area.

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Look beyond Whitehall to solve our huge social problems

After six months of post-referendum shock, conjecture and upheaval, eyes are finally turning back to the day-to-day issues on which elections have been won and lost for decades. While there’s no doubt Brexit represents a tremendously consuming challenge for the Government, the fact remains that our hospitals are at breaking point, children are still going hungry, and our ageing population need to be cared for.

In particular, the increasing furore regarding the funding and reform of health and social care is reaching fever pitch.

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Ofsted chief criticises plan for grammars

The new chief inspector of schools has described Theresa May’s proposals to create more grammar schools as “a distraction” and questioned how they would improve the school system.

Amanda Spielman, who took over at Ofsted this month, said she was struck by the pressure inspections placed on schools, which suggested that she might move to a lighter touch system.

Her appointment was opposed last year by MPs on the education select committee, who pointed out that she had no experience as a teacher or social worker. It also said that she did not appear to be motivated by raising standards or improving children’s lives.



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One blunt heckler has revealed just how much the UK economy is failing us [opinion]

There’s a lady I’ve been thinking about for the past few days, even though we’ve never met. She’s the central character in a true story told by the Europe expert Anand Menon. He was in Newcastle just before the referendum to debate the impact of Britain leaving the EU. Invoking the gods of economics, the King’s College London professor invited the audience to imagine the likely plunge in the UK’s GDP. Back yelled the woman: “That’s your bloody GDP. Not ours.”

Subtle and learned this was not. But in all the squawking over the past few days about what’s wrong in economics and with the economy, her brutally simple criticism is closer to the mark than are most of the pundit class.

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One in five councils still using ‘unsafe flying care visits’

More than one in five councils are still commissioning 15-minute visits for personal care despite official warnings against the use of ‘flying’ visits, new research has unveiled.

A freedom of information request by charity Leonard Cheshire Disability found at least 33,305 people in England received 15 minute care visits in 2015/16, with 16,311 of these for help with eating, washing and dressing.

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Councils oppose tax increases to fund elderly care

Theresa May’s short-term solution to the elderly care crisis may raise £500 million less than promised as many local authorities are reluctant to increase council tax before elections later this year.

Half of the extra cash promised by the government to bail out the social care system relies on councillors putting up local taxes just before they fight for re-election, an analysis suggests.

Some of the biggest councils face elections in May and many have already expressed hesitation about using powers handed to them by the government last month.

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Councils could face £14bn pothole repair bill by 2019

Councils could face a £14bn pothole repair bill over the next two years, the Local Government Association has warned.

Citing statistics from the Asphalt Industry Alliance, the cost of repairing potholes has risen from £9.8bn in 2012 to £11.8bn last year. At this rate of increase, costs are projected to rise to £14bn by 2019, more than three times councils’ entire annual revenue spending on highways and transport.


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Will we see more staff freezes to meet the financial challenge?

A staff freeze has been introduced at Devon County Council as local authorities propose increasingly radical measures to try to relieve financial pressures.

The council announced last week that it will not hire any more permanent staff, apart from roles which it has a statutory responsibility to fulfil.

Devon is set to overspend by £8.1m by the end of this financial year, largely due to an overspend of £6.4m in adult social care.

Cllr John Clatworthy, the deputy leader and finance chief, said the council had “absolutely no intention of not balancing the books”.

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MPs urge ‘swift’ review on social care

The heads of three Commons committees have urged the Prime Minister to find a "political consensus" on funding social care in England before 2020. Clive Betts, Chairman of the Communities and Local Government Committee, Public Accounts Committee Chairman Meg Hillier and her Health Committee counterpart Dr Sarah Wollaston says a long-term solution can only be found if there is cross-party consensus. The LGA estimates there will be a £2.6 billion funding gap in providing adult social care in England by 2020. Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said local government leaders must be part of any review. She added: “This is imperative to get a long-term, sustainable solution to the social care crisis that the most vulnerable people in our society deserve." The LGA’s response was also reported across Good Morning Britain news bulletins this morning.

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Schools to be pushed to breaking point by levy, say councils

Small schools could be pushed beyond breaking point by the introduction of the new Apprenticeship Levy, school and local government leaders are warning. The Levy, to be introduced in April, requires all businesses – including schools – with a wage bill over £3 million a year, to contribute 0.5 per cent of their wage bill to fund new apprenticeships. But whereas academy or faith schools – who employ their own staff – will be exempt from the Levy if their wage bill is under the £3 million threshold, small schools with similar wage bills that are run by local authorities will have to pay the levy because staff are employed by the authority and therefore contribute to the overall wage bill of the council. Cllr Richard Watts, the Chairman of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “It is discriminatory for small council-maintained schools not to be exempted from the Apprenticeship Levy in the same way that small academies and faith schools will be. It is no secret that many schools are struggling with their funding, yet once again, council-maintained schools are being dealt a poor hand compared to academies.”

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Blocked beds blight mental health care

Delays in discharging people from hospital are rising more rapidly in mental health trusts than other parts of the NHS in England, a study shows. NHS England data found a 56 per cent rise in the number of bed days lost to delayed discharge in psychiatric trusts in October 2016 compared to November 2015. There was a comparable rise in acute trusts of 30 per cent. Meanwhile, a third of all hospital trusts in England have issued alerts warning they needed urgent action to cope with the pressure of patient numbers last month.

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LGA calls for small council-maintained schools to be exempt from apprenticeship levy

Smaller council-maintained schools will face an unfair burden because of the apprenticeship levy, the LGA warned today.

As it stands, the levy will apply to council schools with a wage bill of under £3m, but not academies or religious schools.

The levy requires all businesses, including schools, whose wages are over £3m to contribute 0.5% of the total to funding new apprenticeships. However, smaller council-run schools will still have to pay the levy because their staff are technically employees of the council.

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Government opens applications for £7bn affordable homes fund

Housing providers can now apply for a share of a £7bn fund to increase the number of affordable homes available for residents, the communities secretary Sajid Javid has announced.

The fund means housing associations, local authorities and private developers in England will be able to bid for funding to build shared ownership, rent-to-buy and rented homes.

The £7bn announced by the DCLG is compiled from previous announcements such as £4.7bn worth of grants, £1.4bn announced in last year’s Autumn Statement and around £1bn saved from a previous affordable homes programme.

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Daventry calls for government to rescue Northants finances

A district council is set to ask the communities secretary to take over the running of Northamptonshire County Council before it becomes technically insolvent.

Next week, A meeting of Daventry District Council (DDC), will vote on the proposal to ask the government to use its intervention powers on Northamptonshire (NCC).

DDC claims that the county’s financial position is “grave”, and that the authority is at risk of being unable to meet its financial obligations.

Under section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999, the secretary of state has the power to take over all, or any, of the affairs of a local authority which is failing in its best value duty.

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New money for affordable homes released

£7 billion unlocked in expansion of the government’s affordable housing programme to meet the diverse housing needs of the country.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has today (5 January 2017) unlocked £7 billion in a dramatic expansion of the government’s affordable housing programme to meet the diverse housing needs of the country.

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Goodbye 2016, and a not so warm welcome to 2017 (Comment)

A sustained crisis in social care funding, complications in business rates devolution and the lack of clarity around Brexit all make for an uncertain year ahead in local government.

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What does 2017 hold for public services?

A wide-ranging piece looks at the key challenges facing public services, including local government, social care and housing, in the year ahead. It says longer NHS waiting lists, rising homelessness and funding pressures on councils could bring public services “to the brink”. It highlights the £5.8 billion funding gap facing local government and LGA Chairman Lord Porter’s warning that even if councils abandoned road repairs, stopped maintaining parks and open spaces, closed all libraries and children’s centres, and halted funding bus services, they still could not plug the funding gap.

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UK's £1bn foreign aid cashpoint

More than £1billion of our foreign aid budget has been given away in cash over the past five years, it can be revealed today.

Despite warnings of fraud, officials have quietly quadrupled expenditure on cash and debit cards that recipients can spend at will. 

The revelations fuelled calls from MPs for the Government to ditch the commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on foreign aid.

Backbenchers have argued it is a scandal that so much is being spent abroad while elderly care in the UK is in crisis and town halls are threatening double-digit council tax hikes to close a funding gap.

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Surrey is an example of why councils need fiscal freedoms

It is no secret that local authorities in Britain have, over the last nine years or so, borne the brunt of financial cuts imposed by successive governments.

Attempts made to tackle austerity, as well as policies designed to stabilise the UK economy, have impacted both on the money available to councils and the potential they hold themselves to raise revenue through local initiatives.

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Experts say the Government must refund £1BN after overcharging on business rates

The Government is facing calls to return more than £1billion to companies which experts claim have been overcharged for business rates collected in the past six years.

Claims of a massive overcharge will add to growing anger among companies over business rates and will fuel calls for the complex system to face an overhaul.

The dispute relates to about £6.5billion collected since 2010 to cover the cost of successful business rates appeals.

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Business leaders warn of North-South divide as Government tax review reveals sweeping changes

Business leaders have warned of a North-South tax divide as it emerged that companies in the South East face huge increases in business rates while those in the North will receive significant tax cuts, according to an official analysis.

Under Government plans to revalue business rates for the first time in almost a decade, a major split has emerged with London firms facing 12 per cent increases in tax as companies in the North East receive reductions of around 16 per cent.

The revaluation in April, the first for seven years, will lead to companies paying rates which have been calculated to take into account the rise in property prices since 2008.

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Education grant cuts would put school improvements at risk, councils warn

The Local Government Association (LGA) says ministers intend to allocate £50 million from next September to cover duties they have received £450 million for in the past. 

The LGA, which represents more than 370 English councils, has warned the move could impact negatively on the access for pupils to speech therapy and physiotherapy, as well as good attainment levels. 

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Double-digit council tax increases planned to fund growing social-care crisis

Thousands of families face eye-watering council tax rises of up to 16 per cent as town halls plot super-sized hikes.

In an unprecedented move to tackle the spiralling social care crisis, councils are preparing to hold referendums on whether they can ignore a 5 per cent cap on annual increases.

Chancellor Philip Hammond's own local authority, Surrey County Council, is considering a 16 per cent rise. If voters approve the increase, which would add £200 to average annual bills, officials believe a string of other councils will try to follow suit.

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.Third of councils face social care funding cut after 'misleading' government changes, Andy Burnham says

The Government has diverted money that was previously used to incentivise councils to build new homes to instead help fund adult social care. 

But Mr Burnham said 57 local authorities will lose more than they gain from the changes – a third of all the councils in England that provide social care. In total, local authorities will lose £40 million from the changes, Mr Burnham claimed. 

The London borough of Tower Hamlets will receive the biggest cut – losing £3.4 million next financial year as a result of the changes. Salford, Westminster, Milton Keynes, Islington and Southwark will all lose more than £2 million. 

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Government's 'paltry' concession on business rates revealed

The Government’s pledge to ease the burden of next year’s massive rise in business rates will provide a “paltry” £156m of relief in London over the next five years as the capital’s bill soars by £9.4bn, new research reveals.

Experts said the owners of London’s 300,000 business premises faced a “ticking tax time bomb” that has led to warnings by top restaurant chains that the revaluation will force many out of business.

Companies in London are set to see their business rates climb by £9.38bn in the five years from next April, to more than £51bn, according to CVS, the business rates specialist.

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Bed blocking costs NHS £455MILLION a year as delayed discharges more than double

Delayed discharges from hospital are costing the NHS £455million a year, Labour has warned.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said NHS England data showed that delayed discharges soared from 58,362 in October 2010 to 134,221 in October 2016.

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Town halls pay £12m to repair cars damaged by potholes

The startling scale of compensation payouts was revealed by hundreds of Freedom of Information requests to individual councils.

But with only one-third of councils replying, the true total is likely to be significantly higher. 

The revelations will heap pressure on councils to spend more on fixing crumbling roads instead of shelling out for broken cars.

Jenny Randerson, Liberal Democrat transport spokesman, said: ‘This is crazy economics; a lose-lose situation for everyone, motorists, councils and taxpayers.

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The rise of Generation Rent: number of young homeowners halved in the last 20 years

The number of 25-year-olds who own their own home has more than halved in the last 20 years as soaring prices and a generational shift have knocked young people off the housing ladder. 

Research by Savills for the Local Government Association found that 46pc of all 25-year-olds owned their home 20 years ago, compared to 20pc now. It is not just young people who have been left out of home ownership, which has fallen among people of all ages 6.8pc since the peak in October 2004, and it now stands at 64.1pc.

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Council to pay damages for keeping children in care ‘too long’

Wakefield Council has apologised after a court ruled it must pay damages to two children it kept in care for too long.

The children aged seven and two at the time were taken into care after their parents were arrested, the BBC reported.

They spent 10 months away from their mother despite the fact she was not charged with any offences.

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Government borrowing falls less than expected in November

Government borrowing fell in November to £12.6bn, down £0.6bn from November 2015, according to the Office for National Statistics.

However, the fall was less than analysts had been expecting.

The monthly borrowing figure had been expected to shrink to £11.6bn, according to an economists' poll.

Borrowing for the financial year so far is down on last year. From April to November, borrowing, excluding state-owned banks, fell by £7.7bn to £59.5bn.

Despite the smaller-than-expected fall in November's borrowing figure, economists said the government was on track to meet its less ambitious deficit forecast set out in November's Autumn Statement.

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CBI calls for barrier-free trade with EU after Brexit

UK firms need to continue to have "barrier-free" access to European Union markets after Brexit, the CBI business lobby group has warned.

It said UK companies should not be subjected to trade tariffs, with only "minimal" other barriers in place.

In a report, it also called for a migration system that allowed firms to obtain the skills and labour they need.

The government said it was committed to delivering the best possible access to European markets for UK businesses.

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Fears over ‘opaque’ regional funds

An employers’ group has called for greater accountability among the organisations responsible for improving growth in England’s regions.

The Federation of Small Businesses said that Local Enterprise Partnerships “must be more transparent”.

It was responding to criticism of the bodies from the Commons public accounts committee.

The partnerships are designed to bring together the public and private sector, so that local decision-makers can decide on the economic priorities in their areas.

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High Court backs North Yorkshire CC over fracking decision

Fracking will be allowed to take place in North Yorkshire after the High Court ruled that the county council acted lawfully when it approved a fracking application earlier this year.

North Yorkshire County Council had approved energy company Third Energy’s controversial application to frack an existing well in the village of Kirby Misperton for shale gas back in May, despite receiving 4,375 objections to the plans and only 36 representations of support.

Friends of the Earth and residents’ group Frack Free Ryedale launched legal action against the council after its decision, unsuccessfully arguing that the council had failed to properly consider the environmental impact of its decision.

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No early Christmas presents [opinion]

As the chancellor stood at the despatch box in late November, the public sector waited with bated breath at what support would be given to those that are working under extreme pressure. Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, Philip Hammond didn’t deliver any early Christmas presents for local government. And it is unlikely that we will see A Christmas Carol change of heart anytime soon.

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DCLG publish latest Business Rates Information letter

The latest letter includes more detail on measures announced in the Autumn Statement. 


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Social care’s moral majority is a losing one [opinion]

Warnings over the future of social care are loud and consistent. But it isn’t the politicians who aren’t listening, it’s the voters

A persistent mistake in the world of public services is to assume that a moral majority translates into a political one. The evidence is on your side, the finances all add up ­– or don’t depending on the point you’re making – and of course the consequences are dire. How can government not act, right? Then silence. You have stared into the abyss, impact analysis in hand, only to have the abyss stare back. The question is: why? 

The short answer is a perfect argument often fails not because it sends ministers to sleep but the voters. Whilst many may cry foul over the state of social care, how many actually vote on it? My guess is a lot less than you think.

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Public library loans show dramatic fall in last two years

Latest figures show that library book loans slumped by almost 16m in the last two years, with library campaigners calling the news “a clarion call to put books back at the centre of what libraries do” in a sector that has seen record closures and budget cuts.

Library book loans continued a downward trend in 2016, with figures obtained by the Guardian revealing that loans for the year to 10 December fell on average by 14%, with loans to adults worst hit at 15% down. Loans of children’s books fell by just over 12%. However, this comes at a time when book sales in both sectors have continued to climb.

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​John McDonnell says emergency funds could solve social care crisis

John McDonnell is demanding that Philip Hammond finds more than £1bn from within the government’s emergency budget plan to rescue Britain’s ailing social care system.

The shadow chancellor says the money could come from the “fiscal headroom” left by the chancellor in the autumn budget. The money has been put aside in case of a financial emergency caused by Brexit, reports have claimed.

The demands are meant to increase pressure on Theresa May’s government to step in with emergency funding to protect elderly and vulnerable people.

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Corbyn calls for talks with PM on social care funding

Jeremy Corbyn has written to the prime minister calling for urgent talks on social care funding in England.

The Labour leader has urged Theresa May to provide "emergency top-up funding" to protect the elderly and vulnerable.

Councils have been told to bring forward council tax rises, after funding cuts from Whitehall.

A government spokesman said extra funding was being provided and Mrs May was "clear that we need to find a long-term sustainable solution".

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New homes funding diverted to pay for social care

Money set aside to incentivise councils to build new homes will be used to pay for social care instead, the Government has revealed, amid fears younger people could be disadvantaged by the move.

Ministers have announced the new £240 million fund to help fill a £1.9 billion social care funding gap next year, but the money will be removed from the New Homes Bonus scheme which aims to help people onto the property ladder. 

Critics have warned that the decision will prompt local authorities to rethink their building programmes leading to fewer new homes, while care providers have said that the money amounts to a "sticking plaster" which won't come close to covering the care shortfall.

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Social care: Ministers to set out funding plans

Details of how councils in England will be able to raise hundreds of millions of pounds to spend on social care in the next two years are to be outlined.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid is expected to sanction a rise in council tax bills to 2018-2019 to pay for more frail and elderly people and dementia patients to be cared for at home.

Theresa May says it will help relieve immediate pressures on the system.

But Labour and councils say such a funding boost would be inadequate.

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Councils angry at government's social care offer

Councils say it is "hugely disappointing" that the government has not given them extra money to tackle shortfalls in social care funding.

Ministers will let local authorities bring forward council tax rises, and money cut from a housing scheme will be spent on social care instead.

The government said it would create a "sustainable" system for everyone who needs social care.

But the Local Government Association said the measures "fall well short".

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Schools face cuts of £3bn, says watchdog

State schools in England will have to find £3bn in savings by 2019-20, says the public spending watchdog.

Schools face 8% budget cuts and about 60% of secondary schools already have deficits, warns a funding analysis from the National Audit Office (NAO).

The Department for Education is about to launch a new funding formula, which will see 10,000 schools gaining money and similar numbers losing.

To ease the transition, those losing will have annual cuts limited to 1.5%.

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Labour says it will end rough sleeping

Labour has pledged to end the "national shame" of rough sleeping by doubling the number of homes available for use by homeless people across England.

A future Labour government would ring-fence 4,000 new flats and homes for rough sleepers in cities such as Bristol, Liverpool and Birmingham.

The properties would be let at "genuinely affordable" rents, building on an existing scheme in London.

Spokesman John Healey said rising rough sleeping levels were inexcusable.

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Ministers have failed to explain where schools will find savings, watchdog says

Ministers have no idea how schools in England will implement £3bn worth of cuts and have not communicated the scale and pace of savings required, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has found.

The National Audit Office said schools faced an 8% real-terms reduction in funding per pupil by 2019-20 and cost pressures could result in “significant risks” in making the necessary spending cuts.

A report released on Wednesday has found that although average funding per pupil will rise from £5,447 in 2015-16 to £5,519 in 2019-20 that amounts to a real-terms reduction once inflation is taken into account.

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PMQs: Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May social care 'crisis' clash

Elderly people are being left isolated because of a "crisis made in Downing Street" over social care funding, Jeremy Corbyn claimed.

The Labour leader urged Theresa May to replace a corporation tax cut with cash to cover social care costs as they clashed in PMQs.

It came with councils set to be offered extra tax rises to bring forward planned social care investment.

Mrs May promised a "long-term, sustainable system".

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NHS chief: bus passes and pensions must be up for discussion to tackle social care crisis

Free bus passes and pension protections for older people should be reconsidered if Britain has any hope of solving the crisis facing social care, the head of the NHS has suggested.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, told MPs that there is “no point” giving people free bus transport if there is no one to provide the basic care they need to enable them to leave their home in the first place.

He signalled that far more radical action may be needed to help older people than plans, expected to be unveiled by Theresa May, to channel extra council tax money into funding care.

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Social care levy is 'Theresa May's poor tax', says council boss

A likely increase in council tax to help fund social care has been labelled the Prime Minister's "poor tax".

Ministers are expected to announce on Thursday that local authorities will be allowed to raise council tax 6% over the next two years to raise cash for elderly and disabled care.

It would see the average bill rise by nearly £100 over the next two years: a 3% increase to the average band D property amounts to an extra £45.80 a year.

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Planning department cuts make housing targets impossible, LGiU finds

Almost 90% of local authorities believe that government housing targets are unattainable due to a lack of planning resources, a new joint research report has concluded.

The report, jointly made by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) and the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), is the first to draw upon experience from both local authorities and SME housebuilders across the UK, and also sought to interview planning officers.

It found that a majority of builders find a lack of planning to be a barrier to developing small-scale housing developments, with over half of councils delivering fewer than 40% of homes on small sites.

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Councils offered huge ‘bribes’ to build homes on green belt

Councils are being offered “bribes” worth hundreds of millions of pounds to build homes in the green belt, campaigners have said.

The government has promised to pay councils a new homes bonus, typically worth £9,000, for each home they build — including in England’s 14 green belts, the protected land around cities where development is meant to be strictly limited.

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NAO slams CCS for ‘severely’ underestimating joint buying difficulties

Central government has not achieved value for money from Crown Commercial Service (CCS) deals, with the Cabinet Office “severely” underestimating the difficulty of implementing joint buying practices across government, the National Audit Office (NAO) has reported.

The CCS is directly responsible for buying around £2.5bn of goods and services for central government and public sector organisations. However, while the NAO found that the CCS helped public bodies save £521m last year, it was uncertain whether these savings would have been achieved anyway if departments had retained their buying functions, due to these savings not being directly comparable to the benefits which were planned.

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May plans social care shakeup to ease pressure on councils

Theresa May is planning a shakeup of social care provision after Downing Street acknowledged services were under threat in some areas.

The prime minister’s official spokeswoman said the issue was discussed in a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, with an agreement that this week’s local government settlement would contain measures to help ease the pressure.

At the meeting, May also emphasised the “importance of finding a long-term sustainable way of addressing the issue”, raising the prospect of a more comprehensive shakeup.

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Why council tax hike for care raises peanuts

Over the years there have been some pretty radical suggestions to solve the care crisis. A cap on care costs, a "death tax" and even a full merger of the free-at-the-point-of-need NHS and means-tested social care systems have all been mooted.

But it appears the government in England is now looking at something much less reforming - giving town halls permission to increase council tax by more than they are currently allowed to.

If that is the case - and we will have to wait until Thursday for the announcement - the money raised (barring an astronomical hike in bills) will be peanuts, relatively speaking.

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Ministers consider council tax rise to cover social care funding

The prime minister is understood to be considering plans to allow councils in England and Wales to increase council tax to fund the social care system.

It follows warnings that the system could "topple at any moment" leading to pressure on the NHS if patients cannot be released from hospital.

Local councils have suffered more than a 40% reduction in government grants since 2010.

The government has refused to comment on the reports.


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UK's current GDP growth rate won't last, warns business body

"The business as usual" approach taken by many firms following the Brexit vote has helped boost UK growth this year, but it will not last, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has warned.

The business body expects GDP to grow by 2.1% this year, up from the 1.8% it forecast just three months ago.

But uncertainty over the UK's EU relationship and higher inflation will "dampen medium term growth," it said.

It expects the UK's economy to grow by 1.1% next year, and by 1.4% in 2018.

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Contraceptive cuts: Warning over rise in abortions

Many GPs in England have stopped providing some forms of contraception because of funding cuts, the Victoria Derbyshire programme has learned.

Some clinicians have said cuts to contraceptive services will mean "more unplanned pregnancies and abortions".

The Advisory Group on Contraception's research comes after the government announced public health cuts totalling more than £800m over six years.

The government said "local areas" can best decide on sexual health provision.

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The economy after Brexit: encouragingly resilient or still a case of ‘wait and see’? [opinion]

A comprehensive piece by Iain Begg around the economic consequences to brexit . He conjectures why the treasuries reports about the immediate aftershock have not come to pass.

Iain Begg is a Professorial Research Fellow at the European Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Senior Fellow on the UK Economic and Social Research Council’s initiative on the UK in a Changing Europe.

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Councils call for reversal of cut to education services grant

Children's education could be damaged unless the government reverses a planned £600m funding cut, local authority leaders have warned.

 The Local Government Association (LGA) says the education services grant paid to councils, due to end next year, allows them to work with schools to improve, provide services such as speech therapy and plan provision in their areas.

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Ministers consider council tax rise to cover social care funding

Local authorities could be allowed to make a further increase in council tax to pay for social care.

Ministers in England are discussing ways to invest more money into care services for the elderly and disabled.

One option is to let them increase council tax beyond the extra 2% for which they already have permission, while another is bringing forward extra money they have been promised in 2019.

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Ministers considering council tax precept rise to save adult social care

The government is considering plans to allow councils to increase council tax precepts in order to relieve the social care crisis, it is understood.

Local councils have suffered more than a 40% reduction in government grants since 2010, leading experts to warn that the social care system could “topple over at any moment”. That would put immense pressure on the NHS as patients would take longer to be transferred from hospital.

There has been criticism, such as by Lib Dem health spokesperson Norman Lamb MP, that the plans would worsen the postcode lottery for residents with wealthier areas set to benefit more than poorer ones.

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Birmingham council chief: years of cuts could have catastrophic consequences

Birmingham city council’s chief executive has said there could be “catastrophic consequences” for some people in the city because years of cuts have forced it to slash funding for key services for vulnerable people. 

Mark Rogers, who runs the biggest council in England, said the effects of six years of austerity meant Birmingham’s youth service had “all but gone”, homelessness prevention services had been cut by so much that rough sleeping had quadrupled, and far fewer elderly people were eligible for care at home.

In an interview with the Guardian, he also said a network of children’s centres designed to serve the city’s most deprived communities had been dismantled so that now only the “super-deprived” were being helped, and even these remaining services were under threat.

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Library closures 'will double unless immediate action is taken'

A further 340 public libraries could close in the next five years if the government does not act urgently to halt drastic funding cuts, the head of a leading library organisation has warned, which would equal the number of closures witnessed by the sector over the past eight years.

 Nick Poole, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals (Cilip) said: “We have already lost 340 libraries over the past eight years and we think that unless immediate action is taken, we stand to lose the same number over the next five years.”

 Official figures revealed last week showed that UK libraries had lost £25m in their budgets in just one year. As 2017 is not an election year, Poole said, Cilip was anticipating that “local politicians will try to get library cuts through” over the next 12 months.

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Transport boost as councils collect record £750m surplus from parking charges

The surplus cash that councils have gained from overseeing parking charges and penalty notices in England has reached a record high of £756m, the RAC Foundation has reported.

 In 2015-16, England’s 353 local authorities generated a combined ‘profit’ of £756m from their on- and off-street parking activities, 9% higher than the 2014-15 figure of £693 million, and 34% higher than in 2011-12.


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‘Devastating’ lack of social care causing problems for the disabled

A 'devastating' lack of social care is causing mental and physical health problems for people with disabilities, a leading charity has warned.

 Leonard Cheshire Disability says 40% of disabled adults in Britain who report not receiving enough social care have experienced a negative impact on their physical health, while the same proportion say it has caused mental difficulties.

 In its 2016 report The state of social care in Great Britain, the charity says a lack of social care is putting an 'unbearable strain' on the NHS.

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Councils defend record on mental health funding

Council chiefs have defended their record on mental health funding after a charity accused them of spending ‘next to nothing’ on mental health initiatives.

A freedom of information request by mental health charity Mind revealed local authorities were spending less than 1% of their public health budget on mental health services.

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UK library budgets fall by £25m in a year

A brutal year for the UK’s public libraries has been topped off with the revelation that the sector took a £25m hit to its budgets in the year to March, as calculated in official figures released on Wednesday. The number of public libraries still open reached a 10-year low, while visitor numbers slid by 15 million. Book budgets were also severely hit, taking an 8.4% fall over the period. Critics claimed the cuts endanger the long-term survival of the sector.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa) released the figures as part of its annual survey of library authorities in the UK. They revealed that total expenditure for the sector fell from £944m to £919m over the year, a 2.6% fall that reflects swingeing cuts by local authorities seeking to shore up frontline services by raiding library budgets. Over the same period, visitor numbers fell to 250 million as 121 libraries closed, taking the total number still open down to 3,850.

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Local authorities 'spend close to nothing on mental health'

Local authorities in England spend “close to nothing” on mental health despite dedicating millions on improving physical health in their communities, according to the charity Mind.

 Less than one per cent of each local authority’s public health budget is spent on mental health on average, showed new data obtained by the organisation.

 Using the Freedom of Information Act, Mind found the proportion of health budgets spent on preventing mental health problems has fallen year on year for the last three years.

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Councils urged to bid for estate regeneration funding

New government funding to help breathe new life into rundown estates has been announced, along with a fresh strategy, by communities secretary Sajid Javid.

The additional £32m comes on top of a £140m loan fund announced in January.

Councils will go head-to-head with housing associations and developers to bid for a share of the £172m.



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Library funding falls by another £25m, CIPFA finds

Figures from the latest survey, published today, revealed that total expenditure for library services fell by from £944m in 2014-15 to £919m in 2015-16. 

Services have also experienced a decline in visitors, with 15 million fewer visits in 2015-16 compared with the previous year.

 The number of libraries also fell slightly from 3,917 in 2014-15 to 3,850 in 2015-16, representing a drop of 67 or 1.7% year on year. The number of visits to libraries fell 5.5% from 265 million last year to 250 million this year.

 This year’s findings conform to a five-year trend of decline. Libraries across England, Scotland and Wales have seen a 14% reduction in total net expenditure, from £979m in 2011-12 to £842m in 2015-16 in the previous half-decade.

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The right to choose your own care is the latest casualty of council cuts [opinion]

Evans doesn’t want her or her son’s real identity revealed because for the last three years she has been battling with Dean’s council for the allocation of a personal budget. After three formal assessments, stretched over 18 months, he has now been offered a personal budget of 21 hours a week of care. Compared to his current package, this is a cut of 90 hours per week, which the family is contesting.

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Newcastle unveils management shake-up to save £500,000

Newcastle City Council has announced plans for a radical restructuring of its management team, including the abolition of two senior posts, as it struggles to balance its budget.

The council has managed to cut its management posts by 26% since 2012 and its overall jobs by 20%. It is planning to deliver £70m of funding cuts over the next three years, despite board papers revealing it was warned over the risk of legal challenges to changes to social care and other services.

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Increasing risk CQC will have to notify councils of failing care providers

There is an increasing risk that the CQC will have to notify local authorities that care providers are failing to meet their legal responsibilities, unless the social care crisis is addressed, the regulator’s chief executive has said.

David Behan told the Health Select Committee yesterday that some care homes are approaching level 6, the most severe CQC intervention, where the regulator warns the local council that the provider is breaching its legal responsibilities.

He repeated the CQC’s warning in its annual State of Care report that social care is approaching a “tipping point” due to a growing risk of providers collapsing or failing to improve their ratings. He added that increasing numbers of older people are not having their care needs met at all.

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Landlords charging renters extra fees for new mandatory passport checks

Landlords are using new Government-mandated passport checks on tenants as an excuse to charge them extra fees, it has emerged.

 Earlier this year the Government mandated so-called “Right To Rent” checks on anybody renting a home in order to screen for undocumented migrants.

 Research by the charity Shelter identified letting agents and landlords billing renters as much as £40 – while a Government study suggested the figure could be as high as £120.

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Dorset residents support plans to reduce council numbers

Dorset residents have given their “clear backing” for the county’s proposals to reduce its number of local councils, although there remains criticism that not enough people were consulted.

The results of a public consultation led by Dorset’s nine local councils – Reshaping your Councils, which ran from 30 August to 25 October – found that almost three-quarters of 17,000 respondents supported reducing the county’s nine councils down to two unitary authorities.

The council’s research found that there was majority support for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole to be served by one new authority with East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset & Weymouth & Portland areas to be served by a second new council.

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Chris Grayling to unveil plans for new fully privatised railway line

The government has unveiled plans for a fully privatised railway line, with track and trains operated by the same company.

A new route linking Oxford and Cambridge will not be developed by Network Rail, the owner of Britain’s rail infrastructure. Instead, a new entity will be responsible for track and infrastructure, as well as operating train services, under proposals drawn up by the transport secretary, Chris Grayling.

“What we are doing is taking this line out of Network Rail’s control,” Grayling told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Network Rail has got a huge number of projects to deliver at the moment ... , I want it to happen quicker. This is an essential corridor for this country. On that route we are going to bring in private finance, in a form to be decided.

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New manifesto for social care is essential – service users should write it

There seems to be a strong sense in social care that the chancellor’s failure to do anything about its ever-worsening crisis in his autumn statement is the last straw. More powerful voices in the sector than ever before have issued statements highlighting the catastrophic state of social care, including the Care Quality Commission, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Servicesand the Local Government Association.


Yet for many service users and their organisations there’s a feeling that leaders of social care organisations have been failing to speak truth to power. The top-down talk now of the need for a new social movement for social care and for radical reform is likely to feel like too little too late. This is especially true for the many individuals and families struggling with extreme issues and a damaged quality of life; sometimes issues of life and death.

But the government’s inaction on social care isn’t surprising in the context of its similar inaction on the mental health crisis, the cruelty and failure of welfare reforms, and the appalling waste demonstrated in evidence-free policies like the troubled families programme.

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Home care crisis as more private companies quit: The elderly are being put at risk as firms abandon services, watchdog warns

Elderly residents are being put at risk because private firms are abandoning home care services, the watchdog has warned.

The Care Quality Commission said rising numbers of companies are pulling out of contracts with councils as they are no longer 'profitable.'

 According to the watchdog, the crisis in social care funding means authorities can only afford to pay firms very low rates.

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Children’s services at ‘tipping point’ as austerity agenda continues

Council children’s services are nearing a “tipping point” as rates of referrals for suspected abuse continue to rise without a corresponding increase in funding, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) has warned. 

The latest Safeguarding Pressures report from the ADCS showed that in 2015-16, there were 2.19 million initial contacts to children’s social care, an increase of 53% since 2007-08. 

In the same period, referrals to children’s social care increased by 12%, child protection plans increased by 78%, and children taken into care increased by over a third.

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Sugar tax could mean rise in general taxation, pressure group claims

The Government is expected to unveil plans for taxes on sugary drinks, amid warnings from critics that the levy could end up resulting in higher general taxation or a rise in borrowing.

The Treasury is expected to announce plans for taxes on sugary drinks which are forecast to raise £520m a year - following promises that funds raised will be spent on sport in primary schools.


But critics said the estimates are not reliable - and suggested the public could end up having to find extra money to ensure school sports are not left cash-strapped.

he Government is expected to unveil plans for taxes on sugary drinks, amid warnings from critics that the levy could end up resulting in higher general taxation or a rise in borrowing.

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Cost of social care has rocketed over last year, analysis shows

The cost of social care rocketed over the last year, even as the proportion of services ranked good or outstanding fell, according to a new analysis.

Social care services directory TrustedCare.co.uk found that the price of a week in a care home jumped by almost a quarter over the last year, from an average of £557.86 a week to £686.32, while the cost of a nursing home rose more than a third from £692.17 per week to £924.82. The price per hour of care visits also rose, from £15.01 to £17.02.

The analysis was based on data from providers registered on TrustedCare, as well as calls made by its researchers to more than 100 services in each English county over the last four months.

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Female dementia sufferers get worse medical treatment than men

Women suffering from dementia in the UK receive worse medical treatment than men with the condition, new research suggests.

The gender gap shows women make fewer visits to GPs, get less health monitoring and take more potentially harmful drugs than men.

Researchers at University College London examined the medical records of 68,000 dementia patients and 259,000 people without dementia using The Health Improvement Network (THIN) database.

Despite being more vulnerable to physical and mental illness the study, published in Age and Ageing, showed patients with dementia received less medical care that those without.

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UK infrastructure pipeline grows to £500bn

More than £500bn in planned public and private investment is now in the UK’s infrastructure pipeline, according to an update issued by the Treasury today [05.12.2016].

Ministers hailed it as the largest and most comprehensive infrastructure plan ever, which would help boost Britain’s flagging productivity.

“This record infrastructure pipeline is set to make a real difference to people’s lives form quicker and easier journeys, to better broadband access, and building more homes for people who need them in high demand areas,” said David Gauke, chief secretary to the Treasury.

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If austerity is over, why can’t Britain afford proper social care? [opinion]

The 82-year-old man said he wanted to remain anonymous. Then he spent half an hour telling me about the increasing difficulty of his day-to-day life. “I feel helpless,” he said. He lives alone around 40 minutes from London, and has a neurological condition that leads to long spells of physical weakness. He uses a wheelchair, and depends on the care workers at his sheltered housing development for assistance with some of life’s most basic tasks. Of course, it’s not just him. His flat is just one of 44.

Until recently, he said, there were several care workers there, but the numbers were cut. Seven or eight people once worked a busy morning shift; now there are never more than five, falling to two or three at other times, and a lone person at night.

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UK congestion worst in Europe and set to cost £62bn

The United Kingdom is the worst country in Europe for traffic jams, and London the most congested city in the continent, according to major new research.

Based on fresh analysis by data company INRIX, the UK has jumped from being the fifth worst in Europe to the first.

Using its Roadway Analytics traffic analysis tool, INRIX also estimates the cumulative cost of jams across the UK will hit £61.8bn by 2025.

Of all cities analysed, London had the highest number of traffic hotspots (12,776) and the highest Impact Factor.

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Teachers welcome £140m school improvement fund, but demand more details

Teachers have welcomed the government announcement that £190m will be spent on school improvement, but have raised concerns that a new £140m ‘strategic school improvement fund’ will detract from schools’ key work.

The education secretary Justine Greening announced that two funds will be poured into schools: a £50m fund to help local authorities monitor and improve low-performing maintained schools, and a £140m ‘strategic school improvement fund’ targeted at schools most in need of support to drive up standards.

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More than 250,000 are homeless in England - Shelter

More than a quarter of a million people are homeless in England, an analysis of the latest official figures suggests.

Researchers from charity Shelter used data from four sets of official 2016 statistics to compile what it describes as a "conservative" total.

The figures show homelessness hotspots outside London, with high rates in Birmingham, Brighton and Luton.

The government says it does not recognise the figures, but is investing more than £500m on homelessness.

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A new Oxford to Cambridge Expressway could cost up to £3.5bn, it has emerged.

As part of last week’s Autumn Statement [23.11.2016] , chancellor Philip Hammond announced ‘a commitment to deliver the new Oxford to Cambridge Expressway’, and £27m in development funding for the project.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has now published a study on the proposed scheme, which set out three shortlisted route options for an Expressway, as well as sub-options to route around Oxford, ranging between £3bn-£3.5bn.

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Libraries receive £4m fund as part of strategy to help secure their future

A new national strategy to help England’s hard-pressed libraries is to include a £4m innovation fund for projects that help disadvantaged communities.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has published a five-year strategy for libraries, which it said would help them improve and thrive in the 21st century.

Rob Wilson, the junior minister responsible for libraries, said libraries were “hugely popular” and among the most valuable community assets, but they had to change.

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Councils back new vision for library services

Councils should use libraries to deliver a wider range of public services in a bid to reinvigorate the sector, a new report has argued.

Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021 calls on local authorities to be innovative when using library buildings, such as for delivering employment, health and learning opportunities.

The strategy, produced by the Libraries Taskforce, includes a £4m fund to deliver new initiatives for disadvantaged communities across the country. The fund will finance new projects such as literacy schemes, improving access to technology or increasing the number of children visiting libraries.

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Social care crisis needs a Japanese solution

Iris Sibley was admitted to hospital in June last year after a fall. A few weeks later she was declared medically fit to leave, but six months on she was still trapped on a ward because there was no place for her in a nursing home. Not only was this hugely distressing for a frail 89-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s, it also cost the NHS more than £80,000.


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97% of councils in England tell ITV News council tax hikes will have no impact on social care crisis

More than 90% of councils in England have told ITV News that being allowed to raise council tax has made little or no difference to their ability to provide social care.

Last month the government announced it planned to increase the so-called "social care precept" from 2% to 3%.

But with the crisis surrounding home care deepening, many councils told us its no more than a "sticking plaster".

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Depth of housing crisis revealed as 35,000 people sit on waiting lists for 10 years

Tens of thousands of people have been on social housing waiting lists for a decade, we can reveal today.

Research shows at least 104,000 people in Britain have been on waiting lists for council-owned or “arm’s length run” homes, such as in housing associations, for five years.

At least 35,000 have been on the same waiting lists for 10 years.

Officials insisted not all were in urgent need - but town hall chiefs warned the Mirror of a “crisis” and called for urgent action from the Tory government.

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Councils' social care cash to be 'brought forward'

Councils are expected to be told they can raise extra funds for social care over the next two years - but they will then get no more in the third year.

Campaigners have been calling for investment to tackle what they say is a funding crisis in services for the elderly and disabled.

Now councils in England are expected to be allowed to bring forward investment using extra council tax rises.

The Local Government Association has said the changes were "insufficient".

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Budget 2017: Squeeze on family finances 'extended until 2020s'

The squeeze on both family and public finances have been prolonged until well into the 2020s, according to a think tank's analysis of the Budget.

The UK is on course for an unprecedented 15 years of spending cuts and lost pay growth the Resolution Foundation said.

It will leave the poorest third of households worse off than in the years after the financial crisis, it said.

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School governors point to 'diabolical' budget squeeze

School governors have pointed to a "catastrophic" squeeze on budgets, as the government prepares to introduce a new funding formula for schools.

A snapshot survey of 4,000 governors by the BBC sheds light on the existing funding pressure in England's schools.

National Governors Association head Emma Knights does however back the principle of the new funding formula.

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Builders walk away from new PFI deals after Carillion collapse

Bosses of top construction and outsourcing companies have warned ministers they will no longer accept fixed-price PFI deals after the collapse of Carillion.

The threat is a blow to the government’s £600bn infrastructure programme, which is already struggling to attract bidders. Last week the National Audit Office said there was little evidence that private finance initiative deals offered value for money for taxpayers.

Carillion plunged into insolvency last week with just £29m cash in the bank. Its threadbare finances were undone by failings on a string of PFI contracts, which left it unable to access hundreds of millions of pounds.

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