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News Headlines

Care home coronavirus outbreaks cast doubt on official PHE data

The UK’s largest care home provider has had Covid outbreaks in 70 of its facilities, prompting questions about whether official figures on the virus’s return to social care may be too low.

As care leaders issued fresh warnings about testing delays, HC-One said it had closed one in five of its 329 homes because of outbreaks and that 20 homes had seen new outbreaks in the last fortnight.

Bupa also told the Guardian that in the last 28 days people had tested positive at 21 of its homes – almost one in six of its 130 locations – while Care UK has had positive tests at 19 of its 110 homes.

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Report calls for universal care service to transform UK economy

The UK economy needs radical transformation equal to the post-second world war era, including the creation of a universal care service providing free full-time childcare and elderly care, according to a seminal report published by the Women’s Budget Group.

The service, which would be free at the point of delivery, would create more jobs than equivalent investment in transport and construction and help provide secure work for the thousands of people losing livelihoods in retail and hospitality, according to an 18-monthcommission on a gender equal economy.

“We need a change that is as fundamental to the economy as the creation of the welfare state was in 1945,” said Mary-Ann Stephenson, director of the Women’s Budget Group (WBG), which convened the commission. “We’re at a similar moment and we can’t return to business as usual.”

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Stockpile will see us through winter, says PPE tsar

The NHS and care homes will have more than enough personal protective equipment to see them through winter, the government’s PPE tsar has promised.

Lord Deighton said a four-month stockpile, due to be in place by November 1, “really does assume we are back into kind of April intensity on the front line”.

“I would be staggered if that isn’t a significantly conservative assumption,” he said. “So, while I’m telling you it is [going to last] four months, I’d be really surprised if it isn’t a lot more.”

Lord Deighton, who was brought in to lead the government’s efforts to get PPE in April, added: “I don’t have any concern about the next four weeks of production or delivery.”

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Other Headlines

Five new COVID-19 laws and fines that government slipped out

Several new coronavirus rules, laws and punishments have been revealed by the government. Ministers updated the legislation which gives police the legal powers to ensure people are following the emergency measures.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tried to quell anger among some Tory MPs by saying he has to "be able to move at pace" to contain the spread of coronavirus.

But civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch have condemned the way the changes were introduced, saying: "Yet again, this was imposed without scrutiny from parliament. Where will it end?

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Public spending rise could last longer

The government must choose this autumn between more austerity and permanently higher spending, experts warn.

Although the Autumn Budget has been cancelled, the Treasury is still set to publish a Spending Review containing government expenditure plans.

A Treasury spokesperson said: "The Spending Review will proceed this autumn, as planned. The chancellor has already confirmed that departmental spending will increase above inflation - both for day-to-day spending and longer-term investment."

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Under-25s ‘give up dream job hope’ in pandemic

More than one in three young people say they have lost hope of getting their dream job because of coronavirus, the Prince's Trust has said.

The charity said a survey of 2,000 people aged 16 to 25 across the UK showed 44% had lower aspirations for the future as a result of the pandemic. Its UK chief executive, Jonathan Townsend, said the pandemic had eroded young people's confidence.

According to the research, carried out by Censuswide, 41% of young people believe their future goals now seem "impossible to achieve", with this rising to 50% of those surveyed from poorer backgrounds.

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Children 'must be the priority' in Covid-19 planning

Children must be the priority at this stage of the Covid-19 crisis, says England's Children Commissioner.

Anne Longfield calls for a recovery package to tackle a "rising tide of childhood vulnerability". She warns of an "inter-generational crisis", with the impact of the economic fall-out of the pandemic on parents determining the future prospects of their children.

Ms Longfield says the nation's efforts to "build back better" must begin with a focus on children, "sometimes sadly lacking during the pandemic".

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Coronavirus: Biggest ever rise in new cases recorded in the UK as deaths jump

There have been another 7,143 cases of coronavirus reported in the UK in the last 24 hours - the biggest rise since the pandemic began.

71 coronavirus-related deaths have also been recorded - the highest number since 1 July.

The significant rise in COVID-19 cases comes after the number of positive tests fell at the weekend, with Monday's figure at 4,044 cases.

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Government urged to increase children's services funding

The Spending Review marks a crucial moment for a system of children’s social care that is reaching ‘breaking point,’ an event heard this week.

Speakers at an online event held by the Institute for Government and Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) this week outlined a bleak picture.

CIPFA chief executive, Rob Whiteman, said: ‘We are getting to breaking point.

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The business rates backlash [opinion]

Local government is increasingly urging government to call time on business rates retention, writes LGC deputy editor Sarah Calkin.

When business rates retention began in 2013 with councils keeping hold of half of the pot there were high hopes in the sector this was the start of something, the beginning of the road towards significant fiscal devolution to local government.

Sure, some places would do better than others out of the freedom to keep hold of half of the annual growth in business rates but the principle would be established that councils should keep hold of more locally-raised tax revenue.

Seven years on, no further fiscal devolution has been forthcoming and the relationship between local areas and business rates has been repeatedly weakened by an ever-growing pot of reliefs determined by central government. All the while the clamour from high street businesses for reform of the tax in the face of the explosion of online retail has been growing, along with the town centre vacancies.

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Testing in care homes getting 'worse not better' as delays leave elderly at risk

Care homes are having to wait up to three weeks for coronavirus test results, putting staff and elderly residents at "serious risk", an investigation by The Telegraph has found.

The Government's pledge to test care home staff every week and residents every 28 days has sparked a backlog, meaning many care providers are waiting more than seven days for results.

It comes after the Government was heavily criticised for failing to protect care homes at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic (the graphic below shows excess deaths in care homes during the crisis).

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CCN chair accuses districts of ‘self-preservation’ in leaked letter to PM

A leaked letter from the chairman of the County Councils Network to the prime minister has been slammed as “delusional” for talking up the potential gains to the Conservative party of local government reorganisation, and claiming that "many" district councils opposing the creation of more county unitaries are "most acutely interested in self-preservation".

The letter, which was sent on 18 September by David Williams (Con), reveals concern amongst counties that ministers' commitment to local government reorganisation is waning.

It begins by explaining that it is written in his capacity as leader of the Conservative Group at CCN, “the largest and most important group of Conservative councils in England”.

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Scepticism mounts over devo white paper as ministers’ focus turns elsewhere

Leading figures within local government have told LCG they believe the government will no longer deliver on its ambition to publish its long-awaited recovery and devolution white paper before the end of this year, after previous delays have already seen the paper pushed back from June to September.

Speculation the white paper would be launched at the Conservative party conference next week or later in the year has now given way to emerging consensus, prompted by indicators from civil servants and ministers, that the paper has been delayed until at least January.

The white paper, first announced in the December 2019 Queen’s Speech promising “full devolution”, was in July renamed the Local Economic Recovery and Devolution White Paper when then local government minister Simon Clarke established reorganisation of two-tier areas into unitaries as a “vital first step” for negotiating mayoral devolution deals.

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Covid second wave hits recovery in UK high streets, data suggests

The recovery in UK’s bricks and mortar retail sector has gone into reverse, according to new data that shows footfall has declined during September amid new pandemic restrictions and concerns about a second wave of coronavirus infections.

Footfall on UK high streets and at other retail destinations was 33% lower last week compared to the same period in 2019, according to data from the British Retail Consortium and ShopperTrak.

That represented a marked deterioration since the first week of September, when footfall was only down by 24% year-on-year.

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Fund civic museums to help reawaken English city centres, bosses urge

Hundreds of civic museums in towns and cities across England are in a state of high jeopardy and some may never reopen without government action, museum leaders have said.

They say organisations face an existential threat at a time when they could be playing a pivotal role in “reawakening and reimagining” town and city centres.

Consultations on large-scale redundancies have already been announced by museum trusts in Birmingham and York. Local authorities, often the main funder of civic museums, have said their finances are in a potentially perilous state, with at least five English councils suggesting they may not be able to balance their budgets.

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Additional financial statement could lead to extra costs

A proposed additional statement on local authority accounts outlined in the Redmond Review could lead to additional work and extra costs for councils, Sir Tony Redmond said.

One of three options for reform to local authority accounts proposed that councils produce an additional simplified statement alongside the International Finance Reporting Standard accounts, in a bid to enhance transparency and usefulness of local authority financial statements.

When asked about how this could affect local authorities, Redmond said: “In terms of the work that I'm proposing, as a new financial statement, a simplified statement, yes, that is additional work.

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Only one in five with symptoms self-isolates

Only 18 per cent of people with Covid-19 symptoms are self-isolating, according to an official survey that questions the basis of a test and trace system that has now cost £12 billion.

Only 11 per cent obey when asked by contact tracers to stay at home, research found, leading to calls for more financial support for those told to isolate for two weeks. Daily confirmed cases yesterday reached 6,634, the highest on record.

While more testing is being carried out than in spring, Yvonne Doyle of Public Health England said the figures were “a stark warning. We must all follow the new measures that have been bought in to help control the virus.”

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UK transport boss urges ministers to get people back on trains and buses

The boss of Go-Ahead, one of Britain’s biggest bus and train operators, has accused the government of maintaining “absurd” and contradictory coronavirus policies over public transport and pubs.

David Brown, Go-Ahead’s chief executive, urged ministers to change an approach that has encouraged people to go to pubs and restaurants while staying cautious about using public transport.

Brown said that testing of commuter trains and reports from official rail safety bodies showed public transport was safe.

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County lines raids: 1,000 arrests and £1.2m drugs seized

More than 1,000 people have been arrested and an estimated £1.2m worth of drugs seized in a police crackdown on so-called "county lines" gangs. Young and vulnerable people are used as couriers to move drugs and cash between cities and smaller towns.

Police said raids in the past week, involving all 43 regional forces in England and Wales, had been the most successful of their kind. Almost 200 weapons and £526,000 in cash were also seized.

During a week-long operation, police forces also shut down about 10% of the phone lines (102) being used for drug dealing.

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England and Wales get smartphone contact tracing for over-16s

People living in England and Wales are being urged to download the government's official contact-tracing app following its official release.

NHS Covid-19 instructs users to self-isolate for 14 days if it detects they were nearby someone who has the virus. It also has a check-in scanner to alert owners if a venue they have visited is found to be an outbreak hotspot.

Anyone aged 16 and over is being asked to install the app on to their smartphone.

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Hundreds of homeless lives saved due to lockdown measures, study suggests

Emergency accommodation provided during the coronavirus pandemic may have saved the lives of hundreds of homeless people, researchers estimate.

A study by University College London (UCL) found that the use of hotels, increasing infection control measures in hostels and closing dormitory-style communal shelters possibly prevented 266 deaths linked to COVID-19.

Thousands of homeless people, including rough sleepers, were put in safe accommodation at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak as part of the government's Everyone In initiative.

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Flu jabs limited due to high demand

Pharmacists and GP surgeries are having to limit flu jabs to the most at-risk groups due to increased demand.

The Boots chain has suspended its appointment booking system for anyone outside of the vulnerable groups, which include people aged over 65. It said it faces "unprecedented demand" for vaccinations, but NHS England says enough stocks are available.

Within the next few weeks it is likely that winter flu will start to circulate alongside the coronavirus. This will potentially present an additional challenge to an already stretched healthcare system.

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Male domestic abuse victims 'sleeping in cars and tents'

Charities dealing with men who suffer domestic abuse have seen pleas for help jump by up to 60% during the lockdown.

The Respect Men's Advice Line said some victims had told them they had sought refuge by sleeping in cars or in tents in the gardens of friends or relatives.

The charity said it had received 13,812 calls and emails between April and July in lockdown compared to 8,648 in the same period in 2019. The advice line said the biggest increase in contact with abuse victims came through emails and the service saw the volume increase by 96% from 372 emails in June 2019 to 728 in June 2020.

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Sunak set to unveil emergency jobs scheme

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will later unveil a plan aimed at minimising further unemployment as stricter Covid-19 restrictions come into force.

The new measures are expected to replace the furlough scheme, which is set to expire next month. In July, around five million workers were still receiving some or all of their income through the scheme, many in the hospitality sector.

Pubs and restaurants have warned they will be hit hard by new restrictions. From Thursday, hospitality venues in England will have to shut at 22:00 BST as the government tries to control the spread of the coronavirus.

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County unitaries join growing network

Two county unitaries are among five local authorities that have joined the growing Unitary Councils’ Network (UCN) as tensions bubble around reorganisation.

Cornwall and Shropshire councils, as well as Thurrock Council, and Stoke-on-Trent and Southampton city councils, have joined the group, taking its membership from 20 to 25.

The move comes amid increasing confusion over the Government’s reorganisation plans, with the White Paper on devolution and local recovery now thought to be delayed until 2021.

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Spending Review will 'fail to offer long-term view' for sector

This year’s Spending Review will fail to offer a long-term view for local government, The MJ understands.

Local government remains hopeful the review will address outstanding matters on funding ahead of the provisional finance settlement for 2021/22 in December and has attempted to put the issue of fiscal devolution onto the agenda.

However, it is believed that hopes the Spending Review will feature fiscal devolution have been downplayed by senior Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) civil servants.

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Ex Conservative local government minister attacks centre on COVID policy

A former Conservative local government minister has attacked the Government’s lack of consultation and communication with councils on crucial aspects of COVID policy.

Writing in The MJ, Sir Bob Neill, criticised the ‘cumbersomeness of a heavily centralised system of government’.

He said this had been illustrated by the lack of notice local government was given before the proposed marshals scheme was announced and the publication of the rule of six regulations 30 minutes before they came into force, which did not give councils enough time to prepare for their new roles.

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New oversight body 'dead in the water' without legislation

Sir Tony Redmond’s proposals for a new audit oversight body are ‘dead in the water’ unless the Government devotes some legislative time, a former Section 151 officer has warned.

Chris Buss, who was director of finance and deputy chief executive at Wandsworth LBC for 11 years, said: ‘I wouldn’t have thought it was particularly high up on the Government’s radar given it was initiated by the previous secretary of state [James Brokenshire].’

The Redmond review – published earlier this month - found the audit market was fragile, fees fail to meet the cost of thorough audit and 40% of audits missed their deadlines in 2018/19.

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Ministry charts new course of bespoke support for hard hit councils

The government has recently been approached by a string of local authorities requesting more flexibility over borrowing rules under so called capitalisation directions, and has already approved the measure for Luton BC.

Normally councils are not permitted to borrow for revenue purposes, but there are exceptions to this rule provided councils first gain permission from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

The ministry can grant an authority ‘capitalisation directions’ to use capital funds – usually capital receipts – for day to day running costs. They can also use this mechanism to wave rules banning councils from borrowing to fund revenue expenditure. It has recently done so in the case of Luton which is borrowing £60m to lend to its airport.

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County ‘not financially viable’ without significant extra funding

Pressures from Covid-19 have left Hampshire CC unsustainable in the medium term without a further £52m of government funding, its Conservative leader has warned.

Papers due to go to Hampshire's cabinet on Tuesday say the council has faced extra costs and lost income totaling £160m due to the pandemic with additional government funding covering less than half of that. Over the next three years the financial impact is forecast to rise to more than £210m, meaning £80m of savings will be needed by April 2023.

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Autumn Budget to be scrapped this year

The Treasury has scrapped plans for an Autumn Budget this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"As we heard this week, now is not the right time to outline long-term plans - people want to see us focused on the here and now," the Treasury said. "So we are confirming today that there will be no Budget this autumn."

There will however be a spending review to set out the overall shape of government spending, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg reported. The decision to scrap the Budget comes as no surprise, according to Genevieve Morris head of corporate tax at accountancy firm Blick Rothenberg.

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Sunak to announce new job protection plans

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is to make an announcement on Thursday about what happens after the furlough scheme expires at the end of October. "I will update the House of Commons on our plans to continue protecting jobs throughout the winter," he tweeted.

The move comes after a day of mounting pressure on the government. BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg says Mr Sunak has been considering different forms of wage subsidy and will announce more financial help.

He is understood to be looking at options including a salary top-up scheme, similar to those already operating in France and Germany.

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Pubs and restaurants in England to have 10pm closing times

All pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues in England must have a 22:00 closing time from Thursday, to help curb the spread of coronavirus. The sector will also be restricted by law to table service only.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said people should also work from home "if they can" and trials of spectators at sports fixtures would be "paused".

The full measures will be set out by the prime minister in the House of Commons later. Boris Johnson will also address the nation in a live broadcast at 20:00 BST on Tuesday.

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Experts warn of winter deaths in thousands and curbs for months

Britain could see tens of thousands of Covid-19 deaths over the winter with little prospect of release from restrictions for six months, the government’s chief scientific and medical advisers have warned.

Without urgent action Britain could see 50,000 cases and more than 200 deaths a day within two months, Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, said yesterday.

He held out the possibility of a vaccine being available by the end of the year “in small amounts for certain groups” but said that the more likely scenario for widespread use was the first half of 2021.

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School bus drivers fearful of coronavirus infection risk

School bus drivers have raised concerns about a lack of social distancing on services travelling at full capacity, with many children not wearing masks. The Unite union said it was "extremely worried" drivers were at risk of catching Covid-19 on "packed" buses.

Social distancing is not mandatory on dedicated school buses under government guidance across the UK, although it should happen where possible. The government says it is providing £40m to help increase capacity.

Government guidance for England says that, where possible, social distancing should be "maximised" between individuals or "bubbles" of children who stay together throughout the course of the day.

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School funding ‘unfair to poor white pupils’

Poor white children do significantly worse at school in part because education funding is targeted at larger cities with more ethnically diverse populations, academics have argued.

They accused the Department for Education of making it difficult for experts to analyse underachievement by white pupils because this “did not align” with the government’s focus.

School funding disproportionately benefits children in London boroughs while money for free pre-school education and childcare is also more generous in London, they say. But funding is lower in rural shires, smaller towns and cities, and coastal communities where the majority of children are white, they argue.

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Covid-19 pressures prompt £8bn drop in HMRC tax collection

HMRC recovered £7.9bn less from fraud and error in the first three months of this financial year than it did in the same period in 2019 – a drop of more than half.

Through its ‘compliance activity’ the tax office recovered or prevented the loss of £7.5bn in owed tax between April and June, after recovering £15.4bn in the equivalent period last year.

A statement from HMRC said: “Delivering the Covid-19 support measures has been resource-intensive and has affected HMRC’s core compliance activity and tax collection. “Recognising this, the quarter one compliance yield – tax revenue that would have otherwise been lost without HMRC intervention – is lower than the same quarter in 2019 to 20 because of the realignment of resources during this period.

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UK cases hit four-month high for second day in a row

The number of people who have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK has jumped by 4,422 - the highest daily rise in over four months.

Saturday's figure is exactly 100 more cases than were confirmed the previous day, meaning both are the highest since 8 May.

Experts caution more infections are likely to be picked up now because the number of coronavirus tests available has grown dramatically since the pandemic began.

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Coronavirus: Tighter national rules considered for England by government

New England-wide measures which could see hospitality businesses shut are being considered by the UK government to slow a surge of coronavirus cases.

A short period of tighter restrictions - lasting a few weeks - could be announced in the next week, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said.

Schools and most workplaces would be kept open during those weeks. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has told the BBC the government is "prepared to do what it takes" against Covid-19.

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Sadiq Khan: London mayor calls for business rates holiday extension over fears of tens of thousands of job losses

Sadiq Khan is calling for the government to extend the business rates holiday for another year as companies say reintroducing the rates would be the "final blow" for those already struggling during the pandemic.

Business rates for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors have been halted in England until the new financial year starts next April.

The mayor of London, along with councils in the capital, have urged the rate holiday to be extended to 2021/22 over fears tens of thousands of jobs could be lost in the city.

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Schools in poorer areas lack catch-up cash

Schools in poor parts of England will struggle the most to help their pupils catch-up after the lockdown, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies. The last 10 years have seen real-terms cuts amounting to 9% per pupil which fell hardest on schools in the poorest areas, says the IFS.

And schools in poorer areas will get less of a boost from the extra £7.1bn earmarked for schools up to 2022-23. The government says it is committed to "levelling up" educational opportunity.

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Coronavirus: Tighter rules for care homes over winter second spike fears

Staff will be told to stop "all but essential" movement between care homes to protect residents during a feared second spike of coronavirus.

Tighter new restrictions for the sector are planned ahead of winter, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise again and people complain they cannot get tested.

In areas subject to local lockdowns, it is understood care homes may be told to stop visits in all but end-of-life situations.

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Up to 30% of residents issued Court Summons over unpaid Council tax

A report has revealed that up to 31% of residents across certain regions have been Summoned to Court because of unpaid council tax.

The highest region, according to the report is Middleborough with a rate of 31% of residents receiving the Summons. The report revealed the approximately £164m had been reclaimed by bailiffs, with Haringey Council reportedly using bailiffs most efficiently with a total reclaim of £14.9m.

The report used Freedom of Information requests from 243 councils across England and Wales in order to get a picture of how Coronavirus had affected council tax payments.

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Bank of England to ‘explore’ negative interest rates

The Bank of England has outlined plans to explore how negative interest rates could be implemented for the first time, to help the UK’s economic recovery from Covid-19. The move was outlined by the Monetary Policy Committee as it maintained the record low 0.1% bank rate.

The central bank said it now expects GDP to be 7% lower in the third quarter of this year compared with the end of 2019, an improvement on projections given in August – which showed an 8.6% decline.

“The committee had discussed its policy toolkit, and the effectiveness of negative policy rates in particular, in the August Monetary Policy Report, in light of the decline in global interest rates over a number of years,” the committee minutes said.

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Boris Johnson considering national restrictions on social lives to curb infections

Boris Johnson is considering the introduction of new national restrictions - possibly as soon as next week - as the prime minister races to try and get a handle on the spread of coronavirus.

With COVID-19 cases now doubling every seven to eight days, the government is looking at introducing nationwide restrictions for a short period to try to "short-circuit" the virus and slow the spread of the disease.

Government figures stressed the plans being drawn up stopped short of a full national lockdown, as seen in the spring, when the country was told to "stay at home".

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Extending furlough could pay for itself

The Scottish Government has released a paper that outlines how extending the furlough scheme could actually pay for itself, and not be an extra burden to the tax payer.

The research shows that by extending the furlough scheme through to June 2021, at an additional cost of £850m, upwards of 60,000 could be saved.

By saving these 60,000 jobs, GDP will be retained and therefore the extension will essentially pay for itself.

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Coronavirus: Restrictions expected in north-east England

Almost two million people in north-east England are expected to face restrictions as coronavirus cases rise.

Northumberland, Newcastle, Sunderland, North and South Tyneside, Gateshead and County Durham council areas are in discussions to get the measures.

These may include pubs closing earlier and restrictions on households mixing. It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the Sun: "The only way to make sure the country is able to enjoy Christmas is to be tough now."

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Coronavirus: Care homes to get more than half a billion in extra funding to tackle COVID-19 during winter

Care providers in England will receive more than half a billion pounds in extra funding to help reduce transmission of COVID-19 in the winter, the government has said.

It comes as Nadra Ahmed, executive chair of the National Care Association, told Sky News delays in getting coronavirus test results back are "appalling and negligent".

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Local government staff face ‘deep pension cuts’ if exit pay proposals are implemented

Public sector members of the Local Government Pension Scheme aged over 55, who are made redundant and wish to take early retirement as result, will face “significant” cuts to their benefits if proposed changes to local government exit payments are implemented, pensions advisor Hymans Robertson has warned.

The firm said that employees are in effect being forced to choose between a full pension benefit and statutory redundancy pay under the new regulations outlined in a consultation document earlier this month.

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Councils will receive £91.5m to house vulnerable people

The Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, has today (Sept 17) announced that 274 Councils across England will share £91.5m to house vulnerable people through the Coronavirus pandemic. The £91.5m will be used to help people into the private rented sector, secure interim accommodation such as supported housing, and assess the wider support that people may need in order to rebuild their lives.

Secretary of State for Communities and Housing, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “The incredible national effort to support rough sleepers during the pandemic has protected many lives and is widely regarded as one of the most successful programmes of its kind in the world. I’m hugely grateful to all those involved. This funding will ensure that vulnerable people and rough sleepers continue to have safe accommodation and the care and support they need, to ensure as few as possible return to the streets.”

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ADPH hits out at ‘moonshot’ ambitions while local resources fall ‘woefully short’

The country’s most senior public health director has hit out at the prime minister’s “moonshot” testing plan as she called for an emergency funding package to boost the public health workforce. In a blog post published this afternoon, Association of Directors of Public Health president…

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Fears devo white paper will be watered down and further delayed

The long awaited devolution and recovery white paper could be less radical than initially anticipated and hampered by further delays following Simon Clarke's recent departure as the overseeing minister, a senior Local Government Association adviser has warned. The sector is still waiting to find out…

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Croydon to seek govt support as it battles to balance budget

Croydon LBC is to formally approach government to seek a financial support package after acknowledging it does not have a balanced budget this year. A report due to go to cabinet on Monday said the council was facing a £49m overspend in 2020-21 and members…

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Exclusive: Hospitals told to clear beds for coronavirus spike in two weeks

Isolation units in which Covid-19 patients can recover being created as space made on wards for those needing most care. Hospitals and councils have been told to find extra beds for coronavirus patients within two weeks as the NHS braces for a second spike in cases.

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Social care winter plan must address care home resident isolation - charities

Isolated care home residents are “dying of sadness” and the Government must set out how they can stay in contact with their loved ones in its winter action plan, charities said.

Charities and unions welcomed Thursday’s announcement of more than half a billion pounds of extra funding to help reduce transmission of coronavirus within care settings in England.

They have now set out the areas they want addressed by the Government’s action plan to help the social care sector prepare for winter, expected on Friday.

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Local authority calls on care home providers to accept COVID-positive hospital patients

Trafford Council has called on care home providers to accept patients who are COVID-positive from hospitals within two hours of being identified by doctors as ready for discharge, according to a contract seen by Channel 4 News. The council said: “The discharge of patients from hospital is a carefully co-ordinated process in line with national government guidance. We appreciate that there is a quick turnaround, but our contracts reflect the national requirements to ensure people are discharged safely and quickly.”

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Councils report £8m of Covid-19 grant fraud

More than 100 councils in England have reported fraudulent claims for Covid-19 grants since the introduction of the emergency measures, according to a report.

The findings were outlined in a report compiled by Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council, which revealed the council had prevented five attempts of fraud and fallen victim to one fraud valued at £25,000.

The council said the scam was one of a growing number of attempts by fraudsters to exploit the government's Covid-19 support schemes – including one that involved restaurants falsely claiming compensation under the subsidised meal scheme.

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Eat Out to Help Out drives UK inflation to five-year low

The UK's inflation rate fell sharply to 0.2 per cent in August as the effect of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme pushed down restaurant prices, latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

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Grenfell-style cladding: MPs tell government ‘fix this now’

A new report by the Public Accounts Committee said that the Government had “missed its target” for all Grenfell-style cladding to be removed by June 2020, with almost a third – 155 out of 455 – of high-rise buildings still wrapped in combustible plastic-filled aluminium panels. It comes as MHCLG set a new target for remaining work to be completed by the end of the year. Lord Porter, the LGA’s building safety spokesperson said: “Leaseholders and residents have suffered enough. The Government has accepted that the building safety system has failed for decades and it must now deal with the consequences.”

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Coronavirus: PM blames 'colossal spike' in demand for test problems

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended the coronavirus testing system, saying it is trying to meet a "colossal spike" in demand.

It comes as the government said it was drawing up a list setting out who will be prioritised for tests.

Care home residents and staff are likely to be near the top of the list, as Mr Johnson acknowledged ministers were concerned about infection rates.

The PM told MPs a new "action plan" for care homes will be released this week.

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Coronavirus: Marshals 'unlikely' in England, councils say

The widespread introduction of Covid marshals to towns and cities in England is "unlikely" and "almost impossible", some local authorities have said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested the marshals would enforce rules about social distancing, gathering in groups and wearing masks.

But a lack of detail has been criticised by council and health officials.

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Some care home staff in England not using PPE, find health inspectors

Health inspectors have uncovered multiple problems with infection control and the use of personal protective equipment in care homes in England ahead of a second spike in Covid-19, which is starting to be detected in care facilities across the country.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) found homes where PPE was not being worn and that had out-of-date infection prevention policies and were failing to take steps to protect black and minority ethnic residents and staff who have been identified as potentially more vulnerable to the virus.

The checks took place last month in 59 English care homes and were triggered by concerns about safety and quality or complaints by residents, staff and relatives.

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Up to 25,000 teachers in England self-isolating due to Covid fears

Up to 25,000 teachers in England may already have been forced out of the classroom and into self-isolation at home amid a national shortage of Covid tests just a fortnight after schools reopened, research suggests.

With some schools reporting up to a fifth of their teaching staff off and unable to get a test, unions warned the crisis was spinning out of control and jeopardising plans for a full return to education, bringing the risk of “lockdown by default”.

One academy trust leader said that 740 state schools in England were either partially or wholly closed with Covid-related issues, meaning tens of thousands of pupils are stuck at home, with their parents unable to go to work.

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Council confirms £60m loan for airport

Luton Borough Council has approved the borrowing of £60m, which it then intends to lend to its wholly-owned London Luton Airport Ltd as it seeks to offset losses resulting from Covid-19.

The loan was approved during a restricted session of an executive committee, and is the first of two loans the council intends to provide to the airport over the coming year.

The council said that without the loans, the airport could become insolvent and cease trading, meaning it would be unable to make further dividend payments that the council could then use to fund services.

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It’s the ultimate cliché – another delay to social care reform

Ministers might have their work cut out as a result of Covid-19 – but the pandemic means social care reform is even more desperately required, writes LGC editor Nick Golding. Today's news and views Peterborough faces uncertainty over setting legal budget County chief to retire…

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Redmond review branded ‘a*** covering’ for finance directors

A senior councillor at the Local Government Association has described the Redmond Review of local government audit – which recommended the creation of new regulatory body - as “arse covering from finance directors”. Addressing a meeting of the LGA’s resources board on Tuesday afternoon, Peter…

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English addiction services on brink as number of higher-risk drinkers doubles

A near-doubling in the number of higher-risk drinkers during lockdown has led to warnings that addiction services in England are struggling to cope and in dire need of extra funding.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists analysed data from Public Health England showing the prevalence of people drinking at higher risk was at almost a fifth (19%) in June, up from 10.8% in February.

Using population estimates from the Office for National Statistics, the college said the June figure equated to more than 8.4 million people, a rise from around 4.8 million four months earlier. Higher-risk consumption is defined as drinking more alcohol than the recommended levels of no more than 14 units a week for men and women.

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People in England's 10 worst-hit Covid-19 hotspots unable to get tests

People in England’s 10 worst-hit coronavirus hotspots were unable to get tests on Monday, leading to claims of a “shambles”.

Those trying to arrange a test in the areas with the highest infection rates were told that none were available at walk-in centres, drive-through facilities or for home delivery.

One official said there was capacity and swabs available at testing centres, but that a backlog in laboratories meant people were being told that no tests were available.

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Care home bosses claim government is failing on coronavirus tests

Care home leaders have accused ministers of failing to deliver on the promise to prioritise the sector amid testing delays and fears that there could be a rush on PPE before the winter.

In July the government announced that testing would be rolled out across the adult social care sector to enable screening of staff every seven days and residents every four weeks.

However, industry leaders say that the failure of couriers to pick up samples in time and a backlog at testing laboratories has led to a doubling in the waiting time for results in some areas.

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Unison: Care workers who made £4 an hour awarded in £100,000 court case

The government should guarantee that care workers are paid fairly, the UK's largest union has demanded.

Unison's statement comes on the heels of a legal victory it helped win for homecare workers in north London.

General secretary Dave Prentis said: "It's time the skills and experience of care staff were respected instead of them being underpaid and undervalued."

A government spokesperson said it was "clear" that care workers must be paid at least the national minimum wage.

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Ban on evictions of commercial property tenants set to be extended

The Government is said to be preparing to extend coronavirus measures preventing restaurateurs and retailers from being evicted from their premises by landlords until the end of the year. Officials are reported to be examining how to prolong the existing ban on evictions of commercial property tenants by landlords from its current expiry date of September 30.

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Peterborough seeks financial rescue package

Peterborough City Council is in talks with the Government over plans to rescue its finances.

The authority is seeking permission for a repayment holiday on its borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) and has proposed delaying paying into its pensions fund.

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Government urged to ‘adopt own state aid system’

The UK government should look to create its own state aid system after the Brexit transitional agreement ends, according to the Institute for Government.

A report from the think-tank has suggested a strong system of domestic subsidy control would help direct funds towards effective subsidies and prevent harmful exploitation of subsidies.

Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, which outlines customs arrangements post-Brexit, European Union state aid rules were set to apply in certain cases affecting trade between Northern Ireland and the EU However, the Internal Market Bill, published recently, will give UK ministers powers to “disapply or modify” sections of the Protocol, including the state aid agreement.

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Young people hit as unemployment rate rises

The UK unemployment rate has risen to its highest level for two years, official figures show. The unemployment rate grew to 4.1% in the three months to July, compared with 3.9% previously.

Young people were particularly hard hit, with those aged 16 to 24 suffering the biggest drop in employment compared with other age groups. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said "helping people get back into, or finding new work" was his "number one priority".

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Labour councillors press Boris Johnson to extend coronavirus furlough scheme

Some 1,150 Labour councillors have written to the Prime Minister urging him to rethink plans to scrap the furlough scheme next month and target support at the worst-hit industries to prevent mass unemployment. It comes as latest figures from the ONS show that around 695,000 workers have been removed from the payrolls of British companies since the coronavirus lockdown began in March. Cllr Michael Payne, deputy leader of the LGA’s Labour Group, said: “Without targeted support for sectors and local lockdown areas that have been badly affected by the pandemic, we know that viable businesses will fail and employment will be lost.”

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Coronavirus: Testing problems to be solved in weeks, says Hancock

The Government will publish details of its plan to prioritise coronavirus tests in the next few days, with the testing system facing an "enormous challenge" after a "sharp rise" in those seeking a test, the Health and Social Care Secretary has said. Matt Hancock said that testing “will be solved in a matter of weeks” and that hospitals and care homes will be prioritised. Separately, an NHS email reveals that private laboratories were unable to process all COVID-19 tests which they received throughout the height of the pandemic.

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Covid marshals unlikely to be coming to a street near you: Councils refuse to adopt scheme without funding, analysis reveals

The majority of local councils said they had no plans to enact a COVID marshal scheme and would not consider it without extra funding, according to analysis by the Telegraph. It comes after the Prime Minister announced last week that marshals would be introduced in towns and city centres to help enforce the new “rule of six” social distancing law and could either be volunteers or members of council staff.

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Government urged to extend eviction ban to avoid ‘cliff-edge’ for renters

Labour is demanding the government perform an eleventh-hour U-turn and extend the eviction moratorium until they have a “credible” plan to ensure people do not lose their homes as a result of the pandemic.

With just six days remaining until courts can once again begin procession proceedings, shadow housing secretary Thangam Debbonaire warned of a “cliff-edge” facing thousands in the rental sector.

Her comments came after Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, announced a brief extension to the reprieve on evictions until 20 September, following intense pressure from homelessness charities and opposition parties.

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School figures show 88% of pupils were back for start of term

The first official figures for school attendance in England for the autumn term show 88% of pupils went back.

This is a higher absence rate than the usual figure of about 5% but it is not broken down to show whether pupils were at home because of Covid outbreaks.

The figures show attendance last Thursday, based on responses from almost three quarters of state schools.

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Coronavirus: 86% of doctors in England expect second wave within six months

Almost 86% of doctors in England say they expect a second peak of coronavirus in the next six months, according to a new survey, as concern continues to grow over a recent rise in cases.

On Friday, new results from a population-based study suggested the R number for England is now at 1.7, with infections doubling every 7.7 days. While the prevalence of the disease remains lower than it was in the spring, an R value above 1 means cases could grow exponentially.

Sunday marked the third day in a row that new coronaviruses cases reported for the UK topped 3,000 – the highest figures since May – with 2,837 new cases reported in England alone. While testing has increased over the past months, experts have said this does not fully explain the recent surge.

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Coronavirus: 'Rule of six' comes into effect

Restrictions banning social gatherings of more than six people are now in effect, as Covid-19 cases keep rising.

The "rule of six" applies both indoors and outdoors in England and Scotland, and indoors only in Wales. England's restrictions affect everyone, but children under 11 in Wales and under 12 in Scotland are exempt.

Crime Minister Kit Malthouse said people should report neighbours they suspect of hosting a gathering of seven or more people. But some Tory MPs have urged No 10 to exempt young children in England and called for a debate over the rules.

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Local authority peer borrowing continues to rise as rates drop

Local-authority-to-local-authority borrowing continues to rise, as short-term borrowing rates dropped to 0% last week, according to local government treasury advisors Arlingclose.

Arlingclose told PF that the ‘LA-to-LA’ market is “flush with cash”, as overall investment levels topped £50bn on the firms trading platform in June – with more offers to lend than bids to borrow.

Latest figures from the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government suggest that borrowing between local authorities was £13.5bn for the quarter to June.

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Leaked figures reveal scale of coronavirus test shortage

A huge backlog has forced Britain to send swabs abroad, casting doubt on its capacity to test as many people as it claimed

The government’s “world-beating” testing programme has a backlog of 185,000 swabs and is so overstretched that it is sending tests to laboratories in Italy and Germany, according to leaked documents.

A Department of Health and Social Care report marked “Official: sensitive” also confirms that most British laboratories are clearing fewer tests than their stated capacity, as they are hit by “chaos” in supply chains. The government claims that it has capacity for 375,000 tests a day. However, the actual number of people being tested for the coronavirus stalled to just 437,000 people a week at the start of the month — equivalent to just 62,000 a day.

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Coronavirus: Another 3,497 cases confirmed in the UK over 24 hours

Another 3,497 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, government figures show. The number of new cases is a 36% increase on last Saturday, when 2,594 new infections were confirmed nationwide.

A further nine people have died within 28 days of returning a positive test - all of them in England. This brings the total number of people who have died from COVID-19 in the UK to 41,623, the official figures show.

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Nationwide curfew 'obvious next step if new coronavirus restrictions fail'

A national curfew would be an “obvious next step” if new lockdown rules do not reverse the current increase in coronavirus cases, ministers believe. The measure of closing pubs and restaurants in local lockdown areas at 10pm could be rolled out more widely amid fears people tend not to follow social distancing rules when they consume more alcohol.

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Government to prioritise care home testing in coronavirus risk areas

The Telegraph understands that the Government will prioritise coronavirus tests for care homes in at-risk areas. It follows the Department of Health and Social Care revealing that swabs were being sent to Germany and Italy for testing because UK labs have become overwhelmed.

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Coronavirus: Concerns over increase in COVID-19 cases in care homes

Fears are growing over the COVID-19 threat in care homes as a report claims there have been outbreaks detected at 43 facilities. The government has sent a letter to care providers warning them to "take the necessary action to prevent and limit outbreaks".

The letter, from Stuart Miller, director of adult social care delivery at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), said: "You will know already that we are experiencing a rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases, across the UK population. "I need to alert you to the first signs this rise is being reflected in care homes too.

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At least a dozen schools have sent home hundreds of pupils in the last week after just one pupil tested positive for Covid

School leaders are forcing hundreds of pupils to isolate at home for two weeks after just one child tests positive for coronavirus.

Whole year groups are being sent home amid major confusion among teachers and local public health officials over the Government's official guidance for schools.

Current guidance to schools states: 'Maintaining distinct groups or 'bubbles' that do not mix makes it quicker and easier in the event of a positive case to identify those who may need to self-isolate and keep that number as small as possible.'

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Millions at greatest risk from coronavirus may be told to stay at home again

The Telegraph reports that up to 4.5 million people considered at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 will be asked to stay at home or given tailored advice on protecting themselves if cases of the virus return to dangerous levels. A nationwide alert was sent to care providers and councils on Friday night from the Department of Health and Social Care, urging bosses to “take necessary action to prevent and limit outbreaks”, following cases spreading through care homes again.

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Thousands of people helped during pandemic but problem remains

The Salvation Army is warning that homelessness and rough sleeping will "soar" if the government fails to properly fund homeless support services in this autumn's Comprehensive Spending Review. The charity wants more investment in a long-term solution.

Despite the recent government scheme, figures from the Greater London Authority have shown a 33% increase in rough sleeping in the capital alone compared with the same period last year, with almost two-thirds (63%) of people sleeping rough for the first time.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: "As winter approaches, we cannot see people forced back out onto the streets.

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Councils warned of commercial property ‘disaster’

A multibillion-pound bet on commercial property by local authorities in England could be a “disaster waiting to happen”, a pressure group has warned.

Income from retail and office investments was millions of pounds below the forecasts of some local authorities before the pandemic, according to the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

The Covid-19 downturn, combined with an increase in home working during lockdown, is expected to result in a fall in rents from commercial property, which has been the subject of a £6.6 billion spending spree by councils in the past three years.

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Furlough 'must be extended' to avoid mass unemployment, say MPs

The UK government should consider a targeted extension of its furlough scheme, MPs have said. The coronavirus crisis risks mass long-term unemployment and viable firms could go under without support, the Treasury Select Committee has warned.

However, a blanket retention of the scheme would not be good value for money, it added.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is due to end on 31 October. Under it, workers placed on leave have received 80% of their pay up to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

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Sunak gives himself option of postponing autumn Budget

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak raised the likelihood of delaying an autumn Budget on Friday by requesting the production of official economic forecasts without committing to announcing any tax or spending plans.

The Treasury said Mr Sunak’s instruction to the Office for Budget Responsibility, the fiscal watchdog, to prepare forecasts for mid-to-late November was deliberately vague in the current uncertain economic circumstances to give ministers the option to delay the annual Budget.

The move signals that the chancellor is not keen to commit now to spending plans and tax proposals for the rest of the parliament when coronavirus cases are on the rise and the medium-term economic outlook is almost impossible to determine.

In an unusual written statement to the House of Commons, Mr Sunak asked the OBR “to prepare an economic and fiscal forecast to be published in mid-to-late November” without setting a Budget date.

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UK GDP climbs by 6.6% in July

The UK economy continued its recovery in July as GDP rose by 6.6% month-on-month, the third consecutive month of growth following April’s record GDP fall of 20%, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Despite the period of growth, the ONS said GDP is still 11.7% below the pre- Covid-19 levels seen in February.

July’s rise in GDP was in part down to the reopening of pubs, restaurants and accommodation as output grew by 140.8% during the month, as lockdown measures were eased, the ONS said.

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Imposing tax increases too early could ‘stifle economy recovery’

Imposing tax increases too early could “stifle” the UK’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, a report from the Treasury Select Committee has warned.

The conclusion featured in the committee’s second report into the economic impact of the pandemic on government finances, released today, which said that fiscal consolidation would only be required after the UK’s economy has recovered.

In evidence given to the committee, financial experts and former chancellor’s Philip Hammond and Alistair Darling warned against early tax rises. Hammond told the committee: “There would not be anybody seriously advocating increases in taxes at the moment”.

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The road to madness: How eco-obsessed councils - under cover of Covid - have spent millions of YOUR money to shut roads across Britain

The Mail looks at how councils have introduced traffic measures, by closing roads and widening pavements to enable social distancing, using the £250 million made available to local authorities by the Department for Transport.

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Cornwall, Devon and Dorset could get combined authority with extra powers under ‘regional partnership’ plan

Boris Johnson’s plans to ‘level-up’ the nation could lead to a new single authority for the South West of England with policy making powers in areas such as education, health, energy infrastructure and transport.

The Government’s White Paper on Devolution and Local Recovery, which is due to be published within weeks, will make reference to “regional partnerships” and herald the creation of formally recognised regional partnerships supported by the Government investment.

The Great South West group, an economic alliance that claims to have the support of the Prime Minister, believes the region should be given the same status as the Northern Powerhouse.

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Catherine Staite: There has never been a worse time for reorganisation

The emeritus professor at the University of Birmingham's Institute for Local Government, argues local government has bigger problems than its structure

The Henham Strategy report, commissioned by the County Councils’ Network (CCN), which argues in favour of the abolition of 188 district councils and reunification of counties divided into two unitaries, to create 27 additional unitary counties, is only the latest episode in a long running saga. The last major reorganisation in 2009 was itself only one iteration of piecemeal restructuring which has resulted in an historical accretion of a variety of local government types and geographies. This has certainly left us with a very confusing picture – but does it really matter?

Embarking on local government reorganisation, during a pandemic, at a time when local government is vastly overstretched in terms of finances and capacity is akin to tidying your sock drawer when the house is in a state of chaos. It may briefly distract from the real problems but it will do nothing to solve them.

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Social care collapse warning as Cavendish review nears completion

Social care providers will collapse this winter if the government does not renew its funding to councils to pay for infection control, the president of the Association of Adult Social Services (Adass) has warned.

The Infection Control Fund, a £600 million package announced in May to tackle the spread of Covid-19 in care homes, runs out at the end of September. James Bullion told LGC that if it is not made available over the winter, many providers are at risk of going bust.

In an interview with LGC, Mr Bullion also highlighted his concerns that vulnerable disabled people are at grave risk in a second wave, and warned the government that not pressing ahead with social care reform would be a “betrayal to the public and their experience of Covid”.

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District councils must not be swallowed by faceless monoliths [opinion]

n June 2016 voters delivered a message to us all. They want to shape their own destiny and take back control. They don’t want power and influence hoovered up by large, remote, inaccessible bureaucracies miles away from their homes and aspirations.

Councils in England are already the largest in the western world. Proposals from county councils to concentrate local accountability in only 25 councils outside London would make them even bigger.

Further centralisation of power and influence is not the answer to delivering on the doorstep in market towns, cathedral cities and coastal communities. Further amplifying the democratic deficit in the countryside compared with the cities does not provide a compelling case for change.

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police get tough with coronavirus rulebreakers

Boris Johnson said that it “breaks my heart” to introduce new restrictions on people meeting their grandchildren as he announced strict new measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The prime minister held his first Downing Street press conference since July yesterday to tighten the restrictions and set out plans for tougher enforcement of them.

Ministers fear that Britain is four weeks behind France and Spain, which have experienced an exponential rise in infections, and say that by acting now they might curb the spread.

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No rise in workers in UK city centres despite back-to-office plea

The number of people going back to work in offices has flatlined in the past two months despite the government push to get more workers into cities to protect Britain’s biggest urban economies from collapse.

According to analysis of mobile phone tracking data by the Centre for Cities thinktank, worker footfall across 63 of the UK’s largest town and city centres was just 17% of pre-lockdown levels at the end of June, remained at 17% at the start of August and was still at 17% in the last full week of the month.

Worker footfall was down most in Oxford, Leeds and London. Numbers had risen most in smaller cities and large towns such as Mansfield, Basildon and Newport but still remained less than half the normal levels.

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Councils say they have no idea how they can pay for Boris Johnson's "Covid Marshals"

Boris Johnson’s new “Covid-19 marshals” plan has been met with fury by cash-strapped councils who say they have no idea how to pay for them.

The new marshals are expected to patrol city and town centres to make sure people don’t break the rule banning more than six people gathering in England.

Nick Forbes, the leader of Labour-run Newcastle City Council, said he had zero notice of the proposal until it was announced by Johnson at his press conference on Wednesday.

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Reprieve for renters facing eviction in England and Wales

Renters facing eviction have been offered a reprieve – but only if they live in areas under local coronavirus lockdowns.

Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, confirmed that court proceedings for evictions would restart in England and Wales on 21 September after being suspended early in the pandemic.

But he said that if an area was in a local lockdown that included a restriction on gathering in homes, evictions would not be enforced by bailiffs.

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WHO: Local Restrictions should be Decided Locally

Decisions on local coronavirus restrictions should be made locally, a top World Health Organisation official has urged.

The comments from Dr David Nabarro, one of the UN health agency's six special envoys on Covid-19, came after health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, confirmed lockdown restrictions will remain in place in Bolton and Trafford following a request from council leaders amid a rise in infection.

(for more see MJ page 3).

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No funding for PM’s Covid marshals

Councils will not receive additional funding for the “Covid secure marshals” announced by the prime minster yesterday, government has confirmed to LGC. At the first Covid-19 televised press conference since July, which took place yesterday afternoon, Boris Johnson said government would “boost the enforcement capacity…

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local authorities in England demand more control

Local public health leaders in England are demanding greater control over the Covid-19 testing system after circulating a list of complaints about the way it is running and accusing ministers of giving mixed messages about tests’ availability.

The complaints, seen by the Guardian, have been prompted by fears that a capacity shortage is hindering attempts to quell local outbreaks.

The directors of public health want local testing units to be dedicated to local people rather than being made available nationally, in some cases to people who live hundreds of miles away.

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Government must ban councils placing vulnerable under-18s in unregulated homes

The Government must ban councils from placing all vulnerable children in unregulated accommodation amid concerns over sexual and criminal exploitation, the Children’s Commissioner for England has said.

Anne Longfield called for a change in the law to stop local authorities placing under-18s in care in bedsits, hostels and caravans, as she warned that young people can become victims of abuse in these settings.

The plea came as a report from the Children’s Commissioner’s Office suggested that thousands of children in care – around 12,800 a year – live in unregulated independent or semi-independent accommodation.

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Sector responds to Redmond Review

One of the main recommendations of the Redmond Review was the implementation of a new local authority audit oversight body.

The body could take charge of procuring local audit contracts, producing annual reports and summarising the state of local audit.

Effective external audit and clear and transparent financial reporting are vital and councils take them extremely seriously. "This report rightly recognises that current audit arrangements are not working as well as they should and provides some helpful recommendations to try and improve them.

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£11.5bn to help first-time buyers ‘will push out people who rent’

The housing secretary pledged £11.5 billion today to build up to 180,000 discounted homes over the next five years to help first-time buyers onto the property ladder.

Half will be available to buy using affordable home ownership schemes from 2021. The rest will be discounted or social rentals, which are typically 50 to 60 per cent cheaper than renting privately.

The funding, which was announced in the chancellor’s last budget, is part of Homes England affordable house-building programme that is intended to address falling levels of home ownership.

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UK chief negotiator calls for 'realism' from EU

The UK's chief Brexit negotiator has called for "realism" from the EU ahead of the next round of trade talks beginning in London.

Lord Frost said there was "still time" for the two sides to agree a post-Brexit trade deal for next year. But he said the EU needed to recognise the UK's negotiating position came from that of a "sovereign state".

His words follow a pledge from Boris Johnson to walk away from the talks if a deal isn't done by 15 October. The exchange also comes after No 10 revealed it would be introducing new legislation on customs rules in Northern Ireland, in case the negotiations fail.

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GPs recorded three times more suspected cases of COVID-19 than official figures

Suspected cases of COVID-19 recorded by GPs at the height of the pandemic were three times higher than officially confirmed infections, according to new research.

The study suggests that coronavirus was more prevalent among the population than previously thought. Many people who contracted COVID-19, including those with mild symptoms, will not have been tested, lead author Dr Sally Hull said.

Between 14 February and 30 April, GPs recorded 8,985 suspected cases, triple the number of people found positive at test centres over the same period.

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300,000 redundancies planned in June and July

British employers planned more than 300,000 redundancies in June and July, as the coronavirus outbreak took its toll on the workplace.

1,784 firms made plans to cut nearly 150,000 jobs in July, almost a sevenfold increase on July 2019. The figures were obtained by a BBC Freedom of Information request.

In June 1,888 employers filed plans for 156,000 job cuts, a sixfold increase on the previous year. The coronavirus lockdown and the resulting record-breaking economic downturn closed restaurants and shops and brought travel to a standstill, forcing many firms to cut staff.

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Devo minister Simon Clarke quits

Local government minister Simon Clarke has resigned from the government, he has announced.

The minister – regarded as the key figure in the drafting of the devolution and recovery white paper – revealed this afternoon he had resigned “for purely personal reasons”.

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City appoints interim chief

Andrew Grant, who was chief executive at Aylesbury Vale DC from 2006 until its abolition in 2019 as part of the Buckinghamshire reorganisation, will join the council on 1 October.

He takes over from Antoinette Jackson who announced in January she intended to leave the council in June but agreed to stay on until the end of September to lead the city through the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Grant originally qualified in forestry, then in housing and was a director of housing at Sedgemoor DC and deputy chief executive at Cotswold DC.

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Boris Johnson's new homes scheme 'will harm Tory pledge to level up UK'

Boris Johnson is facing fresh warnings that his planning overhaul risks denting his commitment to “level up” the country amid mounting Tory anxiety over the proposals.

Conservative MPs have raised concerns directly with the prime minister about planning reforms designed to push through the construction of more than 300,000 houses a year. MPs have focused on the model used to allocate new housing targets for each area, with Tories warning it would lead to houses being built in their shire heartlands rather than the metropolitan centres.

However, there are new warnings that other parts of the plan could end up hurting the government’s central election pledge to “level up” more deprived parts of the country, where the Tories found new supporters at the last election.

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Let councils get back to the business of building schools

Over the next few years, a marked shortage in secondary school places is forecast to emerge. As a result, thousands of unhappy parents may once again find out just what a challenging job teaching children is.

Figures from the Local Government Association (LGA) show that 11 council areas won’t have enough places to meet the expected demand when it comes to the 2021-22 intake. A projected 3,291 pupils look set to be left high and dry.

It rises to 16,987 within a year, and then to 44,190 the year after that. By 2024-25 it will hit 63,741, and then 77,085, the population of a large town or a small city, at which time one in every three local areas will be affected.

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Care-home plague of loneliness is breaching loved ones’ human rights

Care homes need protection from being sued by the bereaved families of residents who catch the coronavirus from visitors, experts have warned.

They fear that, without this safeguard and delivery of the government’s promise of regular coronavirus testing in care homes, the widespread isolation of residents will continue. Some care homes are allowing short visits, but in others elderly residents have gone six months without seeing their relatives face to face, fuelling loneliness.

The government is under increasing pressure to extend the indemnity that protects the NHS to the social care sector: some providers say they are unable to allow family visits for fear these will be blamed if the virus spreads.

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Council-owned energy company to close

The council confirmed the move as it reached agreement with British Gas owner Centrica for the transfer of its 112,000 residential customers and its 2,600 business customers. A fee for the acquisition by Centrica has not been disclosed.

A report from external auditor Grant Thornton said in July that Robin Hood Energy’s losses had risen to £23.1m last year, following a £1.6m loss the year before.

David Mellen, Leader of the council, said: “The review we have been carrying out over the last six months has been comprehensive and considered a range of options for the future of Robin Hood Energy.

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60% of population living with air pollution above legal limits

Almost 60 per cent of people in England are living in areas where levels of toxic air pollution exceeded legal limits last year, analysis of official figures has revealed.

Legal limits for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – a toxic gas that inflames airways in the human respiratory system – were broken in 142 local authorities in 2019, potentially affecting as many as 33 million people in total.

This includes groups particularly vulnerable to the effects of air pollution, including 7 million children and 5.5 million people over 65 years old. The latter group is now at additional risk because of the coronavirus.

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Urgent action needed to open up care homes for visits, ministers told

The Labour party and charities have called on ministers to take urgent action to help care homes in England receive more visitors, amid widespread warnings that isolation because of coronavirus is causing many residents to deteriorate rapidly.

The shadow social care minister, Liz Kendall, said the government should introduce more testing and protective equipment, while a charity that represents care residents and their families called for a wider re-evaluation of visiting rules to take into account the impact of separation from loved ones.

“We need a better balance between protecting people from the virus and protecting their wellbeing and thinking about what makes a good life,” said Helen Wildbore, the director of the Relatives and Residents Association. “People don’t just want to survive, they want to live.”

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Thousands of EU-born 'heroes' could be deported without government action, MPs warn

Thousands of EU citizens - including coronavirus "heroes and heroines" - face deportation unless the government gives them an automatic right to remain in the UK, opposition MPs have warned.

The politicians say they are "extremely concerned" many of those born in the EU but now residing in the UK could "fall through the cracks" of the scheme they must apply to for permission to stay now Brexit has happened.

Under the current process, EU citizens must apply for "settled status" to remain living and working in the UK after 30 June 2021, given freedom of movement will end at the beginning of next year.

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Covid-19 ‘could be endemic in deprived parts of England’

Covid-19 could now be endemic in some parts of the country that combine severe deprivation, poor housing and large BAME communities, according to a highly confidential analysis by Public Health England.

The document, leaked to the Observer, and marked “official sensitive”, suggests the national lockdown in these parts of the north of England had little effect in reducing the level of infections, and that in such communities it is now firmly established.

The analysis, prepared for local government leaders and health experts, relates specifically to the north-west, where several local lockdowns have recently been put in place following spikes in numbers.

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London could avoid parts of planning law

Boris Johnson has suggested to Tory MPs that London could be given a partial exemption from new planning laws as he seeks to placate opponents.

The prime minister is understood to have said that the city could be offered a “carve-out” from some measures after warnings that the reforms risked “destroying suburbia”.

Mr Johnson had suggested the capital could be exempted from the new measures that will allow people to build two-storey extensions without full planning permission.

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Civil servants 'must get back to offices quickly'

In a letter seen by the BBC, it says it is "strongly encouraging" attendance through rota systems, arguing this would be "hugely beneficial".

The government says it wants 80% of civil servants to be able to attend their usual workplace at least once a week by the end of the month.

They said most civil servants should expect to keep working from home until the end of the year, and they would consider strike action if staff were forced to return when it was unsafe.

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Vulnerable children 'at risk' as councils cut services in Covid crisis

Vulnerable children are facing a dangerous reduction in support as councils axe services in an attempt to fill a multibillion-pound black hole left by the Covid crisis, Labour has warned.

Town halls across England, including Luton, Oxfordshire and Croydon, have tabled emergency budgets involving cuts to spending on children and young people, sparking warnings that unless ministers add to the £3.7bn in emergency coronavirus funding so far provided to councils, children will suffer.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has calculated that soaring costs and slumping income will result in a £2bn deficit for councils this year. Luton council, which is proposing to cut £3.2m from its children and families budget, said Covid-19 had had a “catastrophic impact” on its finances, not least with income from its airport company plummeting.

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Pupils with special needs 'forgotten' as English schools reopen

Pupils at special schools in England have been “forgotten about” in the rush to restart full-time education, with 20,000 children with special needs unlikely to return to school because of safety concerns, according to a study.

Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) said they were concerned about sending their children back to school in September because their children were medically vulnerable or because their child’s needs mean they cannot adhere to social distancing and safe practice.

Headteachers at more than 200 schools and colleges in England told researchers the government’s guidance had been unclear and showed a lack of understanding of how special schools work, the types of pupils they support, and how much they rely on other key services including healthcare and local charities.

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'Significant gaps' in UK's border plans

Haulage firms are warning of "significant gaps" in UK border plans for the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December. Eight groups warned ministers that if issues were not addressed, the supply chain "will be severely disrupted".

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the government will work to ensure the "best systems are in place". The government has also given itself powers to build temporary lorry parks in England without local approval.

If a deal is not agreed and ratified by parliaments by the end of the year, the UK will go into 2021 trading with the bloc on World Trade Organization rules - which critics fear could damage the economy and cause issues at the border.

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More than 400 care home residents were dying a day at peak of pandemic, data shows

In just one week in April, there were more than 3,000 coronavirus-related care home deaths in the UK, according to findings by the PA news agency. Deaths rose by 500% between the 1 and 17 April of the month, when almost 500 residents died with COVID-19 across the UK.

It comes at a time when testing for all staff and residents, regardless of any symptoms, was not in place, and providers had not yet been told to restrict the movements of staff between venues.

Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford, believes that staff movement could have been of "huge" significance in allowing the infection to spread.

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Coronavirus tests run out in north-east England as cases surge

Coronavirus tests are running out in parts of north-east England despite cases rising to the highest level in months, political leaders have said amid growing concern over the government’s rationing of tests.

Health officials in Gateshead said tests were running out within two hours of becoming available, by 10am “at the very latest”, despite a recent surge in cases meaning the area has one of the highest infection rates in England.

The Guardian understands that Gateshead’s Queen Elizabeth hospital ran out of chemical reagents for swab tests on Wednesday night and was unable to get a new batch until Friday afternoon. The hospital was only able to continue testing patients when other NHS laboratories stepped in to help.

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Charity seeks judicial review on care home visit guidance

A dementia charity is seeking a judicial review of the government guidance on care home visits.

John's Campaign says many care homes in England are still refusing regular face-to-face visits, often essential for people with severe dementia. Dr Angela McIntyre, a retired doctor backing the campaign, has not seen her 92-year-old mother since March.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We know limiting visits in care homes has been difficult for many families." He added: "Our first priority is to prevent infections in care homes, and this means that visiting policy should still be restricted with alternatives sought wherever possible.

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Burnham and Leese question new role for MPs in agreeing Covid restrictions

The mayor of Greater Manchester CA has warned that it should be council leaders, not national politicians in the driving seat when it comes to making decisions on targeted covid measures, as he accused some MPs of attempting to "politicise" restrictive measures in the region.

Andy Burnham (Lab) also warned that the restrictions in place in eight of the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester are becoming “less and less effective” and an “exit model” now needs to be planned, amid concerns from his deputy mayor for policing that Covid restrictions were becoming "increasingly challenging" for police and councils to enforce.

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Councils welcome decision not to ease restrictions in Trafford and Bolton

Lockdown restrictions will remain in place in Bolton and Trafford following a request from council leaders.

Health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, has confirmed both areas will remain under existing coronavirus restrictions following a rise in infection rates.

Mr Hancock said: 'This decision has been made in collaboration with local leaders after reviewing the latest data. We continually monitor outbreaks across the country, and have seen infection rates increase more than three times in Bolton in under a week, and double in Trafford since the last review.'

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PWLB borrowing dropped in August

The figure is the lowest of the financial year to date, and also the lowest sum borrowed from the board since January, when £108m was borrowed, according to statistics from the Debt Management Office.

Transport for London was responsible for the majority of the last month’s borrowing, taking out a loan of £84m as part of its £1.6bn bailout agreed with the government in May.

Discounting the capital’s transport body, councils borrowed just £31.6m from the PWLB last month – although that figure represented an increase on the previous month, when £19.2m was borrowed. It was 25% less than the £41.6m borrowed in June.

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Government urged not to merge English district councils

Merging some district and county councils in England risks "alienating" communities, the District Councils Network has warned.

It is urging ministers not to implement proposals from the County Councils Network to scrap 213 smaller councils and replace them with 25 larger bodies.

The county councils say their plan could save almost £3bn over five years.

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Health leaders warn Boris Johnson over axing of Public Health England

The abolition of Public Health England will damage the fight against obesity, smoking and alcohol misuse, the UK’s doctors and public health experts have told the prime minister.

More than 70 health organisations have written to Boris Johnson outlining their fears about last month’s controversial axing of PHE, which prompted claims it was an attempt by ministers to deflect attention from their own failings over the coronavirus crisis.

Signatories include the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, which represents the UK’s 240,000 doctors, the UK Faculty of Public Health and the Richmond Group of health and care charities.

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Cabinet minister calls for tax cuts

Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey has suggested the cutting of taxes could help stimulate the economy post-Covid-19.

Reports over the weekend suggested that chancellor Rishi Sunak is exploring tax rises in his upcoming Budget, with the Sunday Times saying he is considering a rise in corporation tax from 19% to 24% – at a cost to businesses of £12bn.

Coffey said: “In the past, when we have actually cut tax rates, we have seen taxes increase. Tax rates are a very dynamic situation, and we need to make sure the chancellor has the best opportunities when he announces to the country.

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Covid grants boost local authority balances

Data released by MHCLG recently, provides another useful insight on borrowing and lending trends within the local authority treasury management arena. The quarterly borrowing and investment tables released by central government provides individual data for all English, Scottish and Welsh authorities, but also provides useful summary tables and trends.

The latest data on borrowing shows a fairly steady position compared with recent quarters, with an increase in net borrowing from the PWLB of just £82m in the quarter to the end of June 2020.

Total borrowing from the PWLB stood at £85.752bn. Total borrowing from all sources by authorities fell £363m to £126.495bn, driven by a reduction of £725m in short-term borrowing from local government, which is not unusual for the first quarter of a new financial year.

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Gap between rich and poor pupils in England 'grows by 46% in a year'

Urgent support must be targeted at disadvantaged pupils and schools in areas of high deprivation, researchers have said, as figures reveal the gap in England between some pupils and their wealthier peers widened by 46% in the school year severely disrupted by the coronavirus lockdown.

As the school year begins for most pupils in England and Wales, the authoritative study by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), based on interviews with more than 3,000 teachers and heads at more than 2,000 schools, revealed that disadvantaged and black and minority ethnic (BAME) children had gone backwards compared with their better-off peers since March.

While the average learning lost was three months for all pupils, according to teachers, more than half of pupils at schools in the most deprived areas lost four months or more, compared with just 15% of those in the least deprived areas.

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Struggling schools must find cash for £216million bill to keep our kids safe

Heads will have to pay the £216million cost of making schools safe for pupils to return this week. Staff fear they will have to raid cash meant for teaching.

One union boss said: “The Government should cover these costs.” Teachers’ leaders say that England’s 21,622 schools - already cash-strapped after a decade of austerity - are each spending an average £10,000 to prepare.

They have called on the Government to cover the costs - warning that the “short-sighted” decision means schools will be forced to use educational budgets to balance books.

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Met pauses recruitment after hitting target of 1,300 extra officers

The force has recruited 1,369 officers this financial year, bringing the workforce to around 32,800 officers. It has now paused its recruitment until early 2021.

The number of officers retiring or resigning also slowed during the pandemic with the result that there were fewer vacancies to fill, it said.

The force also confirmed that 45 officers have returned to the force following the management appeal for ex-officers to rejoin to help police the pandemic in the capital.

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Police put on a 'show of strength' against Extinction Rebellion as fortnight of disruption begins

Police put on a “show of strength” against Extinction Rebellion on Tuesday, arresting at least 90 protesters as officers contained a demonstration to Parliament Square.

Around 3,000 activists descended on Westminster on Tuesday morning where they formed a blockade - beating drums and waving flags - in front of traffic around parliament.

It was hoped the event would cause the maximum disruption possible on the first day MPs were due back in the House of Commons after the summer recess.

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The feel good factor

TeamPolice is a new joint-venture by Ethos and Police Sport UK. PSUK is in the process of becoming a registered charity and is the body responsible for supporting all sporting activities across the UK. It reaches a potential membership of over 300,000 serving police officers, police staff, retired officers and staff, and plays a major role in providing social and recreational activities for the membership.

This scheme is run by the police, for the police and the aim of this collaboration is to raise funds for PSUK. TeamPolice do this by offering a unique annual membership scheme, in which companies become sponsors to receive exclusive brand awareness opportunities. These funds then allow our police forces more opportunities to engage in sport and physical activity, in an effort to improve mental and physical wellbeing. Ethos have had previous success with a similar venture that worked to raise funds for TeamArmy. They focussed on raising funds for the british forces sport and managed to raise over £7million in net charitable donations. Ethos partnered with PSUK with the intention of replicating the success of TeamArmy with our UK police service.

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Government late to involve councils in coronavirus testing, report finds

Central government was late to consider how councils could help ramp up coronavirus testing in the early days of the crisis, according to a new think-tank report.

The report by the Institute for Government said some of the early problems with testing were ‘down to a lack of local input, for instance from regional public health directors, on key decisions’.

It highlighted that the Government had ‘not made basic decisions about a test and trace programme, like whether it would run contact tracing at a local or national level’ before health secretary Matt Hancock laid out a plan in early April to carry out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day.

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Recycling rates lower in England's poorest areas

Recycling rates for household waste are significantly lower in the most deprived areas of England, a Guardian analysis has found.

A breakdown of data from 303 local authorities in England has found that for 2018-19 85% of local authorities that are among the top 20% most deprived have household recycling rates below the overall average of 42%. By contrast, just one in five of the 20% least deprived areashave a below-average recycling rate.

Chaitanya Kumar, the head of environment and green transition at the New Economics Foundation, said the relationship between recycling rates and social deprivation was well established, but that the reasons were complex.

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Court ruling sets ‘major precedent’ for rights of foster care workers

Some foster care workers could be entitled to employment rights for the first time after a landmark legal ruling.

Edinburgh Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled that carers Jimmy and Christine Johnstone should have been entitled classified as employees and so were entitled to sick pay, holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and protections for whistleblowing.

After a long-running legal battle with Glasgow City Council, which began when the Johnstones raised serious safety concerns about a young person a number of years ago, a judge ruled that the couple’s arrangement to carry out care work amounted to a contract of employment.

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GB carbon emissions from electricity hit record low in lockdown – report

Carbon emissions from Britain’s electricity system plunged by more than a third during the coronavirus lockdown after renewable energy played its largest ever role helping to keep the lights on, according to a report.

During the spring bank holiday weekend in May, the energy grid’s carbon intensity reached a record low of 21 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour due to a slump in energy demand triggered by Britain’s lockdown measures and a surge in renewable energy.

The quarterly report, undertaken by Imperial College London for Drax, one of the UK’s largest power generators, found that lockdown measures caused Britain’s electricity demand to fall by 13% in the second quarter, compared with the same months last year, which helped the share of renewables to grow by a third to 40% of the energy mix.

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Robert Jenrick backs housing algorithm as Tory MPs fear threat to suburbs

Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, is standing by plans to bring an algorithm into the heart of a new planning system, but does not rule out “tweaking it” to soothe anger on the Conservative back benches about its potential impact on the suburbs.

This month Jenrick, 38, launched a plan to build more than 300,000 homes a year, giving councils compulsory targets and creating local zones in which development is automatically approved.

The plan will use an algorithm to produce targets for every area in England, based on its “relative affordability” and the extent of development locally.

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Homelessness among prison leavers ‘will rise as Covid support ends’

Homelessness among prison leavers could increase sharply as additional support introduced by the UK government at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic is brought to an end, charities have warned.

From Monday, additional funding to support the provision of accommodation for all individuals released from prison in England and Wales at risk of homelessness will come to an end.

Figures released by the Ministry of Justice previously showed that 840 men, 89 women and 85 young adults aged 18 to 24 in England and Wales were released into rough sleeping or other forms of homelessness between 23 March, when the lockdown was imposed, and 30 April.

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£500billion cost of ghost town Britain: Staggering hit to economy in next four years if workers stay away from office, study finds

Almost half a trillion pounds could be wiped off the UK economy over the next four years if workers fail to return to offices, analysis for The Mail on Sunday shows.

Douglas McWilliams, the former chief economic adviser to the Confederation of British Industry, warns that if home working continues in its current form the economy will not return to its pre-pandemic size until 2025. That would mean £480billion of lost output, or possibly more.

Home working has become controversial as firms such as PwC and Schroders unveil flexible working plans that would see most staff never return to the office full-time.

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Matt Hancock warns of extensive lockdowns

England could face nationwide restrictions and very extensive local lockdowns in the event of a second wave of coronavirus this winter, the health secretary has warned.

Matt Hancock said that under a “reasonable worst-case scenario” Britain could find itself contending with a surge in coronavirus and a bad outbreak of seasonal flu as people spent more time indoors.

In an interview with The Times he said that a second wave of Covid-19 was “avoidable but it’s not easy” and that the return of children to schools next week presented challenges in stopping the spread.

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Single unitary authorities could save up to £3bn over five years

Single unitary councils in England could deliver £3bn in savings over five years, according to a report commissioned by the County Council Network.

The report, compiled by advisory firm PwC said the cumulative transitional costs of creating a single unitary authority in each of the current 25 tier two authorities would be around £421m. However, this would be offset by national savings of up to £3bn over five years.

PwC said the savings could be generated by reducing duplication across front and back office functions and senior management, reductions in property costs and through the more effective management of supply chains.

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Officials and ministers urged to trust local experts to tackle Covid-19 outbreaks

Whitehall officials and Government ministers were urged to trust council public health experts to tackle local Covid-19 outbreaks. Town hall leaders told a cross-party group of MPs and peers that experts on the ground knew their areas better than London-based chiefs.

Giving evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, the Local Government Association's Ian Hudspeth said: “Local is good.

“As we move into the next phase, the urge is to say to Government – 'Trust local councils to deliver, we are ready and able and know our areas. One size doesn't fit everybody. Give us some space and give us responsibility – and, of course, the funding'.”

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Tory critics force ministers to review planning formula

Ministers are reviewing an algorithm at the centre of planning reforms after a backlash from Tory MPs.

Under the changes to planning laws, local discretion over the rate of housebuilding will be removed and central government will “distribute” an annual target, at present 337,000 a year, between local councils that will be required to designate enough land to meet the target.

Analysis by Lichfields, a planning consultancy, has suggested that outside London much of the new housing will be concentrated in Conservative local authority areas in the suburbs and the shires, rather than in town centres.

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Payment for people on low incomes who must self-isolate

Workers on low incomes in parts of England where there are high rates of coronavirus will be able to claim up to £182 if they have to self-isolate.

From Tuesday, those who claim Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit and cannot work from home will be able to get the money - equal to £13 a day. The benefit will be trialled in parts of north-west England first.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said the payment "goes nowhere near far enough", adding people need "full pay". Employed or self-employed people who test positive for the virus are required to isolate for 10 days, so those eligible for the extra money will get £130.

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LGPS funds to be given ability to review contribution rates

Local Government Pensions Schemes will be given greater flexibility to review contributions rates under new proposals from the government following Covid-19.

The proposals were outlined in a partial government response to a consultation published, following representations from administering authorities and employers on how the pandemic has affected LGPS funds.

The government said the amendments to the regulations include allowing administering authorities to review the contributions of an employer if there have been changes to the employer’s liabilities.

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Test and trace success rate at record low after mystery glitch

The proportion of infected Covid-19 patients successfully contacted by the government’s test and trace system has hit a record low, according to figures which also show that a mystery “infrastructure issue” has caused delays.

In the week ending July 22, 82.8 per cent of those who tested positive were reached by test and trace call handlers, but this proportion has now fallen for five consecutive weeks and stood at 72.6 per cent for the week commencing August 13.

It falls well below the 80 per cent threshold deemed necessary by scientists for the system to be effective. Of those who were contacted, only 69.7 per cent were reached within 24 hours.

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English city mayors say Covid rules keeping homeless off streets must be extended

The Labour and Conservative mayors of Greater Manchester and the West Midlands respectively have called on the government to guarantee that everyone who is homeless gets temporary accommodation over the next 12 months, regardless of their immigration status.

In an interview with the homeless charity Crisis, Andy Burnham and Andy Street said the UK needed a reset of homelessness policy and emergency homelessness legislation should provide safe accommodation throughout the outbreak.

It comes as winter approaches and fears of a second wave of coronavirus have been raised. Figures show some 20,000 households in England have been made homeless during the pandemic despite a nationwide eviction ban, which is due to expire on 20 September.

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Primary pupils' learning gap widens for first time since 2007

The learning gap between rich and poor primary age pupils in England has widened for the first time since 2007, analysis of government data suggests.

And figures for both primary and secondary education show progress in helping poorer pupils catch up has stalled overall.

The figures, from 2019, show the shift began even before the pandemic, says the Education Policy Institute.

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Ditch truancy fines, say doctors

As the first pupils in England return to school, psychiatrists say truancy fines should be dropped amid a Covid-related spike in mental health issues.

More than 250 psychiatrists have written to the education secretary saying a forced return to school will hit pupils with anxiety hard.

Pupils in Leicestershire and Leicester are the first to return to regular school since schools shut in March.

Some of these areas were under local lockdown restrictions until recently.

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Scrap fines for school non-attendance in England, say psychiatrists

Hundreds of psychiatrists have urged the government not to fine families for refusing to send their children to school in England, warning of anxiety if young people are asked to return to classrooms before they are ready.

In a letter to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, the chair of the faculty of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Bernadka Dubicka, said: “The threat of fines could force parents of children who feel anxious to send them back to school, even if they’re not ready.

“This could have serious consequences on their mental health, especially if they are worried about family shielding. Fines could bring more financial stress on families as we’re entering a recession, severely affecting children’s and parents’ mental health.” The letter was signed by 250 child and adolescent psychiatrists.

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Warnings of 'ghost towns' if staff do not return to the office

City centres could become "ghost towns" if the prime minister does not do more to encourage workers to go back to the office, the head of the CBI says.

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn said allowing staff to work from home had helped keep firms afloat during the pandemic. But as offices stood empty, thousands of local businesses that relied on the passing trade were suffering, she said.

In July, the government dropped its formal advice that people should work from home if possible. At the time, Boris Johnson told people to "start to go back to work now if you can".

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Heads want to know if masks allowed in school

Head teachers have complained about a lack of clarity over the rules on whether teachers or pupils can wear face masks in schools in England. They want to know if they can override the official guidance which rejects the use of face coverings in school.

"The guidance is silent on what schools should do if staff or pupils want to wear face coverings," says Geoff Barton of the ASCL head teachers' union.

It comes as head teachers in England have written a letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, seen by the Guardian, accusing the government of failing to listen during the coronavirus crisis.

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Housebuilding algorithm unfair to towns and cities, Boris Johnson told

Boris Johnson has been warned that an algorithm at the heart of his planning reforms is at risk of “levelling down” city and town centres.

Under the changes to planning laws, local discretion over the rate of housebuilding will be removed and central government will “distribute” an annual target, at present 337,000 a year, among local councils. They will then be required to designate enough land to meet the target.

Analysis by Lichfields, a planning consultancy, has suggested that outside London much of the new housing will be concentrated in Conservative local authority areas in the suburbs and the shires, rather than in town centres.

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Coronavirus: Birmingham council to get power to shut businesses

A council will be given the power to close pubs and restaurants that do not follow Covid-19 rules.

Birmingham City Council will be allowed to take enforcement action against businesses that fail to comply - in a bid to drive infection rates down.

The city is on a government watch list after a spike in cases, but latest figures show numbers are falling.

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Boris Johnson says it is ‘vitally important’ to get children back to school

Boris Johnson has sought to assure parents that the risk of children getting Covid-19 as they return to school is “very, very, very small”.

In a video posted on Twitter, the Prime Minister said: “It’s absolutely vital that pupils get back into school in September. “It’s vital for their education, it’s vital for their welfare, it’s vital for their physical, and indeed, their mental wellbeing. So let’s make sure that all kids, all pupils, get back to school at the beginning of September.”

Many pupils in England have not been to class since March when schools were closed except to look after vulnerable children and those of keyworkers.

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Care homes ‘ordered not to resuscitate’ as coronavirus pandemic took hold

Care homes were asked to introduce blanket “do not resuscitate” orders for all residents at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, it has been claimed.

The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI), a charity promoting community nursing, found that one in ten care homes were ordered to introduce the measure without discussion with staff, family members or the residents. It was intended to help keep hospital beds free.

Half of staff members who said that they had been asked to change DNRs worked in homes for people with learning or cognitive disabilities. The other half worked in homes for the elderly.

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Schools in England will have to provide remote learning if closed again

Schools in England could be forced to close again if stricter local lockdown measures are needed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, but teachers must prepare remote learning for pupils, Downing Street has said.

Boris Johnson spoke of a “moral duty” to get children back into education after five months of absence and said the risk of picking up the virus in schools was small.

Outbreaks around schools would be dealt with by deploying mobile testing units, testing staff and potentially isolating some pupils or groups, Downing Street said.

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Councils scrapping use of algorithms in benefit and welfare decisions

Councils are quietly scrapping the use of computer algorithms in helping to make decisions on benefit claims and other welfare issues, the Guardian has found, as critics call for more transparency on how such tools are being used in public services.

It comes as an expert warns the reasons for cancelling programmes among government bodies around the world range from problems in the way the systems work to concerns about bias and other negative effects.

Most systems are implemented without consultation with the public, but critics say this must change. The use of artificial intelligence or automated decision-making has come into sharp focus after an algorithm used by the exam regulator Ofqual downgraded almost 40% of the A-level grades assessed by teachers.

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Bailiffs return but are told not to shout

Bailiffs resuming operations in England and Wales are being told to keep their voices down to protect against coronavirus transmission. They will be chasing unpaid council tax after a five-month suspension.

Debt charities have warned of a surge in cases, prompting financial and health risks but a trade body for the sector said vital public services would be affected if councils were unable to collect money that has been owed for months.

Part of the government guidance on bailiffs working under the current risk of coronavirus is for them to "avoid unduly raising their voice".

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Local government pay deal agreed

Under the agreement, staff with less than five years’ service will also see their holiday rise from 21 days a year to 22. The pay deal has also been accepted on behalf of local government chief executives and chief officers.

Unison staff in the local government sector voted two to one (66%) in favour of the 2020/21 pay award, which will apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It comes after 76% of GMB members accepted the offer – while 70% of unite members rejected it.

The union’s national joint council committee said the offer - which amounts to £1.83 a day - ‘fell far short’ of the 10% claim and ‘did not properly reward key workers for their exceptional contributions throughout the pandemic’.

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Schools let down by lack of 'plan B', says union

The National Education Union (NEU) accused the government of letting down pupils, teachers and parents by failing to have a "plan B" if infections rise.

Millions of pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are due to return to school in the coming days and weeks. In Scotland, schools have already reopened.

Meanwhile, a further six deaths have been announced in the UK, bringing the total number of people to have died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus to 41,429.

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We will see 'real problems' with COVID-19 this winter, chief medical officer says

England's chief medical officer has warned it is unlikely there will be an "effective and safe" coronavirus vaccine before the winter of 2021.

Professor Chris Whitty said this winter would see "real problems" with COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, and that the UK should assume no vaccine would be available.

Instead, he said there was a "reasonable chance" that a vaccine could be available for winter of 2021-22.

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London councils take funds from developers to pay for planning guidelines

Councils have accepted hundreds of thousands of pounds from property developers to fund planning guidelines designed to help govern their own schemes, a Guardian analysis has found.

In deals that have been criticised for allowing unfair influence and marginalising local residents, bodies including housing developers, landowners and urban regeneration companies paid large sums to draft supplementary planning documents (SPDs), which councillors must then consider when determining planning applications.

The planning documents subsequently published set out major and potentially lucrative development strategies for the sites in which they have an interest. The payments are not declared in the documents.

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Extension on eviction ban to be announced today, LBC understands

An extension to the ban on court eviction proceedings could be announced as early as today, LBC understands.

The current ban on eviction cases being heard in court is due to expire on Sunday 23 August, prompting concerns that almost 300,000 households could face eviction in the coming weeks.

The ban was first announced on 18 March which was then extended to 5th June with ministers confirming eviction cases would resume in courts from 24 August.

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Row erupts over county’s plans for Greater Essex combined authority

Plans being worked up by Essex CC to carve the county into multiple unitaries and a combined authority have drawn the wrath of some district leaders, who accuse it of “pushing a dead duck before it’s out the gate”.

Unlike other counties such as Surrey and Hampshire that are seeking to form a single super-unitary, Essex CC is proposing forming two to four unitaries out of its existing 12 districts and the unitaries of Thurrock Council and Southend-on-Sea BC, which were historically part of the county.

Essex claims there is consensus among councils to work together on the development of proposals, but two district council leaders have claimed that at least two-thirds of Greater Essex councils are opposed to the plans.

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Wakefield’s chief asks for early retirement ‘with heavy heart’

Wakefield MDC’s chief executive Merran McRae has requested early retirement as she continues with cancer treatment.

A full council meeting will be held on 2 September at which councillors will be asked to approve Ms McRae’s request and to recommend the appointment of Andrew Balchin, corporate director for adults, health and communities, as her interim replacement.

In a tweet, Ms McRae said: “I haven’t left yet! I’ve asked for early retirement due to continuing treatment for cancer but will be around until decision is made & inbox completed.”

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Almost half of all mets consider hiring freeze this year

Approaching half of metropolitan councils say they are considering a recruitment freeze amid growing indications of the impact of Covid-19's impact on local government finances.

The Local Government Association's latest workforce survey showed 44% of met respondents saying they are currently considering a recruitment freeze and none hiring more staff overall.

In comparison, 24% of London boroughs, 25% of English unitaries, 11% of districts and 7% of county respondents said they are considering a freeze on all hiring during the current financial year.

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Homeless children hit 14-year high as 130,000 stuck in B&Bs and temporary shelter

The number of homeless children has hit a 14-year high - with almost 130,000 stuck in B&Bs and temporary shelter.

Devastating new figures show there were 129,380 children living in temporary accommodation in England on March 31. The number is up 3.1% on last year and is the highest quarterly figure recorded since summer 2006.

More than two-thirds of all people stuck in temporary accommodation - a measure of homeless - have dependent children living with them.

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UK government debt hits £2tn for first time

UK government debt has risen above £2 trillion for the first time amid heavy spending to support the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Spending on measures such as the furlough scheme means the debt figure now equals the value of everything the UK produces in a year.

Ruth Gregory, senior UK economist at Capital Economics, said July's borrowing figure was "another huge sum and pushes borrowing in the year to date to £150.5bn".

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UK inflation rises to 1% in July as lockdown eases

UK consumer price inflation jumped to 1% in July from 0.6% in June as lockdown measures eased further.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the figure was boosted by rising petrol and clothing prices.

"In addition, prices for private dental treatment, physiotherapy and haircuts have increased with the need for PPE contributing to costs," the ONS said.

The rise, which surprised economists, will mean a bigger increase in some rail fares from January.

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IFS warns of financial pressure on councils as a result of Covid crisis

Financial pressures on councils as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic will continue into the next year “and beyond”, it has been suggested.

A new report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) indicates that the crisis is pushing up councils’ spending and reducing their locally-sourced incomes by billions of pounds.

The document, produced by IFS researchers and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Local Government Association, suggests that councils’ forecasts of the spending and non-tax income pressures resulting from the crisis will exceed the additional funding made available this year by around £2 billion.

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IFS warns of financial pressure on councils as a result of Covid crisis

Financial pressures on councils as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic will continue into the next year “and beyond”, it has been suggested.

A new report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) indicates that the crisis is pushing up councils’ spending and reducing their locally-sourced incomes by billions of pounds.

The document, produced by IFS researchers and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Local Government Association, suggests that councils’ forecasts of the spending and non-tax income pressures resulting from the crisis will exceed the additional funding made available this year by around £2 billion.

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Council tax changes are ‘needed now’ as payment debts reach £3.6billion

Council tax changes are needed desperately according to the Money Advice Trust. This is largely due to new official figures which have revealed that arrears have reached unprecedented levels.

New official figures have revealed that £3.6billion in council tax was owed before the coronavirus outbreak.

This was an increase of £345million when compared to the previous year and could be made worse by the pandemic.

The Money Advice Trust responded to the figures, urging the government to make changes to the way local authorities are able to collect council tax debt.

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Coronavirus: UK to ramp up coronavirus monitoring programme

Coronavirus tests are to be carried out on more people to get a better idea of how many are infected at any one time.

The Office for National Statistics' Infection Survey will test 150,000 people a fortnight in England by October, up from 28,000 now.

The survey is separate from the mass testing programme of people with symptoms, as it aims to take a random sample of the general population.

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English councils face £2bn black hole from coroanvrius

The Institute for Fiscal Studies’ (IFS) new report said Covid-19 has depleted local government revenues and many “face a difficult choice between depleting their reserves to low and potentially risky levels or cutting spending on important local services”.

Central government has already provided £5.2bn for English councils to cope during the coronavirus crisis. However, the IFS found local authorities expect to spend £4.4bn more than expected on the pandemic and will make £2.2bn more of losses than expected.

The IFS estimates that 40 per cent of councils would not be able to balance their budget after using all their reserves. Local Government Association chair James Jamieson called for central government to cover all costs pressures for the country’s local authorities.

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BTEC results delayed over 'unfairness' concerns less than 24 hours before grades due out

Students set to receive their BTEC results on Thursday will no longer do so after a change in the system less than 24 hours before grades were due out.

Schools and colleges have been told not to issue the results of the vocational and technical qualification following a last-minute U-turn on grading.

Exam board Pearson wrote to education leaders expressing concerns about "unfairness" in the system in light of the government's similar 11th hour U-turn on A-level grades last week.

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Northumberland council faces '£5.5m claim' over virus-halted work

The temporary shutdown of a building project during the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a multi-million pound claim against a council-owned company.

Work on a £30m energy park in Blyth was mostly halted in late March by Advance Northumberland, a regeneration company owned by the Conservative-led council. It has emerged that site contractor Farrans has launched a claim for losses, thought to be worth £5.5m.

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Casey leaves rough sleeping advisory role

Louise Casey has left her role as chair of the government’s rough sleeping taskforce, it has emerged.

The former civil servant whose appointment to the House of Lords was announced on 31 July revealed in a letter to sector leaders, seen by LGC, that she has “stepped back” from her advisory role on rough sleeping, which she took on as the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

“Accepting the Crossbench peerage is also a big deal to me and I want to think about how best I can make my contribution to public service from there,” Baroness Casey writes. “So for a number of reasons this seemed like the right moment to step back, especially as the country looks to gear up to the ‘new normal'."

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Thousands of migrants denied help in the pandemic

As lockdown hit, migrants across the nation who often work in casual and low-paid roles saw their jobs disappear or incomes slashed.

But unlike the rest of the country, they have no welfare safety net to fall back on, because a controversial immigration policy known as No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) means they cannot access benefits.

Recently-released government figures show that applications to the Home Office for the ban to be lifted rose by more than 500% during lockdown compared with the first three months of the year.

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Home Office uses 4,000 hotel rooms to cope with migrants

The Home Office has booked 4,000 hotel rooms to house asylum seekers to deal with a surge in cross-Channel migrants and the impact of the pandemic.

There is a shortage of permanent accommodation where asylum seekers can live while their claims are assessed.

Hotels in Birmingham, Hull, Southport, Nottingham and Glasgow have been used. It is not clear how many rooms are occupied by asylum seekers but it is thought to be thousands.

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Link between polluted air and COVID-19 deaths revealed

People were more likely to die from COVID-19 in highly polluted areas in England at the start of the pandemic, new research has found.

Analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found a correlation between pollution and mortality.

However, it found this levelled off in early Mary and can partly be attributed to the outbreak in London where pollution levels are generally higher than the rest of the country.

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Labour calls for evictions ban to be extended

The ban on evictions in England should be extended in order to prevent a "homelessness crisis", Labour has said.

The government introduced the ban in March to help those financially hit by the coronavirus lockdown.

Homeless charity Shelter estimates 227,000 private renters have fallen into arrears since the pandemic and could lose their homes when the ban on evictions is lifted on 23 August.

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Child migrants to be sent away from Kent as council reaches capacity

Unaccompanied child migrants arriving in Kent will be looked after by Border Force until accommodation is found outside the county.

Kent County Council has said it cannot look after any more under-18s after a rise in new arrivals in recent months.

Asylum-seeking minors who arrive alone will stay at a Border Force facility in Dover before being sent into local authority care, the Home Office said.

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Heated row between district and county leaders casts doubt on devo work

A bitter row during a remote meeting that ended abruptly when four district leaders logged off in disgust has cast doubt on work to reorganise local government in Lancashire and form a county-wide mayoral combined authority.

All 15 council leaders in Lancashire agreed in June in principle to explore a combined authority and to explore other models of governance arrangements, after four years of discussions had failed to achieve consensus.

The county council is now preparing an outline business case to support the formation of three Lancashire unitaries to join a county-wide mayoral combined authority, which it hopes to put to government by the end of this month before the anticipated launch of the devolution and recovery white paper in September.

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GMB votes to accept 2.75% pay offer

Members of the GMB union have voted to accept the local government 2.75% pay offer, with three-quarters of them backing it.

This comes after it was announced yesterday that Unite members had rejected the offer.

Unison, the last of the big three unions to put the offer to their members, is expected to declare its ballot result later this week.

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Councils advised to avoid term ‘lockdown’

Experts have advised councils to avoid using the term ‘lockdown’ when discussing the reinstatement of coronavirus restrictions.

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) warned that using the ‘punitive and stigmatising term’ could undermine the effectiveness of restrictions.

It said a sense of ‘shared adversity and collective spirit’ was required, while ‘feelings of isolation, fear, anger, stigmatisation and shame’ would deter people from adhering to the restrictions.

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MPs warn of 'wave of homelessness' when eviction ban ends

England could see "a new wave of homelessness" when a ban on evictions ends later this month, MPs have warned. The ban was introduced in March as part of emergency legislation to protect those hit financially by the pandemic.

Amid fears that evictions may lead to more homeless, 21 MPs have urged the government to guarantee council funds to house rough sleepers for a year.

Last month the Welsh Government stated that for evictions issued on or after 24 July this year, a six-month notice period would apply, with the exception of cases relating to anti-social behaviour.

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UK's £37bn July house-buying boom sees busiest month of sales in a decade

More than £37bn worth of property sales were agreed in July - the busiest month for home buying for 10 years, according to property website Rightmove.

The spike follows a suspension of the housing market during the coronavirus lockdown, but also coincides with the UK plunging into a recession.

Rightmove said the average asking price for a house in the UK in August stood at £319,497, down by around 0.2% from July's £320,265 - which was a record high.

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Lockdown ‘will mean fewer healthy years for many’

The impact of the lockdown and the ensuing recession will cause a greater loss of quality of life than Covid-19 itself, according to a government report.

The report, issued by the Department of Health and Social Care, estimates the number of lost “quality-adjusted life years”, or Qalys: a standard measure used to evaluate the impact of a health intervention. A Qaly is equivalent to one year in perfect health.

Although coronavirus is expected to result in the loss of 570,000 Qalys in the UK, the long-term legacy of the lockdown will lead to the loss of 812,000 because of deaths caused by heart disease and distress caused by mental health issues and musculo-skeletal disorders.

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Unite members reject 'insulting' council pay offer

The union has called the offer 'unrealistic and iinsulting' arguing it amounts to just £1.83 a day.

The union said it now expects a de facto imposition of the 2.75% offer and would be pressing for local pay deals after 70% of its members rejected it.

Unite national officer for local government, Jim Kennedy, said: 'Unite will continue to be the champion and voice of our local government heroes and will move to submitting local claims to address the long hours, culture.

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Recycling rage sparks a 40% rise in attacks on bin workers

Attacks on refuse workers by angry members of the public have increased by 40 per cent — with staff being stabbed, bitten and even shot.

Physical assaults totalled 156 last year, up from 111 in the year before, a freedom of information request to councils has revealed. Many involved householders left irate over the rules about how waste must be collected.

Some workers were threatened with metal bars or knives in such disputes — including one employee in Thanet, Kent, who found that a green recycling bin was contaminated with other rubbish. They were faced by a resident holding a Rambo-style blade, who said: ‘Are you sure you don’t want to take this?’

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Dido Harding to run agency replacing Public Health England

Dido Harding, a Conservative peer who heads up England’s widely criticised test-and-trace system, has been chosen to run a new institute to replace Public Health England, after the controversial decision to axe the agency.

Harding will be named as the chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, which will be charged with preventing future outbreaks of infectious diseases, despite the poor performance of NHS test and trace, which she has led since May.

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Kent unable to take in more unaccompanied child refugees, council says

Kent county council has said it is unable to look after any more unaccompanied child refugees who arrive in Dover, because it has reached the limits of its capacity to provide safe care for them.

The council said social workers and other professionals who provide care and support for this vulnerable group of children had been put under “impossible strain”.

More than 4,300 refugees, including children, are thought to have crossed the Channel in small boats between 1 January and 11 August this year, compared with 857 in the same period last year.

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Calls to extend free school meals to children from migrant families

Pupils from low-income migrant families should receive free school meals to prevent thousands of children from going hungry, 60 organisations have said.

The Government temporarily extended the free school meals to children in some families affected by the no recourse to public funds (NRPF) condition. However, the 60 organisations are concerned thousands of children will lose out when this help is withdrawn.

Research by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford shows that more than 175,000 non-EEA citizens under age 18 lived in families affected by the NRPF condition.

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Ministers have just seven days to prevent a ‘wave of evictions’, MPs and charities warn

MPs and charities have issued an urgent plea for the government to extend the ban on evictions amid fears tens of thousands of renters could be kicked out of their homes after the moratorium expires in just seven days’ time.

One national housing organisation warned inaction from ministers – coupled with an unprecedented recession – could result in many facing the “trauma” of being evicted over the autumn and winter months.

The government confirmed last month that the ban, which was introduced at the start of the pandemic to protect tenants during the crisis, would end on 23 August for England and Wales, despite pleas for a further extension.

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Boris Johnson accused of ‘cynical broken promise’ as some foreign NHS and care staff still pay surcharge

Some NHS and care workers will still pay the “immigration surcharge”, prompting an accusation that Boris Johnson’s pledge to exempt them is “a cynical broken promise”.

The controversial fees will be levied if staff take a different job within six months – hitting lower-paid cleaners, porters and carers, especially on zero-hours contracts, it is feared.

The prime minister made no mention of the loophole when he was forced, in May, to grant the exemption, after The Independent exposed the home secretary Priti Patel’s phoney “review” into the controversy.

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Hancock axes ‘failing’ Public Health England

Public Health England (PHE) is to be scrapped and replaced by a new body specifically designed to protect the country against a pandemic by early next month, the Telegraph can disclose.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will this week announce a merger of the pandemic response work of PHE with NHS Test and Trace into a new body, called the National Institute for Health Protection, modelled on Germany's Robert Koch Institute.

The Health Secretary, who returns to work after a UK holiday this week, wants to give PHE's replacement time to be set up before a feared surge in coronavirus cases this autumn.

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NHS chiefs’ plea: we need more cash for ‘winter risk’

NHS chiefs are calling for the funding settlement unveiled by Theresa May to be drastically renegotiated, as they warn the service is already at increased risk this winter thanks to a shortage of resources.

The settlement, announced in 2018, promised an average budget increase of 3.4% per year for the next five years, leading to an extra £20bn for the NHS in England in 2023.

However, significant long-term costs created by the Covid-19 pandemic, combined with Tory manifesto pledges for new hospitals and higher staff numbers, mean that NHS figures will push for a major increase in funding at a spending review, scheduled for later this year.

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Birmingham 'can't drop guard' as infections double

The city council has warned "we cannot afford to drop our guard" as the weekly number rose from 13.8 per 100,000 people to 28.1, with 321 new cases. In neighbouring Sandwell - which was previously identified as an area of concern by Public Health England (PHE) - rates have dropped to below 20.

In a joint statement on Friday with six other councils in the West Midlands - Coventry, Sandwell, Solihull, Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton - Birmingham City Council urged people and businesses to remain alert to the risks of coronavirus.

It also said, with thousands of university students expected to return to the region next month, social distancing would be fundamental to preventing campus outbreaks.

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Firms 'fall through cracks' of Covid support scheme

Frustrated small business owners say red tape is preventing them getting hold of government cash designed to keep them afloat during the pandemic.

More than £12bn was given to local authorities to pass on to eligible small businesses across England, but nearly £1.5bn remains unclaimed. One entrepreneur said accessing the cash had been like "banging your head against the wall".

Gina Broadhurst, co-founder of Forgotten Ltd, a campaign group set up to help businesses, said many firms had "fallen through the cracks". "We're at a critical point where for businesses to survive and to be able to continue to employ millions of people, cash support is needed.

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Theatres, casinos and bowling alleys reopen as more beauty treatments resume

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had initially planned to ease the lockdown on 1 August, but a spike in coronavirus cases at the time resulted in the measures being pushed back for two weeks.

While some restrictions are being loosened, people returning to or visiting the UK from France will now have to quarantine for two weeks after infections surged across the Channel.

Travellers from the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks & Caicos and Aruba will also face a two-week quarantine.

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Migrant children face hunger over free school meal restrictions

Thousands of children from migrant families are at risk of hunger when schools reopen in the UK unless the free meal provision is extended, according to a group of 60 organisations.

The Children’s Society, Action for Children, Project 17 and Unison are among the organisations that have written to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, calling on him to extend free school meals to pupils from low-income migrant families classed as having “no recourse to public funds”.

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Children made up just 1% of COVID-19 cases in England in first peak - study

Children under 16 made up just 1% of coronavirus cases in the first peak of the virus in England, despite accounting for around 19% of the population, according to a new study.

Authors of the study, led by Public Health England (PHE), said it provides further proof of the "limited role of children" in the COVID-19 pandemic.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson presses ahead with his plans for all children to return to school full-time in England next month as the coronavirus lockdown is eased.

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Almost a third of buildings with Grenfell-style cladding yet to undergo removal work

Almost a third of the buildings still wrapped in Grenfell-style flammable cladding have yet to undergo work to remove it, figures have shown.

A nationwide safety operation was launched in the wake of the 2017 disaster after the aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding blamed for fuelling the inferno was found on hundreds of buildings.

It has so far been identified on 458 high-rise residential and publicly owned buildings, an increase of three since the end of June, the latest Government data revealed.

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UK firms face up to threat of domestic abuse as more staff work from home

The tragic story of a manager who tried and failed to save his employee from domestic abuse has stayed with Elizabeth Filkin. “He did his best, but he didn’t know what else to do,” she says.

Filkin, the director of Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse, a business network that raises awareness of the crime, says the manager offered support to his employee after becoming concerned that she was being abused. He said he would go to the police with her, but she said she had a plan in place and was fine.

A few days later the woman’s partner killed her after he discovered she was planning to leave. “It was devastating for that manager, and all of the employees,” says Filkin, whose network has enlisted more than 60 firms since lockdown began

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Unauthorised camping and littering in Britain's beauty spots increase as holidaymakers seek 'staycations'

Unauthorised camping in Britain's national parks has increased significantly this summer as more people seeking 'staycation' summer holidays are finding camping sites full.

But the National Parks Authority and the National Trust warn that they have seen a dramatic increase in discarded equipment and litter being left behind at beauty spots.

The effect is similar to that of flytipping and has now become known as 'flycamping'.

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Plans to end homelessness will ‘fail’ without funding

The Government’s pledge to end homelessness will fail unless services are fully funded in the upcoming spending review, the Salvation Army has warned.

In a new report, the charity said investing in homelessness will prevent spiralling costs in the future, such as expensive temporary accommodation that costs local authorities close to £1bn a year.

The report - Future-Proof the Roof - makes a number of recommendations including an investment of £686m annually to tackle homelessness. It also calls for improved data collection, maintaining levels of investments even if rough sleeping figures are stable, and a steady supply of suitable homes.

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Ombudsman criticises council for lack of transport for SEN pupils

Buckinghamshire County Council has been criticised for its lack of suitable school transport for children with special educational needs.

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman was asked to investigate a complaint after the council told a mother they did not have the right school transport to meet her child’s specific needs and then only paid her for half of her daily journey.

The child, who has sensory difficulties and high levels of anxiety, was eligible for free school transport to get to the school eight miles away. However, as well as not having suitable transport, the council only paid her for two legs of her daily journey to her child’s special school.

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COVID-19 test reveals 6% of population infected by mid-July

The first report from the world’s largest home antibody testing programme tracking COVID-19 in England has found 6% of the population is infected with coronavirus.

Published today by Imperial College London, the study tracked the spread of infection following the first peak of the pandemic between 20 June and 13 July.

Over 100,000 volunteers tested themselves at home using a finger prick test to check if they have antibodies against the virus which causes COVID-19.

The findings indicate that 3.4 million people - 6% of the population - had already been infected by COVID-19 by 13 July 2020.

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UK officially in recession for first time in 11 years

The UK economy suffered its biggest slump on record between April and June as coronavirus lockdown measures pushed the country officially into recession.

The economy shrank 20.4% compared with the first three months of the year.

Household spending plunged as shops were ordered to close, while factory and construction output also fell.

This pushed the UK into its first technical recession - defined as two consecutive quarters of economic decline - since 2009.

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Undercover team finds pubs and bars ignoring COVID-19 guidance in area where cases are rising

Pubs and bars in England are ignoring COVID-19 guidance, potentially putting public health at risk, a Sky News investigation has found.

An undercover team visited a variety of hospitality venues in one Greater Manchester suburb, posing as walk-in customers.

Nine out of 10 venues visited were not following government guidance by asking for customer contact details.

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England's contact-tracing app gets green light for trial

England's revamped coronavirus contact-tracing app is set to begin public trials on Thursday.

The software will be based on Apple and Google's privacy-centric method of one smartphone detecting another.

Engineers are still trying to reduce how often the Bluetooth-based tech wrongly flags people as being within 2m (6.6ft) of each other.

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Majority of office-based staff ‘will still be working from home at Christmas’

Nearly three in four council staff believe that most of their authority’s employees will still be working from home by Christmas, and almost nine out of 10 believe their council will require less office space as a long-term consequence of the pandemic, LGC’s latest survey on the impact of Covid has revealed.

Although the prime minister is expecting employers to start asking staff who can to return safely to their offices safely, our survey shows that in the local government sector, the vast majority believe the switch to working from home is a permanent trend.

Only 11% of council respondents expect 80% or more of their staff to be back in the office even if Covid-19 has been eliminated, and 72% claim that most of their authority’s employees will still be working from home by Christmas.

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6,000 contact tracers will be cut in England in the next two weeks

The number of national contact tracers will be cut by 6,000 in the next two weeks with the remaining teams redeployed to local contact tracing groups, the Department of Health has said.

Under the new approach, local authorities and public health teams will have more responsibility to strengthen regional test and trace powers in England.

It comes after criticism that the national system was not tapping into local knowledge.

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Research reveals which cities hit hardest by unemployment levels

Aberdeen, Glasgow, Norwich and Slough had the largest increase in the number of unemployment claimants in the past month, new analysis has revealed.

The analysis of the latest employment statistics by Centre for Cities shows that those areas saw the number of claimants increase by 0.4% in the last month.

Overall, Luton, Slough and Blackpool were the cities and large towns that had the biggest rise in unemployment claims since March, the research found.

The briefing stated: 'All cities saw an increase in claimant counts compared to last month. While in between May and June the number of people claiming unemployment related benefits remained stable or slightly decreased in most places, numbers are now picking up once again. The monthly increase from June to July ranged from less than +0.1 percentage points in Derby, Mansfield and Warrington to +0.4 percentage points in Aberdeen, Slough and Glasgow.'

The figures from the Office for National Statistics reveals the biggest fall in employment in over a decade, with 730,000 fewer people in employment compared to March.

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One in three UK firms 'expect to make redundancies'

One in three UK employers expect to make staff redundant between July and September, a survey suggests.

The research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and recruiter Adecco shows a 50% jump in the number of employers expecting to cut jobs compared to three months ago.

In the private sector, 38% of firms plan to make redundancies, compared to 16% in the public sector.

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Coronavirus: Little evidence of Covid transmission in schools, says Williamson

There is little evidence of coronavirus being transmitted in schools, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has said.

Mr Williamson said the government was being guided by the best science as it accelerated plans to reopen schools to all pupils in England next month.

Government advisers have warned the nation may have reached the limit of what can be reopened in society safely.

But Mr Williamson suggested an upcoming study would support the government's position on reopening schools.

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Government extends emergency bus and tram funding

Local authorities have been given a £40m funding boost to increase home-to-school transport provision from September.

Councils will use the money to set up new dedicated school and college transport to ensure pupils can travel to school safely during the pandemic, without putting extra pressure on public transport.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said: 'While our public transport system has almost returned to full service, I know thousands of people will choose to get active and find alternative modes of transport, because with distancing measures still in place it is important that we all play our part to ensure everyone is able to get to school safely, and on time.

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Income guarantee scheme details awaited

Councils are still waiting for details of the Government’s much-heralded income guarantee scheme almost six weeks after it was announced.

Local authority chiefs are now not expecting the first payments to be made under the scheme until September at the earliest – two months after communities secretary Robert Jenrick said that where losses were more than 5% of a council’s planned income from sales, fees and charges, the Government would cover 75p for every pound lost.

A spokesman for London Councils said: ‘We’re still awaiting the detail of the fees and charges scheme, which is disappointing.

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Boroughs warn lost income scheme will only cover half of impact

The government’s scheme to support councils with income lost from sales, fees and charges as a result of coronavirus will only cover half of the impact on London boroughs, rather than the 71% implied by guidance, analysis shows.

The co-payment scheme was announced by communities secretary Robert Jenrick in July as part of what the government said was a "comprehensive plan" to put council finances on a sustainable footing in the wake of the pandemic. This also included an additional £500m support with additional costs, freedom to repay council tax and business rates deficits over three years instead of one, and a commitment to look at funding some of those tax losses at the spending review.

Full details of the co-payment scheme are still awaited but guidance issued by government so far says it will cover 75% of losses after the first 5%, compared with what councils had budgeted to receive in 2020-21. This is equivalent to around 71% of losses.

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Eat out to help out: More than 10.5m meals claimed in first week

Diners used the "eat out to help out" scheme more than 10.5 million times in its first week, the Treasury has said.

Under the scheme, which is intended to boost the struggling hospitality sector, the government pays for 50% of a meal eaten at a cafe, restaurant or pub on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

The government has set aside £500m to fund the policy and has already led to an increase in the number of people visiting High Streets across the country, according to Springboard, which measures footfall figures.

It said the number of people in retail destinations after 18:00 BST last Monday, the first day of the scheme, was 19% higher than the week before. Meanwhile lunchtime visits were up 10%.

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People with learning disabilities left stuck in lockdown because of cuts to social care

Seven in ten (69%) people with a learning disability had their social care cut when they needed it most, leaving many stuck in lockdown according to a survey of family carers by Mencap.

The video report can be seen following the link.

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Council test and trace teams to be rolled out

Local coronavirus test and trace teams are to be rolled out to all upper-tier English councils.

Dedicated, ring-fenced teams and data will be provided from the national service to get in touch with COVID-19 patients and contacts if the national team has been unsuccessful.

They will work alongside local public health officials to provide a 'more tailored service,’ the Government has announced.

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Government reaffirms support for LEPs

The Government has reaffirmed its support for local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) ahead of this autumn’s local recovery and devolution White Paper.

Some have suggested that LEPs could be for the chop in the White Paper after criticism of their effectiveness.

A report last week led by former chief of staff to Sajid Javid when he was local government secretary said LEPs lacked the ‘democratic mandate required to oversee billions of pounds of public money’.

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Union plans for schools to teach pupils on 'week on-week off' basis

Schools will teach pupils on a "week on-week off" basis if there is a resurgence of coronavirus, the head of a leading teaching union warned Boris Johnson on Sunday night.

The Prime Minister is due to visit a school on Monday, where he is expected to repeat his pledge that all pupils will be back in the classroom every day from the start of term next month.

The Government will also launch a PR campaign this week to reinforce the message. Mr Johnson has been keen to stress that reopening schools is a matter of social justice as well as integral to kickstarting the economy.

But on Sunday evening it emerged that schools are drawing up contingency plans which threaten to undermine the Prime Minister's pleas.

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Social care at breaking point in England after 'lost decade' – report

Policymakers’ failure to tackle chronically underfunded social care has resulted in a “lost decade” and a system now at breaking point, according to a report.

A team led by Jon Glasby, a professor of health and social care at the University of Birmingham, says that without swift government intervention including urgent funding changes England’s adult social care system could quickly become unsustainable.

Adult social care includes residential care homes and help with eating, washing, dressing and shopping. The paper says the impact has been particularly felt in services for older people. Those for working-age people have been less affected.

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Where to now? End of eviction ban leaves tenants fearing for future

After being furloughed from her job as a cleaning manager during lockdown, Denise (54)* is fearful about what the future holds. Her rent and bills add up to £1,000 which leaves her with just £150 a month for groceries, so she has had to rely on her local food bank.

“My landlady keeps harassing me as she wants me out,” says the mother-of-one. “I asked her if we could come to an agreement on the rent while we saw what happened. She went ballistic and demanded I pay it all. I’ve managed to keep paying in full but she’s still on at me to get out. You’re always one step away from eviction.”

Since March, Denise has been able to take some comfort from the protections provided by the government at the beginning of lockdown. As the economy ground to a halt, evictions were banned in England and Wales, allowing some breathing space for tenants who have struggled to pay the rent. But that protection is soon to come to an end in just over two weeks.

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UK enters recession

The economy will officially enter recession this week after tumbling by a record 20% in the second quarter.

The contraction follows the 2.2% fall in GDP in the first three months and will mean the UK meets the definition of recession by recording two successive quarters of decline. However, economists will look at data for the last month of the quarter, June, to gauge the speed of the upturn as the lockdown restrictions eased.

May’s GDP disappointed economists as it rose by only 1.8%. The consensus is for an 8% rise in June.

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Multi-million-pound funding package for school transport

Thousands of students will be supported with new dedicated school and college transport to get them to school or college in the autumn term, the Education Secretary said today.

Delivering on the national priority for all children and young people to return to full-time education in September, local transport authorities will receive more than £40 million funding for the autumn term.

This funding will help them create extra capacity and allow hundreds of thousands more students to use alternatives to public transport, while social distancing measures remain in place. We will review further arrangements in the future should it be necessary.

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Over half of workforce in county areas 'at risk' due to pandemic

Over half the workforce in England's county areas work in sectors ‘at risk’ due to the coronavirus crisis, research has warned today.

The report, from Grant Thornton UK LLP for the County Councils Network (CCN), shows 5.9 million employees in county areas work in sectors such as tourism, retail and manufacturing.

Nearly half (46%) of the country’s entire furloughed workforce are in county areas, it also found.

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At least 151 migrants land on Kent beaches

At least 151 migrants on 15 boats have arrived on the Kent coast after crossing the English Channel, the Home Office said.

One boat reportedly carrying 12 migrants, was picked up by Border Force patrols at about 10:00 BST and brought to shore at Dover.

A second boat carrying 14 migrants landed at Kingsdown shortly after.

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Help people self-isolate with jury-style payments, say mayors

The mayors of Manchester and Birmingham have called for jury-style payments to people asked to isolate by the Test and Trace system to ensure it keeps the virus under control.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, said that poorer people who could not afford to go two weeks without pay were avoiding a contact tracing system that expects them to live on £96 a week.

People will not return to city centres until the contact tracing system improves and the government must financially compensate people doing their public duty, he told Times Radio.

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Air pollution warning as road traffic rises above pre-lockdown levels

Road traffic has exceeded pre-lockdown levels for the first time, prompting a warning that air pollution could become worse than normal as more people drive instead of taking public transport.

The overall number of vehicles used on Sunday was 3 per cent above the level of a Sunday in early February, with cars at the same level and vans 14 per cent higher, according to Department for Transport data.

Traffic levels are still slightly lower on weekdays than before lockdown, reaching 93 per cent last Friday, but there is a clear rising trend.

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School funding plan 'benefits wealthier pupils most'

Better-off pupils in England will see larger school funding increases than poorer pupils under the government's latest plan, a study suggests. The government's drive to "level up" funding will disproportionately benefit schools in better-off areas, argues the Education Policy Institute (EPI). The schools' budget will rise by £7.1bn by 2022-23 under government plans.

The government said schools with higher numbers of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds remained a priority. School leaders in England have been complaining of a worsening budget squeeze.

The government has responded by announcing a National Funding Formula for schools, designed to ensure pupils with the same characteristics get the same level of funding, regardless of where in the country they go to school.

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Cornwall first to pass on COVID-19 funding to local councils

Cornwall Council is set to be the first to pass on government funding to parish and town councils affected by the coronavirus crisis.

The council will become the first principal council in England to announce a financial support offer to local councils for lost income and increased expenditure.

Cllr Sue Baxter, chairman of National Association of Local Councils, said: ‘I’m delighted Cornwall Council are doing the right thing and are the first principal council in the country to pass on government funding to support local councils impacted by the pandemic.

’This is real testament to value they place on local councils and the relationship developed over the last decade since becoming a unitary council, including the devolution of community assets and services.’

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‘Disastrous’ planning reforms slammed for ignoring build out issues

The government’s planning reforms fail to address the barriers to getting new homes built while the abolition of section 106 could be “disastrous” for affordable housing provision, sector experts have warned.

The Planning for the future white paper, published yesterday, set out what the prime minster described as “radical reform” to the planning system which will reduce the role of planning committees in approving developments and replace locally negotiated developer contributions to infrastructure with one set nationally.

Tom Stannard, Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers deputy spokesperson on economic growth and housing said there were some elements of the white paper that should be welcomed, such as the commitment to new homes being net zero by 2050 and “zero carbon ready” by 2025.

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Coronavirus: Millions for small business 'sitting in council accounts'

Emergency coronavirus funding for firms will go back to the Treasury at the end of the month if it is not claimed, business leaders have said.

Four months after £12bn was released to help them through the coronavirus pandemic, £1.5bn is unclaimed.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) warned the money was sitting in councils' bank accounts.

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Councils ask for coronavirus licensing powers

A call has been made for public health issues to be incorporated into licensing laws.

The Local Government Association (LGA) wants adherence to COVID-19 guidelines to be temporarily added to the Licensing Act to help council clamp down on unscrupulous pubs and bars.

Although local authorities can take action under general health and safety legislation, it is more difficult to implement than it would be through issuing and revoking liquor licences.

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Bank of England: Downturn less severe than feared

The UK economic slump caused by Covid-19 will be less severe than expected, but the recovery will also take longer, the Bank of England has said.

It expects the economy to shrink by 9.5% this year.

While this would be the biggest annual decline in 100 years, it is not as steep as the Bank's initial estimate of a 14% contraction.

However, the Bank said unemployment was likely to rise "materially" as it held interest rates at 0.1%.

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Planning laws sped up and red tape cut in 'once in a generation' shake-up

Moves to slash red tape and hand automatic planning permission to some homes - and projects like schools and hospitals - are being unveiled by Boris Johnson.

A radical blueprint hailed as a "once-in-a-generation reform" is being published by the government with the aim of sweeping away "slow and complex" planning laws.

The shake-up, a key part of the prime minister's "build, build, build" agenda, also includes automatic planning approval for new homes on land earmarked for growth.

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Race to the bottom: reform to planning system in England could be catastrophic

“More good quality, attractive and affordable homes faster.” According to the housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, that is the main aim of his “complete overhaul” of the English planning system, announced on Thursday. Yet there is precious little evidence that any of the new measures could lead to higher quality, more attractive or more affordable homes. Instead, the proposals look set to deliver the exact opposite.

In an unprecedented move that betrays the Dominic Cummings hallmark of maximum disruption with minimum effort, the government is tearing up the national rule book that has been in place since the second world war to ensure the best use of land, and replacing it with three simple classifications. From now on, all land in England will be designated for either “growth”, with automatic planning permission, “renewal”, with permission subject to some basic checks, or “protection”, preserving the sacrosanct status of the green belt.

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Boris Johnson defends 'long overdue' planning overhaul in England

Sweeping changes to the planning system in England will make it quicker to build much-needed new homes, the prime minister has said.

Boris Johnson said the plans, which aim stop local opponents blocking development in designated growth zones, were "long overdue". Critics say the changes could lead to "bad-quality housing" and loss of local control. The BBC's Jessica Parker said the plans had prompted disquiet among Tory MPs.

The government says it wants reduce the number of planning cases that get overturned at appeal by creating a "clearer, rules-based system". Mr Johnson said the changes would help developers complete projects in a "more timely way" and help young people onto the housing ladder.

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Redundancy advice calls triple as furlough scheme winds down

Thousands of firms and employees are seeking redundancy advice as the coronavirus crisis continues to bite into the UK economy.

Conciliation service Acas said calls to its redundancy advice line almost tripled in June and July, as concerns mounted about the government's job retention scheme winding down.

There has been a spate of redundancies as some firms struggle to stay afloat.

Nearly 4,500 jobs have been cut only a few days into August.

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One in eight childcare workers in England earn less than £5 an hour

One in eight childcare workers in England earn less than £5 an hour, according to new research which warns that low pay, high workload and a lack of career development are having an adverse effect on the sector.

The Social Mobility Commission (SMC) report says there are signs the early years workforce is becoming increasingly unstable, warning that high staff turnover risks undermining the quality of provision and disadvantaged children’s outcomes.

There are also fears the ongoing disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which is threatening the survival of many nurseries and early years settings, will further exacerbate the problems facing the sector.

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Fast-tracked funding to improve school buildings

The Government has fast-tracked £580m of funding to improve school buildings across England.

The funding will be used to repair and upgrade school 580 academies, sixth form colleges and voluntary aided schools, as well as increasing school capacity at a small number of places.

The investment - announced by the prime minister last month - will be targeted at school buildings in the worst condition.

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Jenny Coles: Children’s services need funding ahead of autumn wave of referrals

During the pandemic we are seeing new families experiencing domestic abuse, neglect and financial hardship, writes the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.

In July, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services published a short discussion paper aimed at capturing the impacts of Covid-19 on both services and childhoods and putting children and their lived experiences of the pandemic front and centre in national recovery plans.

Covid-19 has heightened the challenges many children and families already faced, from poor housing, hunger, safe spaces to play outside and access to adequate IT equipment or broadband so that they can learn at home.

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Coronavirus: Second COVID-19 wave twice as big as the first without effective test, trace, isolating strategy, says new modelling study

Reopening schools fully in September without an effective test, trace and isolating strategy could result in a second wave of coronavirus more than twice the size of the first, according to a new modelling study.

Researchers from UCL and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) examined the possible implications of schools reopening in the UK coupled with broader reopening of society, such as more parents returning to the workplace and increased socialising within the community.

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Cities face blockades to contain a second wave of coronavirus

Ministers are prepared to quarantine towns and cities to prevent a second wave of coronavirus, Downing Street said yesterday.

Under the plans, the government would impose travel restrictions in areas with severe Covid-19 outbreaks to stop residents leaving. Police would enforce the measures and could fine people who try to leave unless they fall under a list of exemptions.

Boris Johnson and senior cabinet ministers have “war-gamed” the possibility of imposing movement restrictions on London around the M25 if a surge of cases occurs in the capital.

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Testing and tracing 'key to schools returning', scientists say

Current testing and contact tracing is inadequate to prevent a second wave of coronavirus after schools in the UK reopen, scientists have warned.

Increased transmission would also result from parents not having to stay at home with their children, they say.

Researchers said getting pupils back to school was important - but more work was needed to keep the virus in check. The government said plans were in place to ensure schools can fully reopen at the start of the new school year.

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Call to scrap two-tier local government system in rural areas

The ‘confusing' two-tier model of local government should be abolished and replaced with single unitary councils, a report has argued.

The report, published for the County Councils Network (CCN), calls on the Government to move to a system of single tier local authorities, with new powers for town and parish councils.

It argues this would deliver the greatest financial benefit and make it easier to develop local economic recovery strategies.

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Winners of £900m for shovel ready schemes are announced

Ministers have announced the 300 schemes that will receive a share of the £900m Getting Building Fund and confirmed £360m for mayoral combined authorities to fund homes on brownfield land.

The Government described the cash as part of its comprehensive plan to deliver upgrades to local infrastructure and boost skills to help fuel a green economic recovery.

Officials said the £900m for shovel-ready housing and infrastructure projects is expected to deliver up to 45,000 homes, create up to 85,000 jobs and reduce around 65 million kg of CO2 emissions across England.

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Over half of workforce in county areas 'at risk' due to pandemic

Over half the workforce in England's county areas work in sectors ‘at risk’ due to the coronavirus crisis, research has warned.

The report, from Grant Thornton UK LLP for the County Councils Network (CCN), shows 5.9 million employees in county areas work in sectors such as tourism, retail and manufacturing.

Nearly half (46%) of the country’s entire furloughed workforce are in county areas, it also found.

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Jenrick to lobby Treasury ‘very strongly’ over council funding

Robert Jenrick has pledged to “very strongly” urge the chancellor to ensure councils have sustainable finances in this autumn's Comprehensive Spending Review.

The Treasury last month launched its spending review, covering the next three years. Its six priorities include “levelling up economic opportunity across all nations and regions” and “improving outcomes in public services”, with specific mentions of the NHS, crime reduction and education.

However, it also warned that while the government “will deliver on the commitments made at Budget to level up and invest in the priorities of the British people”, the chancellor “was clear there will need be tough choices in other areas of spending at the review,” and government departments have been told to “identify opportunities to reprioritise and deliver savings”.

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The case for more unitaries operating at the county level

Over the last few decades, the devolution debate has centred around where powers should sit between Westminster, the devolved nations and the big cities of England.

Whatever the reasons for this approach, it has meant that around half of the population – those who live in England’s historic counties – have missed out on the benefits of devolution.

An updated approach to devolution was already needed but the Covid-19 pandemic has made the requirement to reassess the form and function of local government across England all the more pressing.

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County leaders in call for metro mayor powers

County councils will be “hamstrung” in their efforts to revive local economies in the wake of Covid-19 unless leaders are handed metro mayor style powers over transport and skills, it has been claimed.

A report published by the County Councils Network today concludes rural areas are more at risk from the anticipated job losses once the furlough scheme comes to an end in October than major cities.

The report by Grant Thornton, ‘Place-Based Recovery: How counties can drive growth post COVID-19’, found that 3.5 million workers in county areas were currently on furlough with 5.9 million workers in sectors identified as ‘at risk’ due to the pandemic, such as manufacturing, retail, and tourism. This is equivalent to 53% of the total workforce compared to 44% for the eight biggest cities in England and 38% for London.

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Ministers: Don't rely on more funding

Ministers have warned councils not to rely on more funding on top of the announcements made so far.

Although local government minister Simon Clarke has admitted there are ‘serious concerns’ about a ‘handful’ of councils issuing Section 114 notices, a policy briefing from chief executives’ organisation Solace read: ‘While ministers have indicated there is a determination in the department to secure a comprehensive funding settlement for the sector in the Spending Review this is not their decision alone and the chancellor has said there will be difficult choices ahead.

‘While officials have said they will be alive to any further concerns about funding in relation to this issue, the indication is that more money will not be forthcoming.’

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Rishi Sunak could hike business rates for 'most valuable properties'

Rishi Sunak is considering an increase in business rates for the "most valuable properties", with fears being raised that the move could hurt firms already struggling amid the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

The Chancellor has asked for industry feedback on whether high end shops, offices and other large premises should pay a new, higher business rate, with responses due ahead of the autumn Budget.

In a call for evidence as part of a business rates review, the Treasury said failing to raise enough revenue from them could put pressure on "other parts of the tax system".

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English councils with highest Covid rates launch own test-and-trace systems

Councils with the highest Covid infection rates in England have launched their own contact-tracing operations to plug holes in the “world-beating” £10bn government system, with some reaching 98-100% of people who fell through the gaps.

Blackburn with Darwen council in Lancashire established its own model on Tuesday when its public health chief said national test and trace was “simply not tracing enough cases and contacts fast enough”.

Calderdale council in West Yorkshire, which has the sixth highest infection rate in England, told the Guardian it was hoping to launch its own team next week, while neighbouring Kirklees council said it was considering doing the same.

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Schools 'must come before pubs and restaurants in future'

Schools should only close after pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops in any future lockdown, the children's commissioner for England has said.

Anne Longfield says children have a right to an education, must not be an "afterthought", and that schools should be "first to open, last to close".

She says children play a smaller role in spreading Covid-19 and are much less likely to get ill from it.

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Former SpAd predicts between five and eight new devo deals

Government is likely to have capacity to do between five and eight devolution deals with two tier areas over the next few years, a former Marsham Street special adviser has said.

Nick King, who was adviser to Sajid Javid when he was communities secretary from 2016 to 2018, told a County Councils Network webinar this afternoon this would begin with reorganisation into unitaries, making the formation of combined authorities which would receive devolved powers and funding unlikely before 2023.

Asked by a participant whether the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government had the capacity to work with the number of two-tier areas keen to go down this path, Mr King said: “[MHCLG] has said it will put the resources there… it feels to me they are looking like five to eight [deals]. Whether they’ll be able to get down that path remains to be seen.”

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‘Repetitive’ local gov tendering is undermining NHS covid response

In a report exclusively shared with HSJ, NHS Confederation has said retendering these services “risks damaging [the] morale” of frontline staff as it creates an “unnecessarily uncertain future” for them.

The paper, written by the Community Network which is hosted by NHS Confederation and NHS Providers, said there have been “worrying reports of local authorities looking to retender contracts for NHS community health and public health services” to help cover a £7.6bn income shortfall for 2020-21.

It said “repetitive, disruptive” retendering would “destabilise” working relationships between the NHS and local authority commissioners. It suggested retendering be paused until the end of 2021-22.

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Winners of £900m for shovel ready schemes are announced

Ministers have announced the 300 schemes that will receive a share of the £900m Getting Building Fund and confirmed £360m for mayoral combined authorities to fund homes on brownfield land.

The Government described the cash as part of its comprehensive plan to deliver upgrades to local infrastructure and boost skills to help fuel a green economic recovery.

Officials said the £900m for shovel-ready housing and infrastructure projects is expected to deliver up to 45,000 homes, create up to 85,000 jobs and reduce around 65 million kg of CO2 emissions across England.

The cash was allocated following negotiations between bidders and the Government to narrow down longer wish lists submitted during the first stage of the process.

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Call to scrap two-tier local government system in rural areas

The ‘confusing' two-tier model of local government should be abolished and replaced with single unitary councils, a report has argued today.

The report, published for the County Councils Network (CCN), calls on the Government to move to a system of single tier local authorities, with new powers for town and parish councils.

It argues this would deliver the greatest financial benefit and make it easier to develop local economic recovery strategies.

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Coronavirus 90-minute tests to be provided in care homes and hospitals

Two new tests for Covid-19 that are said to deliver results within 90 minutes are to be introduced across NHS hospitals and care homes, to speed up diagnosis ahead of winter and differentiate coronavirus infection from flu, the government says.

But some experts were surprised by the government’s decision, saying the particular tests were not well-known.

No data had been published concerning their evaluation. The government had made mistakes in buying tests that turned out to be sub-standard in the past, they said.

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Greater Manchester to 'maximise resources' as it tries to 'reverse the spike' in infections

A major incident has been declared in Greater Manchester amid a rise in coronavirus infection rates.

Meetings of senior figures from the police, local authorities and other agencies to discuss the city's spike in COVID-19 cases took place over the weekend.

Major incidents are often declared after a terror attack or significant flood and mean a region can access extra national resources if necessary.

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Coronavirus scheme offering UK diners 50% off begins

Diners across the UK will be able to enjoy half-price meals throughout August from Monday, as part of a government scheme aimed at boosting restaurants and pubs post-lockdown.

"Eat out to help out" applies to eat-in food and drink on Monday to Wednesdays at more than 72,000 venues.

The discount is capped at £10 per person and does not apply to alcohol but critics said unhealthy food should have been excluded from the scheme, over fears it could fuel obesity.

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Local businesses face missing out on £1bn coronavirus help as money not given quick enough

The Government is planning to end the Small Business Grants Fund, Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund and the Discretionary Grants Fund on August 28.

But the Local Government Association estimates there could be a total underspend of £1.37 billion when the schemes close.

It is urging Ministers to keep the DGF scheme open so councils can try and redistribute any unspent resources from the other two funds back to local authorities to reinvest in supporting businesses.

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Coronavirus: Greater Manchester to 'maximise resources' as it tries to 'reverse the spike' in infections

A major incident has been declared in Greater Manchester amid a rise in coronavirus infection rates.

Meetings of senior figures from the police, local authorities and other agencies to discuss the city's spike in COVID-19 cases took place over the weekend.

Major incidents are often declared after a terror attack or significant flood and mean a region can access extra national resources if necessary.

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Coronavirus: track and trace fails in 50% of ‘easiest’ cases

The government’s £10bn contact-tracing programme failed to reach almost half the contacts named by infected patients in “non-complex” cases — including people living under the same roof.

The outsourcing giants Serco and Sitel are being paid £192m to provide 18,500 call handlers who are responsible for tracing non-complex contacts referred to them.

“Non-complex” cases, such as when the infected person came into contact with a friend, are dealt with by the two firms, while “complex” ones involving a potential outbreak in a school or workplace are referred to experienced Public Health England teams.

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English pubs likely to be spared new Covid-19 restrictions, No 10 says

English pubs are likely to be spared any new restrictions on social contact to stem coronavirus outbreaks, with the focus instead falling on limiting gatherings in homes, Downing Street has indicated.

Amid speculation about potential further curbs on freedoms if Covid-19 cases rise following the full return of pupils to English schools in September, officials have stressed that they hope to keep any lockdowns local and avoid further significant harm to the economy.

No 10 also argues that closing pubs or other parts of the hospitality industry would not necessarily be effective, given the importance of transmission between households in local outbreaks, such as those which prompted emergency restrictions for millions of people in the north of England.

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Government says schools are safe and children will be back in September

The government is adamant schools will be safe to open in September, amid claims it has not given enough clarity to teachers over new procedures to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Most schools closed at the end of March as the UK went into lockdown, although some remained open for children of key workers and for vulnerable pupils.

More students were allowed to return to schools in England and Wales last month, with the government working towards opening schools as normal in the autumn.

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Local businesses face missing out on £1bn coronavirus help as money not given quick enough

The Government is planning to end the Small Business Grants Fund, Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund and the Discretionary Grants Fund on August 28 but the Local Government Association estimates there could be a total underspend of £1.37 billion when the schemes close.

It is urging Ministers to keep the DGF scheme open so councils can try and redistribute any unspent resources from the other two funds back to local authorities to reinvest in supporting businesses.

The LGA said councils have distributed almost £11 billion to almost 880,000 eligible small businesses through the Small Business Grants Fund and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund since March.

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Health Secretary defends late-night surprise announcement that stops 4.5m people from meeting indoors just hours before start of Muslim celebrations

Matt Hancock today denied targeting Eid celebrations with the last-minute move to introduce strict new lockdown restrictions on 4.5million people living in Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

The Health Secretary defended last night's surprise announcement to tackle the surge in coronavirus cases across the region, which he made in a series of tweets at 9.15pm - less than three hours before the rules came into force.

Residents in all of Greater Manchester, Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale, Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees are now banned from mixing with any other households indoors or in a garden to reduce Covid-19 infections.

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Councils set up their own track and trace systems

Councils are launching their own track and trace operations amid renewed concerns that the national system is missing too many cases.

Sandwell council in the West Midlands, where there are fears of a looming local lockdown, has launched a system in an attempt to track cases.

Bradford council is also hoping to install its own local tracing system but has been unable to implement it owing to a lack of funding.

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'Chancellor must protect' jobs of those shielding

Charities are calling on the chancellor to protect the jobs of workers who have been shielding during the pandemic.

A total of 15 charities have warned in an open letter that workers will be forced to choose between health and their jobs, when restrictions ease.

"Some of these workers will find themselves in an impossible position," the letter says. A government spokesperson said that the government had "worked tirelessly" to support the clinically vulnerable.

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Care home visits 'delayed' over lack of testing

A number of care homes in England are having to delay the resumption of visits because of a lack of coronavirus testing for staff and residents.

It comes after the government withdrew one brand of home-test kits used in care homes over safety concerns.

A leading care home group told the BBC many of its facilities would not be able to host family members for weeks. The government said care homes affected by the withdrawal of kits would get replacements "as soon as possible".

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Fears for children as coronavirus disrupts vaccination programmes

Tens of millions of children are going without life-saving vaccines because the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted immunisation programmes across the world.

Health chiefs fear that the decline in vaccinations being administered will reverse decades of hard-won progress in reducing deaths from preventable diseases.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that suffering and death among children caused by the disruption “could be far greater than Covid-19 itself”.

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Universal credit 'harms the most vulnerable', says major report amid surge in claims

Universal Credit is failing millions of people and driving the most vulnerable deeper into poverty, according to a new report.

A House of Lords committee - including former Tory ministers - today calls for urgent reforms to make the benefit system "fit for purpose", saying it is particularly harmful to women, disabled people and the poorest.

Some 3.2 million people made new Universal Credit claims between the start of the lockdown in March and mid-June, with expectations of surge later in the year when the furlough scheme ends.

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Hancock champions role of ‘place’ in health services

Spending on health and social care must be viewed in terms of the overall benefit to the public purse in a place, health secretary Matt Hancock has said.

In a major speech on Thursday, Mr Hancock said the government would seek to learn from how the health and care system had responded during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak in bringing forward reforms in the coming months.

He said NHS services must be “connected to the places they serve” with “systems” the “foundation stone of the future of the NHS and social care”.

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Leisure centre jobs at risk as Somerset sites remain closed

More than 72 jobs at leisure centres across Somerset are at risk of redundancy as some sites are to remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Fusion Lifestyle, which runs facilities for some local authorities, said it had been "greatly affected" by Covid-19.

Facilities in Frome and Street are set to reopen but Shepton Lido, Wells Leisure Centre and Tor Leisure in Glastonbury will remain closed for now.

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'Second wave starting to roll across Europe' as isolation period set to be extended

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he is "worried" about a second wave, as the government is expected to extend the isolation period for people with coronavirus symptoms.

Mr Hancock told Sky News there was a "second wave starting to roll across Europe" and warned the UK must "do everything to prevent it reaching these shores".

"It's something I worry about and I worry about it because we can see it coming," he said.

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UK government to expand Covid-19 rescue loan scheme

The government is expanding its Covid-19 rescue loan scheme to cover small businesses on the edge of collapse, a move that Labour warned would come too late for many troubled firms.

With less than a week before the furlough scheme covering 9 million employees is cut back, plunging more employers into debt, the Treasury said it would use a change in EU state aid rules to allow firms previously locked out of the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS) to access government funds.

The economic secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, said he would write to major lenders advising them of the change, which will make more small businesses – specifically those that have racked up large losses and debts – eligible for loans of up to £5m.

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Government announces £20m in new grants for small businesses

The Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government Simon Clarke has announced £20m in new grants to support the recovery of small businesses.

The boost will see thousands of smaller businesses in England given access to grants of between £1,000 and £5,000, to fund new technology, equipment and professional advice.

The funding has been allocated to Growth Hubs within each Local Enterprise Partnership to comply with the European Regional Development Fund.

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UK sees highest daily total of COVID-19 cases for more than a month

The government has reported the highest daily number of coronavirus cases in more than a month - as a quarantine for arrivals from Luxembourg was announced.

A total of 846 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Thursday, the highest UK total since 28 June (901 cases).

A further 38 people have died across all settings after testing positive for coronavirus, taking the official death toll to 45,999.

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Kirklees agrees £4m leisure services bail-out

The bail-out was approved during a cabinet meeting earlier this week, in a bid to help the provider remain solvent and manage its cash flow.

KAL is a trust operating 12 leisure centres across the borough on the behalf of the council.

Graham Turner, corporate cabinet member, said: “The sector has been particularly badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, and will continue to be for some considerable time.

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LEP Network comes out fighting ahead of White Paper

The chair of the network that supports local enterprise partnerships (LEP) has come out fighting amid fears the future of the organisations could be at risk.

This week The LEP Network is expected to publish a five-point plan that looks to place the partnerships at the centre of the Government’s thinking ahead of the crucial devolution and recovery White Paper.

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Government in attempted grants cash grab

Fresh calls have been made for councils to be allowed to dole out to businesses the £1.6bn unspent from the Government’s small firms grant funds.

The calls come after the Government confirmed that local authorities should make final payments from the small business grants fund, the retail, hospitality and leisure grants fund and the discretionary grant fund by Friday August 28.

Business secretary Alok Sharma has noted that councils have paid out 88% or £10.8bn of the £12.3bn pot to businesses but said any unspent funds will have to be returned to the Government.

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Government announces £20m in new grants for small businesses

The Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government Simon Clarke has announced £20m in new grants today (July 30) to support the recovery of small businesses.

The boost will see thousands of smaller businesses in England given access to grants of between £1,000 and £5,000, to fund new technology, equipment and professional advice.

The funding has been allocated to Growth Hubs within each Local Enterprise Partnership to comply with the European Regional Development Fund.

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Huge growth in free school meals urged to tackle food poverty crisis

Up to 1.5 million more children in England should get free school meals to help tackle a growing crisis of food poverty and unhealthy eating, according to a blueprint billed as the first national food strategy since war rationing.

The government-commissioned report also warns that the climate crisis will be the source of the next food emergency, demands more than £2bn for farmers to improve the countryside, and condemns faux-healthy food labelling by big brands - including the idea of “healthy” Marks & Spencer Percy Pig sweets.

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Tourist hotspots hit hardest in UK by Covid-19 unemployment

Tourist hotspots across the UK are bearing the brunt of the ailing jobs market, an analysis of data on unemployment benefit claims since the Covid-19 lockdown has shown.

Figures from Labour show that in areas heavily reliant on tourism the rise in the number of people seeking unemployment benefits in recent months is an average of 65 percentage points higher than in other areas. The data has prompted Keir Starmer to warn that holiday towns are facing a jobs crisis.

Labour analysed data from the Office for National Statistics showing that in 32 places in England, Wales and Scotland where one fifth or more of the local workforce are in tourism-related jobs, the unemployment benefits claimant count among working-age adults has risen by an average of 174% from February to June – compared to 109% for the UK as a whole.

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Sandwell Council sets up own contact tracing system amid anger with government's version

A council struggling to stave off a coronavirus local lockdown has got so fed up with perceived failures with the government's contact tracing system that it is setting up its own version.

Sandwell's director of public health, Lisa McNally, told Sky News that dozens of staff had been seconded to the new team to battle COVID-19 outbreaks in the area.

Sandwell, in the West Midlands, currently has the seventh highest case rate in England - 54.1 per 100,000 people - having seen a sharp jump of 332% in the 14 days up to 26 July.

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Thousands of UK public sector jobs to be created in recruitment drive

Thousands of nurse training places and probation officer jobs will be created as part of a new government recruitment drive for the public sector.

The Ministry of Justice is hiring 1,000 new probation officers just months after it was announced the service would be brought back under government control after a disastrous spell of part-privatisation.

The Department for Education has also approved over 3,000 additional university positions to study nursing after record vacancy levels were recorded in 2019.

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MPs call for adult social care to have an equivalent to NHS chief executive

The government should appoint an adult social care equivalent to the chief executive of NHS England, a report by MPs that highlights “poor central control over critical elements of the pandemic response” has recommended.

The Public Accounts Committee’s first examination of the health and social care response to Covid-19, published today, contrasts the priority given to the NHS with the social care sector.

It says the NHS was “severely stretched but able to meet overall demand for Covid-19 treatment” during the pandemic’s peak, with an increase in ventilators and beds for Covid patients.

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Government handling of social care during pandemic attacked

MPs have delivered a blistering attack on the Government’s handling of social care during coronavirus.

They called it ‘slow, inconsistent and, at times, negligent’ and described the discharge of elderly patients from hospitals into care homes as an ‘appalling error'.

The MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also blamed the ‘tragic impact’ of ‘years of inattention, funding cuts and delayed reforms to the sector’ leaving care as the ‘poor relation’ to the NHS during the pandemic.

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Plan to hand social care to NHS is for ‘wrong reasons’

Plans to hand social care to the NHS are being mooted for ‘all the wrong reasons,’ local government finance expert Rob Whiteman has said.

Speaking amid reports that the Government could remove social care from local government and centralise it as part of the NHS, the chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) said: ‘This is being mooted more for the outcome of post-COVID politics rather than what is best for care.’

Rather than admitting the mistakes made in sourcing personal protective equipment and dealing with care homes, he suggested the Government was ‘going for a structural solution’ that would ultimately pass the blame to a localised social care system.

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Treasury outlines ‘data-driven’ spending review

In a speech to think tank Onward, Barclay branded the Treasury the “new radicals” and said it would become more like a Silicon Valley company, ensuring public sector projects operate at greater speed and using better data to make decisions.

He added work has already begun to incentivise departments to supply higher quality standardised data and to support the Treasury to better interrogate this data.

Barclay said: “Yet despite its importance, too often we have been behind the curve when it comes to obtaining, analysing, and enabling open access to data.

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Private sector ‘in position’ to shoulder tax rises

In its quarterly review of the economy, the NIESR predicts the private sector saving surplus to rise from a deficit of 3% of GDP in 2019 to a surplus of almost 13% of GDP this year.

The reason behind the rise in the saving surplus is due to lower spending by private sector employees and businesses during the economic slowdown caused by lockdown.

NIESR principal economist Rory MacQueen told PF: “There are a huge amount of people in aggregate overall in the private sector whose spending has dropped a lot more than their income has.”

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Stretched LRFs in cash plea

Stretched local resilience forums (LRF) have pleaded for cash amid warnings a lack of funding is hindering their planning for the next crisis.

A leaked Whitehall report said there was a ‘clear need for urgent financial assistance,’ with most LRFs said to be ‘run on a shoestring’.

LRFs have repeatedly pushed for ‘direct funding’ to help them prepare for ‘upcoming concurrent events’ such as a potential no-deal Brexit.

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England's social care plans 'need timetable and be a radical rethink'

Ministers must publish a timetable for changes to social care before parliament returns in September and that their plans must envision a “radical rethink”, a coalition of councils and charities is demanding.

Any overhauled system for England must acknowledge “the importance of social care’s local dimension”, the coalition says in a clear warning against a centralised national care service modelled on the NHS or merger with it. The group said any proposals must not just be a funding change to save people from selling their homes to meet costs.

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NHS could take over social care, swelling budget to £150bn

Social care could be brought under the control of the NHS in England in a controversial move that would cause the health service’s budget to soar to £150bn, the Guardian has learned.

Downing Street has drafted in David Cameron’s former policy chief Camilla Cavendish to help finalise proposals designed to honour Boris Johnson’s pledge to “fix the crisis in social care”.

Under plans being examined by Cavendish and ministers, the government would take responsibility for social care services away from councils in England – together with the £22.5bn in annual funding – and hand it to the NHS, the Guardian understands. On Monday night the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) denied it had plans to merge the two public services.

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Residents to get new decision-making powers in England cycling 'revolution'

Residents will get powers to banish through-traffic from local streets and councils will be prevented from building substandard cycle lanes under what Downing Street has billed as a revolution for cycling and walking in England.

The plans will see the creation of a watchdog to ensure new cycle and walking routes are up to standard, intended to act as a transport equivalent of the schools inspectorate, Ofsted.

Active Travel England, to be led by a yet-to-be-appointed commissioner for walking and cycling, will refuse to fund paint-only bike lanes – without physical barriers or protection from cars – or routes where cyclists and pedestrians have to share space. It could also cut budgets in other areas for highways departments which fail to deliver on active transport.

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People over 40 face higher taxes to fund their care when they’re older

Britons over the age of 40 could soon be asked to pay more tax to help pay for the cost of their care in later life, as part of radical new plans being considered by ministers, according to reports.

The prime minister has been under pressure to fix Britain’s social care crisis ‘once and for all’, after pledging to do so more than a year ago when he entered office. Officials have said there is a ‘renewed urgency’ to come up with a solution to cover the cost of care, which can exceed £1,000 per week for one person.

According to sources, over-40s paying towards the cost of a reformed system of care is the most popular plan being analysed by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

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UK campaigners call for action to tackle surge in Covid-19 fly-tipping

Across the UK, reports of fly-tipping have soared since lockdown amid the closure of many local authority dumps and other waste management services.

ClearWaste, a free, UK-wide app that forwards independent reports of fly-tipping to local councils, experienced a huge spike in April.

It came amid suggestions people were stuck for places to dispose of the extra waste created by lockdown DIY projects in particular. But, significantly, the app has logged a 74% increase in activity so far for July, nearly two months after most recycling centres and dumps reopened.

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New face covering rules come into force in England

Face coverings are now compulsory for customers in shops in England, after new coronavirus rules came into force within 12 hours of the government issuing guidance on the change.

Coverings are mandatory in enclosed public spaces such as supermarkets, indoor shopping centres, transport hubs, banks and takeaways.

Police can hand out fines of up to £100 to those who do not comply.

But some retailers have insisted they will not enforce the rule.

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Home Office breaking law by leaving destitute asylum seekers homeless

Asylum seekers are becoming homeless because the Home Office is unlawfully failing to provide them with accommodation.

Under asylum law, the Home Office is required to grant housing and support to asylum seekers who are waiting on their claims, or whose claims have been refused but who aren’t able to leave the UK.

The Independent has seen court orders from recent weeks in which the government has been told it must house destitute individuals whom it has a legal duty to support.

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Coronavirus: Government borrowing and UK's national debt explode due to lockdown

The lockdown of the economy has checked the spread of coronavirus but it also triggered a recession that has badly damaged the public finances.

The government is borrowing money on a record-breaking scale, our stock of national debt is now the same size as our annual economic output.

According to the Office for National Statistics, Public Sector Net Borrowing in June stood at £35.5 billion. Lower than in May but still five times the amount borrowed in June last year.

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Child protection referrals could soar by 250% with lockdown easing, social workers warn

The head of the biggest child protection department in the country has told Sky News they are facing a crisis when children return to school in September.

Matt Dunkley, corporate director for children and young people at Kent County Council, says there could be an increase of 250% in referrals of children that need to be investigated and kept safe when lockdown is eased further.

Before COVID-19, 40,000 cases were referred to the department each year.

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UK set to bring in strict new junk food rules including pre-9pm ad ban

The government is set to implement strict rules on how junk food is advertised and sold in the UK, with restrictions such as a ban on online adverts and TV commercials before the 9pm television watershed.

Sources say that the plans, which have been spearheaded by Boris Johnson following his coronavirus health scare, are yet to be finalised but could be announced as soon as Sunday or early next week.

The measures to tackle the growing obesity epidemic are expected to be far-reaching, going beyond curbs on media and advertising to include restrictions on in-store promotions.

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UK high streets could be turned into housing, says thinktank

Promises by government ministers to revitalise high streets with a new breed of shops should be abandoned in favour of turning town centres into residential hubs, creating at least 800,000 homes, according to a report that aims to influence a Downing Street review of planning laws.

The Social Market Foundation (SMF) said the decline of the traditional high street could not be reversed by policies that “turn the clock back” to a time before online shopping, especially after the trend accelerated during the coronavirus pandemic.

Homeworking was also likely to become a permanent feature of many jobs, leading to further declines in footfall in town and city centres and the closure of more retail outlets.

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Jenrick considers covering business rate and council tax losses

At least some of councils' lost business rates and council tax income could be covered by the government, the communities secretary indicated this morning.

Robert Jenrick also told MPs that "clearly councils need to be funded" for additional expenditure resulting from Covid-19, describing this as often "the right thing to do".

Giving evidence to the Commons’ housing, communities and local government committee, Mr Jenrick said he was considering introducing a "mechanism" to cover lost council tax and business rate income akin to the system announced this month under which the government will guarantee 75% of lost income from sales, fees and charges above 5%.

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Above-inflation pay rise for almost 900,000 public sector workers

Almost 900,000 public sector workers are to get an above-inflation pay rise, including doctors and teachers.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said he recognised their "vital contribution" during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Treasury said the money for the pay increases of up to 3.1% would come from existing departmental budgets. Labour said the rise would not make up for years of real-terms cuts and the British Medical Association said doctors had hoped for "far better".

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Ministers lavished millions on towns in marginal Tory seats before polls

Ministers used a government regeneration scheme to target millions of pounds in grants at marginal Conservative seats before the last election, an analysis by The Times suggests.

Today a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) reveals the process by which ministers selected 101 towns in England to each benefit from a £25 million boost to their economies last September.

It shows 61 of the towns were chosen at the discretion of ministers led by Robert Jenrick, the housing and communities secretary. An analysis shows that all but one of them were either Conservative-held seats or Tory targets before the election.

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Chancellor launches Comprehensive Spending Review

The Chancellor has launched the 2020 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR). The Review, which will be published in the autumn, will set out the government’s spending plans for the parliament.

The review will set UK Government departments’ resource budgets for the years 2021/22 to 2023/24 and capital budgets for the years 2021/22 until 2024/25, and devolved administrations’ block grants for the same period.

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Rishi Sunak warns of 'tough choices' ahead as he launches spending review

Rishi Sunak has warned there will be "tough choices" ahead as he launched his 2020 spending review, with a focus on strengthening the UK's recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

It will set out Government departments' resource budgets from 2021-24 and capital budgets up to 2025, and is set to publish in the autumn.

The Chancellor's announcement comes as public sector finance data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed the Government borrowed twice as much in the first quarter of this year as it did in the whole of 2019, as ministers struggled to deal with the impact of Covid-19.

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Patients to be prescribed exercise and nature walks

NHS patients will be told to attend outdoor exercises classes, plant trees or visit natural beauty spots in a pilot for “green prescriptions” that ministers hope to extend nationwide.

The government is trying to ease pressure on the health service by helping patients to join cycling or walking groups as alternatives to medical intervention.

Spending time in green spaces, or living close to them, has been shown in studies to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, premature death, preterm birth, stress and high blood pressure. In New Zealand, where doctors have been issuing “green prescriptions” since 1998, 60 per cent of patients adopt more active lifestyles.

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Boris Johnson to unveil pupil funding plan during school visit

Boris Johnson will visit a school on Monday to boast about delivering a year-on-year increase in per-pupil funding – which Labour says will still leave schools worse off than a decade ago.

The prime minister made boosting education funding a manifesto pledge last year, after school cuts were a significant issue in the 2017 general election.

Confirming the second year of a three-year settlement, the government is to announce that each secondary school will attract a minimum of £5,150 per pupil and each primary a minimum of £4,000 under the national funding formula from 2021.

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Leisure centres under threat, warn councils

A letter to culture secretary Oliver Dowden from chairman of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) culture, tourism and sport board, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said the pandemic was affecting facilities’ ability to generate income while they faced ‘ongoing high standing costs’.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: ‘Many providers are in serious trouble and, without urgent government support, there is a real risk that our leisure facilities will disappear.’

In a message to councils, LGA chief executive Mark Lloyd said: ‘If we do not act to save these vital community resources it will cost us much more in the long-term both socially and economically.’

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Changing Places toilets to be installed in every new public building

Toilets for severely disabled people will be mandatory in all new public buildings from next year, the Government has confirmed.

The amended building regulations will ensure more than 250,000 people will have greater access to public buildings.

The Changing Places toilets are larger than normal accessible toilets and include hoists, curtains, adult-sized changing benches and space for carers.

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Justin Griggs: Give parish councils support they need to help build back stronger

Measures are needed enable the most local tier of local government continue to play a vital role for their communities during the pandemic, writes the head of policy and communications at the National Association of Local Councils.

For the government’s ‘comprehensive plan’ to ensure the financial sustainability of local government, it must be a plan for all of local government.

A plan that helps principal councils deal with the unprecedented financial challenges arising from additional Covid-19 cost pressures and lost income. And a plan that delivers on the government’s promise to stand with councils and do whatever necessary to support their efforts.

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Government's catch-up fund for English school pupils comes under fire

The government’s Covid-19 catch-up fund for pupils in England is “badly targeted” and unlikely to prevent a further widening of the attainment gap between children from poor backgrounds and their wealthier classmates, according to critics.

The Education Policy Institute (EPI) said that even before the pandemic disadvantaged pupils’ learning lagged 18 months behind by the time they sat their GCSEs, and surveys had shown they were much more likely to have suffered serious learning loss during lockdown.

Yet instead of targeting the £650m extra funding where it was most needed, the EPI said the government had allocated the same amount of catch-up funding to schools in affluent areas as to schools in the poorest parts of the country, serving the most disadvantaged pupils.

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Oxford vaccine triggers immune response

A coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford appears safe and triggers an immune response.

Trials involving 1,077 people showed the injection led to them making antibodies and T-cells that can fight coronavirus.

The findings are hugely promising, but it is still too soon to know if this is enough to offer protection and larger trials are under way.

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Women seeking asylum left 'without basic support' during UK lockdown

Women seeking asylum in the UK have described a significant increase in unsafe and unsanitary living conditions during the Covid-19 crisis, according to a report from a coalition of charities.

The report took evidence from charities across the UK, including Women Asylum Seekers Together Manchester, Women for Refugee Women in London, and Women with Hope in Birmingham.

“Previous research has established that almost all women who seek asylum in the UK are survivors of gender-based violence. Even before this crisis, we have seen how they are forced into poverty and struggle to find safety” she said.

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Grenfell firm took some of cladding savings for itself, inquiry told

The main contractor on the Grenfell Tower refurbishment secretly “pocketed” £126,000 while switching the cladding to cheaper, more combustible materials, the inquiry into the deadly fire at the building has heard.

Rydon was bidding for the project in March 2014 when it told the landlord of the council block that it could save £293,368 by switching from the originally specified zinc cladding to plastic-filled aluminium panels, which the inquiry has heard had “significantly worse” fire performance.

At the time, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenants’ Management Organisation (KCTMO) was trying to cut more than £800,000 from the costs and had told Rydon it was “in pole position” to win the contract.

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Districts unite against county proposal for 1.2m ‘mega unitary’

Hertfordshire CC is drawing up controversial plans for a unitary covering the whole county of 1.2 million people, sparking a backlash from all ten district councils of all three political parties.

In response to papers drawn up by the county council which have not yet been made public but which LGC understands recommend a single unitary for all of Hertfordshire, the districts have joined forces to oppose the idea and commissioned their own research to work up proposals to divide the county into two or three unitaries instead.

In a joint statement, the districts’ five Conservative, three Lib Dem and two Labour district council leaders claim that a county-wide unitary would be “too large and remote” to support local communities and “around three times larger than the size that government are likely to consider suitable for local areas”.

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Landlords tell ministers: let’s go halves on rent bills

London rents plummeted further in June as the capital's landlords continue to struggle against falling demand and a greater number of properties.

Hamptons International, a letting agent, said the figure was largest fall on record and completely undid all of the rental growth seen in 2019.

Inner London rents fell 7.4pc while Outer London fell 3.6pc. Overall, rents across the capital fell 4.5pc. This follows a 1.3pc fall in March, the last time comparable figures were published.

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UK to appoint chief inspector of buildings to address safety fears

Ministers are to appoint the UK’s first chief inspector of buildings in reforms prompted by the Grenfell Tower disaster and the discovery that thousands of other high-rise buildings breach fire safety regulations.

The inspector will lead a national regulator of building safety that will also police a system to designate an “accountable person” for each high-rise building. They will be obliged to respond to residents’ complaints after the tenants and leaseholders of Grenfell Tower said their fears about the safety of their homes were ignored by their landlords before the fire on 14 June 2017, which killed 72 people.

The Grenfell Action Group community blog famously published a post in November 2016 that said “only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation”.

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£3bn for NHS to prepare for possible second wave

The NHS in England will get an extra £3bn of funding to prepare for a possible second wave of coronavirus, Boris Johnson is set to announce.

The funding will also help ease winter pressures on the health service, Downing Street said.

It follows warnings a second wave this winter could see around 120,000 Covid-19 deaths in UK hospitals.

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Ministers urged to overhaul early years services in England

The children’s commissioner for England has called for a complete overhaul of early years services, plus a government-funded rescue package to prevent mass closures of nurseries and childcare providers that could go under as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

The childcare sector has been hit hard by lockdown, with surveys suggesting as many as one in four nurseries and pre-schools could close within the year, rising to one in three in the deprived areas where children benefit most from early intervention.

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More than 4,000 hospital patients discharged into care homes without test

More than 4,000 people were discharged from hospital into care homes without being tested for COVID-19 around the peak of the pandemic, figures obtained by Sky News reveal.

The data from NHS Trusts shows two thirds of elderly patients discharged hadn't had a coronavirus test.

A total of 6,435 elderly patients were discharged between 19 March and 15 April, with 2,225 being tested and 4,210 not receiving a test.

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Prime Minister gives local authorities more powers for local lockdowns

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced in his statement on Coronavirus July 17 that local authorities will have new powers to enforce measures to limit the spread of the virus in their area.

From July 18, local councils will be able to close specific premises, shut public outdoor spaces and cancel events to speed up the response to a local outbreak and contain the spread.

Following a local lockdown in Leicester, which saw the percentage of people testing positively fall from a weekly rate of 12.2% to 4.8%, new framework will enable national and local Government to work more closely together to implement this in other areas if needs be.

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Boris Johnson promises independent inquiry into coronavirus response

Boris Johnson has committed himself to an independent inquiry into the response to the pandemic.

The prime minister told MPs that it would be wrong to distract officials during the health crisis but that there would “certainly” be a full investigation. Although Mr Johnson has previously said lessons would be learnt it is the first time that he has expressly accepted the need for an independent inquiry.

He is now being pressed to confirm the legal basis for the investigation and publish its terms of reference before the Commons breaks for its summer recess next week.

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Thousands of drivers suffer pothole breakdowns despite low traffic during lockdown

Thousands of drivers suffered pothole-related breakdowns between April and June despite traffic volumes plummeting amid the coronavirus lockdown, new figures show.

One of the UK’s major breakdown rescue firms, the RAC, said it received 1,766 call-outs for vehicles damaged by faulty road surfaces over the three months.

It described the figures as “a real cause for concern” as Government data shows motor traffic volumes fell by as much as 60% during that period due to lockdown restrictions.

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Distribution of £500m Covid funding announced

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has announced how the latest tranche of Covid-19 funding for councils will be distributed.

Worth £500m in total, £6m of the pot is to be used to provide additional support to councils dealing with pressures due to high numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. The remaining £494m has been split between all councils with 93% going to upper tier authorities and 7% to lower tier.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said the funding had been distributed based on population and levels of deprivation as well as how the costs of delivery of services varies across the country.

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£62m for local councils to discharge people with learning disabilities or autism

The Department for Health and Social Care has announced a £62m package on July 16 to help local councils to discharge people with learning disabilities or autism from hospitals into the community.

Secretary Matt Hancock has called for a renewed focus to better support people with learning disability or autism and accelerate their return from hospital.

The Community Discharge Fund, split over three years, will provide financial support to local authorities to remove the obstacles apparent when discharging people and will cover costs incurred through establishing community teams, accommodation and staff training.

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UK government planning new green investment bank

The UK government is poised to reveal plans for a new state-backed green bank to help finance Britain’s climate ambitions, three years after ministers agreed to sell the UK’s Green Investment Bank.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the energy minister, said that he expects the government to set out how it plans to create a successor to the Green Investment Bank “in the not-too-distant future”.

The move to rebuild a new green lender comes amid growing calls from climate campaigners, economists and academics to invest in green infrastructure to help revive the UK’s struggling economy and help meet its climate targets.

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UK energy efficiency push offers just a third of the investment needed, says report

The government’s new plans to upgrade the energy efficiency of homes will make only a fraction of the progress needed to help the UK meet its legally binding climate targets, according to a new study.

A report by IPPR, a left-leaning thinktank, has found at least 12 million homes will need to be fitted with low-carbon heat pumps and energy efficiency measures, such as insulation, over the next 30 years for the UK to meet its net zero targets.

However, Rishi Sunak’s pledge to fund a new energy efficiency plan with £3bn of spending is less than a third of the investment needed, and its plans to install heat pumps will deliver less than 2% of the number required, according to the report.

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Workers won't be ordered to wear face masks in offices, says Matt Hancock

Workers will not be ordered to wear face masks in offices, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed.

From 24 July, the wearing of a face covering will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England, with a fine of up to £100 for those who do not comply.

Blackburn with Darwen Council, which is teetering on the edge of a local lockdown due to a spike in coronavirus cases, has recommended people wear face coverings in all enclosed public spaces for the next month.

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Andrea Leadsom to review disadvantaged children's health

Boris Johnson has appointed former cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom to carry out a review into how to improve health outcomes for babies and children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Leadsom said she would be focusing on the first 1,001 days of a baby’s life – from conception – and that her findings would contribute to the government’s “levelling up” agenda.

“Ensuring that every baby has the best start in life is my passion in politics and I am delighted to be asked by the prime minister to chair a review of early years services on behalf of the government.

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Waste collections ‘return to normal’

The majority of local authorities are now reporting that they have returned to normal operations of residual waste collections despite the continuing impact of Covid-19.

There is still minor disruption to food waste collections, bulky waste collection, street sweeping and bring bank operations with between 74% and 79% of councils reporting these services to be operating as normal.

Nearly all (98%) councils report clinical waste collections operating normally, with 90% reporting the same for fly tipping clearance. Waste volumes remain high with the largest increases in recycling, residual, garden and food waste.

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A million smokers quit during pandemic

More than a million smokers have quit the habit since the start of the coronavirus crisis, figures have revealed today.

A new report by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) shows 1.1 million people in Britain have quit smoking, with a further 440,000 people trying to quit over the past few months.

The news has been welcomed by the Local Government Association (LGA), who said the findings are a testament to the work of councils’ public health teams.

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York and districts speak out against North Yorks reorganisation

15 JULY 2020 BY JESSICA HILL

Leaders in North Yorkshire have been told by local government minister Simon Clarke to restructure in order to secure a devolution deal worth at least £750m over 30 years but a row is brewing over what shape reorganisation would take.

City of York Council is opposed to any shake up that would alter its own boundaries, and some district leaders told LGC they are concerned they will be swallowed up by an 800,000-population ‘super unitary’ which would slash councillor representation from 348 to as few as 100.

In a meeting last week, Mr Clarke gave local leaders a tight deadline to get their reorganisation plans in order, with bids to be submitted by September this year and those which are successful in this round to be established as early as May 2022.

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millions living longer but in far poorer health

Younger generations can no longer expect to lead healthier lives than their ancestors, a study suggests.

People in England in their forties and fifties are, on average, in significantly worse physical shape than those now in their sixties and seventies were at the same age.

“Earlier in the 20th century a rise in life expectancy went hand in hand with an increase in healthy lifespan — younger generations were living longer, healthier lives,” George Ploubidis, professor of population health and statistics at University College London, a co-author of the study, said.

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Face masks and coverings to be compulsory in England's shops

Wearing a face covering in shops and supermarkets in England is to become mandatory from 24 July.

Those who fail to comply with the new rules will face a fine of up to £100, the government is to announce. The move will bring England into line with Scotland and other major European nations like Spain, Italy and Germany.

Since mid-May, the public have been advised to wear coverings in enclosed public spaces, where they may encounter people they would not usually meet.

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Face masks and coverings to be compulsory in England's shops

Wearing a face covering in shops and supermarkets in England is to become mandatory from 24 July.

Those who fail to comply with the new rules will face a fine of up to £100, the government is to announce. The move will bring England into line with Scotland and other major European nations like Spain, Italy and Germany.

Since mid-May, the public have been advised to wear coverings in enclosed public spaces, where they may encounter people they would not usually meet.

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Bailiff fears as councils chase unpaid tax debts

Bailiffs employed to chase late payers will soon have the right to resume visits to homes following an enforced break during the coronavirus lockdown.

Some 800,000 UK households are behind on council tax, and from 23 August debt collectors can re-start work chasing payment. According to the Local Government Association, £700m is owed in council tax since the start of lockdown - a figure that's expected to grow.

Emergency legislation was introduced in April banning bailiffs from visiting homes to enforce debts during the Covid-19 restrictions.

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Town centres across England may never recover from Covid-19 crisis, Labour warns

Town centres across England may never recover from the coronavirus crisis, with a £10bn-plus black hole in council finances meaning the closure of libraries, swimming pools, museums and galleries and a sharp reduction in support for economic development, Labour has warned.

Meanwhile, shadow communities secretary Steve Reed warned that government changes to planning rules could see empty shops snapped up by developers for conversion into flats, permanently depriving high streets of retail premises.

With revenues hit and demand on services increased as a result of Covid-19, a number of local authorities are “on the brink of bankruptcy”, which would trigger an immediate requirement for in-year spending cuts to deliver a balanced budget, he said.

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Care workers do not qualify for health visa in new post-Brexit immigration plans

Social care workers do not qualify for the government's new health and care visa under the UK's post-Brexit immigration system, Downing Street has confirmed.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has unveiled details of how the UK's new points-based system will operate when it comes into effect on 1 January next year, after EU freedom of movement rules end.

The prime minister's official spokesman said the government wants employers to "invest more in training and development for care workers in this country".

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Ten million Britons unable to attend funerals in lockdown

Nearly 10 million people were unable to attend the funeral of someone they knew during lockdown, according to a new study from the UK’s largest undertaker, which warned that the nation is heading towards a national grief “pandemic”.

In its report, Co-op Funeralcare found Covid-19 restrictions meant that 9.7 million mourners had to stay away from cremations and burials.

Warning of the long-term psychological impact of being unable to grieve properly, the study said the UK could experience a prolonged period of mourning for months, or even years, to come.

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'No DSS' letting bans 'ruled unlawful' by court

A judge has ruled that blanket bans on renting properties to people on housing benefit are unlawful and discriminatory.

The "momentous" court ruling found a single mother-of-two had experienced indirect discrimination when a letting agent refused to rent to her.

District Judge Victoria Mark heard this latest case in York County Court on 1 July, and ruled: "Rejecting tenancy applications because the applicant is in receipt of housing benefit was unlawfully discriminating on the grounds of sex and disability".

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Flood strategy 'at odds with Boris Johnson push for mass housing'

The government’s long-awaited strategy for tackling floods in England does not go far enough and appears to conflict with Boris Johnson’s “build, build, build” plan for more housing, experts have said.

Billed by ministers as the most comprehensive flood defence plan in a decade, the fresh approach will mean more money spent on natural solutions to counter floods, such as capturing water on fields.

But the plan, unveiled on Tuesday, stopped short of banning any new building on land at the highest risk of flooding, disappointing experts, local authorities and flood-hit communities.

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England's free school meals scheme to close for new claims over summer

Children in England who become eligible for free school meals (FSM) after the summer holidays have begun will miss out on the government’s voucher scheme, it has been confirmed.

Campaigners had recently welcomed the government’s decision to extend the national free school meal voucher scheme over the summer holidays, following an intervention by the Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford. However, they learned this week that any children who become eligible for FSM during the course of the holidays, for example, as a result of their parents losing work because of the pandemic, will not be able to use the scheme.

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Care costs in England should be capped, says social care adviser

Care costs should be capped at £45,000 a year in England and more cash ploughed into provision for the poorest in society, according to Sir Andrew Dilnot, who has advised successive Conservative governments on reform.

The measures to bring care funding closer into line with the NHS would cost an extra £3.1bn a year – a 14% increase on councils’ social care budget – Dilnot said in evidence on Tuesday to the House of Commons health and social care committee.

The committee, chaired by the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, has restarted its inquiry into funding social care and its workforce amid the coronavirus pandemic, during which 20,000 people died in UK care homes from confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19.

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Tory peer calls for immediate £8bn care funding boost

A Conservative peer and former minister has called on the government to make £8bn available for adult social care without delay and boost pay for care workers working in publicly funded organisations.

Lord Forsyth is chair of the Lords economic affairs committee which last year concluded this figure would be needed to return care quality and access to 2009-10 standards. In a letter to care minister Helen Whately today, Lord Forsyth said subsequent research suggested this figure was likely to be higher but would only continue to grow without more funding.

“Without the necessary upfront investment, the gap between funding and need will continue to widen dangerously, the pressure on unpaid carers and local authorities will increase, and the most vulnerable in society will suffer as a result," he wrote. "Continued cross-party talks are not necessary for mitigating this immediate funding crisis.

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Priti Patel to set out post-Brexit immigration details

Britain is "ready to welcome the best and the brightest global talent", Home Secretary Priti Patel has said, as she prepares to unveil more details of her post-Brexit immigration plan.

The new system is set to come into force on New Year's Day, immediately ending freedom of movement with the EU. The government wants to bring in a "points-based" immigration system which would reward high-skilled workers.

Under the government's plan, those wishing to live and work in the UK must gain 70 points. Points would be awarded for criteria such as having a job offer, holding a PhD relevant to the job, speaking English and earning more than £22,000.

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English councils poised to make cuts amid loss of commercial income

English local councils are set to shed thousands of jobs and cut services as they count the cost of lost income from multibillion-pound holdings in office blocks, retail parks, airports and cinemas, all badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The commercial investments, many acquired in a £7.6bn property spending spree in England over the past four years, were part of councils’ effort to find alternative incomes and protect local services that faced cuts or closure during a decade of deep austerity cuts.

A Guardian analysis of council finances using data from the Institute for Fiscal Studies indicates more than 30 local authorities receive at least a quarter of their annual income, which they spend on services, from commercial investments.

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Treasury borrowing clampdown ‘should not have been necessary’

MPs have accused the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s of “complacency” over the huge rise in council borrowing to fund commercial investments over the past few years and of being “blind” to level of risk this poses to the sector.

A report from the Public Accounts Committee, said action taken by MHCLG to address the issue, such as amending its guidance on investments, was “too little, too late”.

It said the recent move by the Treasury to ban councils from borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board for a year if they borrowed to fund a commercial property investment “may prove to be more effective” but it said this was a “clear case or reactive, rather than proactive policy making”.

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Councils issue warning over £730m of unspent EU funding

Nearly a quarter of the European Social Fund is at risk of being sent back to Brussels, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.

The LGA said more than £730m in vital EU cash had yet to be allocated by the Government to councils and combined authorities. It warned that the remaining funds must be used to support employment, skills and training by the end of the year or they will have to be returned.

Chairman of the LGA’s EU exit taskforce, Cllr Kevin Bentley, said: ‘The Government needs to make sure the remainder of this fund reaches the local communities that need it desperately following the devastating economic impact of COVID-19.

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District council gets green light to build first zero carbon affordable homes

Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT) has the green light to build the first zero carbon affordable homes in the district.

Plans to build up to 50 zero carbon homes over across a number of sites have had funding approved, with onsite renewable heat and energy and high levels of insulations to be incorporated.

The council’s policy to support the climate emergency and achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 is upheld by this investment, and supports council ambitions to build 1000 new council homes over the next 30 years.

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Calls to devolve £5.2bn flood defences funding

Councils have called for funding for flood defences to be devolved to local areas, after the Government announced its new long-term plan to tackle flooding in England.

The plan includes £5.2bn investment to create 2,000 new flood and coastal defences, and £200m for projects such as sustainable drainage systems.

An extra £170m will also be spent on accelerating shovel-ready flood defence schemes.

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Cross-party group of MPs to lead first UK coronavirus inquiry

The only UK inquiry to date into the handling of the coronavirus crisis will take its first evidence from bereaved relatives, amid growing calls for a full independent investigation.

Families of those who have died will give their submissions in writing, via video call, or will arrange to do so in person to the new all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for coronavirus, led by a cross-party group of MPs.

It is so far the only independent inquiry into the pandemic taking place in the UK. The politicians involved hope their findings will be used to inform the government’s response before a potential second peak of the illness this winter.

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Labour urges Rishi Sunak to cancel 'secret £1bn giveaway' for landlords and second home owners

Labour has called on Rishi Sunak to rethink a 'secret £1bn giveaway' to second home owners in his mini-Budget.

The Mirror revealed today that the Tories' emergency Stamp Duty cut will hand a massive tax break to landlords and people buying second homes, it's been revealed. The Chancellor yesterday slashed the property sales tax by moving the threshold when it kicks in, from £125,000 to £500,000.

Mr Sunak said the £3.8bn temporary change, to March 31, 2021, will take almost nine in ten buyers out of the tax and stimulate the housing market. It will save the average buyer £4,500, rising to a maximum of £15,000 for homes over £500,000.

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Care homes opening for family visits ‘very soon’

Families will be able to visit relatives in care homes for the first time in more than four months under guidance to be issued by the government within days.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said last night that visits to care homes in England would resume “very soon”, provided that new safety rules were followed.

Most care homes halted visits to residents well before Boris Johnson issued his stay-at-home instruction to the nation on March 23, to minimise the risk of infection among residents. They switched to keeping families in touch by video and telephone calls.

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Junk food deals will be banned in Boris Johnson’s assault on obesity

Boris Johnson is expected to take the first steps of a promised anti-obesity drive with a ban this month on supermarket promotions of unhealthy food.

The prime minister is likely to hold off on introducing a 9pm watershed on the advertising of unhealthy food, however, disappointing campaigners.

Mr Johnson, who had declared himself “very libertarian” on food choices, has said that the coronavirus had convinced him that urgent action was needed.

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Cost of rolling out universal credit rises by £1.4bn, say auditors

There is still no evidence that universal credit benefit is meeting its central aim of getting more people into work – while the costs of implementing it have risen by £1.4bn and it remains beset by delays, according to the government spending watchdog.

In a critical report, the National Audit Office said that although more claimants were being paid on time, the controversial five week wait for a first universal credit payment continued to exacerbate many claimants’ debt problems and push them into hardship.

There are currently 5.3m claimants on universal credit – up from 2.9m in February – as the economic fallout from the pandemic continues. The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced that the number of work coaches in jobcentres would double to 27,000 over the next year to cope with rising numbers of people signing on.

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Surrey leader ‘seeks country’s biggest unitary’

Surrey CC’s leader is understood to be pushing to reorganise his county into a single unitary authority, which would make it the country’s largest such council.

Tim Oliver (Con) has discussed restructuring of the 1.2 million-population county, which has 11 districts, in a series of meetings with ministers, civil servants and the county’s MPs. This is in advance of the government publishing a white paper on recovery and devolution later this year, paving the way for more unitaries nationwide.

It is understood Cllr Oliver is anxious to avoid recent improvements in children’s and adult services being potentially lost as a result of any division of services. He also believes that the county would be hard to divide fairly, with its western half being its wealthiest, meaning that he backs a single council.

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Jobs and services at risk as Luton prepares for emergency budget vote

Councillors at Luton BC are being asked to approve cuts of almost £17m entailing more than 350 redundancies and a restructure of senior management as the council grapples with the financial impact of Covid-19.

An emergency budget report due to go to full council next week says while the budget seeks to protect frontline services “where possible… given the magnitude of the savings it is unavoidable that some frontline services will be affected”.

The council is one of the worst affected financially by coronavirus due to its heavy reliance on income from Luton Airport which it owns. The original 2020-21 budget anticipated income of £33.5m which would have funded around 23% of the council’s total net service expenditure.

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Third of social workers looking to quit profession, survey reveals

A third of social workers are thinking of leaving the profession putting the system at risk of collapse, new research has warned.

A survey by the Social Workers Union reveals that a third of social workers are considering alternative careers as they feel their concerns during the pandemic have been ignored.

Half of those surveyed said they have put their own health at risk during the coronavirus crisis, while one in ten (11%) have felt threatened with disciplinary measures for raising safety concerns.

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Council to bring housing management back in-house

Islington Council is set to bring the management of homes back in-house once its current Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract comes to an end.

The PF12 contract with Partners, covering more than 4,000 council homes, is set to end in April 2022.

A consultation with local residents has revealed 91% are in favour of the council delivering services directly. The council has now opted to being housing repairs and maintenance back in-house.

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Care homes face staffing 'black hole' with new immigration bill

Care homes could face a staffing "black hole" because of the impact of the government's immigration bill, care leaders have warned.

The Cavendish Coalition - which represents UK health and social care groups - says it is gravely concerned. The current proposals would not allow enough overseas workers to be recruited, it has warned.

The government said immigration is "not the answer to the challenges in the social care sector". Leaders of 37 national care organisations, including the NHS Confederation, have signed the letter to the prime minister.

They say the proposed post-Brexit bill could have a damaging effect on care homes and other social care services, especially as the nation heads towards winter - which could bring further challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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'Flawed' test denies EU migrants universal credit, thinktank warns

Large numbers of EU migrants are being rejected for universal credit during the coronavirus pandemic due to a “flawed” and “little-known” residency test, a leftwing thinktank has warned.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said about 45,000 claims for universal credit were rejected due to the “habitual residence” test in the past 12 months – before a significant rise in claims during the Covid-19 crisis.

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Leicester lockdown: No plans for extra Covid cash, minister says

The first city in the UK to be put in local lockdown will not receive special financial support from the government.

Businesses in Leicester had expected extra help after they were ordered to close on 30 June following a spike in Covid-19 cases. A letter from Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi said there were no plans to change or extend any current schemes.

Leicester Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said he was "absolutely furious" the expected funds had not materialised and described the lack of extra measures as "brutal".

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Cost of funerals continues to rise even as services limited

The cost of funerals has risen during the Covid-19 pandemic despite the average ceremony only lasting 15 mins, an analysis has found.

Two-thirds of councils have increased the cost of a cremation by up to 16 per cent from last year, according to research by the BBC, with a quarter freezing prices and just seven having cut costs.

This is despite Government guidelines reducing the allotted time for services and the number of mourners who can attend.

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Dementia patients 'deteriorating' without family visits

Relatives of care home residents with dementia should be treated as key workers, leading charities say.

In a letter to the health secretary, they write that the care given by family members is "essential" to residents' mental and physical health. They argue the current limits on visitors have had "damaging consequences". They want visits to resume safely, with relatives given the same access to care homes and coronavirus testing as staff.

Signed by the bosses of leading charities including Dementia UK and the Alzheimer's Society, the letter calls on the government to "urgently" address what it calls the "hidden catastrophe" happening in care homes.

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Too many youngsters are going to university, Education Secretary says as he rips up 50 per cent target

Too many youngsters are going to university, the Education Secretary has said, as he rips up the 50 per cent target.

Gavin Williamson said that there are "limits" to what we can achieve by sending increasing numbers of school leavers into higher education, adding that it is "not always what the individual and nation needs".

In a virtual speech, hosted by the Social Market Foundation, he warned that we should not try to drive half of young people down a path which they are not all suited to. School leavers should instead be encouraged to enroll in technical and further education colleges or apprenticeships.

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Coronavirus: Rishi Sunak to unveil 'kickstart jobs scheme' for young people

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will announce a £2bn "kickstart scheme" later to create more jobs for young people.

The fund will subsidise six-month work placements for people on Universal Credit aged between 16 and 24, who are at risk of long-term unemployment.

Labour said more action was needed to tackle the "scale of the unemployment crisis" caused by coronavirus.

Mr Sunak is also expected to announce a temporary stamp duty holiday to stimulate the property market.

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Chancellor unveils his three-part plan for jobs

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced the next phase of his plan to ‘protect, support and retain’ jobs in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.

The three-part plan began with the furlough scheme, which has not been extended beyond its October deadline.

Despite predictions of large-scale job losses from the Office for Budget Responsibility and the Bank of England, Mr Sunak told Parliament: ‘I will never accept unemployment as an inevitable outcome.’

Entering the second phase, the chancellor focused on creating jobs for young people, investment in infrastructure, and ‘green recovery’ with cash to for home improvements.

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Leicester mayor accuses Matt Hancock of not sharing Covid-19 data

The mayor of Leicester has accused Matt Hancock and Public Health England (PHE) of withholding vital data that could help reduce the spread of coronavirus through BAME communities as well as workplaces.

In a letter to the health secretary on Thursday, Sir Peter Soulsby claimed that information sent from Whitehall to local officials did not disclose the ethnicity or workplaces of people who fall ill, increasing the difficulty of tracing the spread of the disease.

Local health officials have relied on figures about death rates and hospital admissions that provide limited information on the backgrounds of individuals, he said.

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England's vulnerable teenagers at risk of 'falling off the radar'

Tens of thousands of vulnerable teenagers whose lives have been disrupted by Covid-19 are at risk of slipping out of education and becoming easy prey for criminal gangs, the children’s commissioner for England has warned.

Anne Longfield said more than 120,000 teenagers in England with a history of exclusion, persistent absence from school and periods missing from care could “fall off the radar” without focused intervention as the country comes out of lockdown.

Many more will struggle to adapt to normality after six months out of school, with young people who have finished year 11 – the final year of secondary school – and those whose apprenticeships may have collapsed of particular concern, she said.

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Vouchers of up to £5,000 for home insulation

Hundreds of thousands of homeowners will receive vouchers of up to £5,000 for energy-saving home improvements, the chancellor will announce. Rishi Sunak is due to set out a £2bn grant scheme in England for projects such as insulation as part of a wider £3bn plan to cut carbon emissions.

The Treasury said the grants could help to support more than 100,000 jobs. Labour said renters appeared to be left out and called for a "broader and bigger" plan to cut carbon emissions.

Under the Green Homes Grant, the government will pay at least two-thirds of the cost of home improvements that save energy, the Treasury said. For example, a homeowner of a semi-detached or end-of-terrace house could install cavity wall and floor insulation for about £4,000 - the homeowner would pay £1,320 while the government would contribute £2,680.

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Boris Johnson criticised over 'cowardly' care home comments

Boris Johnson has been criticised for saying "too many care homes didn't really follow the procedures" during the coronavirus outbreak. The prime minister was responding to the head of NHS England's call for reform in social care within a year.

Mr Johnson said it was "important to fund" the sector, but it needed to be "properly organised and supported". Mark Adams, CEO of charity Community Integrated Care, told the BBC the PM's comments were "cowardly".

Speaking to the Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Adams said he was "unbelievably disappointed" by the reaction. "I think at best this was clumsy and cowardly," he continued. "But to be honest with you, if this is genuinely his view, I think we're almost entering a Kafkaesque alternative reality where the government sets the rules, we follow them, they don't like the results, they then deny setting the rules and blame the people that were trying to do their best."

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Forty charities unite in call for new law to end 'patchy' homeless help

Forty charities are urging Boris Johnson to end the "patchy" help for homeless people during the coronavirus pandemic by passing an emergency law.

Crisis, St Mungo's and the Big Issue Foundation are among the groups who have drawn up a bill they say would truly deliver on the government's "everyone in" campaign to accommodate all rough sleepers in England.

Sky News can reveal they have criticised the "piecemeal, disjointed approach" taken by councils across the country and are worried about communal shelters remaining closed as winter and the threat of a second spike in COVID-19 cases loom.

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Care chiefs reject Boris' COVID claims

Care chiefs have rejected claims by Boris Johnson that it was their lack of vigilance that led to a high number of coronavirus deaths in care homes.

On a visit to Yorkshire the Prime Minister alleged that ‘too many homes didn’t follow the procedures in the way they could have’. About half of care homes have had virus outbreaks with 20% of residents infected and 5% of staff.

Martin Green, chief executive of Care England which represents providers: ‘At the start of the pandemic care homes were ignored and our personal protective equipment was directed towards hospitals.’

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Thousands of council jobs at risk due to funding shortfall, union warns

Tens of thousands of council jobs could be lost unless the Government addresses the current funding shortfall, Unison has warned.

The trade union has analysed the impact of the £10bn ’funding gap’ for 2020/21, which amounts to a 21% reduction in spending compared to the previous financial year.

This could could lead to the loss of 51,000 children’s social workers, 141,000 adult care workers and almost 46,000 refuse collectors, according to the research.

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If lockdown can go local, the plan for recovery should do the same

We are living through a national crisis. But as the news from Leicester has brought into sharp relief, we are also living through a series of local crises.

What started centred in London has now moved to afflict northern towns and cities. It will no doubt move again. There are some patterns. Death rates are higher in more deprived areas — even more so than normal. There is also a lot of apparently random variation; similar, neighbouring areas have often had very different experiences.

We can expect more local peaks and troughs over the course of the pandemic, possibly requiring more local lockdowns, and certainly requiring localised policy responses.

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Arts venues welcome £1.57bn government support

The government has unveiled a £1.57bn support package to help protect the futures of UK theatres, galleries, museums and other cultural venues.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told BBC Breakfast new grants and loans aim to preserve "crown jewels" in the UK's art sector as well as local venues. It follows several weeks of pressure, with industry leaders warning that many venues were on the brink of collapse.

Independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues will also be eligible. Guidance for a phased return of the performing arts, starting with performances behind closed doors and rehearsals, is expected to be published by the government shortly.

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Sunak to give firms £1,000 cash bonus to hire trainees

The government is pledging to provide 30,000 new traineeships to get young people in England into work, as fears about mounting unemployment increase.

Traineeships provide classroom-based lessons in maths, English and CV writing, as well as up to 90 hours of unpaid work experience.

Under the £111m scheme, firms in England will be given £1,000 for each work experience place they offe

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Another 27,000 excess deaths 'likely' if government continues on this path, warns top scientist

A further 27,000 excess deaths are "likely" between now and next April under the current approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic, a former government chief scientific adviser says.

Sir David King, who has been critical of the easing of lockdown measures, told Sky's Sophy Ridge On Sunday, "we need to look at the fastest route out of COVID-19" and the current one "is not right".

He said it looked as though Downing Street's policy was to "maintain" the current level of about 3,000 new infections per day across England.

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Think tank calls for sweeping reforms to local taxes

A group of former Treasury special advisers have called for revaluation of the council tax and reform of business rates to boost the economy post-COVID-19.

The ex-advisers, part of a centre right think-tank called Onward, call for ‘sweeping reform of the tax system in particular reforming business and property taxes including council tax revaluation.’ The last valuation was in 1991 and it has been prostponed by successivew governments ever since.

In their report, Bouncing Back, the authors call for new fiscal rules targeting debt falling as a percentage of GDP by 2025. They argue that ‘politically, there is no mandate for a course of action that looks like reducing public spending on essential services such as the NHS’ but also stress that ‘a radical vision for permanently and radically bigger government was rejected by the electorate in December.’

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Ed Davey calls for £45bn funding for councils to fuel green economic recovery

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey will call for local authorities to be granted £45bn of “green recovery investment” money and a suite of new powers, to help kickstart economic growth and emissions cuts in the UK’s regions.

In a speech to the Local Government Association, Mr Davey, a candidate in the Liberal Democrat leadership race, will call for a “Devolution Revolution to drive the Green Revolution”.

He will argue a massive cash injection for cash-strapped councils will help them “take a lead in the fight against climate change” as well as “the fight against the recession”.

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Local officials kept in the dark by Whitehall on Covid-19 testing data

Local health officials are being “kept in the dark” about Covid-19 infections in their area by Whitehall’s refusal to share all of its data, Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, has warned.

Public health officials and council leaders also told the Observer that they were receiving only partial postcode data, which prevents them from precisely monitoring local areas, and could allow the virus to spread.

Burnham has urged ministers to change their approach after a week that saw Boris Johnson impose a local lockdown on Leicester when health secretary Matt Hancock, revealed that the city had seen a surge of 944 Covid-19 cases over two weeks.

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Sunak considers £500 vouchers for all UK adults to spend in Covid-hit firms

Radical plans to give all adults £500 and children £250 in vouchers to spend in sectors of the economy worst hit by the Covid-19 crisis are being considered by the Treasury.

The proposals, drawn up by the Resolution Foundation thinktank, which has had recent talks with the Treasury about its ideas, are aimed at kickstarting economic recovery by triggering a highly targeted surge in spending. Under the plans the vouchers could only be spent in certain sectors, such as hospitality and “face to face” retail, as opposed to online.

The proposals are similar to successful schemes already used in China, Taiwan and Malta. In April, the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the Covid-19 outbreak is believed to have started, issued 500 million yuan (£57m) in consumption vouchers for use in restaurants, shopping malls, convenience stores, and cultural, sports and tourist venues.

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Social care reform needed within a year - NHS England boss

Plans to adequately fund the social care sector need to be in place within a year, the head of NHS England has said.

Sir Simon Stevens told the BBC the Covid-19 crisis had shone a "very harsh spotlight" on the "resilience" of the care system. He said there was a need to "decisively answer" how high quality care could be provided long-term.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said it had set out a "comprehensive action plan" to support social care in England during the pandemic.

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New five-step plan for local lockdowns as Leicester rules come into force

A five-step plan for imposing local lockdowns in the case of coronavirus spikes has been announced by the government - as new regulations for Leicester come into force today.

Boris Johnson said the approach is now moving to a local focus rather than locking down the entire country.

Speaking at a Downing Street coronavirus briefing, the prime minister said the five-step plan will include: monitoring, engagement, testing, targeted restrictions, and "as a last resort", local lockdowns.

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Councils will be forced to make cuts or face bankruptcy amid £6bn funding crisis

Councils will be forced to make huge cuts or go bankrupt in the face of a £6.9billion financial black hole.

The elderly, young and vulnerable are likely to be hit hard this winter as frontline services are slashed. Bin collections, social services, youth activities and libraries will also suffer and some leisure centres will never reopen after lockdown.

Council incomes have plunged ­during the pandemic as revenue from local taxes and charges has nosedive. That comes on top of a decade of Tory cuts which saw a 60 per cent drop in government funding.

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English countryside 'at risk from Boris Johnson’s planning revolution'

The English countryside and its wildlife are at serious risk because of Boris Johnson’s pledge to revolutionise the planning system, leading green groups warn today.

In a joint letter to the Observer, the organisations, which include the National Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Wildlife Trusts, say wide-scale deregulation leading to lower environmental standards and less protection would be a betrayal of promises by Johnson and Michael Gove to deliver a “green Brexit”.

Such backtracking, which they fear is imminent, would also damage the UK’s reputation in the battle against climate change. The prime minister last week pledged to stimulate economic recovery after the Covid-19 crisis with a “build, build, build” strategy, adding that he wanted to drive through the most radical changes to the planning system since the second world war to ensure fast progress.

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Teachers should be vigilant for signs of abuse when schools reopen, NSPCC says

Teachers should be extra vigilant for signs of neglect and abuse when schools reopen, the UK’s leading children’s charity has said, as ministers draw up plans for a post-coronavirus child recovery strategy.

The NSPCC has urged the Government to give school staff a crash-course over the summer holidays in how to handle disclosures from pupils and how to spot red flags.

It comes amid concerns that when children return to the classroom, teachers may be the first front line professionals they have seen in up to six months.

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Care home staff and residents to get regular COVID-19 tests from next week

Staff and residents in care homes in England will be regularly tested for coronavirus from next week, the government has said.

Care home workers will be tested weekly, while residents will receive a test every 28 days, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

It has also promised intensive testing in any care home facing a coronavirus outbreak or an increased risk of a flare-up.

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Labour call for free flu vaccines for over-50s this winter to prevent 'perfect storm'

Everyone aged over 50 should be given a free flu vaccine to safeguard the NHS against the "perfect storm" of a winter flu outbreak and a resurgence of coronavirus, Sir Keir Starmer has told Sky News.

The Labour leader said the government "owed it to the NHS" to ramp up its vaccination programme this year in order to prepare for what could be a very difficult winter, as he demanded that 10 million more people be offered a flu jab.

Speaking on a visit to London's University College Hospital, Sir Keir praised the NHS for "an incredible job" in handling the COVID-19 crisis.

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Ministers to tone down warnings over use of trains and buses in boost for public transport

Public transport is likely to be opened up to thousands more passengers under government plans to drop official advice warning them to stay away.

Ministers are preparing to tone down warnings over the use of trains and buses amid criticism from operators and backbench MPs that too many services are running empty.

The Times has learnt that the government will monitor use of public transport over the weekend and early next week before possibly abandoning the approach it has maintained since March. Over the past three months commuters have been told to use other forms of transport with buses and trains only used for essential journeys.

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Clarke indicates flexibility on unitary size in drive to make state ‘match fit’

Areas that adopt elected metro mayors will get the “most generous” devolution deals as the government embarks on the “most ambitious devolution agenda in 70 years”, local government and regional growth minister Simon Clarke has said.

Addressing the Local Government Association’s virtual conference this morning, Mr Clarke also revealed the government did not yet have a fixed view on a minimum population size for new unitaries of between 300,000 and 400,000, as he suggested in a parliamentary written answer earlier this week.

Mr Clarke was asked by Martin Hill (Con), leader of Lincolnshire CC – an area where early stage talks on devolution and reorganisation are taking place with the government, whether the government would consider alternatives to metro mayors for devolution deals in rural areas.

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LGC survey: Third of senior officers expect to issue s114

Concern about the financial impact of coronavirus on council finances has intensified over the past few months with almost a third of senior officers warning that their council could be forced to issue a section 114 notice, LGC’s latest survey has found.

Among the most senior respondents, 83% were very concerned about their council’s financial position as result of Covid-19, up from 65% when we asked the question in the first week of April.

Overall 88% of these respondents said their council was projecting a shortfall as a result of Covid-19, with the remainder unsure.

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LGA says ‘more is desperately needed’ despite funding package

The package of measures announced by the government yesterday to support council budgets is not enough, the Local Government Association has said.

The LGA renewed its call for ministers to meet all cost pressures and income losses faced by councils as result of Covid-19.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick yesterday announced an additional £500m to support cost pressures, freedom to spread council tax and business rate collection deficits over three years instead of one and a commitment to fund 75% of losses from sales fees and charges, above 5%.

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England lockdown easing 'biggest step yet', says PM

The easing of lockdown rules in England is the "biggest step yet on the road to recovery", the prime minister has said.

Many businesses - including pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and cinemas - can reopen from Saturday.

Boris Johnson said the public "must not let them down" by being complacent about social distancing, and he would "not hesitate" to reimpose restrictions if the number of Covid-19 cases rises.

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Almost 30,000 'excess' care homes deaths

Almost 30,000 more care home residents in England and Wales died during the coronavirus outbreak than during the same period in 2019, ONS figures show.

There were just over 66,000 deaths of care home residents in England and Wales between 2 March and 12 June this year, compared to just under 37,000 deaths last year.

Covid-19 was the leading cause of death for male care home residents, accounting for a third of all deaths, and the second most-common cause of death for female residents, after dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

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Covid-19 exposes stark generational housing divide, UK report says

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed a generational divide in living conditions across Britain, with young people more likely to be locked down in smaller, overcrowded homes with no access to garden than older age groups, a report has found.

The scale of inequalities in living conditions are, the report concludes, “both striking and worrying as we enter a reopening phase that will see many people continue to work from home, alongside the risks of further local or national lockdowns”.

Lockdown Living, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, found that young people aged 16-24 in England were locked down in homes with, on average, half the floor space of older people, and are more than one-and-a-half times as likely to have no garden, or to live in a derelict or congested neighbourhood.

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Year groups kept isolated in back-to-school plan

The Department for Education is expected to confirm safety plans based on reducing contact, rather than social distancing.

For GCSEs and A-levels, most pupils will be expected to continue with all of their intended subjects. Attendance will be compulsory, with the threat of penalty fines for parents.

The bubble system also means that if there are infections - either in a class or a year group - that all the children in that group could have to be sent home.

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Fears grow for UK high street as more than 6,000 retail jobs cut in a day

More than 6,000 retail jobs were cut from the UK high street on Wednesday as the full impact of the pandemic on the high street – combined with the wind-down of the government furlough scheme – starts to emerge.

The latest job losses – from retailers ranging from Harrods to Philip Green’s Arcadia group and SSP, the company behind hundreds of railway and airport eateries – bring the total cuts announced this week to more than 10,000.

New data showed the number of shops that have collapsed into administration in the first six months of 2020 is already more than the number that failed in the whole of 2019.

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Councils warn of £10billion cash black hole as Robert Jenrick pumps an extra £500million into struggling English local authorities

Robert Jenrick sparked a row with local government this morning after announcing plans to pump an additional £500million into council coffers today.

The Communities Secretary said the cash would go towards covering lost income during the coronavirus lockdown, which has seen mothballed firms given business rate holidays and forced other cuts to income.

It is part of a £4.3billion package of support put in place by the Government and is not ring-fenced and allow council and business rates tax deficits to be repaid over three years instead of one.

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Downing Street blames councils for failure to receive key outbreak information

A furious row has broken out between central and local government, after Downing Street has blamed the failure to provide town halls with details on coronavirus outbreaks in their areas on the councils themselves.

Boris Johnson's official spokesman said councils such as Rochdale had not received the data because they failed to do the paperwork. But the Greater Manchester borough hit back, saying it had been asking for the information for weeks and data privacy forms finally sent out by Public Health England were "not fit for purpose".

A series of local authority leaders have come forward in recent days to complain that they are not being provided with postcode-level data held by central authorities which would help them stave off a flare-up of the kind which has forced the return of lockdown in Leicester.

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School safety plans will keep groups apart

The government has published its safety plans for England's return to school in September - built on the principle of keeping classes or whole year groups apart in separate "bubbles".

Schools will have testing kits to give to parents if children develop coronavirus symptoms in school. Mobile testing units may be sent to schools which have an outbreak.

"By working together we will make sure that their hopes and dreams for the future are not to be knocked off course," Gavin Williamson said during a Downing Street press briefing.

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Jenrick pledges to lobby Treasury if more council funding needed this year

The communities secretary has pledged to lobby the Treasury for more funding for councils if it is needed this year, after announcing a set of measures designed to give them the “confidence and stability” to lead the economic recovery in their areas.

Earlier today, it was revealed that an additional £500m would be made available to support councils with their Covid-19 cost pressures, on top of the £3.2bn previously announced. Alongside this government will guarantee 75% of losses from sales, fees and charges above 5% and will allow councils to pay off council tax and business rates deficits over three years instead of one.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy, Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers and London Councils have all warned that the £500m would still leave councils facing a funding gap.

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Emergency active travel fund: final and indicative allocations

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Struggling councils face £10bn black hole, Keir Starmer warns

Councils face a "perfect storm" as a result of the coronavirus crisis and government inaction which could decimate local services, Labour is warning.

Leader Sir Keir Starmer says local authorities will have a £10bn "black hole" in their finances unless ministers step in to plug the shortfall.

Many councils have struggled with the pressure on budgets caused by lockdown measures cutting off their income sources while demand for support for the elderly, disabled, homeless, and other vulnerable groups is high, and must be paid for while keeping normal services - such as bin collections - running.

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English councils breaking law in 'secretly' relocating homeless people

Councils across England are systematically breaking the law by relocating hundreds of homeless people outside of their boroughs without notifying the authorities receiving them.

An investigation found that schools are being overwhelmed, with northern cities such as Bradford having received at least 290 households from 31 different boroughs in the past two years, many of them from London, Kent and Essex.

If a homeless person is moved elsewhere in the country, local authorities are legally supposed to notify the council in charge of where they are being placed so social, medical and educational support can be put in place.

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Jenrick expected to announce plans to ease finance woes

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick is expected to announce new measures to help cash-strapped councils deal with the coronavirus pandemic when he speaks to the Local Government Association virtual conference tomorrow.

Ministers have repeatedly indicated they were working on a ‘comprehensive plan to ensure councils’ financial sustainability over the financial year ahead’ amid growing concern in the sector about the future viability of some authorities.

Mr Jenrick, along with local government minister Simon Clarke, has been involved in detailed talks with chancellor Rishi Sunak in the run-up to his speech.

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MHCLG rejects statutory duties review

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has rejected calls to review statutory duties on councils, The MJ has learnt.

With councils desperate for more funding to keep services going and a number of leaders expressing fears that their authority will not be able to fulfil its legal duties, ministers had been asked to review which services are a statutory duty and which are non-statutory.

MHCLG acknowledged that local authorities were having to make ‘difficult decisions as to priorities’ but pointed out the Government had already made ‘significant reductions to the burdens faced by local authorities at this challenging time’.

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COVID funding gap hits £7.4bn, LGA estimates

The funding gap created by COVID-19 now stands at £7.4bn, the Local Government Association has said.

Analysis of the June financial returns showed council incurred £4.8bn in extra cost pressures and income losses as a result of the pandemic.

The association now estimates the cost to councils will now reach £10.9bn. After the £3.2bn emergency funding provided by Government, and a further £300m from clinical commissioning groups, it leaves councils with the £7.4bn black hole.

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Councils miss outbreak plan deadline amid uncertainty over lockdown powers

Some councils have failed to get local outbreak plans approved by councillors before a government deadline, amid concerns about access to data and a lack of clarity about who would trigger a local lockdown.

The day after the official deadline passed for councils to get their local outbreak plans in place, LGC understands that some plans are still awaiting final approval from councillors.

But directors of public health have been working on shifting sands to finalise their plans, which have been made on the basis of existing powers and responsibilities; secondary legislation is expected to pass through Parliament this week, triggered by the spike in cases in Leicester, which it is reported will give local areas further powers to trigger ‘local lockdowns’ of whole areas as opposed to just particular institutional settings and businesses.

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‘We’re making a noise because this is money we’ve spent in good faith’

The chief executive of a council facing a Covid-19 budget deficit equivalent to all of its non-social care services has branded the prospect of major cuts “manifestly unfair” on residents.

Redbridge LBC is urging residents to sign a petition calling on the government to make good on its commitment to provide councils with “whatever funding is needed” as a result of the pandemic after it received just £15.7m to cover the £60m estimated financial impact for 2020-21.

In an interview with LGC chief executive Andy Donald said the shortfall was equivalent to about a quarter of the council’s net revenue budget.

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CIPFA mulls legal action against council

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) has put aside £500,000 to fund potential legal action against Ealing LBC over a contract dispute.

CIPFA wants to recover its losses from the London Counter-Fraud Hub (LCFH) after the project failed to get off the ground.

London Councils had said that all boroughs intended to participate but, in its early stages, CIPFA publicly admitted that ‘coordinating agreement across 33 organisations, all of which might have their own priorities and political agendas’ would be a ‘significant challenge’.

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Rent arrears could see homelessness treble this year, campaigners warn

Homelessness could treble this year due to financial impact of coronavirus, campaigners have warned today.

A new report, published by Generation Rent, shows that rent arrears has trebled since the start of the crisis, with over half a million households currently in arrears.

The report urges the Government to suspend evictions for rent arrears and ensure the benefits system covers housing costs.

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UK libraries are set to reopen – but not as we know them

UK libraries will start to reopen from 4 July. But anyone hoping to pop in and browse the bookshelves, take their child to rhymetime or spend a couple of hours using the computers is going to be disappointed.

Returned books will be put into crates and quarantined for 72 hours. As for browsing, there may be a system whereby any books that have been touched and not borrowed have to go into quarantine; it’s still to be decided. But the system to check books out is in place: librarians will be behind perspex screens, through which library cards can be scanned.

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Ministers reject £6,000 scrappage scheme for toxic vehicles

A scrappage scheme for petrol and diesel cars appears to have been ruled out by the government despite concerns over levels of toxic emissions.

Ministers said that there were no plans to hand motorists £6,000 to trade in the most polluting vehicles in favour of an electric model.

The Department for Transport added that it was already investing about £2.5 billion on the transition to zero-emission cars. Two years ago ministers had discounted a scrappage scheme because it would be far too costly and potentially open to abuse.

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Faulty masks sent to care homes and GPs recalled

Batches of surgical face masks delivered to care homes and GPs during the coronavirus pandemic have been recalled because they are faulty, Sky News has learnt.

The masks, which are out of date by as much as seven years but were deemed safe to use, have been withdrawn after faults were reported with the straps and nose protection which hold them in place.

In a recall notice issued by the Department of Health and Social Care on 26 June, care homes were told they must immediately stop using the Cardinal Healthcare IIR masks and destroy them because of "a risk to staff" if the masks degrade.

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Leicester lockdown tightened as cases rise

The UK's first full local lockdown has been announced in Leicester, with stricter measures imposed in the city.

Non-essential shops will shut on Tuesday, and schools will close for most pupils on Thursday because of a rise in coronavirus cases. The loosening of restrictions for pubs and restaurants in England on Saturday will also not be taking place there.

He told the House of Commons on Monday evening: "We recommend to people in Leicester, stay at home as much as you can, and we recommend against all but essential travel to, from and within Leicester."

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Boris Johnson pledges 'new deal' to build post-virus

Boris Johnson will promise to "build build build" as he unveils government plans to soften the economic impact of coronavirus.

Speaking in the West Midlands, the prime minister will say he wants to use the coronavirus crisis "to tackle this country's great unresolved challenges".

The prime minister's speech comes as BBC analysis found that the UK was the hardest hit of all the G7 major industrialised nations by the virus in the weeks leading up to early June. In April, the UK economy shrunk by a record 20.4% as a result of the spread of coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown measures.

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Coronavirus slump could delay building of 300,000 homes

More than 300,000 planned new homes may remain on the drawing board over the next five years, deepening the UK’s housing crisis, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, new research predicts.

Stalled construction and the recession will slash the number of new homes being built, with 85,000 predicted to be lost this financial year, according to a study by the property agency Savills with the housing charity Shelter.

Shelter is proposing the government compresses its already announced five-year, £12.2bn affordable homes programme into two years to combat the slump.

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PM promising £1bn to rebuild crumbling schools

Funding of £1bn for 50 major school building projects in England is being promised by the prime minister.

There will also be a further £560m for repairs to crumbling school buildings.

"It's important we lay the foundations for a country where everyone has the opportunity to succeed," said Boris Johnson.

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Thousands may have died in care homes after families were ‘blocked from discharging them’

Thousands of care home residents may have died because their families were not allowed to discharge them during the coronavirus pandemic, lawyers have told the Telegraph.

Dr Oliver Lewis, a human rights barrister, claims providers failed to take into account the “clear risk” to its patients and they should have disregarded safeguards to send people home.

In one case a woman passed away from Covid-19 in her care home despite her family fighting for months to remove her. They are now facing a hefty bill for the care she received in the weeks prior to her death.

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UK needs 'biggest-ever peacetime job creation plan' to stop mass unemployment

The biggest job creation package in peacetime is needed to prevent the worst unemployment crisis in Britain for a generation, a leading thinktank has warned.

Sounding the alarm as job losses mount, the Resolution Foundation called on the government to continue subsidising the wages of workers in the sectors of the economy hardest hit by the Covid-19 crisis until at least the end of next year.

It said the coronavirus job retention scheme – which is supporting the wages of more than 9 million workers at a cost to the taxpayer of more than £22bn so far – should be turned into a job protection scheme that would be kept in place throughout 2021.

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South Yorkshire devolution deal set for approval

South Yorkshire's devolution deal will be finalised in Parliament later, four years after it was first announced.

The county, under Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis, will have new powers and receive about £30m from Whitehall. Local Government Minister Simon Clarke said the deal would "unlock real benefits for people across South Yorkshire".

The order for the deal will be laid in Parliament after letters of agreement were submitted by the mayor and council leaders in Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

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Back-to-school safety plans for autumn leaked

The return-to-school plans for autumn in England will involve entire year groups staying in separate "bubbles".

A draft of the plans, set to be announced later this week, has been published by the Huffington Post. It means that groups of up to 240 pupils could be kept apart within a school, with a separate time for starting and finishing.

The plans, understood to be draft documents shared as part of a consultation, show the approach to safety in the autumn is an expansion of the "protective bubble" approach already used.

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Cash strapped county unitary names new chief

Terence Herbert has been appointed chief executive of Wiltshire Council as the unitary moves back to a traditional single chief executive structure.

The council, which earlier this month warned it could go bust by the end of the current financial year, introduced a triumvirate management structure in 2018 with the responsibilities of the chief executive split between Mr Herbert, Carlton Brand and Alastair Cunningham.

Following Mr Brand’s departure in January 2020, Mr Herbert and Mr Cunningham split the responsibilities of chief executive between them.

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Jenrick ‘comprehensive plan’ likely this week as June returns show costs rising

Councils have reported an increase in the financial impact of Covid-19 of at least £800m in June, figures shared with LGC show, as speculation mounts that further government support will be announced this week.

The latest set of returns detailing the cost increases and income lost by councils as a result of the pandemic were submitted to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government on 19 June.

The 47 members of the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities are forecasting a combined financial impact of more than £2.5bn during 2020-21, up from £2bn in May’s return. Income losses were up by almost 14% to nearly £1.4bn while cost pressures were up by more than a fifth to almost £1.2bn with services expecting increased pressure across the board. Research officer Sam Blakeman told LGC some of the increase could be down to “more accurate” predictions of full year costs in the June returns compared to the May data which asked councils to assume a return to normality in July.

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Playground guidance branded ‘bonkers’ as minsters urge reopening of tips and toilets

Whitehall has been accused of unrealistic expectations of councils' ability to ensure facilities such as toilets and playgrounds are reopened in a Covid-19 safe way after a decade of austerity and job cuts.

Senior figures in local government have reacted angrily to a letter issued to leaders and chief executives of councils over the weekend from local government minister Simon Clarke and environment minister Rebecca Pow, urging them to reopen toilets and tips.

The letter “strongly” urged councils with toilets still shut to refer to government guidance on opening toilets in a safe way, to “consider the harm to public health and the local environment caused by people relieving themselves in public” and “the equality implications” of those who need to use the toilet more often.

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Sheffield devo deal set to be passed by Parliament

A new devolution deal for South Yorkshire will be laid before Parliament today, handing new powers and millions of pounds of funding to the region.

Sheffield City Region Mayor, Dan Jarvis, described it as a ‘landmark moment’.

He said: ‘The journey to reach this point has been long and difficult. I firmly believe it is worthwhile, as it provides leaders in South Yorkshire the opportunity to transform our region. I am confident we will seize this moment to build back better, creating a stronger, fairer, greener economy and society.’

He vowed to work alongside the leaders of the South Yorkshire councils – Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield – as the region works to rebuild the economy post COVID-19.

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Council may have to issue s114, warns CIPFA

Windsor & Maidenhead RBC may not be able to set a legal budget in future years and may have to issue a Section 114 notice, finance experts have warned.

A review of the council’s governance by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) said the authority (RBWM) faced an ‘uncertain future’. The review read: ‘The position for the royal borough is more acute than other councils due to its very low level of reserves.

CIPFA also found a ‘lack of financial transparency and medium-term financial planning over a number of years,’ a poor officer culture and ‘little differentiation between officer and senior member roles and responsibilities’.

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County set to approve £102m waste contract

Norfolk County Council is set to approve a new six-year waste management deal with Veolia, worth £102m. If approved, the contract would save the council £2m and 47,000 tonnes of carbon a year.

The report says: 'The new contract would deliver additional recycling, provide a service based on zero waste direct to landfill, deliver improved value for money and savings of £2m a year, and achieve significant carbon savings compared to landfill by using rubbish as a fuel in incinerators to generate energy within the United Kingdom.'

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Clarke: Devo white paper will bring ‘more mayors and more unitaries’

Local government minister Simon Clarke has confirmed the government is looking to create unitaries with populations of at least 300,000 to 400,000 in one of the clearest indications of the government's plans for the future structure of local government.

Responding to a written question by Simon Hoare, MP for North Dorset, Mr Clarke said that the Devolution White Paper to be published this Autumn will establish “more mayors and more unitary councils”, and has also indicated separately his enthusiasm for strengthening the role of parish and town councils.

The Devolution White Paper will set out “transformative plans for economic recovery and renewal, and for levelling up opportunity, prosperity, and well-being across the country”, Mr Clarke said.

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Local health officials say they have been left in the dark on spread of coronavirus

The UK's Lighthouse Laboratories were designed to be able to centralise data on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus – but multiple public health directors say they are still being denied postcode-level and specific patient data for positive tests.

Speaking to The Independent as part of it's investigation into the UK’s coronavirus expansion, several said they had been informed about clusters of outbreaks by local media rather than via the NHS test and trace service because key details such as where a person works, or their place of worship, were not routinely recorded.

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'Unacceptable' drop in care at Kettering home with 12 Covid-19 deaths

A dramatic collapse in standards at a care home where a dozen people died from Covid-19 has been revealed by inspectors who discovered hungry and thirsty residents living with infected wounds in filthy conditions.

Infection control was inadequate, residents with dementia were left only partially dressed and one family complained of finding their loved one smeared in dried faeces at Temple Court care home in Kettering, which is operated by Amicura, a branch of Minster Care which runs more than 70 homes in the UK.

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Government ‘abandons plans to give Robert Jenrick more power over planning decisions’

The government wanted to give Robert Jenrick more power over planning decisions before the controversy erupted over his relationship with a billionaire property developer, according to reports.

However, Boris Johnson has decided to put the proposals “on hold” rather than unveil them in a major speech about rebuilding Britain in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, The Daily Telegraph claimed.

The prime minister was also expected to include the changes in a white paper on planning later this year, the newspaper said.

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Trafford Centre owner Intu falls into administration

Trafford Centre owner Intu has collapsed into administration, after failing to secure its future during crunch talks with lenders.

The shopping centre owner, which also runs Lakeside in Essex, had been in a desperate scramble to agree a “standstill” on its current loan agreements.

On Friday morning the group said it was likely to appoint administrators, as it remained unable to agree the terms of such a deal with its creditors.

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Citizens advice warn of council tax “D-Day”: Bailiffs to chase debts again under new rules

Council tax debt has become a real problem in recent months and new legislation put through by the government may only make this worse. Three of the UKs largest debt charities have called on the government to take urgent action.

Due to how dire the situation has become, Citizens Advice, the Money Advice Trust and Stepchange have joined forces, calling on the government to implement measures that could protect millions of people from spiralling into debt problems.

These changes could be desperately needed given new legislation that came into effect on Wednesday June 24.

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UK councils fear bankruptcy amid Covid-19 costs

Some of the largest UK councils say they may have to declare themselves effectively bankrupt unless the government agrees to further support.

Five councils said emergency spending controls - so-called section 114 notices - could be needed due to the impact of Covid-19.

Nearly 150 authorities have forecast a combined budget shortfall of at least £3.2bn, the BBC found.

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Liverpool says £467m will help prevent 'profound crisis' in post-Covid recovery

Leaders in Liverpool say a "profound crisis" in the city could be prevented if the Government provides £467 million towards a post-coronavirus recovery plan.

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson and Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, have written to the Prime Minister to set out the £1.4 billion plan, which they say will create 25,600 jobs, provide 12,000 construction jobs and lead to more than 9,700 apprenticeships.

It comes as the BBC reported at least five English councils have warned they are effectively bankrupt, with Birmingham City Council saying emergency spending controls "would not rectify" its situation.

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‘A sticking plaster’: Fears government plans to rehouse rough sleepers will force thousands back on to streets due to their immigration status

Councils and charities have expressed concern that new government funding to support rough sleepers moving out of hotels will exclude thousands of homeless people because of their immigration status.

The government announced £85m in new funding on Wednesday to provide interim support for about 15,000 vulnerable people who have been accommodated in hotels and other forms of emergency accommodation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, said the money would be used to support rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness into tenancies of their own, including through help with deposits for accommodation, and securing thousands of alternative rooms already available and ready for use, such as student accommodation.

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‘Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to speed up climate action with green recovery

The Government must seize the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to deliver a pandemic recovery that speeds up the fight against climate change, its advisers have urged.

In its annual report to Parliament, the Committee on Climate Change has warned the UK is not making the progress it needs to drive down emissions and prepare for the impacts of rising temperatures.

But recovering from the economic shock of coronavirus and at the same time accelerating moves to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 is “absolutely necessary and entirely possible”, the advisers said.

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Government to tear up red tape to allow more outdoor drinking and dining

A bonfire of red tape is being unveiled by Boris Johnson in a move to help the economy to recover from coronavirus and the nation to enjoy the summer sunshine outdoors.

On the day temperatures are set to soar to a record 34C - hotter than the Caribbean and Morocco - the government is publishing new legislation sweeping away dozens of planning regulations.

The result will be more food and alcohol on sale outdoors, more outdoor markets, car boot sales and summer fairs, all allowed without the burden of restrictive planning and licensing laws.

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Quarter of nurseries fear closure due to coronavirus

A quarter of nurseries are likely to shut within a year as coronavirus restrictions limit the number of places and many parents remain fearful of sending their children back, operators have said.

Nurseries and other early years childcare criticised the government for refusing to offer them similar support to that allocated to schools.

Analysis by Ceeda, a market research company specialising in early years education, found that only 37 per cent of childcare places in England were taken in the first week after nurseries reopened in early June. This compared with an average occupancy of 77 per cent a year earlier. Even if occupancy were to double the nurseries would still lose money because they have not been reimbursed for additional costs associated with the pandemic, such as personal protective equipment and additional cleaning.

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Over £46m paid to survivors of abuse at Lambeth children's homes

A survivors’ group has secured a total of more than £46m compensation for 1,340 people who suffered “horrific” abuse in children’s care homes that were infiltrated by paedophiles over several decades.

The highest individual payment to date has been £245,000, and with 620 applications still to be reviewed, and more survivors coming forward daily, campaigners believe the overall compensation bill could double.

The money has been paid to people who were in care over a period spanning from the 1930s to the early 1990s, living in homes predominantly run by Lambeth council in south London.

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Anglesey coronavirus cases: How a ‘local lockdown’ would actually work in the UK after spike at 2 Sisters meat factory

A recent outbreak in Anglesey, Wales – where two hundred cases of coronavirus were confirmed at a chicken processing plant in Llangefni – brought this issue to the forefront, leading to speculation that the area could have to retreat back into lockdown.

Wales’s First Minister has said it could implement a local lockdown in response to the outbreak – with officials reviewing the situation with the aim of judging whether a regional crack-down would be beneficial.

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Local councils face a Covid-19 cash crisis

ocal government finance is a bit like a sore tooth. It’s something people typically choose to ignore until they wake up one morning and find themselves in so much pain that they need a shot of morphine and a swift trip to see an emergency dentist for a surgical procedure.

Council taxpayers might be about to find out just how painful that surgery is going to be. Local authorities were in a precarious financial position before the novel coronavirus landed on these shores.

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Planning and licensing changes to pave the way for alfresco summer

Outdoor markets and summer fairs will not need planning permission while pubs and restaurants will be able to use car parks as seating areas, under a raft of new measures intended to boost the hospitality industry in the wake of Covid-19.

The Business & Planning Bill, announced by ministers today, will also make it easier for businesses to obtain pavement licences by reducing the consultation period from 28 calendar days to five working days. Consent will be granted automatically after 10 working days if the council does not issue a decision.

A government press release announcing the moves said councils would “need to continue to ensure their communities are consulted on licensing applications, that waste is disposed of responsibly, and that access to pavements and pedestrianised areas is not compromised”.

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Diana Melville: How to improve councillors’ financial scrutiny

"Elected members do not need to be financial experts, but they need to know the right questions to ask, writes the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy’s governance adviser."..

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Fresh reorganisation offensive leaves districts quaking

The County Councils’ Network (CCN) has launched a fresh offensive to rip up the local government map as the country emerges from the shadow of coronavirus.

Giving evidence to the House of Lords’ Public Services Committee, CCN chairman, Cllr David Williams, argued England had ‘far too many councils’ and called for reforms to the way local government is organised.

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Hand health powers to elected mayors, says report

Health powers should be handed to elected mayors as part of a ‘rejuvenated and fortified wave of devolution,’ a think-tank report has suggested.

The report by Respublica said the move would provide ‘regional democratic legitimacy’ to devolved health and care systems.

Respublica previously proposed a 'path to reform' involving 'transformative devolution to the counties' and 'complete reorganisation in the form of single-tier unitary councils'.

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Apprenticeships 'are not delivering social mobility'

The apprenticeship system is failing disadvantaged young people in England, warns the Social Mobility Commission.

The commission also says the Covid-19 pandemic will make things worse and will exacerbate youth unemployment.

In a report, it highlights a 36% decline in people from disadvantaged backgrounds starting apprenticeships, compared with 23% for other groups.

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1.1m pupils have returned to school

More than a million children in England are back at school for the first time in three months, data shows.

By the end of last week 1.16 million were getting face-to-face teaching, 12.2 per cent of all school-age children, up from 9.12 per cent the week before.

The rise is owing to secondary schools welcoming back Year 10 and Year 12 pupils for meetings with teachers to discuss online learning and study plans for the summer holidays. They take GCSEs and A levels next summer.

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Health leaders say UK must start preparing for second Covid-19 wave

Health leaders are calling for an urgent review to ensure Britain is properly prepared for the “real risk” of a second wave of coronavirus.

Ministers have been warned that urgent action is needed to prevent further loss of life and to protect the economy amid growing fears of a renewed outbreak over the winter.

The appeal is backed by the presidents of the Royal Colleges of Physicians, Surgeons, GPs and Nursing – as well as the chairman of the British Medical Association.

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Gyms and swimming pools ‘could reopen in July’

Swimming pools and gyms in England could reopen in July, the business secretary has announced as it emerged that drinkers who fail to socially distance in pubs could be fined by the police.

Alok Sharma said he hoped that leisure centres and indoor gyms would be able to reopen later next month as the government published hundreds of pages of guidance before reopening big sectors of the economy on July 4.

The bulk of England’s hospitality, leisure and tourism industries will be able to restart from July 4 as the coronavirus infection rate continues to fall. Pubs,

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Government allocates an additional £105m for rough-sleeping

The ring-fenced fund is made up of £85m of new funding from the Treasury and £20m from refocusing existing homelessness and rough sleeping budgets.

The government said the fund will be used to support rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness into tenancies of their own.

This will include help with deposits for accommodation and securing alternative rooms already available and ready for use, including student accommodation.

The funding is in addition to the ‘Everyone In’ scheme launched in April, which has seen local authorities house rough sleepers in hotels or emergency accommodation during the pandemic.

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Ministerial role needed to fix unequal education system, say MPs

A new ministerial post should be created to address the “entrenched inequity” in England’s education system, which is holding back pupils from diverse backgrounds, according to a cross-party group of parliamentarians.

The role is vital, they say, especially in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has called for greater diversity in the curriculum, and the disproportionate impact that the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have on the most disadvantaged.

A report by the all-party parliamentary group on diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) education calls on the government to make it more relevant to the lives of all young people.

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UK public 'supports green recovery from coronavirus crisis'

People would be prepared to continue many of the lifestyle changes enforced by the coronavirus lockdown to help tackle the climate emergency, and the government would have broad support for a green economic recovery from the crisis, according to a report.

Working from home is a popular option, along with changes to how people travel, and the government should take the opportunity to rethink investment in infrastructure and support low-carbon industries, the report found.

The findings come from Climate Assembly UK, a group of 108 members of the public chosen to be representative of the UK population and to help shape future climate policy by discussing options to reach net zero carbon emissions, in line with the government’s 2050 target.

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Surge during pandemic of children needing foster care as more families reach ‘crisis point’

Foster care is in a “state of emergency” as the number of referrals rockets while the number of people looking to take children in has halved during the coronavirus pandemic, a charity has warned.

Barnardo’s, one of the UK’s largest fostering agencies, recorded a 44 per cent rise in foster referrals to its service during the public health crisis, with the figure increasing to 2,349 between 1 March and 23 April, compared with 1,629 for the same period last year.

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Eight out of 10 English councils at risk of bankruptcy, says study

More than eight out of 10 English councils providing adult social care services are at technical risk of bankruptcy – or face a fresh round of cuts to services – because they cannot meet the extra financial pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research.

The analysis estimated that predicted Covid-19-related costs and income losses in 131 out of England’s 151 upper-tier councils this year will exceed both the levels of their available financial reserves and the support so far provided by central government.

The majority of those councils that are in the “red wall” northern England and Midlands parliamentary seats won by the Tories from Labour at the last general election are at risk of going bust because of Covid-19 pressures, the study found.

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Whitehall not sharing Covid-19 data on local outbreaks, say councils

Local outbreaks of Covid-19 could grow undetected because the government is failing to share crucial testing data, council leaders and scientists have warned.

More than a month after being promised full details of who has caught the disease in their areas, local health chiefs are still desperately lobbying the government’s testing chief, Lady Harding, to break the deadlock and share the data.

The situation was described by one director of public health as a “shambles”, while a scientist on the government’s own advisory committee said it was “astonishing” that public health teams are unable to access the information.

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Government announces more money to keep rough sleepers off streets

The Government has committed more money to stop thousands of homeless people returning to the streets after charities warned they could be evicted from hotels without further funds.

Rough sleepers and those at risk of becoming homeless will be helped to secure their own tenancies through £105 million, £85 million of which is new funding, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said.

The Treasury money will also help them put down deposits for accommodation and secure thousands of rooms already available, such as student accommodation, while they wait for a permanent home.

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Cash-strapped councils in poorer areas will be hit hardest by coronavirus, study warns

Councils in hard-up areas are more likely to see increases in demand for their services if poorer families are hit harder by the coronavirus crisis, a report warns today.

More deprived communities have populations likely to be more vulnerable to the health and social impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says.

Rates of mental illness are more than 1.5 times higher in the most deprived tenth than the least deprived tenth, and around twice as high in places such as Manchester and Hackney, London, than in Wokingham, Berks – the least deprived council in England.

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Call to build 100,000 homes a year for frontline ‘heroes’

Ministers are being urged to build 100,000 “homes for heroes” every year to ensure that key workers in the pandemic have affordable accommodation.

The ambitious construction programme would boost the economy by creating thousands of jobs and cut the housing benefit bill, according to the Local Government Association.

Properties could be rented to public service workers at reasonable rates and be used to house people who have lost their relatives during the coronavirus pandemic.

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PM to announce on Tuesday if pubs can reopen

Boris Johnson is expected to announce on Tuesday if the hospitality sector can reopen on 4 July and if the 2m distancing rule in England can be relaxed.

Non-essential shops have reopened in England already. Health Secretary Matt Hancock earlier said England is "clearly on track" to further ease lockdown restrictions.

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Boris Johnson drops plans to suspend Sunday trading laws after objections from own MPs and Labour

Boris Johnson has shelved plans to suspend Sunday trading laws for a year after they were opposed by a string of Tory MPs and by Labour.

Downing Street had been pushing for the suspension of Sunday trading laws to be included in new coronavirus legislation that will be published this week.

The move was opposed by traditionalist Conservative MPs, however, and by Labour, which is concerned about the impact on shop staff. As many as 50 Tory MPs were said to be opposed.

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GCSEs and A-levels likely to be later next summer

Next year's A-levels and GCSEs in England could be pushed back later into the summer to allow more teaching time, says Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

This would allow schools to catch up some of the time lost since the lockdown.

Mr Williamson told MPs he would be consulting the exam regulator Ofqual about extra time to deliver courses.

It follows a similar proposal announced for exams in Scotland.

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Rishi Sunak plans emergency cut in VAT to rescue ailing economy

Rishi Sunak is ready to slash VAT and pump billions into the economy as the government prepares to ease social-distancing rules.

The chancellor has ordered officials in the Treasury and HMRC to prepare options to reduce the sales tax, including a cut in the headline rate, and zero rating more products for a fixed period.

In private briefings last week, Treasury officials pointed out that Sunak could lower VAT and business rates at the stroke of a pen when he makes a planned speech on the economy in early July.

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'One metre plus', the new rule that will reopen UK

Boris Johnson is poised to announce a new "one metre plus" rule for all venues, including shops, restaurants, schools, offices, and parks, in an overhaul designed to unlock swathes of the economy.

The move, which would take effect from July 4, is understood to entail allowing people to remain a metre away from others if they take additional measures to protect themselves, such as wearing a mask or meeting outdoors.

In restaurants, pubs and bars, firms will be expected to introduce measures such as partitions between tables that are less than two metres apart.

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£350m tutoring scheme aiming to help pupils worst hit by school closures pleases some and concerns others

A multimillion-pound tutoring programme for pupils worst affected by coronavirus closures has been widely welcomed but concerns have been raised about the ability of some schools to pay towards the subsidised scheme.

The £350 million year-long initiative is due to start in autumn and will see state primary and secondary schools in England able to access “heavily subsidised tuition” from an approved list of organisations.

It was announced as part of a £1 billion fund to help children “catch up” with lost learning after months out of school amid the pandemic.

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Up to half of rough sleepers in hotels may not have access to support when they leave, charities warn

Thousands of rough sleepers living in hotels during lockdown may not be able to access any support when they are made homeless again because of their immigration status, leaving them with no option but to return to the streets, charities warn.

Almost 15,000 rough sleepers have been housed in hotels or emergency accommodation since the lockdown began under the “Everyone In” scheme, under which local authorities in the UK were required to house rough sleepers with a £3.2m pot of funding from central government.

Ministers told local authorities at the end of May they must put in place plans to ensure all rough sleepers currently accommodated in hotels and other forms of emergency accommodation were supported as part of the “next phase” of the government’s strategy for rough sleepers.

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4.5m people in UK forced to become unpaid carers

An estimated 4.5 million people – three times the size of the NHS workforce – have been forced to become unpaid carers for sick, older or disabled relatives by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to research.

Charities say the huge increase – a result of support services being withdrawn – has happened behind closed doors.

There were already an estimated 9.1 million unpaid carers before the outbreak. The research comes after it was revealed that more than 100,000 people doing unpaid caring for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives had been forced to use food banks since start of the pandemic.

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UK debt now larger than size of whole economy

The UK's debt is now worth more than its economy after the government borrowed a record amount in May.

The £55.2bn figure was nine times higher than in May last year and the highest since records began in 1993.

The borrowing splurge sent total government debt surging to £1.95trn, exceeding the size of the economy for the first time in more than 50 years.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the figures confirmed the severe impact the virus was having on public finances.

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Homeless people moved out of hotels prompting fears hundreds will be forced to return to streets

Homeless people are being moved out of hotels they have been in since the start of lockdown, prompting fears that hundreds of vulnerable individuals will be displaced back onto the streets while the coronavirus crisis is still ongoing.

Almost 15,000 rough sleepers have been housed in hotels or emergency accommodation since the lockdown began under the “Everyone In” scheme, whereby local authorities in the UK were required to house rough sleepers with a £3.2m pot of funding from central government.

Contracts between local authorities and hotels were thought to be terminating at the end of June at the earliest, but The Independent has learned that rough sleepers have already been asked to leave a number of hotels in London.

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Care providers 'will go to the wall' without more funding

Leaders of social services in England have said there will be "catastrophic consequences" without immediate investment in the sector. Councils could run out of cash and care providers could "go to the wall", a report by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) warns.

It says increased costs due to Covid-19 have exacerbated an existing crisis. The government has given councils an extra £3.2bn to tackle the pandemic and £600m for care.

The ADASS report warns that increased spending due to coronavirus - for example, on personal protective equipment (PPE), staffing costs and sickness cover - means some private care providers may go out of business.

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Get all children back to school, doctors tell Boris Johnson

More than 1,600 paediatricians have called on Boris Johnson to reopen schools or risk “scarring the life chances” of a generation of children. In an open letter to the prime minister they said that vulnerable children were suffering while schools remained shut during the lockdown.

The letter, signed by members of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, asks the government to publish a clear plan for getting all children back to school as a first step in a national recovery programme for young people.

Most children have been out of school for more than 12 weeks, a break that the letter describes as “without precedent” and which puts the opportunities of a generation of young people in jeopardy.

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Government to fund private tutors for English schools

The government is set to announce a year-long national tutoring programme aimed at helping pupils in England to catch up on lost learning as a result of school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Guardian has learned.

Under the plans, schools will be funded to hire private tutors from approved agencies to deliver one-to-one and small group lessons to pupils who have fallen behind with their studies after months out of school. Many have not accessed any remote learning throughout lockdown.

The multi-million-pound programme, to be funded by government, is expected to involve thousands of tutors and will be delivered in schools, with a mixture of online and face-to-face sessions, designed to support and complement pupils’ regular school work.

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Luton Council warns of ‘severe cuts’ to frontline services

The council said the pandemic has had a “catastrophic” impact on its finances, and it may have to cut services in order to deliver a balanced budget.

It said it had been hit hard by the shutdown of its airport, which it said plays an increasingly key role in supporting vital services.

The council added that it faces a £50m shortfall in its finances, even taking into account government funding to date. It said it is able to draw down on its reserves, but added it still needs to take out almost £22m from the budget in order to fulfil its duty to balance the books.

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Covid-19 effect on Scottish economy revealed

New monthly data published to track the economic impact of the pandemic estimate that GDP in Scotland fell by 18.9% in April after a decline of 5% in March.

The worst hit sectors have been accommodation and food services, which has seen a decline of 85% over the last two months, and arts, culture and recreation, where output has fallen by over a half.

“These results are very similar to the pattern seen across the UK as a whole and reflect the direct economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in Scotland during the first weeks and full month of the lockdown phase,” the report from the Scottish Government’s chief economist directorate said.

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Home and school-based learning must be ‘poverty-proofed’, says charity

Children are sharing workspaces and laptops at home and missing out on seeing their classmates online, as families struggle with the cost of home schooling, a report has found.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) found that families on low incomes who are living on means-tested benefits are particularly likely to have bought extra resources to help their child’s education during the lockdown.

Families living on means-tested benefits were particularly likely to say that they lacked all the resources they needed to support learning at home, with 40% saying they were missing at least one essential resource.

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Bank of England unleashes another £100 billion to boost economy amid signs of ‘less severe’ hit

The Bank of England has launched another £100 billion of economy-boosting action in the face of the coronavirus crisis, despite signs the hit may be “less severe” than first feared.

Members of the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) voted eight to one to expand its quantitative easing (QE) programme to £745 billion, on top of the extra £200 billion announced in March.

The Bank held interest rates at an all-time low of 0.1%, despite mounting speculation policymakers may look to take rates below zero for the first time ever to pull the economy out of its nosedive.

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Social care is running out of cash, experts warn

Social care could run out of money to deal with the fallout of the coronavirus crisis by the end of the summer unless the Government steps in with more cash.

The peak of the crisis may have passed, but the impact on social care will continue for a long time to come, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Care (ADASS) has said. They estimate they will need at least as much funding again as they have already had.

In the second report on the dire state of social care and its funding, the association called for a two-year ring-fenced funding settlement to protect services while a long-term solution is found.

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Council celebrates ‘landmark’ ruling that will save museums thousands

Exeter City Council has welcomed a landmark ruling over the rateable valuation of a Grade II building in a court decision that could save museums thousands of pounds.

The Royal Courts of Justice ruled that the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery’s rateable value should be reduced from £445,000 to £1.

The council was supported by Arts Council England (ACE) and the National Museum Directors Council (NMDC) due to the importance of the case for the sector.

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UK inflation rate falls to fresh four-year low

A record fall in fuel prices, including petrol, pushed the UK's inflation rate down to 0.5% in May, the second full month of the coronavirus lockdown.

Fuel prices declined by 16.7% during the month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, dragging the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) to the lowest level since June 2016.

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New trials planned for cash-stricken communities

Eight locations across the UK, including an army barracks, have been chosen for trials to help solve problems with access to cash.

Organisers hope they will inform debate over the future of cash in the UK, particularly for those who rely on it.

The Community Access to Cash Pilot will test new subsidised ATMs and local cash deposit centres for retailers.

It comes as a new forecast suggests cash use will fall faster in the UK than in much of Europe.

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Younger children ‘struggle with behaviour and focus in lockdown’

Younger children have struggled to cope with lockdown but teenagers are faring well, an Oxford University study suggests.

Parents of primary school age children taking part in the research reported an increase in their children struggling with emotional and behavioural problems and lacking focus.

They saw increases in their children feeling unhappy, being worried, clingy and experiencing physical symptoms associated with worry, according to early results from the Co-SPACE study, set up to monitor how families are coping during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Job cuts warning as 600,000 roles go in lockdown

The number of workers on UK payrolls dived more than 600,000 between March and May, official figures suggest.

Meanwhile, the number of people claiming work-related benefits - which includes the unemployed - was up 126% to 2.8 million.

The early estimates reflect the impact of around six weeks of lockdown in which large parts of the UK were shut.

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'Invisible' unpaid carers going hungry in lockdown

Christie Michael is so worried about protecting her elderly mother that she has not gone outside her front door since the lockdown began in March.

She says it is "lonely and isolating" - but the mother and daughter in Essex have also found themselves hungry.

Research from Sheffield and Birmingham universities suggests more than 100,000 unpaid carers in the UK have had to rely on food banks during the pandemic.

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Toilet fears hamper high street return for some

The high streets, retail parks and shopping centres are buzzing with life again as the coronavirus lockdown eases across England. But in many areas public toilets remain closed. So how are people meant to spend their hard-earned pounds, when they can't even spend a penny?

Laura Reid needs to carefully plan her shopping trips - and won't be visiting any in a hurry. The 27-year-old has irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) so hasn't been to any shops since they reopened because of a lack of toilet facilities.

"The big thing for me when I go out is 'where is the nearest loo' because you've always got that anxiety in your head," said the journalist, who lives in Barnsley."I've avoided going to the shops or supermarket for that reason."

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England's councils 'face large-scale' cuts to services

Some of England's biggest councils could see "large-scale reductions" to services as they attempt to balance the books, new analysis says.

A report for the County Councils Network found that 39 local authorities face a funding shortfall of £2.5bn.

It warned councils may have to "use up" all the money they hold in reserve by next year as they deal with the fallout from coronavirus.

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Coronavirus leaves £500m black hole in London's finances

Coronavirus has left a £500m black hole in the capitals' finances, the Mayor of London has revealed.

Sadiq Khan has warned services, including the police and fire brigade, will need to be cut back without a government bailout.

Local authorities across the country face a shortfall of business rate and council tax income caused by the impact of Covid-19, he said.

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Budget setting could result in ‘large scale reduction’ in services

England’s largest councils could be forced to make “large-scale reductions” in services in order to set legal budgets this year, according to a report from the County Councils Network.

The study, carried out by advisory firm Grant Thornton, reveals that all 39 of the county and unitary authorities surveyed could use up their available reserves in 2021/22 to cover a funding shortfall of £2.5bn.

It adds there is a risk that a “significant” number of councils will be forced to implement service reductions and, as a last resort, issue a section 114 notices in the current year to meet their statutory duty to deliver a balanced budget in 2020-21 and 2021-22.

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Leeds City Council warns of cuts and job losses

The coronavirus pandemic could result in "draconian" cuts in services and job losses without further government support, a council has warned. Leeds City Council said it expected to face a budget overspend of almost £200m this year.

Losses from council tax and business rates as a result of Covid-19 have accounted for £61m of the overspend, Victoria Bradshaw, the council's chief finance officer, said. She outlined the scale of the situation, saying the overspend position for the current year stood at around £197.6m. The authority's total budget for 2020/21 is £530m.

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Free internet to help poorer pupils study online

Free internet access is being offered for six months to help some disadvantaged youngsters study online.

The scheme will provide 10,000 families in England with vouchers for internet access, funded by BT and distributed by the Department for Education. Most primary and secondary pupils are still out of school and learning online. But there have been concerns about a "digital divide" with poorer pupils missing out.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said everything possible would be done to "make sure no child, whatever their background, falls behind as a result of coronavirus".

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Council chiefs call for action to resolve £6bn Covid-19 crisis

Local authority leaders have urged the Government to provide detailed plans on how to ensure the financial stability of cash-strapped councils.

Already strained local authority budgets have been placed under more pressure by the pandemic with the Local Government Association (LGA) estimating the funding shortfall for councils this year to be ‘at least’ £6bn.

Speaking in the Commons yesterday, the local government minister Simon Clarke said that the Government was working on a ‘comprehensive plan to ensure financial sustainability of councils this financial year’.

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Council planning powers under threat

Planning powers could be shifted from local authorities to development corporations as part of an economic stimulus package to be announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson later this month.

A panel of experts has been put together by communities secretary Robert Jenrick to advise on changing planning laws that will create a zonal system, transferring powers to development corporations and speeding up permission for infrastructure building, according to reports.

Under the proposals, each council area would be divided up into different neighbourhoods, in which some uses would be permitted and others forbidden.

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Give 1m UK children reliable broadband or risk harming their education, MPs say

The government must urgently ensure that more than 1 million children have reliable internet access at home or risk irreparable harm to their education, a cross-party group of MPs and former ministers has said.

Tony Blair is among a number of prominent figures, including a Tory grandee, to back calls to equip 1.3 million children eligible for free school meals with a broadband connection and devices.

A bill that will be presented to parliament this week says the coronavirus lockdown had “exposed the digital divide”, with about 700,000 children unable to complete any schoolwork because of a lack of internet at home.

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IFS exposes impact of COVID-19 on different areas

The balance of protecting public health and returning to economic activity varies from one area to the next, research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has found.

In a report that could have wider implications for a localised response to the virus, the IFS found the cost of lockdown could even vary in neighbouring local authories.

Torbay and the Isle of Wight are the areas likely to be hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis, the IFS said, but there is no north-south or urban-rural divide.

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Councils warn they have no legal powers to enforce ‘local lockdowns’

Councils do not have the legal powers to enforce a “local lockdown” across a city, town or neighbourhood to prevent clusters of coronavirus cases spreading widely into the community, local authority leaders have warned.

They called on ministers to urgently spell out what a local lockdown might mean in practical terms or risk a local outbreak spreading out of control, at a hearing of a parliamentary committee.

Greg Fell, director of public health for Sheffield, said that while councils did have the power to act to control smaller outbreaks “in a school or a workplace or a care home” by, for example ordering them to close, that did not apply for larger areas.

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[Coronavirus] '3.5 million jobs at risk' if two-metre rule isn't eased, PM warned

A decision on the future of the two-metre rule will be "underpinned" by science, the foreign secretary has said, as Downing Street was warned "millions of people depend on this decision".

Some Conservative MPs - such as Imran Khan - have claimed 3.5 million jobs are at risk if the restrictions aren't eased.

Speaking at the latest coronavirus news briefing, Dominic Raab the restriction is "something that can be looked at" as the virus is brought under control.

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Four in 10 pupils have had little contact with teachers during lockdown

Four in 10 pupils in England are not in regular contact with their teachers, a study has found, amid mounting evidence of wide disparities in the provision of schoolwork during lockdown and fears that millions of children are doing little or nothing at all.

The report for the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) also found that a third of pupils were not engaged with their lessons, fewer than half (42%) had bothered to return their work, and pupils in the most disadvantaged schools were the least likely to be engaged with remote learning.

As concerns grow about the impact of learning loss on a generation of children locked out of school, a separate study for the University College London (UCL) Institute of Education estimated that two million pupils in the UK – around one in five – had done no schoolwork or managed less than an hour a day.

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[Coronavirus] Oversupply of kits to care homes raises concern over Covid-19 test figures

Care homes are receiving far more coronavirus testing kits than they order, raising concern that the extra supplies help the government inflate the number of people it claims have been tested.

Robin Hall, manager of the Home of Comfort nursing home in Southsea and secretary of the Hampshire Care Association, said her home requested 92 kits and received 150. Other homes in Hampshire asked for 62 kits and got 100, another sought 20 and received 50, and another got 50 after requesting 35.

Gabriel Scally, a member of the Independent Sage committee of scientific and medical experts, said the dispatching of extra kits to care homes appeared to be a deliberate attempt to distort the total that ministers announce at the government’s press briefings as the number of tests carried out.

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Wardens hired to police crowds as high streets in England reopen

Local councils and retail giants will deploy a small army of “social distancing wardens” on Monday to police crowds as non-essential shops open their doors after almost three months of lockdown.

Councils across the country have hired or redeployed staff to ensure shoppers and retailers comply with social distancing rules. And big chain stores, including Primark, Ikea and John Lewis, have brought in extra security staff.

The councils and retailers hope the wardens will prevent unruly queues as people rush back to clothes, homewares and electrical shops that have been closed since March. More than 1,000 people were reported to have queued outside Ikea warehouse stores, some turning up at 5.30am, when the Swedish chain was allowed to open two weeks ago.

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[Coronavirus] jobless total to hit 4.5m as firms wield axe

Boris Johnson has been warned by cabinet ministers to brace himself for unemployment to hit 4.5 million, the highest number since records began, as a poll finds one in three firms is poised to make staff redundant due to the coronavirus.

A survey by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) reveals that 34% of managers are set to lay off staff, with 26% expecting to do so this year.

The findings come before figures this week that are expected to show the worst rise in unemployment since the 1920s.

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Business rates grant money could be clawed back, says IFS

Central government funds given to councils to pay for grants and business rates waivers may have to be paid back if it is unspent, a finance think tank has claimed.

Of the £22bn given to English local authorities, up to £400m could be left unspent, according to calculations by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS).

IFS associate director, David Philips, said a lack of a centralised databases of business rates, and the speed at which the scheme was set up meant it was ‘inevitable’ that the initial allocations would differ from the final cost of the grant scheme.

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Prime minister is risking basic right to an education, says children’s tsar

Boris Johnson was accused of putting children’s basic right to education at risk last night, as he faced a mounting chorus of pleas to unveil an unprecedented emergency programme for England’s pupils.

With growing frustration among teachers, MPs and unions over the chaotic return of schools, Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, warned there was a “very dangerous” threat to the historic right to guaranteed education.

She warned that next year’s academic year could be seriously hit, and that reduced access to education was being allowed to become “the default” in some schools. The right to education is enshrined in the UN’s convention on the rights of the child.

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Coronavirus R number may have risen above 1 in parts of England, govt says

The coronavirus reproduction rate may have risen above 1 in parts of England, government scientists have said.

Official figures indicate the rate - known as the R number - is between 0.8 and 1.0 across the whole of England. This range is slightly higher than for the entire UK, where it remains between 0.7 and 0.9.

The figure is crucial in guiding the government's gradual relaxation of coronavirus lockdown measures. If the R value is one, each infected person will on average pass COVID-19 on to one other.

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UK economy shrinks record 20.4% in April due to lockdown

The UK's economy shrank by 20.4% in April - the largest monthly contraction on record - as the country spent its first full month in lockdown.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the "historic" fall affected virtually all areas of activity.

The contraction is three times greater than the decline seen during the whole of the 2008 to 2009 economic downturn.

But analysts said April was likely to be the worst month, as the government began easing the lockdown in May.

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Test and trace funding allocated to councils

Local authorities across England have been allocated a share of £300m to support new test and trace services.

Each upper tier local authority has been awarded funding to develop outbreak control plans, with extra funding provided for communities with lower incomes or higher healthcare demands.

Minister for regional growth and local government, Simon Clarke, said: 'Councils are playing a hugely important role in our national efforts to respond to the virus, and this includes test and trace services.

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Older carers ‘forgotten’ by care system says charity

Older carers have been ‘forgotten’ by authorities despite them bearing the brunt of the pandemic, a charity has warned today.

Age UK said over one million carers aged 70 or over have been negatively affected by coronavirus due to a reduction in care services.

It found that home care packages of support have been cancelled for many older carer during the pandemic, forcing them to take on more caring responsibilities. It argues this has left them feeling forgotten and at breaking point.

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[Coronavirus] Poorest areas of England and Wales hit hardest by Covid-19 – ONS

People living in the poorest areas of England and Wales have been twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as those in less deprived areas, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The analysis reveals the disproportionate impact of the death toll in some places, with London boroughs with high levels of socioeconomic deprivation particularly hard hit.

The figures covering March to May show that people living in the poorest 10% of England died at a rate of 128.3 per 100,000, compared with a rate of 58.8 per 100,000 among those living in the wealthiest 10% of the country.

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‘Simmering community tensions’ spark Covid cohesion concerns

Councils are concerned about rising community tensions in the wake of Covid-19 amid fears that further inequalities caused by a prolonged recession will provide “fertile territory for extremists”.

The concerns come as the death of George Floyd in the US and the higher Covid-19 death rate among BAME communities in the UK has sparked protests over racial inequality across the world.

Several councils have reported concerns to the Local Government Association about simmering community tensions and how this will play out as the country emerges from lockdown.

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Scientists say coronavirus 2m rule can be relaxed

The two-metre social distancing rule can be abandoned by businesses reopening after lockdown if they introduce other measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus, Government scientists have told ministers.

Following a political backlash against the two-metre rule, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) published a paper on Friday which set out protocols – such as regular breaks, and getting workers to sit side by side – that would make it much safer for people to be within one metre of each other.

Over the past few days, officials have begun discreetly contacting business groups to ask whether they would object to it being watered down, The Telegraph understands.

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Unite to ballot members over ‘insulting’ council pay offer

Around 100,000 council workers will be asked if they want to accept or reject the 2.75% pay offer.

Unite the union will ballot its members over the pay offer which it has described as ‘unrealistic and insulting’. It is warning members that the offer amounts to just £1.83 a day.

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Traffic levels 'now double the lockdown low'

Traffic on Britain's roads is now at a similar level to that seen in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the AA says.

It slumped to between 35% and 40% of the pre-coronavirus volume at the beginning of lockdown but has since doubled to around 75%.

AA head of roads policy Jack Cousens told the BBC that traffic could return to normal "by the end of July".

But Friends of the Earth said pollution should not be allowed to "creep" back to the pre-pandemic level.

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Low-carbon and renewable economy could create 700,000 jobs by 2030, report says

A low-carbon and renewable energy economy could create nearly 700,000 jobs in England by 2030, with the potential of more than 1.18 million jobs created by 2050, according to a report by the Local Government Association (LGA).

The LGA’s “Local green jobs” report showed demand for environmentally friendly jobs would rapidly increase as the UK transitions to a net zero emissions economy.

It also suggested that focussing on a low-carbon economy could help to counter job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which are likely to increase further when the government’s furlough scheme ends later this year.

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Covid-19 crisis means England's local authorities could go bust, warn mayors

Mayors in some of England’s biggest cities are warning that local authorities are at risk of going bust with potentially devastating consequences for communities unless the government takes immediate action.

As the impact of the Covid-19 crisis hits local authorities, the mayors of London, Greater Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool have issued a joint call to highlight the seriousness of the issue and urge Boris Johnson to respond.

“Unless the government acts immediately to support local and regional government in England there is a very serious risk that the economic recovery from Covid-19 will be choked off by a new era of austerity – something the prime minister promised wouldn’t happen,” the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said.

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Robert Jenrick urged to release documents in planning row

Labour has urged Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick to publish all correspondence relating to his approval of a £1bn property scheme.

Richard Desmond donated £12,000 to the party two weeks after Mr Jenrick gave planning permission for his company to build 1,500 homes in east London.

The call came after it emerged the developer of the scheme has since given money to the Conservative Party. The Conservatives said policies were "in no way influenced by donations".

The property development was approved the day before the introduction of a new council community levy which would have meant the company paying an additional £40m.

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More than a third of employees furloughed in some UK towns

More than a third of employees in some towns in Britain have been furloughed due to coronavirus, according to figures that also reveal the government’s job retention scheme has now cost almost £20bn.

Crawley in Sussex, which sits next to Gatwick airport, had 33.7% of employees furloughed last month while in contrast Cambridge had just under half that proportion at 17.4%.

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Children face a 'whole series of harms' because their lives were put on hold by school closures designed to protect the middle-aged and elderly from the coronavirus, SAGE paediatrician warns

Children may suffer long-term mental health, social and educational problems because of a decision to shut schools to protect old people, a top scientist warns.

Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and a member of government advisory group SAGE, said youngsters' lives had been 'put on hold' to benefit the middle-aged and elderly.

As a result, he said, millions of children have faced a 'whole series of harms', missing out on education and friendships, and vulnerable children have lost the safety net that going to school each day provided.

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Care homes were ‘afterthought’ with devastating coronavirus consequences

Years of failed efforts to integrate NHS and social care hampered the response to the coronavirus crisis, according to the first independent report into preparations for the pandemic.

The National Audit Office report into the work done to prepare services showed that care home residents were “an afterthought”, Meg Hillier, the chairwoman of the Commons public accounts committee, said last night.

The report said that 25,000 hospital patients had been discharged to care homes at the height of the pandemic. It said: “Due to government policy at the time, not all patients were tested for Covid-19 before discharge, with priority given to patients with symptoms.” It also found that one in three homes for the elderly had suffered virus outbreaks.

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New powers to crack down on cycle lane misuse by motorists

Local authorities will be given new powers to crack down on misuse of cycle lanes, the Department for Transport has announced.

Councils in England will be able to use CCTV to fine drivers who park illegally in cycle lanes under new laws coming into force on June 22.

It is hoped this will reduce the number of cyclists forced into the flow of traffic because a cycle lane was blocked.

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Rip up planning red tape to spur house building, says Robert Jenrick

The Housing Secretary has called for a rethink of the "overly bureaucratic" planning system, with reform seen as a key part of the Government's economic recovery plan.

Robert Jenrick has said he wants to "speed up and simplify" the process and help young people buy their first home.

Ministers consider planning reform to be one of the ways to get the UK economy going again after the coronavirus pandemic, with work ongoing in Number 10 and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

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Dozens more statues could be removed due to slavery links as councils promise reviews following protests

Dozens more controversial statues face being pulled down after councils vowed to review their monuments following a series of Black Lives Matter protests.

Two slave trader statues have been removed in recent days - one by campaigners at an anti-racism protest and another with the approval of a local authority following a petition.

A statue of slave owner Robert Milligan was removed from its position in the docks he founded at West India Quay, east London, on Tuesday.

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[Coronavirus] Plans shelved for primary pupils to be back in school before summer as figures reveal half have reopened

New figures show around half of primary schools in England reopened to more children last week, as the government scrapped plans for all pupils to return before the summer holidays.

According to the Department of Education, around 659,000 children attended an education setting last Thursday, 6.9% of all pupils who normally attend.

Around 11% of all state nursery and primary school pupils attended education settings on Thursday - the first week that schools in England began admitting children in nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 as part of a phased reopening as the coronavirus lockdown is eased.

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Councils given extra time to update electoral rolls

Local authority staff will be given more time to complete this year's annual electoral canvass due to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Government is extending the deadline for revised registers from 1 December 2020 to February 2021.

It will also allow the upcoming boundary review to be based on data from the previous electoral registers before the start of the pandemic.

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Wiltshire warns of s114 amid £50m shortfall

A £50m financial shortfall resulting from Covid-19 places a “significant risk and threat to the continuation of” Wiltshire Council in its current form, the authority has warned.

The Conservative-controlled council may have to issue a section 114 notice, effectively declaring its bankruptcy, before the end of the current financial year, a report for a cabinet meeting yesterday evening warned.

The document put coronavirus’s financial impact on the council for 2020-21 at £80m, with additional government funding estimated at just £29.8m. When the small impact on last year’s budget is taken into account, the shortfall is £50.6m, equivalent to 15% of Wiltshire’s net budget.

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Social distancing ‘could push leisure providers into bankruptcy’

The strict social distancing regime that leisure centres will have to introduce when they reopen could push some providers to close down centres permanently, council treasurers have warned.

Leisure providers were already facing financial hardship before the Covid-19 crisis hit, with almost two-thirds of leisure centres in need of urgent new investment, according to Sport England. During lockdown, they have faced a financial double whammy of ongoing utility bills while revenues dried up, and many have not received government support.

The District Councils’ Network is forecasting a financial hit to leisure centres of around £305m this year which it claims will send many out of business.

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District to hold emergency budget today to stave off section 114

Stevenage BC will hold an emergency budget meeting this afternoon in an attempt to plug a £4.8m budget black hole, but its leader has admitted that the proposed measures will only “put off”, and “not solve” its financial woes.

The Hertfordshire district has received £917,000 of emergency government funding, which even if the economy is only impacted from April to June is still less than half (49%) the total anticipated cost to the council of dealing with the crisis, according to a report going before council today.

Stevenage is grappling with income losses and cost pressures of £4.8m due to the pandemic and its leader, Sharon Taylor (Lab), has warned that its budget shortfall could rise to £6m by the end of this financial year if the economy does not pick up and more funding from Whitehall is not forthcoming.

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Closure of public toilets causing anxiety, distress and frustration across UK

The ongoing closure of many public toilets across the UK is having a serious impact on wellbeing, limiting people’s capacity to exercise freely or visit loved ones, and creating a significant secondary public health risk as people have no option but to relieve themselves in the open, a Guardian survey and investigation has found.

With reports of bushes in city parks stinking of urine, and human excrement in sand dunes, readers across Britain have described their anxiety, distress and frustration as public toilet closures – coupled with the absence of alternatives in bars, restaurants and public buildings – curtails their daily movements.

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Councils using data analytics to identify vulnerable people

A number of local authorities in England are using data-mining tools to help identify vulnerable people in need of support, including those who have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Several authorities are now partnering with data management companies to build a picture of those requiring support and, last month, data management firm Xantura partnered with CIPFA to help identify those individuals most vulnerable as a result of the pandemic.

The process identifies vulnerable people based on a broad set of risk factors, including debt levels; income and reliance on benefits; whether they live alone; and disabilities – as well as wider health issues.

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Council tax warning: Town Halls debt-collecting bailiffs must be banned, Sunak urged

The cross-party group has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to end “heavy-handed” debt collection by local authorities. It warned there is a "growing tendency” for councils to rely on bailiffs to collect tax arrears and the practice is “wasteful and punitive”. Hardline debt recovery tactics have been "widely abandoned" by the private sector because they are costly and ineffective, it adds.

Tory former Cabinet ministers Baroness Morgan and Sir Iain Duncan Smith along with ex-Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron and 30 other parliamentarians have written to the Chancellor calling for urgent reforms.

"We are concerned about the regulations governing council debt collection which mean that, on missing one payment, households can become liable for the whole year's council tax bill,” the letter said.

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[Coronavirus] UK economy could be among worst hit of leading nations, says OECD

The UK is likely to be the hardest hit by Covid-19 among major economies, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has warned.

Britain's economy is likely to slump by 11.5% in 2020, slightly outstripping falls in countries such as Germany, France, Spain and Italy, it said. If there were a second peak in the pandemic, the UK economy could contract by as much as 14%.

In its latest assessment, the OECD found that the UK's largely service-based economy meant that it had been particularly badly hit by the government's lockdown restrictions.

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[Coronavirus] Plan dropped for all primary pupils back in school

The plan for all primary school years in England to go back to school before the end of term is to be dropped by the government.

There had been an aim for all primary pupils to spend four weeks in school before the summer break but it is no longer thought to be feasible and instead schools will be given "flexibility" over whether or not to admit more pupils.

Head teachers' leaders said it had never been a practical possibility. It comes after Health Secretary Matt Hancock conceded at Monday's Downing Street briefing that secondary schools in England may not fully reopen until September "at the earliest".

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[Coronavirus] Cash boost for debt advice as '£6bn tsunami' hits households

The Treasury has announced extra cash to support debt advice charities as a report warns of a £6bn personal debt mountain facing household budgets, directly caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The government said £37.8m in additional support for debt charities in England was the result of recognition that "some people are struggling with their finances" as the COVID-19 crisis lockdown restrictions continue to wreak havoc on the economy, despite just under £50bn being dispersed to prop up jobs and businesses at the last count.

It believed those with annual incomes below £30,000 are likely to have fallen behind since the crisis began.

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[Coronavirus] New coronavirus task force to protect care homes

A task force to drive down infections in care homes and protect them as the lockdown is eased has been set up by ministers who said there had been a 79 per cent decline in deaths since the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

All care home residents and staff will now be eligible for tests after the head of the task force said that asymptomatic cases were a key cause of infections in social care.

More than 12,500 people have died of the coronavirus in care homes and the government has faced accusations that it did not do enough to shield the social care sector as the NHS was prioritised for testing and personal protective equipment.

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£3m fund for urgent work to historic sites to help support recovery

Grants will be awarded for urgent repairs and work on historic sites under a new emergency fund to help the heritage sector recover from the pandemic.

Government heritage agency Historic England has launched a second emergency fund for the sector, following a £1.8 million fund supporting 70 organisations to weather the crisis and help with the recovery.

The new fund, of up to £3 million, will award grants of up to £25,000 each to those who care for some of England’s most significant historic sites, to help pay for urgent maintenance, repairs and investigations.

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[Coronavirus] How are England's coastal resorts faring?

In the 1950s, English coastal resorts throbbed with holidaymakers. Nowadays, seaside towns are more commonly associated with decay and poverty than popularity and prosperity.

Will the effects of the coronavirus lockdown tip these places into a terminal decline - or is there optimism that the government's aim of a further easing of lockdown rules next month will save the vital summer season?

BBC News went to three seaside towns to find out.

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[Coronavirus] Local lockdowns will require local furlough schemes, say mayors

Local furlough schemes must be put in place to compensate workers and businesses in the event of any local lockdowns, regional politicians and business leaders have said.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, announced last month that “we will have local lockdowns in future where there are flare-ups” of coronavirus. But the government has yet to issue any detailed guidance, prompting consternation across local authorities about what such lockdowns will look like and how they will be enforced.

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[Coronavirus] New UK travel quarantine rules a stunt, says Ryanair boss

New rules requiring all people arriving in the UK to self-isolate for 14 days have come into effect. Those arriving by plane, ferry or train - including UK nationals - must give an address where they will self-isolate. Rule breakers will be fined.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has said the laws were designed "to prevent a second wave" of coronavirus but the boss of Ryanair has said the rules are a "political stunt" and are not a quarantine.

Michael O'Leary told the BBC: "You could be in Sainsbury's, you could be on the beach, you could be on the golf course in the unlikely event the Home Office calls you - all they will have is a mobile number."

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[Coronavirus] PM may bring forward plans to reopen pubs and restaurants

Boris Johnson has agreed to accelerate lockdown easing as he prepares to set out more details later this week.

After receiving dire warnings over the future of the hospitality industry, the Prime Minister has reportedly signed off on a series of measures to help reboot the economy during a meeting with Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor.

Having been told by Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, that 3.5 million hospitality jobs are now at risk, Mr Johnson is expected to bring forward plans to reopen pubs, restaurants and theme parks ahead of the crucial summer period.

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Mayors press for local furlough powers

The mayors of Liverpool and Manchester have urged the Government to provide funds for ‘humanitarian assistance’ during local lockdowns as figures suggest COVID-19 is spreading.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram said they were ‘disappointed’ at the lack of consultation on lockdown relaxations in a joint letter to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The mayors also said ‘significant support’ will be required in any local lockdown proposals, including a local furlough scheme. ‘The Government urgently needs to provide more policy detail to local authorities on the proposal for local lockdowns,’ they write.

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Clash over call to scrap requirement for annual balanced budgets

Senior councillors from both major parties are calling for councils to be freed from the pressure of having to balance budgets on an annual basis, as the scale of the financial impact of Covid-19 becomes clear.

Figures released by the LGA last week showed the sector is facing a shortfall of £6bn between the financial impact of Covid-19 and £3.2bn emergency funding received from government.

Councils are facing a double whammy of increased costs as a result of new demands for services and lost income from fees and charges as well as council tax and business rates.

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MPs call for clarity on proposed Shared Prosperity Fund

A group of MPs have called on the Government to provide further details on its proposed Shared Prosperity Fund.

The MPs have warned that no details have been published yet about the fund, which is due to replace the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESI) at the start of 2021.

The chairs of the Housing, Communities and Local Government, and Northern Ireland, Scottish, and Welsh Affairs Committees have called for answers on potential timetabling and whether the cost of the Covid-19 crisis will be reflected in financial allocations.

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Council planning powers under threat

Planning powers could be shifted from local authorities to development corporations as part of an economic stimulus package to be announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson later this month.

A panel of experts has been put together by communities secretary Robert Jenrick to advise on changing planning laws that will create a zonal system, transferring powers to development corporations and speeding up permission for infrastructure building, according to reports.

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[Coronavirus] UK daily deaths drop to pre-lockdown level

The UK has recorded its lowest daily rise in the number of coronavirus deaths since before lockdown on 23 March, latest government figures show.

A further 55 people died after testing positive with the virus as of 17:00 BST on Sunday, taking the total to 40,597.

This included no new deaths announced in both Scotland and Northern Ireland for the second consecutive day.

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[Coronavirus] Millions have become carers due to coronavirus crisis, new research finds

Millions of people across the UK have become unpaid carers for loved ones due to the coronavirus outbreak, new research has found.

Data released to mark the start of Carers Week on Monday estimates that 4.5 million more people are now caring for older, disabled or seriously ill family or friends as a result of the pandemic.

This is on top of 9.1 million people who were already caring for loved ones before the crisis erupted.

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Minister slammed for expecting rough sleepers to ‘return to friends and family’

Rough sleeping minister Luke Hall has been told by a senior councillor to "get back to reality" for making "impractical and callous" suggestions to councils that rough sleepers should be encouraged to return to their friends and family.

Mr Hall made the direction in a letter to council chief executives last week, requesting that they set out next-step support plans for rough sleepers housed during the pandemic within seven days.

He asked that when considering move-on accommodation options, councils should “seek to encourage people, where appropriate and possible, to return to friends and family”.

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Boris Johnson considers giving drivers up to £6,000 in diesel and petrol car scrappage scheme

Drivers will be given up to £6,000 to swap their petrol or diesel cars for electric ones under plans being considered by Boris Johnson ahead of a major speech to relaunch the economy.

The move is designed to provide a shot in the arm for UK electric car manufacturing and for the car industry as a whole after it was devastated by the coronavirus lockdown.

Mr Johnson is understood to have pencilled in Monday, July 6 for the speech, in which he will set out his plans to get Britain back on its feet. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, is expected to make a statement on the economy shortly afterwards.

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[Coronavirus] Care home residents face steep hike in fees

Some older people in care homes are being asked to pay more than £100 a week extra in fees to cover the costs of coronavirus.

Age UK said residents who pay their own fees are facing the bills to pay for protective gear and rising staff costs. It adds "insult to injury" for people who have "been through the mill" during the pandemic, the charity said.

The government said it provided £600m for infection control in care homes and £3.2bn for wider council services.

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[Coronavirus] plans to open shops all day on Sundays

Sunday trading laws will be suspended for a year and cafés and pubs will be given fast-track approval to serve food and drink outside under plans to boost the economy.

Downing Street is drawing up a package of measures in response to mounting concern that Britain will face mass unemployment as it emerges from the coronavirus lockdown.

The government is preparing legislation that will enable larger supermarkets to open for more than six hours on Sundays. Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser, are said to be in favour of the move, which is also being pushed by Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and Alok Sharma, the business secretary.

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[Coronavirus] Widen rules on where face coverings must be used, say UK doctors

Doctors have urged the government to make face coverings compulsory in all places where social distancing is not possible, not just on public transport.

All passengers on public transport in England must wear a covering from 15 June, the government said on Thursday but the British Medical Association, the doctors' union, said masks "should not be restricted" to transport.

The current guidance in England, which has been in place since last month, advises people to wear face coverings in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible, such as in some shops.

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Unlock our lavatories, councils told

Public lavatories must reopen and introduce enhanced safety measures, the government has urged councils.

Government guidance from May 13 said public lavatories could be reopened with stricter cleaning procedures and signs asking visitors to queue two metres apart. However, only a fraction of facilities are open, according to a campaign group calling for greater access to public lavatories.

Councils are responsible for decisions about reopening lavatories, based on risk assessments and whether social distancing can be ensured.

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[Coronavirus] Court action threatened over school meal vouchers

Campaigners have threatened to bring legal action against the government for not providing free school meal vouchers during the summer.

Normally children only get free meals from school during term-time but eligible pupils received food vouchers over Easter as the country coped with the Covid crisis.

The Department for Education said the scheme will not continue in the summer holidays but campaigners say children in vulnerable families will go hungry. They have written to the Department of Education threatening to bring a judicial review of the decision.

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[Coronavirus] Care homes face £6.6bn bill to fight Covid-19

Old people's homes and other social care firms face a £6.6bn bill by the end of September as they battle Covid-19, a new report has warned.

Costs for cleaning, staff and protective gear have surged while revenues are falling and extra funding from government is not believed to be enough to fill the gap, the Local Government Association warned.

Funding fears were raised in a report by Lang Buisson which was commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA), Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), and Care Providers Alliance.

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[Coronavirus] Ban on landlords evicting renters extended

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced a two-month extension to the government's ban on evicting renters amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

New evictions in England and Wales of tenants in both social and privately-rented accommodation will be suspended until 23 August.

"No-one will be evicted from their home this summer due to coronavirus," Mr Jenrick tweeted but housing charity Shelter said the announcement was "only a stop-gap".

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[Coronavirus] Calls for post-Covid-19 homeless plan

More than half of frontline services have reported an increase in the need to provide support relating to homelessness since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report from charity Crisis.

The report, which surveyed more than 150 charities and organisations, found nearly three-quarters have seen a rise in demand for services to support homeless people since the start of the outbreak.

Of those surveyed, 86% reported a rise in people seeking help for basic needs, such as food, while 60% said they had seen a rise in people “sofa surfing”. In addition, 60% reported an increase in people who have recently lost their jobs and seeking support.

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Hughes gets key OBR role

A former Treasury director has been nominated to become the next chair of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the public finances watchdog.

Richard Hughes is a former director of the Treasury fiscal group and was previously acting chief economist.

Once his appointment is ratified by the Treasury Committee, Mr Hughes will take over from Robert Chote, the OBR’s first and only chair since 2010, when it was created by then chancellor George Osborn

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Lockdown legacy: debt and public finances

In mid-May, a government document leaked to the Daily Telegraph estimated the cost of government measures to support firms and bolster health and social care services in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Treasury predicted that the UK’s deficit – the amount it needs to borrow to balance the books – is likely to reach £337bn this year.

This would be more than six times the £55bn predicted in the March Budget and the highest level since the Second World War. Officials believe the deficit could rise to £516bn in the worst scenario.

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Councils must challenge Government fearlessly for pandemic cash

Local government is rightly protesting that the Government does not renege on its promise to reimburse local authorities for the financial costs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As has been reported over the last few weeks in the MJ, local authorities have been hit by a double financial whammy. In responding to the public health crisis, they have had to incur significant additional unbudgeted expenditure. They have properly got on with the job, the expenditure has been unavoidable and certainly it has been fully justifiable. However, they have also lost and continue to face major shortfalls in revenue such as car park revenues, income from leisure services and much more.

Seemingly, the Government is not now committing to meet all the additional expenditure and is apparently expecting local authorities to absorb the loss of planned and budgeted income. It is claiming that this is what it promised. This is disingenuous given the strong clear commitments made by ministers, including the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government; and it is irresponsible too.

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[Coronavirus] Thousands of homeless 'back on streets by July'

Thousands of homeless people who have been housed during the coronavirus pandemic could return to the streets by the end of June, a charity has warned. Since the lockdown began, more than 14,500 people who were on the streets or at risk of sleeping rough have been given emergency accommodation.

The government said councils must continue to provide accommodation but councils have asked the government to be clear on what extra practical support they will get.

The councils were given £3.2m from the government as part of an emergency scheme called "Everyone In", which was aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.

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[Coronavirus] Govt facing legal action unless it admits to acting 'unlawfully' over care homes

The daughter of an 88-year-old man who died in a care home is demanding the health secretary retract his claim that "a protective ring" was thrown around care homes or she will take him to court.

Dr Cathy Gardner, whose father Michael Gibson died on 3 April, wants an acknowledgement the treatment of care homes up to and during the pandemic was unlawful.

In particular she wants an admission that guidelines allowing coronavirus patients to be discharged from hospitals into care homes untested was unlawful.

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Apprenticeship promised for every young person

Every young person in Britain will be guaranteed an apprenticeship, Boris Johnson has announced, as he warned it was “inevitable” that there would be “many, many job losses”.

The prime minister said the government would take an “interventionist” approach as the country recovers from coronavirus in an attempt to ensure the nation “bounces back sharply”.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is preparing to launch an economic stimulus package in July. He has previously warned that the UK faces an unprecedented recession.

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Gypsies and Travellers in England left without water during lockdown

Gypsy and Traveller communities around the country have been left without water and sanitation facilities during the coronavirus lockdown, prompting concern from politicians and charities.

Families in England have no access to sanitation, refuse collection, or water for drinking, cooking, showering and washing clothes, the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for Gypsies, Travellers and Roma (GRT) said in a letter to the Local Government Association.

Some local authorities have directed vulnerable Travellers to uncleaned public toilets with no hand-washing facilities, the letter said, while others are attempting to evict camps. It stressed that these basic facilities were needed for communities to physically distance, self-isolate and follow guidelines on hand washing and hygiene.

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Council stops 300 fraudulent single-person discount claims in one year

West Suffolk Council prevented 299 fraudulent single-person Council Tax discounts last year – resulting in a saving of £240,362, according to figures from the authority.

The council’s billing, collection and debt recovery is administered by the Anglia Revenues Partnership, a service provider which works on behalf of five local authorities including West Suffolk – and the authority has been working with ARP to enhance its fraud-prevention measures.

The local authority also said its fraud and compliance teams are now reviewing all newly awarded single-person discounts, to confirm that customers are still entitled to the discount.

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Brexit delay ‘would hit Scottish GDP’

An additional £3bn could be lost from the coronavirus-hit Scottish economy over the next two years if an extension to the Brexit transition period is not agreed, the Scottish Government has warned.

In a new paper, it argues that failure to negotiate an extension beyond the end of this year could lead to a reduction in Scottish GDP by up to 1.1% by the end of 2022, with the agriculture, fisheries and manufacturing sectors likely to be worst hit.

The UK Government, currently in its fourth round of negotiations with the EU over a post-Brexit trade deal, has until the end of the month to broker a further extension to the transition period.

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[Coronavirus] Thousands of homeless people face being evicted as lockdown is loosened

Thousands of homeless people could be kicked out of hotels and return to the streets at the end of the month if local councils are not giving urgent funding, a charity has warned.

Crisis urged the Government to step in with contracts between local authorities in England and hotels are due to finish at the end of June, when current state funding runs out.

Almost 15,000 people are now in emergency accommodation such as hotels, according to the latest Government figures, after local authorities moved people into safe accommodation during the coronavirus crisis.

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Brits willing to pay an extra penny on income tax to fix social care crisis

A damning survey for the Daily Express reveals two-thirds of those aged 55-plus support the increase. And 41 percent across all age groups agree that a ring-fenced general tax increase is the best way forward. They want an end to the scandal of pensioners handing over their savings and selling their homes to pay for care. The system's failings have been cruelly exposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Decade of progress in tackling pupil disadvantage 'wiped out'

Nearly 10 years of progress in narrowing the attainment gap in England between disadvantaged pupils and their classmates has probably been “wiped in a few months” due to the coronavirus pandemic, a study has found.

Analysis by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) charity said the closure of schools to most pupils 10 weeks ago was likely to reverse all progress made to close the gap since 2011.

Responding to the findings, Russell Hobby, the chief executive of Teach First, a charity that aims to address educational disadvantage in England and Wales, said urgent action was needed to tackle the problem.

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Record numbers used UK food banks in first month of lockdown

Poverty campaigners have called for an emergency cash support scheme to help struggling low-income households after UK food bank charities reported that the first full month of coronavirus lockdown was their “busiest ever”.

The charities said their experience of record food bank use in April, following a huge surge in food aid in March, showed it was clear that current social security safety net measures were not enough to prevent poorer families being swept into destitution.

The Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest food bank network, said it gave out 89% more food parcels in April, compared to the same month last year, while the Independent Food Aid Network (Ifan) recorded a 175% increase over the same period.

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Tony Travers: Covid is delivering John McDonnell’s hoped-for economy

The political, economic and social consequences of the pandemic are only just beginning, writes the director of LSE London.

Local government has performed well in the months since Covid-19 engulfed all aspects of British public and private life. Councils have maintained a full range of public provision in the neighbourhoods where 67 million people have overwhelmingly been required to remain on lockdown since late March.

There is no evidence of any reduction in the quality of street services, parks, refuse collection, roads maintenance, children’s social care or public health. Care for older people has faced problems, but these have occurred because of the failure of successive governments to fund the service properly.

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Public sector deposit fund reaches £1bn

A public sector fund run by fund manager CCLA has reached £1bn for the first time since its launch in 2011, due to the financial uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

The Public Sector Deposit Fund’s investor base is made up of 550 parishes, towns, districts, boroughs, counties, pension funds, police forces, fire authorities and housing associations.

The company said the pandemic is hitting many of the regular income streams councils rely on at a time when councils are having to spend more money addressing issues associated with the crisis. To be able to meet potential redemption requests from investors, the fund is holding increased levels of liquidity.

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Fears that nurseries could be forced to close permanently due to effect of pandemic

Nurseries across the region say they are only expecting around a third of children to return this week, prompting fears that some providers could be forced to close down permanently without further Government support.

Nearly three in four (71%) nursery leaders expect to operate at a loss over the next three months amid reduced demand and increased costs associated with operating safely, a survey suggests.

Nurseries are planning for 35% of their usual numbers of children coming back straight away, according to the poll of 528 nursery owners and managers which closed on Monday morning.

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Disruption to schools could continue to November, MPs told

The partial closure of schools in England could continue into the autumn and into November, the Commons education committee has been told.

Primary schools opened more widely to several year groups in some areas this week, 10 weeks after they were closed as part of Covid-19 lockdown measures.

David Laws, chair of education charity EPI, said assumptions all pupils will return in September may be wrong. The committee was hearing evidence on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on education and children's services.

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Deadly risk to social care staff revealed

Social care staff are at higher risk of dying from coronavirus than other occupations, Public Health England has revealed.

The health body’s analysis has shown race, age and income all have a huge impact on the life chances of those falling ill from the virus.

Its report found people of Bangladeshi ethnicity were twice as likely to die as their white British counterparts, while other BAME groups were also higher risk.

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Somerset CC returns to unitary proposals

An attempt to restart local government reorganisation in Somerset has been given a frosty reception by district authorities.

Somerset CC has launched a survey of residents and businesses as part of its business case to replace the five councils with a single unitary authority, due to go before council next month.

County council leader Cllr David Fothergill said: ‘Our focus has been, and continues to be on coronavirus and keeping people in Somerset safe. This goes without saying.

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Wage boards advocated for care workers

Wage boards should be created for low paid staff to improve pay and conditions starting with social care, says a Resolution Foundation report.

The study A new settlement for the low paid says Britain’s 4.2m low-paid workers have been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic with the lowest earners three times as likely to have lost their job or been furloughed as high earners, and more than twice as likely to do jobs exposing them to health risks.

Half the care workers that are clapped every Thursday are paid less than the real Living Wage (currently £9.30 an hour outside London and below the National Living Wage) while up to 160,000 are not even paid the legal minimum wage. The government pre-pandemic pledged to set the National Living Wage at two-thirds of typical hourly pay by 2024.

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District warns of s114 within two months

The chief finance officer of a south-west district has warned councillors he could be forced to issue a section 114 notice in less than two months without further certainty from government over emergency funding.

North Devon DC is forecasting £3.4m of lost income and £600,000 cost pressures as a result of Covid-19. The council has received just over £1m from the £3.2bn emergency funding handed out to councils in the wake of the pandemic, leaving it with a shortfall of £2.9m for 2020-21.

The most significant pressure on the council, which has a £13.3m net revenue budget, is the forecast loss of more than a third of its annual £3m parking income.

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[Coronavirus] Loved ones reunite and children begin return to school - despite warnings over lockdown easing

The wider easing of measures now in place in England will allow groups of up to six people to meet in public spaces or private gardens, while extremely vulnerable "shielded" people can have more social interaction.

Primary school children in reception, year one and year six will return to class, and car showrooms and outdoor markets are reopening.

The new rules also mean families and friends will be able to meet up for picnics and barbecues and travel freely around England, as long as they do not stay anywhere overnight that is not their primary home.

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[Coronavirus]: 'Highly variable' attendance at schools - as UK warned 'disease is not done yet'

Many parents are choosing to keep their children at home after the easing of lockdown measures - as the health secretary insists the UK is "winning the battle against coronavirus".

On the day many classrooms re-opened in England, Matt Hancock said that the falling death rates mean the government has been able to make some "cautious changes to the lockdown rules, safely and carefully".

He said: "The data show that we are winning the battle against coronavirus."

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[Coronavirus] Far too soon to ease lockdown in north-east England, leaders warn

Political leaders in the north-east of England have urged residents to disregard the government’s “reckless” relaxation of the lockdown amid concerns it will lead to a second spike of coronavirus in a region with the UK’s highest infection rate.

On the day that some primary schools reopened and people were allowed to meet more family and friends in England, council leaders and MPs warned that the easing of the measures had come “far too soon” in the north-east.

“Our advice is that people should be staying with the initial advice, which was lockdown, stay socially isolated within our homes until such time as we can have an effective testing, tracking and tracing system in place.”

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Top business leaders call on Boris Johnson to set out green recovery plan

Britain’s most powerful business leaders have called on Boris Johnson to set out economic recovery plans that align with the UK’s climate goals to help rebuild a resilient UK economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Almost 200 chief executives – from companies including HSBC, National Grid, and Heathrow airport – signed a letter to the prime minister calling on the government to “deliver a clean, just recovery”.

The letter emerged days after MPs called on the government to deliver £30bn in green aid to help to accelerate “faster, further, fairer” action to help tackle the climate crisis and the economic consequences of the coronavirus lockdown.

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[Coronavirus] Packed beaches see government urged to ban people travelling more than five miles

People should be banned from travelling further than five miles after "awful scenes" on beaches in Dorset over the weekend, a council leader has said.

Three people were seriously injured after jumping into the sea from the limestone arch of Durdle Door on Saturday, with thousands having descended on coastal areas to enjoy the hot weather.

It came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last week that some of England's coronavirus lockdown measures would be relaxed within days, allowing up to six people to meet outdoors.

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[Coronavirus] Coronavirus: No figures yet but Matt Hancock claims test and trace system has been 'successful'

The government's coronavirus test and trace scheme is "up and running" and "successful", the health secretary has declared.

Matt Hancock told the daily COVID-19 briefing that the "vast majority" of new cases of the coronavirus have been contacted since the system was launched last week - but he could not give a specific figure.

The health secretary also told the briefing that a total of 39,045 people have now died in all settings after testing positive for the virus.

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[Coronavirus] Emergency coronavirus budget to save 2 million jobs

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is working on an emergency budget statement in an effort to save the economy, after warning MPs last week that two million jobs would be lost unless pubs and restaurants reopened soon.

Plans to save millions of furloughed workers from the scrap heap and retrain them will be a centrepiece of the address to MPs, which is pencilled in for the week beginning July 6.

His intervention will come after a speech by Boris Johnson at the end of June, which is seen as the opening salvo in a “one-two punch” to put Britain back on its feet once the lockdown lifts.

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[Coronavirus] Blueprint to save the High Street

Town halls have been ordered to overhaul busy shopping areas before retailers resume trading in a fortnight.

Suggestions include 'queue zones' outside stores with spray markings and temporary barriers. The guidance from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government also recommends that pavements be widened 'to accommodate distancing between pedestrians'.

Councils are even encouraged to think about either limiting the number cars driving down high streets or getting rid of them altogether.

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[Coronavirus] Bosses will have to pay fifth of furlough staff wages

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is to announce that employers will have to pay a fifth of the wages of furloughed staff, and national insurance and pension contributions, as the state subsidy scheme is wound down.

Today Mr Sunak will say that employers will have to contribute from August as the lockdown is eased under plans to restart the economy.

He will allow employers to take furloughed staff back on a part-time basis for as many hours a week as they need.

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[Coronavirus] Government extends self-employed scheme

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed the government is to extend the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.

The scheme, which was introduced in March, saw workers who had trading profits of under £50,000 a year over the past three years qualify for a grant of 80% of their average profits, up to £2,500 per month for three months.

The extension will see eligible people paid a grant of 70% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total – the grant will be available in August.

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[Coronavirus] Councils could need additional £6bn to balance Covid-19 spend

Local authorities could need an extra £6bn to cover the costs of coping with the coronavirus pandemic this financial year, according to analysis from the Local Government Association.

The organisation analysed returns councils submitted to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on the financial impact of the pandemic earlier this month.

The LGA found that the two emergency tranches of £3.2bn allocated by the government covered costs and income losses so far, but around £2bn more is likely to be needed to cover further costs of responding to the pandemic.

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Welsh government urges lifting of borrowing limit

The Welsh government has urged central government to increase its borrowing limit to help fund the country’s coronavirus response.

Under current rules, the Welsh Government is able to borrow £150m a year for infrastructure, up to a limit of £1bn, and £200m a year for day-to-day spending.

The call was made during the publication of the Welsh government’s supplementary budget, which allocated an additional £2.4bn of spending – 10% more than was planned in the March budget.

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[Coronavirus] Test and trace programme launches in England - but insiders report problems

The government's coronavirus test and trace system is up and running in England - but there are suggestions it may not be fully ready.

Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has been infected with COVID-19 will be asked to isolate for 14 days even if they have no symptoms.

Boris Johnson has acknowledged that being told to self-isolate was a "huge imposition" but people should be aware of why the programme was needed.

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[Coronavirus] UK's most vulnerable people at risk of losing 60% of their income

A loophole in government guidance has caused some of the country’s most vulnerable people to lose up to 60% of their income and is now forcing many to put their health at risk as lockdown comes to an end, one of the UK’s biggest charities has warned.

Around 2.5 million UK residents, hundreds of thousands of whom are in employment, have been identified by the government as being “extremely clinically vulnerable”. They were ordered to shield at home until the end of June, although their employers did not have to furlough them.

Research by Citizens Advice found that of the 2,000 people contacting them for help who were either shielding or at higher risk from coronavirus, over 70% had not been furloughed.

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[Coronavirus] Shop-bought kits taken off shelves for being unreliable

Superdrug is among retailers that have stopped selling a home coronavirus antibody test after the medicines watchdog said that it could give false results.

Laboratories have been told to stop processing commercial antibody kits that use finger-prick blood sampling to determine if someone has had the virus.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said that the process had not been validated for Covid-19 tests so results from home kits should be ignored.

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Committee calls again for social care reform

In a letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak the committee highlighted the need for reform of the social care sector based on the recommendations of its 2019 report, ‘Social care funding, time to end a national scandal’.

Giving evidence to the committee last week, Sunak cited the absence of a consensus over funding as a significant barrier to care reform, along with expense.

However, Lord Forsyth, chair of the committee, said that the current funding model is “unfair” and the current circumstances have “magnified” the differences between the NHS and social care.

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Liverpool warns of funding ‘blackhole’

Liverpool’s combined authority has warned its funding gap could hit £250m as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and has written to the government calling for ‘fairer funding’.

The combined authority's Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram and its six council leaders have written to the prime minister calling for extra funds, claiming the region has seen higher-than-average infection and mortality rates from Covid-19.

Liverpool City Region has estimated that the bill for the pandemic over the next six months is likely to be around £341m. It has received £100m so far from central government, and the combined authority is concerned that the funding gap could be as high as £250m – adding it is currently losing more than £5m a week.

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[Coronavirus] Lockdown easing to allow groups of six to meet

Groups of up to six people from different households will be able to meet outside in England from Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced.

They can meet in gardens - in addition to parks - as long as households keep two metres apart. "These changes mean friends and family will start to meet loved ones," in what would be a "long awaited and joyful moment," he added.

Currently, people in England can only meet one other person from another household at a distance in a public place.

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[Coronavirus] Government rejected radical lockdown of England's care homes

Public health officials proposed a radical lockdown of care homes last month to stem surging coronavirus deaths, including staff moving in for four weeks and deploying NHS Nightingale hospitals – but it was rejected by the government, the Guardian has learned.

An 11-point plan proposing “a further lockdown of care homes” was submitted to Downing Street on 28 April by officials at Public Health England (PHE), as fatalities peaked in care homes and the virus spread to half of homes in the worst-affected areas.

They urged ministers to “use NHS facilities and other temporary accommodation to quarantine and isolate residents”, and to “consider whether staff can move into the care home for the next four weeks”.

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Government pledges homes for rough sleepers

The government has pledged to provide 6,000 supported homes in a bid to “end rough sleeping for good”.

The proposal includes the fast-tracking of £381m announced?for rough?sleeping?services in the last Budget, alongside £52m of new funding to help make 3,300 homes available in the next 12 months.

The government will work with councils, local leaders and the property sector in a bid to deliver houses as quickly as possible for rough-sleepers, it said, adding that “aftercare” would be made available once people have moved into in, to help ensure they can “rebuild their lives”.

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Sigoma shortfall tops £1bn

Councils serving some of the most deprived urban communities in England still face a shortfall of £1.2bn between the financial impact of Covid-19 and emergency funding received from government, new figures shared with LGC show.

The 47 members of the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities received £841m from the £3.2bn handed out by ministers to councils in response to the pandemic.

However, LGC has been told eight have already used up all of their share on responding to coronavirus or plugging holes in their budgets from lost income while the remainder forecast they will do so next month.

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Tories lose control of district following ‘moral’ resignation over Cummings

The Conservatives have lost control of West Devon BC after a councillor resigned from the party whip in disgust at the Dominic Cummings affair.

Okehampton North councillor Mike Davies resigned from the Tory group to sit as an Independent in protest at the actions of the prime minister’s chief advisor which are widely believed to contradict travel rules introduced to combat Covid-19.

His departure leaves the council under no overall control with the Conservatives controlling 15 of the 31 seats.

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[Coronavirus] Care homes plan to withhold funds to CQC in protest at how they handled coronavirus

Care providers are calling on the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to waive its registration fees this year, amid accusations the watchdog has “gone Awol” during the coronavirus outbreak.

The call came after a leading care home body expressed its “disappointment” with the role played by CQC during the Covid-19 crisis.

The CQC charges upto £16,096 in registration fees per year depending on the size of the care home.

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[Coronavirus] Text message tells vulnerable people in UK they are dropped from shielding list

People with cancer, liver disease or severe asthma have been dropped from the UK government’s coronavirus shielding list by text message before their doctors have been able to speak to them.

The decision to remove people with various health conditions from the shielding programme has caused upset. The text also informed people they would no longer qualify for government food parcels.

Many who received the messages last Friday believed they were fake. But the government has since confirmed the texts are correct and are official government communications.

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[Coronavirus] Pubs could reopen next month as Boris Johnson gives hope to Brit boozers

New moves to ease the two-metre social distancing rule could bring more cheer. Boris said: “We may be able to do things faster than I thought.” The PM said pubs, restaurants and hotels may all reopen next month.

He is also expected to announce new rules allowing two households to meet for barbecues at tomorrow afternoon’s three-week review of the coronavirus lockdown.

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Applications for government’s £1bn fund to remove unsafe cladding open next week

Applications for the government’s £1bn fund to remove dangerous cladding from high-rise buildings will open on Monday.

More than half a million people in England and Wales could be living in homes with unsafe cladding, analysis by industry body the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) said in February.

Leaseholders say they have been stuck in homes they cannot sell, as bills run into the tens of thousands to remove cladding approved under building regulations but subsequently deemed unsafe following the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire, which killed 72 people.

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[Coronavirus] All non-essential shops to reopen from 15 June - PM

All non-essential retailers will be able to reopen in England from 15 June, Boris Johnson has announced, as part of plans to further ease the lockdown.

However, the move is "contingent on progress in the fight against coronavirus", and retailers will have to adhere to new guidelines to protect shoppers and workers, the PM added.

Mr Johnson said new guidance had been published for the retail sector "detailing the measures they should take to meet the necessary social distancing and hygiene standards".

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Care workers should be better paid and valued after Covid-19 – poll

There has been a dramatic shift in the public’s perception of care workers as a result of the coronavirus crisis, with most people believing they should be better paid and better valued, according to a survey.

The poll, which was published on Tuesday by the gender equality campaigning charity the Fawcett Society, found 65% of respondents supported an increase in income tax to fund a pay rise for care workers, a figure that rose to 68% among Conservative voters polled.

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Exclusive: Councils in England and Wales face £3.4bn funding black hole

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Councils across England and Wales have told ITV News the coronavirus pandemic has already left them with at least a £3.4billion hole in their finances and without more government help they will have to make severe cuts to services.

More than 200 councils have responded to our survey and 16 of those say they've already discussed issuing a 114 notice, which bans all new expenditure except safeguarding vulnerable people and statutory services. The only other time that has happened in history is with Northampton in 2018.

Eighty-three per cent of councils say the government hasn't given them enough to fill the shortfall and 22 per cent of councils have told us that if that doesn't happen soon, they'll have to make cuts to services.

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'Local lockdowns' to be introduced in UK for future coronavirus 'flare-ups'

Future "flare-ups" of coronavirus infections could lead to localised lockdown measures, the health secretary has said.

Matt Hancock revealed stricter social distancing measures could be introduced in certain areas in future as part of the NHS "test and trace" system for continuing to suppress the spread of COVID-19.

"We will have local lockdowns in future where there are flare-ups," he said at the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing on Tuesday.

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[Coronavirus] 'Virus could be here for year' so schools must open, says education secretary

"The coronavirus could be with us for a year or more" so children cannot continue to stay out of school for "months and months" longer, says Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.

But he told BBC Breakfast he recognised there would be "initial nervousness" among parents about children returning.

Teachers' unions have warned it is not safe to open England's primary schools on 1 June.

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England to provide 3,300 homes for homeless after coronavirus

The government has vowed to make 3,300 homes available within 12 months to prevent rough sleepers housed in emergency pandemic accommodation in England returning to the streets.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) will bring forward £160m of its £381m, four-year rough sleeping services budget to be spent this year.

Six thousand “housing units” will be built using the money and rough sleepers housed through the scheme will be provided support for mental health or substance abuse issues.

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[Coronavirus] Boris finalises plans to lift lockdown as package worth hundreds of millions unveiled

Ahead of Monday’s crunch Cabinet meeting to make the final decisions on lifting lockdown, the Government has revealed a package worth hundreds of millions of pounds to allow normality to begin to return and the economy to get going again.New measures include investment in high streets and the transport network to make them safe to use again.

They will also unveil an advanced trace and test system with 25,000 contact tracers recruited as part of the largest virtual call centre operation in the country.

Other measures include a risk assessment report which shows Parliament can return to normal business and end the hybrid arrangements when MPs return from their recess on June 2.

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[Coronavirus] People urged to stay away from UK beaches over bank holiday weekend

Pictures of crowds flocking to beaches in Brighton and Southend in recent days have raised concerns over social distancing.

Following the easing of some lockdown measures last week, there are no restrictions on how far people can travel to get to the countryside, National Parks and beaches in England.

Councillor Carmen Appich, from Brighton & Hove City Council, urged anyone thinking of travelling to the city "to consider very carefully how their journey will impact on others".

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[Coronavirus] Transport network to get £283m for Covid-19 protection measures

Roads, railways, buses and trams are to receive a £283m funding package to improve public safety and protect services, the transport secretary has announced.

Grant Shapps said the funding – £254m for buses and £29m for trams and light rail – would increase both frequency and capacity of services while ensuring there is enough space on vehicles to allow for social distancing.

In addition, 3,400 people, including British Transport police officers and Network Rail staff, have been deployed at stations to make sure passengers follow the physical distancing guidance put in place.

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[Coronavirus] Councils throw 1 June schools reopening plan into doubt

Only 20 of 99 councils to respond to a BBC Breakfast survey said they were advising schools to open more widely on Boris Johnson's target date. Of the 99 who responded, two thirds (68), could not guarantee schools would reopen to Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

On Thursday the governments of Scotland and Northern Ireland announced plans for a phased return to school for pupils, starting in August. Ministers have been insisting that they would only be calling on schools in England to reopen in June if the scientific advice said it was safe to do so.

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Government has ability to make end of rough sleeping permanent if it wants, MPs say

The government's decision to end rough sleeping during the coronavirus pandemic could be made permanent with the right financial commitment and strategy, a cross-party parliamentary committee has said.

MPs on the housing and communities committee said it was "feasible" for the current situation to become "the new norm" if the government took the right action, with the progress made during the pandemic a "golden opportunity".

90 per cent of rough sleepers have been given accommodation during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, with many put up in hotels and temporary accommodation.

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UK borrowing at record high as virus cost soars in April

The government borrowed £62.1bn in April, the highest monthly figure on record, according to official figures.

It underlines the cost of coping with the coronavirus pandemic through jobs schemes and loans, and is double the forecast of many economists. The cost of furlough schemes had the largest impact, hitting £14bn in April.

Mr Athow said it was impossible to forecast the current year's public finances because of the "high amounts of uncertainty". Tax receipts have fallen heavily, with the government deferring some payments, while Treasury income from VAT and air passenger duty are down significantly.

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£300 million additional funding for local authorities to support new test and trace service

Local authorities will be central to supporting the new test and trace service in England, with the government providing a new funding package of £300 million.

Local authorities to work with government to support test and trace services in their local communities. £300 million will be provided to all local authorities in England to develop and action their plans to reduce the spread of the virus in their area. Work will build on the continued efforts of communities across the country to respond to the pandemic locally.

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Rough Sleepers Could Return To Streets As Councils Warn Of Funding Shortfall

Rough sleepers taken off the streets as coronavirus hit the UK face being made homeless again because councils have not been given sufficient funding from the government to support them.

When the outbreak hit Britain in March, ministers asked local authorities in England to house all rough sleepers and those in hostels and night shelters, with hundreds of people being put up in hotels in a bid to isolate them from infection.

But in evidence to a parliamentary inquiry, councils have warned the initial £3.2m provided by central government fell well short of the actual cost they incurred.

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Local authorities to receive extra £300m for test and trace services

Local Authorities in England will be supported with an additional £300m in funding to help roll out the new test and trace service.

The Department of Health and Social Care announced today (May 22) that local authorities will be ‘central’ to supporting the new service, and will be asked to develop tailored outbreak control plans, in collaboration with local NHS and other stakeholders.

Work is to begin imminently, focusing on identifying and containing the potential areas of outbreaks in workplaces, housing complexes, care homes and schools.

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Vouchers to fix your old bike and more space on roads as part of biggest ever cycling push to be launched next month

Vouchers will be issued to pay for repairs to old bikes and more road space will be protected for cyclists, in a new Government initiative launching next month, the Telegraph understands.

Following unprecedented levels of walking and cycling across the UK during the coronavirus pandemic, the Government has fast-tracked statutory guidance which tells councils to reallocate roadspace for significantly-increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians.

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Channel migrants: Lone children 'could overwhelm council services'

The rising number of child migrants crossing the Channel by boat risks overwhelming social services, the leader of Kent County Council has said.

Roger Gough appealed to Priti Patel to "prevent a crisis escalating into something unmanageable and unsafe".

The Home Office said payments to councils to deal with the problem "significantly increased" in May 2019 but, Mr Gough said the numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) had to levels seen during the height of the European migrant crisis in 2015.

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Ministers considered cap on care costs before coronavirus outbreak

A personal cap on care costs in England was being considered by ministers prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the BBC has learned.

The idea was raised during talks with Sir Andrew Dilnot, the former UK statistics chief, whose proposals for a cap were abandoned in 2017.

Sir Andrew's proposals would have introduced a more generous means-test for government funding, as well as a lifetime limit on social care costs. They were put into law in 2014 under the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, but delayed and then eventually ditched under David Cameron.

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[Coronavirus] NHS and social care staff to get coronavirus antibody tests from next week

NHS and social care staff will be given antibody tests revealing whether they have had coronavirus from next week, ministers are to announce on Thursday.

In a move designed to reduce frontline workers’ anxiety and provide data on how many people have had Covid-19, hundreds of thousands of workers will be offered access to the blood tests, which must be processed in laboratories.

Public Health England (PHE) validated two laboratory-based antibody tests from Swiss-based Roche and US-based Abbott last week, and another – from the Welsh firm Ortho Clinical Diagnostics – this week.

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[Coronavirus] Coronavirus forces two million people to fall behind on council tax bills

Two million people face debt collectors and hardship after falling on their council tax bills due to the impact of coronavirus, charities have warned.

Citizens Advice, the Money Advice Trust and StepChange Debt Charity said action is needed to prevent households being pushed over a council tax enforcement "cliff-edge".

The three charities welcomed the Government's temporary ban on bailiff visits to enforce debts during Covid-19 restrictions, and said its measures to protect people's finances during the crisis have been a lifeline.

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[Coronavirus] Up to 1,000 care homes could go bust in wake of Covid crisis

Up to 1,000 care homes are predicted to close as financial pressures heaped on the sector by coronavirus could soon make business unsustainable, experts have said.

At least two homes have already shut their doors temporarily. The closures are expected to trigger a domino effect across the long-term care sector, which employs more people than the NHS and is estimated to be worth about £31bn.

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[Coronavirus] Benefit claims fraud could be £1.5bn

Benefit officials have told the BBC they fear that as much as £1.5bn may have been lost in fraudulent claims for Universal Credit in recent weeks.

Huge demand for the benefit has seen some processes relaxed to ensure the majority of claims are paid quickly but officials believe that some organised crime groups - as well as individuals - may have taken advantage of the system.

While officials are keen to emphasise that the vast majority of claims came from genuine applicants, especially in the initial surge, they fear the looser checks have opened the door to individuals and some organised crime groups exploiting the system.

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[Coronavirus] Councils create own local outbreak plans amid lack of clarity from centre

Directors of public health are drawing up their own local outbreak plans to manage sporadic local Covid-19 surges as the economy is reignited, amid frustration at a lack of a national agreement on how local outbreaks should be managed.

LGC understands that discussions are taking place in Whitehall on what form local outbreak management plans, which outline the measures needed to get future localised outbreaks under control, should take.

One source described councils as being "stuck in a catch 22 position" - "trying to influence what shape of their role will be while waiting for national directive". "It is hard to operate in that context".

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[Coronavirus] Cost of government Covid-19 measures revealed

Covering the government’s response until 4 May, as well as any commitments of at least £500m made until 15 May, the NAO found £111.3bn has been spent on grants and payments, £5bn on loans and £8bn on increases to benefits.

The spending commitments included £82.2bn for businesses, including through the job retention scheme as well as loans and grants, and £6.6bn for health and social care measures.

“The scale and nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and government’s response is unprecedented in recent history,” said Gareth Davies, head of the NAO.

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[Coronavirus] Government increases large business loan scheme

The government has announced it will quadruple the size of loans available through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme from £50m to £200m.

The CLBILS was launched last month, and allowed firms with turnover of more than £250m to borrow up to £50m from lenders, with an 80% guarantee from the government.

Those using the scheme will now be able to borrow up to 25% of their turnover, up to a maximum of £200m.

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[Coronavirus] New 'on the spot' COVID-19 swab test being trialled

A coronavirus test that can give results in 20 minutes is being trialled, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

The swab test, which will tell people if they currently have coronavirus, has proved effective in clinical settings and does not need to be sent to a laboratory to be processed.

The trial is beginning in Hampshire and will be rolled out in a number of settings, including A&E departments without access to laboratories, GP coronavirus testing hubs and care homes.

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[Coronavirus] Majority of Cabinet want Boris Johnson to ease coronavirus lockdown

Boris Johnson is under pressure to ease the lockdown restrictions causing "massive damage" to the economy, with the majority of the Cabinet understood to support a major "back to work" drive next month.

Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, is among ministers who have expressed concerns about the long-term "scarring" to the economy being caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Provided there is no unexpected increase in the rate of virus infections over the next 10 days, they want the Prime Minister to allow as many businesses as possible to reopen in order to get the country moving again.

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NHS fees to be scrapped for overseas health staff and care workers

NHS staff and care workers from overseas will no longer have to pay an extra charge towards the health service after mounting pressure from MPs.

Boris Johnson's spokesman said the PM had asked the Home Office and Department for Health to exempt NHS and care workers "as soon as possible".

Mr Johnson himself stood by the charge on Wednesday, telling MPs he "understood the difficulties faced by our amazing NHS staff", but said the government "must look at the realities" of funding the NHS.

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New rules would see councils warn ministers before a s114

Finance directors would need to warn the government before they issued a Section 114 notice during the coronavirus pandemic, if new rules get the go-ahead.

Under existing rules, which would remain in place, section 151 officers must give a warning to the council cabinet and the external auditor if they are going to freeze spending while they try to balance the budget.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) are now in talks with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to include the warning to ministers – which would give the government the opportunity to intervene if they wished.

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[Coronavirus] Most apprentices losing work and learning opportunities amid Covid-19

Apprentices are being furloughed or made redundant by firms due to the Covid-19 crisis – and the majority are missing out on work experience or learning opportunities, a survey suggests.

The pandemic is having a significant effect on apprenticeships, according to a Sutton Trust report, which warns that a fall in apprenticeship starts is likely to be exacerbated by the crisis.

A YouGov poll of 156 employers suggests that more than three in five (61%) say their apprentices have lost out on learning or work experience as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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[Coronavirus] Directors of public health fear ‘shambles’ over contact tracing

Some senior directors of public health have told LGC they are still being kept in the dark on how government plans for track and tracing will be rolled out nationally, and have raised fears it will result in a “shambles” on the same scale as personal protective equipment (PPE) and Covid-19 testing.

They also expressed concern that DPHs have been described as "co designing" the track and testing programme in Whitehall press briefings when in fact their role is more minimal. "We are inputting our perspective and sharing our knowledge, but that is not the same as co-designing," one source said.

The government announced this week that it has employed 21,000 contact tracers, many of whom have been recruited as call handlers by Serco, and there has been criticism of the training that Public Health England is providing to undertake contract tracing work.

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[Coronavirus] Thirty ways Covid will change how councils work: Nos 1-10 [opinion]

Following two months during which home working took off and social care’s plight finally became universally known, local government will never be the same again. Here, experts from around the sector – in no specific order – map the new landscape.

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[Coronavirus] Ministers row back on 1 June schools opening as councils voice concerns

The body that represents local authorities across England has set out serious concerns over proposals to reopen primary schools on 1 June, as ministers appeared to row back on the idea after sustained criticism from councils and school leaders.

With just 11 days until the government’s schools deadline, the Local Government Association, which represents most local authorities in England, said councils should be given access to local coronavirus testing data in order to safely reopen schools.

The government had said it wanted children in nursery, reception, year 1 and year 6 to begin a phased return to schools from 1 June, with other years following soon after, so that primary children have a month of school before the summer holidays.

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Government to review TfL finances following Covid-19

A review into Transport for London’s funding and finances is to begin immediately, transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced, following the agreement of a controversial £1.6bn rescue package last week.

TfL’s main sources of funding are fares, commercial activity, the congestion charge, grants from the Greater London Authority, borrowing and existing cash reserves.

The largest source is from fares, with the body’s 2020-21 budget forecasting £5.1bn of its total £9.7bn of funding coming from passengers.

Since the lockdown, income has dropped by 90% according to a report published by TfL last week, and the operator now predicts a £4bn drop in revenue this year – adding that it will need £3.2bn to balance a proposed emergency budget.

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[Coronavirus] Over 20 care homes warn council there may be 'imminent' collapse in sector

More than 20 care homes in the northeast of England have sent a legal warning to their local council over fears of a collapse in the sector, Sky News can reveal.

In the letter the care homes have declared what is called "force majeure", or a major incident.

Sky News obtained a leaked copy sent to North Tyneside Council which warns that if action isn't taken to provide funding and support within five days the care market in that area will start to collapse.

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[Coronavirus] UK records lowest increase in COVID-19 deaths since lockdown began

The UK has recorded its lowest daily coronavirus fatality figure since the nationwide lockdown began, with 160 further deaths.

The increase - the lowest recorded by the Department of Health since 24 March - takes the total to 34,796.

On Sunday, the UK had recorded its lowest daily number of deaths in 53 days, as 170 new deaths were announced, although today's figure marks another small drop.

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[Coronavirus] Regional lifting of lockdown needed to prevent coronavirus flare-ups, new modelling suggests

A regional lifting of the lockdown is necessary in order to prevent coronavirus from growing in some areas, new analysis suggests.

The Tony Blair Institute has developed a model that compares the mobility of people in different parts of the UK to how fast the virus is spreading in order to work out whether there is room for lifting restrictions.

It shows that, across England, the movement of people in shops and workplaces and on transport has dropped to around 40 per cent since lockdown.

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[Coronavirus] Jobless claims surge by record 856,500 in April to highest level since 1996

Official figures have shown a surge of 856,500 people submitting benefit claims last month as the coronavirus crisis took its toll on jobs.

The update from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed the so-called claimant count, measured through Universal Credit applications, at its highest level since 1996 at 2.1 million in total.

Shortly after the ONS data was released, the Treasury confirmed it was expanding the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) to enable larger firms to access up to £200m from next week - up from £50m.

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[Coronavirus] Luton Borough Council faced with 'stark' savings

A council which is facing a £49m black hole in its finances is set to make £22m cuts in an emergency budget.

Luton Borough Council said it was in response to financial pressures brought on by the coronavirus crisis. The authority expects to lose out on £37m revenues from Luton Airport due to a huge drop in passenger numbers.

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[Coronavirus] 'Desperate' care homes plea with council for 'immediate financial support' after struggling to get government cash

Care homes in Sheffield have written to their council saying they are "in desperate need of immediate financial support", ITV News has learned.

Palms Row Healthcare, which owns three homes in Sheffield, complains that the local authority has only offered a 5% increase in funding to deal with the costs of Covid-19.

So far the government has promised a total of £3.2bn in additional funding for councils, with a further £600m earmarked specifically for infection control in care homes.

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[Coronavirus] London councils launch procurement partnership as care homes face PPE challenges

A care home manager has described the difficulties in sourcing personal protective equipment (PPE) as a new London-wide procurement scheme is launched to provide kit for frontline workers at risk from coronavirus.

The partnership among all of the capital’s councils aims to distribute more than 48 million items of PPE kit in the next 12 weeks.

The emergency supplies, which began being delivered last week, will be prioritised for the under pressure social care sector.

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[Coronavirus] Data delay left care homes ‘fighting losing battle’

Care homes in England were planning their response to the coronavirus pandemic "with their hands tied" because data about outbreaks in the sector were not published until the end of April, an industry body has said.

Public Health England had counted more than 4,500 Covid-19 outbreaks in care homes before it issued its findings, figures reveal.

The National Care Forum voiced concerns at the data not being shared but PHE said it was used by health protection teams and to brief ministers.

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Ministers pile pressure on councils over business grants

Business secretary Alok Sharma has expressed concerns that some councils have paid out less than 80% of their grants to small firms.

Mr Sharma has written to those councils that are languishing towards the bottom of a performance league table, asking them to explain the reasons that have prevented them from paying out a greater proportion of grants and the further steps they are taking to address this.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) recently confirmed that it will be accountable for any support grants paid out in error or due to fraud as long as councils have ‘done what is reasonable and practicable to have avoided this in the first place and then having exhausted all reasonable and practicable steps to recover any over-payments’.

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Raise taxes for those who live near parks, report says

People who live near parks should pay higher taxes to help maintain them, a report recommends.

The NHS should also be given a role in maintaining parks and creating new ones because they are vital in improving physical and mental health, according to the Social Market Foundation (SMF) think tank.

It recommends copying the system used in some US cities, where authorities have the power to charge homeowners a levy for the upkeep of local parks. In Seattle, the tax is about £6 a month for a home worth £410,000.

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[Coronavirus] Better-off children 'studying more than poorer pupils'

A survey of families in England suggests better-off children will have studied for around seven days more than their poorer peers by next month.

Children in the highest-income families spend six hours a day on education, but the poorest spend four and a half.

Paul Whiteman, head of the National Association of Head Teachers, said teachers want to see pupils back in class - but they want to understand the scientific reasons as to why the government has said it is safe to return.

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Charities call for 'vital' early intervention funding to safeguard children

Funding cuts to children's services have left councils unable to cope with the current crisis, charities have warned today.

New analysis by the Children’s Society, Barnardo’s, Action for Children, NSPCC and the National Children’s Bureau shows that councils can only afford to help children when they reach crisis point and need costly interventions.

The research shows that funding for children’s services has fallen by £2.2bn in the past decade, with late intervention now accounting for 58% of local authority spending on children and young people’s services.

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[Coronavirus] Meeting with Leeds Council leaders to discuss C-19 recovery

Council chiefs and leaders in Leeds are set to discuss the latest coronavirus response report and recovery plans in an online meeting tomorrow (Tues 19).

The executive board of Leeds City Council will analyse and consider the work being done to support recovery in the city as well as planning the delivery of work still to be done as lockdown measures start to ease.

The council’s response so far has included tens of thousands of free meals and food parcels for the most vulnerable in communities, over 5,000 active volunteers, who have answered more than 11,000 helpline calls, 6 million items of PPE delivered to care settings and £128m in grants to Leeds businesses.

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[Coronavirus] Government considers bypassing councils to get cash to care providers

The Government is considering bypassing local authorities and channelling extra funding directly to care providers to ease cash flow concerns. It comes after ministers told councils to pass on government funding to care providers amid concerns about funding not reaching care homes dealing with the coronavirus crisis.

Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced £600m of funding would be allocated to local authorities for infection control in care homes.

Martin Green, chief executive officer of Care England, which represents providers, said not enough of the money so far had reached his members and called for the latest £600m to go directly to the frontline.

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[Coronavirus] £5bn needed to stop local cuts say county councils

English councils have called on the government to provide a £5bn "income guarantee" to prevent local authorities from having to cut services as the coronavirus hits finances.

The County Councils Network has warned councils could lose £2.4bn as income from tax and business rates fall. The group said councils would have "no choice" but to suspend non-essential expenditure and cut services.

Cllr Richard Watts, who chairs the Local Government Association's resources board, said: "Some councils have warned that they will soon face the prospect of Section 114 reports - this would lead to spending blocks and in-year cuts to the vital local services that are supporting communities through this crisis and the national effort to beat this deadly disease."

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Councils' bets on property market 'battered' by Covid-19 closures

Councils who borrowed billions to make risky investments in offices and retail parks have taken a “battering” during the coronavirus pandemic as tenants default on rent. The shortfall could put frontline services at risk, as some councils depend on commercial rents for the majority of those budgets, the Bureau can reveal.

The Bureau has previously shown how local authorities borrowed money to gamble on property investments in the hope rents would make up for major cuts in Westminster funding. The sudden fall in commercial rents, along with a slump in traditional forms of revenue such as business rates and council tax caused by the pandemic, has left councils in a double bind.

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[Coronavirus] Councils call for 'higher risk' schools to be allowed to decide whether to reopen

Schools should be allowed to make their own decisions about reopening – especially in areas where there is a higher proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic residents, council leaders have said.

It comes ahead of Chief Medical Officer for England, Chris Whitty, and the government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Patrick Vallance, meeting teaching unions to discuss schools in England reopening.

The LGA wants councils to be given more powers to close schools if testing indicates clusters of new Covid-19 cases – and it says the Government should urgently publish the scientific evidence underpinning the decision to reopen England’s schools to more pupils from June 1.

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[Coronavirus] ONS survey estimates 148,000 coronavirus cases

An estimated 148,000 people in England are infected with coronavirus, according to the most comprehensive national survey yet.

Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, said that the figures, which came from a long-awaited Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey and exclude care homes and hospitals, represented “quite a low level of infection in the community”.

The household survey, which excluded care homes and hospitals, calculated that on average about 0.27 per cent of the population were infected at any point between April 27 and last Sunday. Those working on the front line in health or social care were much more likely to be infected than those in other professions, at 1.33 per cent against 0.22 per cent.

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[Coronavirus] Homeless people put up in hotels amid pandemic face being kicked out, leaked report says

Hundreds of homeless people face being back out on the streets during the lockdown after a scheme was quietly scrapped, according to a leaked report.

The Government has pulled funding for Manchester's 'Everyone In' scheme, which has been putting up homeless people in hotels and hostels.

In Manchester alone almost 1,600 homeless people with nowhere to self-isolate had been sheltered in emergency accommodation.

A report seen by the Manchester Evening News from the Ministry for Communities, Housing and Local Government (MCHLG) to the region's combined authority announced the programme would no longer be funded.

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[Coronavirus] Councils resist government's changed 'stay alert' message

Areas with higher coronavirus rates have urged residents to stay at home amid fears the Government’s change of message to ‘stay alert’ was confusing.

Local authorities in Merseyside, which has a ‘significantly higher’ death rate than England and the rest of the north-west, warned that the region was not ‘through the worst of this’ while the message in the north-east, which has the highest rate of coronavirus infection in the country, continues to be for people to stay home.

The comments come amid first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, refusing to adopt the Government’s stay alert slogan.

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Homeless will not be turfed out, says Casey

Reports the Government is planning to let hundreds of rough sleepers return to the streets have been denied by Number 10’s homeless adviser.

The Government’s ‘Everyone in’ scheme saw more than 1,600 rough sleepers taken off the streets amid the coronavirus crisis. Now the Manchester Evening News (MEN) has reported that leaked documents reveal plans to scrap the system.

But homeless adviser Dame Louise Casey has told The MJ, that plans were afoot to rehome people, as the scheme moves on to the next phase.

‘We need to move people out of commercial hotels and into better options than that,’ Dame Louise said.

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Ministers facing renewed pressure over push to reopen schools

Education unions are meeting the chief medical officer and other experts today to discuss the government's push to reopen schools in England amid mounting criticism of the approach.

Unions and the Local Government Association (LGA) have expressed concerns as ministers push for a gradual reopening of classrooms from June 1.

But the teaching unions have faced their own backlash over their approach, with former Labour education secretary Lord Blunkett saying: "I am being deeply critical of the attitude.

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Councils in England fear they will have to make cuts of 20%

Councils in England fear they will have to make budget cuts of 20% and face a social care funding shortfall of £3.5bn due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Labour claims local authorities are facing a £10bn black hole as they encounter spiralling costs while revenue streams such as parking charges dry up amid the lockdown.

Cuts of up to 21% could be needed to balance the books, according to the analysis by Labour, seen by the Guardian. They could see a shortfall of up to £3.5bn across the local government social care sector, with 225,000 adult social care places put at risk within this financial year, it says.

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Birmingham City Council 'was sent PPE six years out of date'

A council has asked for government reassurance that a supply of personal protective equipment for staff on the front line against Covid-19 is safe, despite being six years out of date.

Birmingham City Council said it received a delivery in April of about 4,000 masks with 2014 use-by dates.

The authority claims a further supply was sent to it with plain stickers covering the 2014 date with a 2019 one.

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[Coronavirus] New £600m funding to support care home ‘lockdown’

The £600m adult social care infection control fund announced by the prime minister yesterday is to be used to help “lockdown” care homes by paying staff not to work in more than one setting.

Details of the fund, announced by Boris Johnson at prime minister’s question time yesterday, were sent to council chief executives and other senior officers this lunchtime by the Department of Health & Social Care.

The letter, from care minister Helen Whately and seen by LGC, confirms the cash will be handed to councils and receipt of it by adult social care providers will be “conditional” on compliance with information reporting requirements set by the government.

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[Coronavirus] Inquiry over Covid-19 patients sent to care homes

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is considering whether human rights laws were breached by hospitals discharging older patients into care homes, The Telegraph understands.

Shortly after the lockdown began on March 23, Government guidelines encouraged care homes to accept discharged patients if they were asymptomatic, without testing. The guidance was abolished last month – but care providers warned that it was too late and "the damage was already done".

According to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, deaths in care homes made up 40.4 per cent of overall coronavirus fatalities across England and Wales in the week to May 1.

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[Coronavirus] Government considers free parking in town centres to keep workers off public transport

Free parking could be laid on in town centres to encourage people to use their cars rather than public transport to get to work, Grant Shapps has hinted.

The Transport Secretary said he was in talks with local authorities about making it easier for motorists to park near their workplace to help minimise crowding on trains and buses.

He is also in discussions with cinemas and other entertainment venues that are currently closed about opening their car parks for workers.

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Impact on UK GDP becomes clearer

The ONS said the economy contracted by 2% in the three months to March, following zero growth in the final quarter of 2019 – the largest quarter-on-quarter reduction since the final quarter of 2008.

The decline was due in large part to a 5.8% fall in March, the biggest monthly fall since the ONS measurement began in 1997 – and that only reflected the first full week of lockdown.

The fall included a 1.9% drop in services output – including retailers, travel agents and hotels – and a 2.6% reduction in construction sector output during the quarter.

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Public sector pay freeze ‘dangerously demoralising’

According to a Treasury assessment reported by the Telegraph newspaper, the UK’s deficit could reach £337bn this year, and a pay freeze for public sector workers could be implemented to help fill the funding gap.

The document warned that a ‘policy package’ of tax increases and spending reductions, as well as an end to the triple lock on pensions, could be deployed to help offset the financial implications of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is a huge own goal by the government. Public sector workers are on the front line, saving lives, keeping people safe and maintaining the economy,” Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said.

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[Coronavirus] Care-home resources ‘should be allocated at local level’

Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced plans to allocate an extra £600m to help infection control within care homes.

The government is yet to publish details on exactly how the additional funds will be allocated, but the move was welcomed by the Local Government Association.

“This extra funding for infection control in care homes is good news and will help councils’ public health teams in their efforts to reduce and prevent coronavirus outbreaks,” said Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board.

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Councils face £10bn funding 'black hole'

Councils could be forced to cut billions from social care services due to a £10bn 'coronavirus black hole,' Labour has warned today. The analysis, based on 2019/20 budget estimates, warned that local authorities may need to cut adult social care by £3.5bn.

There would also have to be £2bn cuts to children's social care and £700m cuts from public health budgets, Labour said.

Labour’s shadow local government secretary, Steve Reed, said: 'Local authorities are the biggest funders of social care in England so when the Government promised to stand behind councils through this crisis Labour supported them.

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[Coronavirus] GDP down 2% as UK economy struggles with pandemic

The UK economy shrank by 2% in the three months to the end of March - the first official look at the financial effects of the lockdown.

The fall was the biggest since 2008 and included a contraction of 5.8% in March GDP alone - the biggest monthly fall on record.

The UK went into lockdown near the end of the quarter in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, so the GDP figure is only a partial representation of the lockdown's financial impact.

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Ministers were warned two years ago of care homes' exposure to pandemics

Ministers faced fresh allegations on Wednesday of failing to prepare care homes for a pandemic, as it emerged that Covid-19 may have killed 22,000 residents in England and Wales – more than twice the official toll.

Council social care directors in England warned the government two years ago, in a series of detailed reports, about care homes’ exposure to a pandemic, the Guardian has learned.

They called for better supply plans for personal protective equipment – warning that “demand for PPE could rapidly outstrip supply” – plus improved infection control and a system to enlist volunteers to help services expected to be stretched to breaking point.

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[Coronavirus] First coronavirus antibody test given approval by Public Health England

A coronavirus antibody test kit has been approved by Public Health England (PHE), The Telegraph has learned, in a breakthrough that could be key to easing the UK's lockdown restrictions.

The Telegraph understands that the Department of Health is in negotiations with the Swiss healthcare company Roche to buy millions of the kits.

The accuracy of the test was given approval by experts at PHE’s Porton Down facility last week.

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[Coronavirus] Chancellor Rishi Sunak warns of 'significant recession'

The chancellor has said it is "very likely" the UK is in a "significant recession", as figures show the economy contracting at the fastest pace since the financial crisis.

The economy shrank by 2% in the first three months of 2020, as coronavirus forced the country into lockdown.

Rishi Sunak told the BBC that just "a few days of impact from the virus" in March pushed the economy into decline.

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Jenrick warned of ‘massive cuts’ as treasurers prepare Covid returns

Councils serving some of the most deprived communities will be left with no choice but to make massive cuts or declare themselves bankrupt, the communities secretary has been warned.

In a letter to Robert Jenrick, sent ahead of the submission of the second round of returns on the financial impact of Covid-19 to government on Friday, Sir Stephen Houghton, chair of the Special Interest Group of Municipal Authorities says members face a shortfall of £1.4bn as a result of the pandemic. This is even after their £842m share of the £3.2bn coronavirus funding is taken into account.

Highlighting figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that death rates from coronavirus are almost twice as high in the poorest parts of the country than the wealthiest, Sir Stephen says additional funding for councils must consider the impact of deprivation and the costs of social care, which he describes as “the most immediate cost-pressure our councils face”.

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[Coronavirus] Care homes faced funding cut if they didn't take in COVID-19 patients

Several councils threatened to withhold funding to help care homes deal with the coronavirus outbreak if they didn't agree to take in COVID-19 patients, Sky News can reveal.

It comes as dozens of care homes fear a government policy allowing the transfer of coronavirus-positive or untested patients is a "major factor" in why COVID-19 deaths are so high.

The policy was changed in the middle of April but some care homes believe the damage had already been done by then.

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[Coronavirus] Care homes to get extra help from NHS

All care homes across England will be given enhanced clinical support by local hospitals and GPs from Friday to shore up the sector against the coronavirus as criticism of the government’s handling of the crisis increases.

The National Care Association said government advisers should apologise for being too slow to act, for not testing staff and residents in homes and diverting protective equipment to the NHS while patients with Covid-19 were sent out of hospitals into care homes.

All nursing and residential homes will have a named clinician, either a local GP or other specialist, to support the medical needs of residents. Homes will be given equipment, such as pulse oximeters, to help monitor patients remotely with plans for regular “virtual wards” to help teams of specialists assess each patient.

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[Coronavirus] NHS shielding letters miss thousands of cancer patients

Tens of thousands of cancer patients have not yet received letters advising them to “shield” themselves from the coronavirus threat, The Times has learnt.

Peter Johnson, national clinical director for cancer, has written to charities asking for their help in tracing the missing patients and alerting them to the need to take stringent self-protection measures against infection.

His appeal comes as the government increased by one million its estimate of the number of people at greatest risk of severe illness should they contract Covid-19.

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[Coronavirus] Bus firms face struggle as lockdown eases

Bus operators face a challenge to restore services for returning workers amid union claims lockdown easing plans had caused "chaos and panic".

With fewer passengers allowed on each bus and the government encouraging people to avoid public transport, firms say fares will not cover their costs.

Unions are also concerned about safety amid reports of higher death rates linked to Covid-19 among male drivers.

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[Coronavirus] Rishi Sunak extends furlough scheme to OCTOBER and government will STILL cover 80 per cent of pay with staff able to come back part-time

Rishi Sunak today extended the government's massive coronavirus bailout to October.

The Chancellor said the multi-billion pound subsidy, which had been due to end next month, will stay in place for four more months, and it will still cover 80 per cent of wages up to a ceiling of £2,500 a month.

With concerns the scheme is costing £14billion a month - roughly equivalent to the NHS budget - Mr Sunak also told the Commons that from July it will be available for workers who go back part-time, in a bid to 'wean' businesses off the support.

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Finance chiefs say Government could underwrite tax losses for councils

The Government could protect councils from financial collapse by underwriting the potential loss of council tax and business rates, finance chiefs have claimed.

Councils reeling from the cost of the coronavirus and are increasingly concerned that they will not be able to balance their budgets.

Despite early reassurances of financial assistance, Robert Jenrick back-tracked last week and said the Government would only pay for the services it had requested.

While the funding so far has eased cashflow issues, the longer-term financial stability for councils is at risk if they can’t collect council tax and business rates in a post-COVID recession.

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‘Honour your promises’, cash-strapped Lancs leaders tell ministers

Lancashire’s 15 council leaders have jointly signed a letter to ministers demanding that promises are honoured to fully reimburse local government for the cost of responding to Covid-19.

This comes as 25 MPs have signed a separate letter demanding a “sufficient and long-term funding settlement for councils as a matter of urgency”, acknowledging the sector needs more funding to cover its costs and income losses resulting from coronavirus.

The Lancashire leaders, including Conservative leader of Lancashire CC Geoff Driver, expressed dismay that the councils’ collective share of the second tranche of £1.6bn funding from the government fell by £6m in comparison to the first.

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Whiteman: ‘We want to avoid the risk of a public negotiation’ on funding

The 2021-22 budget setting round will be the “toughest ever” faced by local government, MPs have been told, with councils also finding it “harder and harder” to hold off making in year cuts as a result of the financial impact of coronavirus.

Giving evidence to the public accounts committee on Monday, Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy chief executive Rob Whiteman said councils did not yet know how much the cost of wages and personal protective equipment will go up in social care or how much their income will plunge by. They were also anticipating a spike in care for vulnerable children, he warned.

He said planned savings in social care were “not now going to be deliverable in the new economy post covid” but it would be “a disaster” if chief finance officers were forced to freeze expenditure while emergency actions are being deployed.

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[Coronavirus] Care home deaths 'starting to decline'

The number of coronavirus deaths in care homes across the UK has started to fall, figures show.

A review of death certificates showed there were 2,800 deaths linked to the virus in the most recent week - down 12% on the week before.

It brings the virus death toll in care homes to more than 9,700. The data also showed that between mid-March and early May more than 50,000 more deaths have been recorded than would be expected during this period.

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[Coronavirus] Testing for coronavirus in UK care homes a ‘complete system failure’

Care home operators have accused the UK government of “a complete system failure” over testing for Covid-19 after officials repeatedly deflected responsibility for the task and left vulnerable residents unchecked.

As ministers admitted it will be more than three weeks before all homes are offered tests, care home managers said lives have been put at risk and conditions for dementia sufferers worsened because of the government’s failure so far to test hundreds of thousands of staff and residents.

The programme was announced by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, two weeks ago but only tens of thousands of people have been tested.

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[Coronavirus] Dementia patients three times more likely to get severe coronavirus, study finds

Dementia patients are three times more likely to develop severe coronavirus, the first study of the issue has shown, with experts saying they should be added to the shielded list.

The analysis, by the University of Exeter and the University of Connecticut in the US, looked at which conditions put people at the greatest risk from the virus.

It was already known that some conditions, such as diabetes and lung disease, exacerbate Covid-19, but it is the first time dementia has been found to be a major risk factor.

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[Coronavirus] Councils face losing tens of millions of pounds in coronavirus crisis

Councils across the region face losing tens of millions of pounds as a result of the coronavirus crisis, raising serious concerns about whether vital services could be cut.

Bath & North East Somerset Council and Bristol City Council are just two local authorities calling for more financial support from central Government.

They warn they could be forced to make "tough decisions" in the months ahead as they try to protect frontline services for the most vulnerable.

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[Coronavirus] Public advised to wear face coverings in PM's 50-page plan for lifting lockdown

In a new 50-page blueprint for lifting the lockdown in England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants all primary school children to have at least a month's teaching before the summer holidays and some hairdressers and beauty salons back in business at some point in late summer.

The document, called "Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government's COVID-19 recovery strategy", sets out the three-phase approach, starting this week with further lockdown loosening at the start of June and further changes potentially from 4 July.

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[Coronavirus] Furloughed workers set to be allowed back part-time

Furloughed staff who go back to work part-time may have their wages subsidised by the taxpayer as ministers battle to prevent as many as 1.2 million redundancies when the economy reopens.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is under pressure to set out plans to extend the taxpayer-backed furlough scheme and make it more flexible amid bleak forecasts suggesting that many workers hoping to head back in will be laid off due to the economic downturn.

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[Coronavirus] School classes to have 15 pupil limit, Government's new coronavirus guidance says

Class sizes should be split in half with a 15 pupil limit and corridors should operate a “one way” system, the Government’s new coronavirus guidance for schools says.

When primary schools begin their phased reopening next month, the beginning and end of the day will be staggered to avoid congestion at the gates, according to advice published on Monday by the Department for Education.

Children will be expected to spend their break times and lunch with the other children in their class, to ensure that they are only mixing within their group of 15 pupils plus their teacher.

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Warning over coronavirus and commercial investment cocktail

Worried finance chiefs have warned some councils that invested in commercial property have been put at increased risk by the coronavirus pandemic.

MPs on the Public Accounts Committee this week heard that councils had spent £6.6bn on commercial property between 2016 and 2019 – 14 times more than in the previous three years.

Mr Whiteman criticised the £1bn borrowed by Spelthorne BC for commercial investment, adding: ‘You don’t have to be accountant of the year to know that’s quite a lot of excessive leverage and commercial risk.

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Unite expected to urge pay offer rejection

Trade union Unite is expected to recommend that its members reject the employers ‘final’ 2.75% pay offer at a national committee meeting later this week.

Unions have hit back at local government employers’ attempts to close down talks on pay.

The unions have lodged a formal request to join with the Local Government Association, Welsh Local Government Association and Northern Ireland Local Government Association in approaching Whitehall to fund a bonus to employees in recognition of their response to the COVID-19 emergency.

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Chiefs to develop care home resilience plans

Council chief executives will be put in charge of developing and reviewing council-level care home resilience plans.

The move by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) aims to help the Government better understand the care sector’s resilience.

Under the new regime, local partners will have to collectively rate their confidence across a range of measures designed to support care homes, highlighting any areas of concern.

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Shielding improvements on agenda for LGA and Whitehall

The Local Government Association is working with Whitehall to improve the support system for the more than two million people being shielded from coronavirus.

Provision of better data about the clinically vulnerable is among the issues that have been highlighted after the sector raised a number of concerns about the sharing of information.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is understood to be in touch with a range of councils to look at ongoing issues with data and food deliveries.

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[Coronavirus] PM unveils 'conditional plan' to reopen society

Boris Johnson has unveiled a "conditional plan" to reopen society, allowing people in England to spend more time outdoors from Wednesday. The PM also said people who could not work from home should return to the workplace - but avoid public transport.

He said a new Covid Alert System with five levels would govern how quickly lockdown restrictions could be eased.

He hoped the next step "at the earliest by 1 June" would be for some primary pupils to return to school in England.

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[Coronavirus] Businesses want 'clear guidance' on return to work

Business groups have called for clarity on what will need to change in the workplace as Boris Johnson unveils a "conditional plan" to reopen society.

"Businesses need their practical questions answered so they can plan to restart, rebuild and renew," said the British Chambers of Commerce.

The prime minister said those who could not work from home should be "actively encouraged to go to work" in England.

Carolyn Fairbairn, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said businesses were "keen to open and get the economy back on its feet". "But they also know putting health first is the only sustainable route to economic recovery. The message of continued vigilance is right," she said.

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[Coronavirus] PM to review lockdown restrictions with cabinet

Boris Johnson will review the coronavirus lockdown in England with his cabinet later, after suggesting some rules could be eased from Monday.

By law the government must review the restrictions every three weeks, and Thursday marks the latest deadline. The prime minister will address the nation on Sunday to outline plans for the next stage of the lockdown.

The "stay at home" message is expected to be scrapped, with ministers keen to restart the economy.

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[Coronavirus] Care home crisis is a bitter regret, admits Johnson

Boris Johnson has expressed “bitter regret” at the epidemic of infections in care homes as questions mount over whether a decision to speed hospital discharges helped to start outbreaks.

The prime minster was told to “get a grip” as he was pressed by Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, over the latest figures showing that deaths in care homes were still rising.

Mr Johnson insisted there had been a “palpable improvement” in the death rate in recent days and said that “tens of thousands of people” had been working to get more personal protective equipment into care homes.

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[Coronavirus] Bank of England scenario sees biggest annual slump in GDP since 1706

The Bank released its first work on the potential impact of the lockdown measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 as its monetary policy committee left interest rates unchanged at their record low level of 0.1%.

The expectation of a 14% decline in economic growth this year would be the worst since 1706.

It said the figure was also dependent on significant support from both the Bank and government with cash currently available from a range of schemes to support businesses, employment and wages.

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Colchester becomes latest council to furlough staff

Colchester Borough Council has become the latest of around 20 authorities to furlough some staff in a bid to offset the financial impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

The council expects the crisis will leave it with a £10m shortfall this year – government funding notwithstanding – and has become the latest of a swathe of authorities to turn to the job retention scheme.

Furloughed staff will continue to receive full pay, with the council topping up the 80% contributed by central government. Those employees will be asked to return to a role within the council as quickly as possible, when opportunities arise, the authority said.

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Many children with special educational needs ‘failed’ by system – report

Children with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) are seeing their education, well-being and life chances “damaged” by failings in the system, MPs have warned.

A report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said education, health and care plans (EHCPs) have become a “golden ticket” that parents fight for to secure support for their children.

Children with Send who do not have a plan risk missing out on the provision they need, especially in mainstream schools that are under financial pressure, according to the findings.

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Coronavirus: Social workers brace for a surge in child protection referrals when schools re-open

Social workers are bracing for a surge in referrals of vulnerable children when schools re-open again as abuse and neglect suffered by youngsters in their homes goes unnoticed during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Children’s Commissioner said resources would be needed for councils and schools to meet the needs of thousands of pupils who are facing heightened risk during the UK's lockdown, which she warned could have a long-term impact on both their mental wellbeing and education.

Local authorities warned they would struggle to cope with the expected surge in demand without additional support from central government.

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[Coronavirus] Jenrick: Councils so far receiving more Covid funding than they say they need

06 MAY 2020 BY MARTIN GEORGE

Councils are currently getting more money from the government for their Covid-19 response than they say they need, the communities secretary has said.

Robert Jenrick also told Wednesday’s 10 Downing Street briefing that Whitehall would “take into consideration” extra costs faced by councils as the result of action they have been required to take by the government.

The briefing saw regional journalists press the communities secretary on the shortfalls councils are reporting between the impact of Covid-19 on their finances and the money pledged by the government.

Mr Jenrick said his message to council leaders was “we will stand behind them and ensure they have the resources that they need to carry out the absolutely critical functions that they are playing in our national response to the coronavirus”.

It comes after Mr Jenrick’s appearance at the Commons housing, communities & local government committee on Monday caused widespread concern.

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[Coronavirus] 'Abandoned' care homes warn councils of legal action

Care home managers have questioned whether local authorities should face corporate manslaughter charges over their response to coronavirus.

Councils have been accused of failing to hand over extra funds from the Government, leading one manager to accuse local authorities of “sitting on your hands, watching people die”.

The Government has given councils an extra £3.2 billion to cover the costs of coronavirus and last week told them to spend up to 10 per cent more on social care.

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Business rates revaluation postponed

A revaluation of business rates will no longer take place in 2021 to help reduce uncertainty for firms affected by the impacts of coronavirus.

Legislation had been introduced to bring the next revaluation forward by one year from 2022 to 2021, but following the recent economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic ministers want to ensure businesses have more certainty during this difficult time.

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Jenrick spending pledge ‘backtracking’ sparks widespread dismay

Senior council leaders have reacted with shock and anger to news that central government will not commit to footing the whole bill for their Covid-19 spending.

On Monday, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said councils should not “labour under a false impression” that Covid-19-related costs over and above what government set out it expected of them will be reimbursed.

Council leaders have accused him of backtracking on previous commitments, made on March 16, to “give councils the support they need” to contribute to the national effort to tackle coronavirus.

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DfE urged to get a ‘grip’ of SEND system

The Department for Education lacks “grip” of the education system for children with special educational needs and disabilities, MPs on the Commons’ public accounts committee have found.

In a report published today, the committee says the department acknowledges the current system is inadequately funded and considers the “difficult position” of many councils and schools “helps to explain” why half of local authority areas have been found not to meet expected standards.

The Department for Education lacks “grip” of the education system for children with special educational needs and disabilities, MPs on the Commons’ public accounts committee have found.

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[Opinion] Tony Travers: Councils face multitude of dilemmas as they plan for recovery

The UK, in common with most countries, has been transformed by many weeks of social and economic disruption. Life as we knew it is unlikely to return to normal till the middle of 2021 at the earliest, and the economy will not fully recover till 2023 or 2024. Councils now have to turn to the step-by-step move away from lockdown, thinking through policies that allow local businesses to return, as far as possible, to a degree of normality.

Alok Sharma, the business secretary, has been working with officials and industry representatives on steps to shift from a full lockdown to a partial one with social distancing. Local authorities will need to take account of guidance issued from Whitehall but also to think through policies which are sensitive to their particular circumstances.

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Jenrick warns not all costs will be covered and brands lost income estimates ‘highly speculative’

Councils should not “labour under a false impression” that Covid-19-related costs above and beyond what had been expected of them will be reimbursed, communities secretary Robert Jenrick has warned.

Giving evidence to the Commons' housing, communities and local government committee on Monday, Mr Jenrick also said the second £1.6bn of grant funding for local government as a result of the pandemic had been intended to compensate district councils for income losses as well as direct costs arising from the crisis. However, he cautioned the government would not bail out councils as a result of "unwise investments".

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Jenrick insists local government will have input into contact tracing

Local government will play an “important role” in designing the contact tracing system crucial to the next phase of the response to Covid-19, communities secretary Robert Jenrick has said.

Speaking at the Commons housing, communities and local government committee on Monday, Mr Jenrick refuted the suggestion that the sector would not have an input into the scheme following reports that the bulk of the work will be contracted out nationally to at least two companies providing 15,000 call centre staff.

Mr Jenrick said bodies such as the Association of Directors of Public Health will be "important in designing the model". “Local authorities will be asked to contribute staff, some of whom have huge experience to bring to that,” he said.

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[Coronavirus] Teachers warn of early school return 'spike'

Teaching unions across the UK and Ireland are warning national leaders not to reopen schools too early.

The British Irish Group of Teacher Unions has written to the education ministers of all five nations in which the million staff it represents work.

Its letter warns the ministers of the "very real risk of creating a spike in the transmission of the virus by a premature opening of schools".

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[Coronavirus] Firms need up to three weeks to exit lockdown, government warned

The government is being warned that businesses will need up to three weeks to resume activity once the coronavirus lockdown is eased.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) urged ministers to maintain financial support and deliver clear instructions in the coming days, to give firms time to prepare themselves as supply chains remain limp and staff away from the workplace.

It issued the plea as the prime minister prepares to update the nation on the state of play this weekend as the UK continues to make progress in bringing down infection and death rates from COVID-19.

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[Coronavirus] 'Segment and shield' way to lift UK lockdown now

Strengthening protection for people shielding, while easing restrictions for everyone else, is the only immediate way to safely lift the UK's coronavirus lockdown, researchers say.

They say people could be sorted into three groups by risk - the most vulnerable, those caring for or living with them and everyone else.

It is not pain-free or perfect, they say, but could lift curbs for many yet still protect the NHS and save lives.

Their unpublished work uses modelling.

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[Coronavirus] Treasury rolls out small business 'bounce back' loans

Businesses will be able to apply for loans of up to £50,000 from Monday in a scheme backed by the Treasury.

The new scheme, dubbed bounce back loans, will offer smaller amounts than the existing Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

But the Treasury says they will be quicker and easier to apply for and will have a 2.5% interest rate. The form will be seven questions long and the loan is 100% guaranteed by the government.

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[Coronavirus] Antibody tests could be approved by Public Health England this week

A first coronavirus antibody test could be approved by Public Health England (PHE) this week, with hundreds of thousands available each week if officials give the green light.

Government scientists are currently evaluating the accuracy of a test made by Roche, which was cleared for use by the US Food and Drug Administration on Saturday.

They are expected to report their findings by the end of the week, the Swiss manufacturer said last night.

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[Coronavirus] The eight-year-old carer looking after her mum and sisters in lockdown

Large numbers of young carers are struggling to cope with looking after their loved ones by themselves during the lockdown.

Many who look after a parent or help care for a brother or sister face the risk of mental health problems because support they would normally receive has been removed due to coronavirus restrictions.

Under regulations set by the government to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, many of the obligations on local authorities to ensure those in need are cared for have been relaxed.

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[Coronavirus] Launch of PPE delivery system for care home staff hit by delays

A planned Amazon-style delivery system for personal protective equipment to care workers will not be nationally available for at least another fortnight, the housing and communities secretary has told MPs, before weekly figures for deaths in care and nursing homes which are on course to rise by more than 2,000.

Robert Jenrick told the housing, communities and local government select committee on Monday that the logistics system for PPE could take three more weeks to launch.

Jenrick told the committee he wanted the Clipper system to be brought online “as quickly as we possibly can” but said it was still being piloted.

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Robert Jenrick pledges more than £76m for charities to help domestic abuse and trafficking victims in England

The government has pledged more than £76m in a new funding for charities to help survivors of domestic and sexual abuse and victims of modern slavery in England.

Speaking at the government's daily coronavirus briefing at Number 10, Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick announced that the Domestic Abuse Bill going through parliament will ensure victims "get the priority need status that they need to access to local housing services much more easily".

Mr Jenrick said it will be fully-funded - ensuring that no one has to choose between staying somewhere they know is unsafe or becoming homeless.

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[Coronavirus] Council bosses 'short-changed' by government fund

Leaders from the larger local authorities fear the second round of emergency funding will still fail to cover their costs during the pandemic.

Whitehall has confirmed how it will allocate the second £1.6bn package to support councils. Smaller district and borough councils will receive a greater proportion of the funding this time around.

Council bosses faced with a rising social care bill say the fund does not address their pressures. One leader in the North East told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the area had been left "short-changed" by the latest round.

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[Coronavirus] Calls for clarity as tips due to reopen

Households in parts of England may be able to take their extra rubbish to their local tip this weekend but despite a government plea, some councils have said further measures are needed before refuse sites reopen.

Those authorities say they will only reopen with sufficient staffing, proper protective equipment for workers and assistance from police forces.

On Tuesday, Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick told the Commons he expected tips to reopen "within weeks". Some areas have reported a rise in fly-tipping since the coronavirus restrictions came into force.

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[Coronavirus] Care home coronavirus deaths could be four times higher than official figures suggest

Care home deaths could be four times worse than official figures suggest, with new analysis showing that more than 17,000 deaths in homes across the UK are linked to coronavirus.

At Wednesday's Downing Street briefing, the Government unveiled its improved daily reporting system, which includes clinically confirmed virus deaths in care homes and the community as well as hospitals, for the first time.

The additional 3,811 deaths confirmed between March 2 and April 28 meant the total UK coronavirus death toll stood at 26,711 on Thursday.

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Pothole-related breakdowns up 64% in first three months of 2020, figures suggest

Vehicle breakdowns caused by potholes increased by nearly two-thirds during the first three months of 2020, new figures suggest.

The RAC received 3,426 call-outs for problems such as distorted wheels, broken suspension springs and damaged shock absorbers between January and March. This was up 64% on the previous three months and 5% on the same period in 2019.

“In his Budget in March, the Chancellor committed to funding our local roads and it is clear that the economic recovery as the UK emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic will need to be built on solid infrastructure – which of course needs to include good quality roads.

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[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson says UK is past the peak of outbreak

PM Boris Johnson said he will set out a "comprehensive plan" next week on how to restart the economy, reopen schools and help people travel to work following the coronavirus lockdown.

He said the UK was "past the peak" of the virus outbreak, but stressed the country must not "risk a second spike". Mr Johnson said face masks will be "useful" as part of the strategy for coming out of lockdown.

More than 81,000 coronavirus tests were carried out on Wednesday, still short of the Downing Street's target of 100,000 by the end of April. Mr Johnson insisted: "We're massively ramping up testing."

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Fair Funding Review delayed further

The delay to the review was confirmed by the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, as it announced the allocation for the latest round of coronavirus funding.

The review will set a new baseline funding allocation for local authorities based on up-to-date needs and resources – but was initially delayed in September 2019 with a consultation then set to take place this summer.

The department said the delay would “allow councils to focus on meeting the immediate public health challenge posed by the pandemic”.

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Coronavirus: County councils say non-essential spending at risk

County councils in England have warned they may have to suspend non-essential spending because of what they say is a £600m shortfall in their budgets.

They said they faced tough choices after getting less than expected in an emergency government coronavirus fund.

They suggested ministers had favoured smaller district councils despite the fact they and unitary authorities were responsible for social care provision.

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Coronavirus: County councils say non-essential spending at risk

County councils in England have warned they may have to suspend non-essential spending because of what they say is a £600m shortfall in their budgets.

They said they faced tough choices after getting less than expected in an emergency government coronavirus fund.

They suggested ministers had favoured smaller district councils despite the fact they and unitary authorities were responsible for social care provision.

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[Coronavirus] Councils vying for emergency virus cash

Ministers are facing competing demands from councils across England for a £1.6bn emergency coronavirus fund.

County councils and unitary authorities, which are legally responsible for providing care for the elderly in their areas, say they ought to be prioritised as they are facing an added £1.3bn financial burden,

The County Councils Network, which represents 36 county councils and unitary authorities, has warned already stretched social care budgets could come under further strain if funding mechanisms are "dramatically altered".

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[Coronavirus] UK failed to stockpile crucial PPE

The government failed to buy crucial protective equipment to cope with a pandemic, a BBC investigation has found. There were no gowns, visors, swabs or body bags in the government's pandemic stockpile when Covid-19 reached the UK.

NHS staff say they are being put at risk because of the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). The government said it has taken the right steps and is doing everything it can to increase stocks.

The investigation by BBC Panorama found that vital items were left out of the stockpile when it was set up in 2009 and that the government subsequently ignored a warning from its own advisers to buy missing equipment.

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[Coronavirus: Lockdown] exit must take domestic abuse rise into account - May

The government must consider the impact of the lockdown on domestic abuse and mental health as it plans its exit strategy, Theresa May has said.

The former prime minister said measures to tackle coronavirus must not do "more damage than the disease itself".

She spoke as MPs debated the Domestic Abuse Bill, amid evidence of rising violence during the lockdown.

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[Coronavirus] Contact tracing can’t be run by Westminster, experts warn

Ministers must relinquish their top-down control of the coronavirus epidemic after the lockdown to allow millions of people potentially infected with Covid-19 to be traced and supported by local teams in their own communities, say experts.

Urgent discussions have begun between central government, local authorities and public health officials about the 18,000-strong army promised on Friday by the health secretary, Matt Hancock, to help trace the contacts of people who test positive or have symptoms of the coronavirus.

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Local dumps to reopen for your rubbish - but only if you book an appointment and bring ID

Council-run tips might reopen as early next week but householders could be asked to book appointments and produce proof of identification before throwing away their rubbish.

In one of the first indications that the coronavirus lockdown is starting to be relaxed, Robert Jenrick, the Local Government secretary, said he wanted town halls to draw up plans to reopen local tips.

However the experience of visiting the tip for many is likely to be different from normal with householders being asked to book time slots online and produce a bank statement to show where they live to gain access.

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Government confirms allocations of £1.6 billion funding boost for councils

Individual councils in England have had their funding allocations confirmed following Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick’s announcement of £1.6 billion in additional funding.

The £1.6 billion funding, recently announced, means councils in England will be provided with over £3.2 billion to deal with the immediate impacts of coronavirus.

During the pandemic, councils are playing a crucial role and this extra funding will help them to continue to deliver frontline services and support to those who need it most, as well as meeting new pressures.

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[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson back at Downing Street to lead response

Boris Johnson has returned to Downing Street to take charge of the UK's response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The prime minister will chair the regular morning cabinet meeting on Covid-19 before holding talks with senior ministers and officials.

He arrived back at No 10 on Sunday evening amid mounting pressure from Tory MPs to begin lifting the lockdown but Health Minister Edward Argar said "now is not the time to ease up" even if people were feeling frustrated.

The latest official figures bring the total number of deaths in UK hospitals to 20,732, after a further 413 were announced on Sunday.

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[Coronavirus] Bosses appeal to the government for a lockdown exit plan

The government must set out its lockdown exit plans to restore confidence among British businesses that have become increasingly bleak about the economy’s future, a leading employers’ group has warned.

The Institute of Directors said its 28,000 members were “clamouring” for information so they could start drawing up return-to-work plans. Jon Geldart, its director general, said it was in everyone’s interests to kickstart the economy again once it is safe to do so.

“Directors from all parts of the UK need to make plans for riding out this tempest, but they can’t get very far if they have no idea what will be happening in a few weeks’ time,” Geldart said.

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[Coronavirus] Councils need 'rock solid' financial support as homelessness rises during outbreak

Council leaders have told Sky News they will need "rock solid" financial support from the government if they're to deal with the social challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Charities have said they are already starting to see a rise in homelessness among some of the most vulnerable in society.

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[Coronavirus] £3.2bn cash for councils may not stop 'uncontrollable' second wave

Britain's public health sector has told the Government that the emergency £3.2 billion support package for local authorities may not be enough to avoid an "uncontrollable" second wave of coronavirus.

A letter sent to Professor Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, and Professor John Newton, the official in charge of testing, also suggests a national "one-size-fits-all" strategy cannot beat lockdown.

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[Coronavirus] Care homes face weeks of delay for vital protective kit

Staff at care homes, GP surgeries and hospices will have to wait at least a month for government-supplied personal protective equipment, prompting criticism that they are being treated as second-class citizens.

An online portal allowing primary and social care providers to order PPE, which had been due to start operating early this month, is now not expected to be in full operation for another five weeks, The Times can reveal.

Police forces have also been told to expect no deliveries of PPE for community use to local “resilience forums” — an alliance of blue light services, NHS and local authorities that respond to emergencies — until the end of May.

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Contact tracing costs could ‘place more pressure’ on council budgets

Concern is emerging that ministers expect thousands of council staff to be redeployed to trace the contacts of those who could have Covid-19, without extra funding being provided to undertake the mammoth task.

The government is now recruiting 18,000 people, including council workers, to undertake the task, as well as developing a smartphone app to identify people who are newly infected and rapidly warn those they have come into contact with that they could be at risk.

But no extra funding for the new burden has been announced and it has been implied that councils will be expected to use the additional £1.6bn they were promised last Saturday to carry out the new duty.

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[Coronvirus] Covid-19 should be game changing for social care [Opinion]

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting every aspect of life, across all sections of society. But it’s also clear that the burden is falling more heavily on some groups than others. Four groups seem at particular risk: the elderly, BAME communities, those with pre-existing health conditions, and the people on the frontline caring for them.

The adult social care system, with its central role in caring for the elderly and vulnerable, is critical in the fight against Covid-19. Managing this outbreak raises some huge challenges for social care: how to keep staff and service users safe, how to ensure that there are enough staff to care, and how to work effectively across NHS and care providers so that patients who have been in hospital can be discharged quickly.

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Five councils start bypassing Care Act duties amid Covid pressures

A number of councils have taken advantage of new legal provisions which allow them to suspend their duties to provide elements of adult social care in order to redirect resources towards coronavirus support, LGC has learnt.

The 'easements' to the Care Act 2014 remove the legal duty to meet certain care needs unless it would breach human rights to do so - however, concern has already been expressed about lack of transparency in some cases, and about the impact on potentially vulnerable service users.

Adult social care directors at Birmingham and Sunderland city councils, Warwickshire CC, Solihull MBC and Middlesbrough Council have implemented the ‘easements’ to the Care Act 2014 which were created under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to help the care system manage rapidly growing pressures.

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Government confirms extension to accounts deadline

The publication date for final audited accounts will move from 31 July for category one authorities and 30 September for category two authorities – to 30 November 2020 for all local authority bodies.

The letter stated: “Draft accounts must be approved by 31 August 2020 at the latest. However, they may be approved earlier, and we would encourage councils to do so wherever possible, to help manage overall pressure on audit firms towards the end of the year.”

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Hackney funding gap ‘could hit services’

Hackney mayor Philip Glanville has called for further government support after forecasts suggested existing funding would cover less than half of frontline services.

The borough is expected to receive £17m from the government’s emergency support fund, but emergency measures in areas including adult social care and education, and the maintenance of measures including refuse disposal, could reach £36m over the next three months alone.

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[Coronavirus] Coastal and ex-industrial towns 'most economically at risk'

Coastal and ex-industrial towns are most economically at risk from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research.

Sky News analysis of the data for England and Wales shows that although some high-risk towns also suffer already high levels of social and economic deprivation, there is no clear correlation between deprived towns and towns hard hit by lockdown.

The research conducted by the Centre For Towns and the University of Southampton, and seen exclusively by Sky News, also indicates that Wales is worst affected, while the South East is faring best.

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[Coronavirus] Heads say 1 June earliest realistic school opening

The earliest "realistic" point at which schools in England could start re-opening would be 1 June, head teachers' leader Geoff Barton has said.

"We cannot see any realistic way that schools could be re-opened to more pupils before the second half of the summer term," he said and "planning would need to begin very soon" in order to meet a 1 June target.

Schools closed their doors to all except vulnerable children and those of key workers over a month ago.

If schools are to maintain social distancing, they could not run at full capacity, meaning a phased return, such as starting with a few year groups or pupils rotating between studying at home and school.

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[Coronavirus] Government confirms extension to council accounts deadline

Councils will be given more time to publish their audited accounts due to the increasing demands of dealing with Covid-19.

The Government has written to all council chief executives, outlining plans to move the deadline for publishing final, audited accounts to 30 November 2020. This is an extension from 31 July for Category 1 authorities and 1 September for Category 2 authorities.

The requirement for the public inspection period to include the first 10 working days of June or July has also been removed.

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New national recruitment campaign for adult social care launched

Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Care Minister Helen Whately have launched the campaign today to boost the sector by encouraging the right people with the right values to work in adult social care.

The recently launched CARE brand is included in the campaign with the aim to raise the profile of the care sector and give them the same appreciation given to NHS workers.

Free e-learning courses and webinars are being developed for local authority and care provider staff to ensure good care is given throughout this crisis. With main focuses on safeguarding, person-centrered care, dementia, Mental Capacity Act, infection control and supporting care at home.

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children’s social care referrals down by up to half

Referrals to children’s social care have fallen by as much as half since the Covid-19 lockdown, the new president of the Association of the Directors of Children’s Services has warned.

Jenny Coles, who takes on the role today, told LGC that reported increases in referrals for domestic violence showed there was “pressure in the system” but disruption to schools and other services for children and young people meant referrals were in “abeyance”.

“We are worried. To have a 50% drop in social care referrals is significant and that's happened within weeks of lockdown. We want families to still seek help.”

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Hackney mayor ‘couldn’t rule out’ s114 without extra funding

Hackney LBC’s mayor has told LGC the council could not rule out issuing a section 114 notice in a year’s time unless it receives extra funding from the government.

Philip Glanville (Lab) spoke to LGC this morning after his council revealed it expects a £19m shortfall in the next three months alone due to its Covid-19 costs exceeding government funding.

The council anticipates its budget to be hit by £36m as a result of the crisis over this period but to receive just £17m in government funding. This includes a predicted £7m from the extra support announced by communities secretary Robert Jenrick at the weekend, on top of the £10m it gained from the first tranche of government coronavirus support last month. Hackney has £15m in unallocated reserves.

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David Williams: We can’t lead recovery with one hand tied behind our backs

The extra government funding for councils announced on Saturday should be distributed in a similar way to the previous £1.6bn, writes the chair of the County Councils Network.

In the past few weeks, we have all had to adapt to a new normal of remote working, the suspension of key services, and changing the way we operate. But on top of this sea change, it is the determination to go one step further in the national effort that has shown the tenacity of local government.

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[Coronavirus] Crisis should spark social care reform - report

The Government has been urged to use the coronavirus crisis to undertake long-term social care reform.

A new report by the Policy Exchange think-tank said the COVID-19 crisis had revealed the ‘stark contrast’ between the NHS and social care.

The report argued the pandemic should be used to remove the historic funding barrier between the two sectors.

The report called for new measures to be introduced in the tax system to make social care ‘largely free’ at point of use for older and working age people who require long-term chronic care.

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[Coronavirus] Pandemic is making ‘inadequate funding baseline’ worse, says new ADCS president

The incoming president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) says she wants ‘unprecedented levels of investment in our children’s futures, please’, in response to the pandemic.

In her inaugural address, director of children’s services at Hertfordshire CC Jenny Coles said that before the pandemic, children’s services were ‘woefully underfunded and stretched to the limit’.

She added that the current crisis is significantly exacerbating the ‘inadequate baseline of funding’, and the resources needed during the nation’s recovery from the pandemic will be ‘eye-wateringly large’.

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[Coronavirus] Some authorities could become ‘financially unsustainable’ due to pandemic

The leaders of all six Oxfordshire councils have warned that the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could leave some “financially unsustainable” – and urged the government to provide more funding.

In a joint letter to the government and the county’s MPs, the council leaders welcomed the additional £1.6bn allocated to local authorities earlier this week, but warned that without extra funding to cover shortfalls, authorities across Oxfordshire will struggle to cope and some could be “unable to set a legal budget” for 2021/22. They predict county costs resulting from coronavirus could reach £100m.

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Government borrowing could top £300bn

The think-tank estimates that £127bn will be borrowed in direct bailouts and an additional £119bn incurred in indirect costs such as lower tax revenue, based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s scenario of a three-month lockdown followed by three months of looser restrictions.

When added to the £55bn of borrowing already forecast for this financial year, the figure rises to a deficit of £301bn, representing approximately 15% of GDP – and broadly equivalent to double the UK’s current level of healthcare spending over the past two years, the think-tank said.

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Wales to maintain free school meals through summer break

Education Minister Kirsty Williams confirmed each eligible child will receive the equivalent of £19.50 a week.

Last month, the Welsh government allocated £7m to local authorities to provide arrangements for free school meals, which has now been extended to run until schools re-open or until the end of August.

The Welsh government has also outlined three options for providing the free school meals – a separate voucher system, delivery of food direct to families of pupils and the transfer of money to the bank accounts of eligible families.

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[Coronavirus] Council warns additional funding might not cover Covid costs

Dundee City Council has warned that additional government funding to cover costs incurred as a result of the coronavirus crisis may not be sufficient.

The council also said it is reviewing the UK Government Job Retention Scheme, as it looks into the possibility of furloughing a “limited number of employees”. The report stated that the scheme may be appropriate for some staff “in a small number of cases.”

Dundee City Council has received more than £3.3m in additional funding from the Scottish Government.

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[Coronavirus] Councils warn government bailout cash 'gone now'

Councils in England say they have to plug funding gaps worth hundreds of millions of pounds within weeks to avoid "significant" cuts.

The coronavirus pandemic has increased councils' costs while income has been lost from services like parking.

Leaders say funding already allocated is "not even close" to covering costs or money that has already been spent.

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[Coronavirus] Essential workers in England to get tests

All essential workers in England - and members of their household - are now eligible for coronavirus tests, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

About 10 million key workers who need to book a test to see whether they have the virus will be able to do so on the government's website from Friday.

The Welsh government previously outlined plans to expand testing to key workers, such as teachers and food delivery drivers, and Northern Ireland's health minister has announced the nation's testing programme is being expanded to include front-line workers in the private sector.

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[Coronavirus] Only a quarter of care workers are being tested for COVID-19

Carers have criticised the government's roll out of COVID-19 tests after many workers were told to travel long distances to access them.

Last week Health Secretary Matt Hancock said all those in social care who needed a test would be able to get one after the sector said it was struggling to cope.

Since then, a handful of drive-thru sites have opened around big cities.

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[Coronavirus] 'Disgusting' fly-tipping soars during lockdown

Fly-tipping has soared since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, according to an app created to combat the illegal dumping of rubbish.

Millionaire businessman Martin Montague says his ClearWaste app is being bombarded daily with hundreds of photographs from across the UK.

He said: "In the first week of the lockdown we saw a rise of 54% nationwide compared with the figure for the previous week. By Easter fly-tipping reported to us was up by 75%.

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[Coronavirus] MPs and peers call for universal basic income

A group of more than 100 opposition politicians have called on the government to implement a universal basic income, in a bid to help ease finances post-coronavirus.

In a letter sent to chancellor Rishi Sunak, organised by the Basic Income Conversation, a new initiative supported by think-tank Compass, a group of 110 cross-party MPs and peers argued that Universal Credit is struggling to cope with current demands and that job retention schemes are “unsustainable” in the long term.

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[Coronavirus] Virus grants are postcode lottery for small firms with some councils paying just one in ten eligible companies

Desperate firms scrambling for emergency grants to survive the pandemic face a 'postcode lottery', with some councils paying as few as one in ten companies eligible for the lifeline.

Latest figures show councils have handed out £6.1billion, almost half the £12.3billion they received from Government this month.

Grants of up to £25,000 have been received by 491,725 small businesses, including shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes. Under the small business grants fund, firms qualify for cash payments of £10,000.

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[Coronavirus] Social restrictions 'to remain for rest of year'

The UK will have to live with some disruptive social measures for at least the rest of the year, the government's chief medical adviser has said.

Prof Chris Whitty said it was "wholly unrealistic" to expect life would suddenly return to normal soon. He said "in the long run" the ideal way out would be via a "highly effective vaccine" or drugs to treat the disease. But he warned that the chance of having those within the next calendar year was "incredibly small".

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[Coronavirus] Hard to prevent care home deaths, says Chris Whitty

Chris Whitty said it was hard to prevent deaths in care homes "sadly because this is a very vulnerable group". Current statistics were likely to be an "underestimate", he added.

It came as new figures suggested deaths have increased significantly in recent days.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said on Tuesday 1,000 people died in care homes in the week to 10 April but now the health regulator said the five days after that could have seen another 1,000 deaths.

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[Coronavirus] Recycling centres remain closed despite minister’s plea to open

More than 90% of household waste recycling centres are still closed, despite local government minister Simon Clarke urging councils to keep them open.

A survey of more than 250 local authorities by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) found that 92% of household waste recycling centres are closed with the remainder suffering high levels of disruption.

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has recommended councils keep their waste recycling centres open, stating that it should be regarded a medium priority to reduce fly-tipping.

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[Coronavirus] Scale of districts’ Covid-19 income challenge revealed

Lost income as a result of the economic impact of the coronavirus lockdown accounts for more than 90% of associated budget pressures in district councils, LGC analysis suggests.

In returns to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government setting out the impact of the outbreak, seen by LGC, districts warned income streams from theatre and cultural venues as well as car parking were all being hit.

While assumptions varied about the impact on council tax and business rate collections rates throughout the year, all warned of some impact with many saying they would face serious cashflow difficulties by June without action from ministers. This would have knock-on impacts on county councils.

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Business to receive almost £10 billion in rates relief

Businesses are expected to receive almost £10 billion in business rate relief as part of the government’s comprehensive package of support for the economy during the coronavirus pandemic.

New statistics published today (22 April 2020) by the government show the business rate relief predicted by councils for businesses across England in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector.

It means that those which may be the hardest hit by the pandemic, such as eligible shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs will pay no business rates whatsoever this financial year.

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[Coronavirus] Facemasks for public ‘risk NHS shortage’

Ministers have been warned by NHS bosses that advising people to wear facemasks to slow the spread of coronavirus risks jeopardising critical supplies to the health service.

Government scientists will examine the evidence about masks today before making a formal recommendation on whether the public should wear them.

The World Health Organisation is understood to be ready to issue fresh guidance on wearing masks in shops, on public transport and in other crowded spaces as part of measures to exit the lockdown.

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[Coronavirus] Millions of pieces of PPE are being shipped from Britain to Europe despite NHS shortages

Millions of pieces of vital protective equipment are being shipped from British warehouses to Germany, Spain and Italy despite severe shortages in this country, The Telegraph can disclose.

Lorries are being packed with masks, respirators and other PPE kit before heading back to supply hospitals in the EU, it has emerged.

On Monday night, UK firms said they had “no choice” but to keep selling the lifesaving gear abroad because their offers of help had been repeatedly ignored by the Government.

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[Coronavirus] New working arrangements for MPs as Commons returns

The House of Commons has been trying out its new working arrangements in preparation for MPs' return later.

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle led a rehearsal on Monday in which ministers faced questions via video link. Screens have been installed in the chamber to allow MPs to speak remotely while the limited number attending in person will be signposted where to sit.

They are part of a raft of changes designed to allow Parliament to continue to operate during the coronavirus outbreak, including reduced sitting hours, virtual committee meetings and strict social distancing measures within the Palace of Westminster.

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Councils burn recycling amid virus-linked rise in waste and staff absence

Councils are burning household recycling after being hit by a massive surge in domestic waste and coronavirus-related staff absences during the pandemic, the Guardian has learned.

Councils in Cardiff, St Helens and Inverclyde confirmed they were temporarily incinerating recycling, while those in Oldham, Redbridge and West Dunbartonshire also said they had stepped down their recycling services for the time being. A further six authorities have stopped collecting glass or cardboard.

Cardiff city council said it was continuing to collect recycled material as usual and was asking residents to rinse out their recycling and sort items in the correct bags even though the materials would be incinerated for the near future.

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Councils warned over delay to emergency grants for business

Councils that have failed to distribute billions of pounds of emergency grants have been accused of “inexcusable” delays that are putting companies’ survival at risk.

Figures show that some local authorities have managed to deliver only about a tenth of the funds meant to provide a cash lifeline to businesses hit by the fallout from coronavirus.

The data shows that of the £12.3 billion distributed to councils in England, £6.1 billion had been passed to businesses as of Monday. Some local authorities redeployed staff to make sure that money was paid quickly and have managed to pass on all, or the vast majority, of their allocation.

However, many councils are yet to provide the lion’s share of the money. Some of the worst offenders had released only 11 per cent of funds.

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[Coronavirus] Pub sector faces 'bloodbath' over rents

The UK pub sector could be hit by a "bloodbath" if they are not given breaks in rent payments, an industry expert has claimed.

Chief executive of UKHospitality, Kate Nicholls, called for government intervention "as a matter of urgency".

She told the Treasury Select Committee some landlords were facing legal action over not being able to pay their rent.

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[Coronavirus] Rushanara Ali MP calls for urgent action to help workers left out of the coronavirus job retention scheme

On 15 April 2020, the Government changed the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme by extending the eligibility date to 19 March 2020, which means that anyone reported on payroll by 19 March is now eligible to be furloughed. However, the Government also announced that employers have to have logged RTI submissions with HMRC and added employees to payroll by this date, a practice that commonly falls to the end of each month.

On Tuesday 21 April at the Treasury Select Committee, MPs on the committee put questions regarding the gaps in the Government’s support measures to Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality and Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at the Association of Independent Professionals & Self-Employed (IPSE).

Rushanara Ali MP highlighted the hundreds of thousands of people who are still not meeting the requirements to receive 80% of their salary under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, as they moved to new PAYE employment after 28 February 2020, and were added to payroll after the 19 March. The answers to Rushanara’s questions revealed that between 350,000 and 500,000 people in the hospitality industry alone may not be eligible for the scheme. There are many more in other sectors too.

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[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson resists easing of coronavirus lockdown

Boris Johnson has told colleagues that he is very cautious about easing lockdown restrictions and that his “overriding concern” is avoiding a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

The prime minister, who is recovering from Covid-19 at Chequers after several nights in intensive care, held a two-hour meeting on Friday with Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, Dominic Cummings, his most senior adviser, and Lee Cain, his director of communications.

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[Coronavirus] Mortuaries to be expanded by 30,000 spaces

The government says it is to provide an extra 30,000 temporary mortuary places during the coronavirus pandemic. The move is a precaution rather than a prediction, say ministers.

Local government minister Simon Clarke said the government did not want to alarm people but had to ensure capacity for the worst possible outcome.

"We all hope these contingencies will not be needed... that requires everyone to play their part in the national effort," said Mr Clarke.

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[Coronavirus] Schools stay shut until June as two in three pupils ignore online classes

Schools are not expected to reopen until June at the earliest after concerns that Britain could face a second wave of the coronavirus.

At the weekend it was reported that plans have been drawn up with three dates for schools to reopen: May 11, June 1 or the start of September.

Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, insisted that no date had been set. A government source told The Times that the earliest date for schools to open was likely to be after half-term at the end of May.

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[Coronavirus] Government unveils £1.3bn scheme to help start-ups

The government has announced a £1.25bn package to support innovative new companies that are not eligible for existing coronavirus rescue schemes.

It will match up to £250m of private investment and add £550m to an existing loan and grant scheme for smaller firms that focus on research and development.

Adding it up, that totals £800m of new money to support fledgling firms. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said start-ups would help power the UK's growth after the coronavirus crisis.

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[Coronavirus] Emergency appeal to help millions of unpaid carers during pandemic

An emergency appeal has been launched to help millions of unpaid carers who are supporting family and friends during the Covid-19 crisis.

Carers Trust says there are around seven million unpaid carers in the UK, with hundreds of thousands suffering from isolation and health issues as they work around the clock.

The charity’s emergency fund will provide grants of any amount up to £300 directly to carers who are struggling.

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[Coronavirus] Care home residents told they are 'unlikely' to be offered ventilators

ITV News has been passed a letter sent by GP surgeries to dozens of care homes warning that residents are unlikely to be put on a ventilator if they are admitted to hospital with Covid-19.

The letter, sent by a chain of GP surgeries across the East of England, states that anyone "frail enough to require full-time care" is "unlikely to benefit from mechanical ventilation" and therefore is unlikely to be offered the treatment in hospital.

The two page letter was sent to thousands of residents, including to one care home which looks after adults with learning disabilities.

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[Coronavirus] Furlough scheme: 140,000 firms apply for help to pay a million workers

More than 140,000 firms have applied for the government's job retention scheme since it launched on Monday morning, the chancellor has said.

He told the press conference: "We don't have an estimate of take up yet - it's just the first day the scheme is open and I expect those numbers to continue to increase over the coming days."

The Bank of England has said the approval of coronavirus business interruption loans would be sped up if the government agreed to guarantee 100% of the loans - instead of the current 80% limit.

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Unitary chief: ‘no confidence’ s114 notice can be avoided

A unitary council chief has revealed his authority last week informed the government it was poised to issue a section 114 notice, which would effectively signal its bankruptcy, as it reels from the financial impact of Covid-19.

Although Windsor & Maidenhead RBC’s warning to ministers that it was set to issue the notice within three months came before councils were told they would receive an additional £1.6bn, the council’s managing director Duncan Sharkey this morning told LGC the council’s financial survival beyond the end of the year remained uncertain.

Mr Sharkey predicted the Covid-19 pandemic would cost his council £14m as a result of extra service costs and, in particular, the loss of income. At the start of the financial year it had just £6m in reserves.

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[Coronavirus] MPs to investigate Covid-19 impact on council finances

The influential Commons public accounts committee is calling for evidence on the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak on council finances as part of a new inquiry.

The committee will question officials from the Ministry of Housing, Communities, & Local Government about its response to the crisis, as well the impact on councils, on 11 May.

The inquiry comes in response to the National Audit Office’s February report on ‘Local authority commercial investment’ which found councils had spent £6.6bn on commercial property investments between 2016-17 and 2018-19, compared to £460m during the preceding three years.

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[Coronavirus] Social care staff from Norfolk told to travel to Sheffield to get tested for Covid-19

Some care workers who require Covid-19 testing are having to travel hundreds of miles in order to attend drive-thru facilities, the chairman of the National Care Association has warned.

The government has pledged to make testing available to all symptomatic adult social care staff, their family members and care home residents.

But logistical problems with the roll out mean many workers in the social care sector remain uncertain whether it is safe for them to be at work.

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[Coronavirus] Hospital leaders hit out at government as PPE shortage row escalates

Hospital leaders have directly attacked the government for the first time during the coronavirus crisis over the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) after a desperately needed consignment of surgical gowns that had been announced by ministers failed to arrive.

Trust leaders privately admit that they are desperate to acquire more full-length waterproof surgical gowns.

Hospitals have expressed gratitude to local vets, fire brigades, police forces, councils, DIY shops and builders’ merchants after being forced to ask them to hand over their stocks of gowns. One received 2,000 from a nearby veterinary supply firm.

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[Coronavirus] Care home deaths 'far higher' than official figures

The National Care Forum (NCF) estimates that more than 4,000 elderly and disabled people have died across all residential and nursing homes.

Its report comes amid calls for accurate data on virus-linked deaths. Only 217 such care home deaths have been officially recorded in England and Wales up to 3 April.

The NCF, which represents not-for-profit care providers, said its findings highlight significant flaws in the official reporting of coronavirus-related death statistics.

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[Coronavirus] Councils in England given an extra £1.6bn to tackle COVID-19 crisis

Councils across England are to be given an extra £1.6bn in funding to deal with the coronavirus emergency after complaints from local authorities that services could suffer.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said the extra money will boost the backing councils have received to cope with the pandemic to £3.2bn.

An extra £300m will go to devolved administrations, with Scotland getting £155m, Wales £95m, and Northern Ireland £50m.

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[Coronavirus] Fly-tipping rise prompts plea to reopen tips

Rubbish tips should reopen to curb an increase in fly-tipping during the coronavirus lockdown, politicians have said.

Many waste facilities closed in March after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people should stay at home, except for “essential travel”.

MPs and councillors are calling for tips to be accessible again, but with measures to allow social distancing.

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Council tax holiday: Huge pressure mounts for freeze on levy, two weeks after rates hiked

They are calling for a temporary nationwide halt on payments to ease the financial burden for hard-pressed households.

A three-month “council tax holiday” would give people a short-term reprieve on their outgoings at a time when millions of jobs are under threat and businesses are battling to stay afloat, they argue.

A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said: “All councils are putting in place measures to help residents who are facing financial hardship as a consequence of the virus.''

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[Coronavirus] Delayed supply system rollout causing critical PPE shortages

The delayed rollout of the new dedicated national supply channel for personal protective equipment is leading to shortages of critical supplies for councils, with at least one fearing it will run out of certain items completely.

Birmingham City Council’s supply of personal protective equipment is running so low that it says it could run out of protective masks within two weeks.

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Unions slam 'woefully low' council pay offer

The Government should provide extra funding to give council workers a 'proper' pay rise during the pandemic crisis, trade unions have said.

Unison, Unite and GMB have branded the 2.75% pay offer from the National Employers as 'woefully low' arguing it fails to recognise the efforts of local government staff in delivering frontline services during the lockdown.

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[Coronavirus] Social care concerns revealed in leaked letter

A leaked letter seen by the BBC has revealed an extensive list of concerns about how the social care sector is coping with the coronavirus crisis.

The letter raises fears about funding, testing, personal protective equipment (PPE) and the shielding scheme for vulnerable people.

Written on Saturday, to a senior official at the Department of Health and Social Care by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), it says mixed messages from the government have created "confusion and additional workload".

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[Coronavirus] Local pharmacies face cash crisis

"The last month has been the hardest of my 35 years in pharmacy," said Dai Williams.

He runs two pharmacies in Rhondda in South Wales and while demand has increased massively since the lockdown, that's not been good for business.

That's because the wholesale price of medicine has shot up, cutting margins and putting financial pressures on.

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[Coronavirus] 'Urgent studies needed' into mental health impact of coronavirus

Rapid and rigorous research into the impact of Covid-19 on mental health is needed to limit the impact of the pandemic, researchers have said.

Experts say newly conducted polls and emerging studies into Covid-19 together with lessons from past outbreaks suggest that the pandemic could have profound and potentially long-term impacts on mental health.

The team say it is now crucial to begin a thorough and coordinated programme of research to delve into the impact of the coronavirus itself, as well as policies like lockdown..

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[Coronavirus] Councils given greater financial relief against cash flow pressures

New measures to help ease immediate financial pressures faced by councils in England due to the coronavirus outbreak have been announced by the government today (16 April 2020).

Councils will be allowed to defer £2.6 billion in business rates payments to central government, and £850 million in social care grants will be paid up front this month in a move aimed at helping to ease immediate pressures on local authority cash flows.

Councils are doing crucial work to help vulnerable people and the wider communities get through this crisis.

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[Coronavirus] Andy Norman: Covid-19 to hit economies in Midlands and North West worst

The economic impact of coronavirus will vary significantly across the country, according to an analysis we have carried out, building on the latest figures from the Office for Budget Responsibility.

According to its analysis of the likely impact of the coronavirus crisis on the UK economy, published earlier this week, the OBR expects real GDP to fall by 35% in the second quarter of this year.

This is calculated as an average of the likely impact on different sectors, weighted according to the size of each sector in the national economy.

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Pay offer for council staff increased to 2.75%

Council employees have been offered an improved pay increase of 2.75%, with an extra day’s annual leave.

In February, unions rejected a previous 2% pay offer as “more than disappointing”.

The National Employers, who negotiate pay on behalf of 350 local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, described this afternoon’s announcement as the “final offer”.

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[Coronavirus] LGC survey: Government crisis response given benefit of the doubt

The government’s overall handling of the response to the coronavirus crisis has largely been rated positively by LGC readers.

Asked to rate the response on a scale of one (very poor) to five (excellent), most (41%) opted for average or good (34%). Fewer than a fifth (18%) rated it very poor or poor but only 7% went for excellent. Ratings were slightly higher among senior respondents with 88% of chief executives, directors and senior managers giving a rating of three or more compared to 82% overall.

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[Coronavirus] Counties urge s114 change as coronavirus costs soar

County councils have called for a suspension of Section 114 and a relaxation of the rules so authorities can borrow to fund revenue spending.

The call comes with many councils raising concerns about the huge challenges facing their finances as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, including increased costs, income loss and cash flow issues.

A letter to ministers, seen by The MJ, from chairman of the County Councils’ Network, Cllr David Williams, warned his members faced ‘enormous financial liabilities’.

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Deficit ‘could reach 12% of GDP’ this year

The UK government deficit could rise to as high as £260bn – about 12% of GDP – this financial year, as a result of the measures taken amid the coronavirus pandemic, economists at PwC have predicted.

An estimated £60bn-£80bn of direct fiscal stimulus, added to the effects of slower economic growth in the wake of the crisis, could cause the deficit to leap to between £180bn and £260bn in 2020-21, PwC’s report said.

The Office for Budgetary Responsibility forecast, pre-coronavirus, was that the deficit would be £55bn.

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[Coronavirus] UK lockdown extended for 'at least' three weeks

Lockdown restrictions in the UK will continue for "at least" another three weeks as it tackles the coronavirus outbreak, Dominic Raab has said.

The foreign secretary told the daily No 10 briefing that a review had concluded relaxing the measures now would risk harming public health and the economy.

"We still don't have the infection rate down as far as we need to," he said.

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Signs that more families missing out on first choice primary school

Smaller proportions of children are gaining places at their first choice of primary school in many areas of England, a survey suggests.

Hundreds of thousands of families across England are finding out what primary school they will be joining this autumn, on what is commonly known as National Offer Day.

Findings from a PA survey of local authorities show that, of the 67 councils that gave comparable data, 36 (54%) have seen a fall in the proportion of pupils getting their first choice compared to last year, while 25 (37%) have seen a rise and six (9%) have seen no change.

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[Coronavirus] Treasury backs loans to bigger businesses

Loans to all medium-to-large firms will now be included in the government's £330bn coronavirus support package for the economy, the Treasury has said.

All viable companies with a turnover of more than £45m will be able to apply for government-backed support, including those which take in more than £500m.

Businesses with turnovers of more than £500m were not originally going to be eligible for the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which will be launched on Monday.

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[Coronavirus] NHS volunteer army of 750,000 has been given fewer than 20,000 tasks, data reveals

An army of 750,000 NHS volunteers recruited to help vulnerable people get through the coronavirus crisis has been given fewer than 20,000 tasks to perform across the country, according to data seen by The Telegraph.

The NHS Volunteer Responder scheme has so far helped a maximum of around 3,500 people every day since its launch, figures have revealed.

Last month, three quarters of a million people signed up in less than a week in response to a call by Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, for volunteers to help the 1.5 million people told to stay indoors for at least 12 weeks.

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[Coronavirus] Firefighters begin moving bodies after ‘considerable number’ of coronavirus deaths in Midlands

Firefighters have been drafted in to move the bodies of coronavirus victims in one of the UK’s most badly hit regions.

As rising casualties further strain emergency services, West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) crews have begun to retrieve bodies from hospitals, care homes and homes.

In the week ending 3 April, the West Midlands recorded 1,812 deaths – more than any year since records began in 2005, according to Office for National Statistics data. Nearly one in four were attributed to coronavirus.

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UK’s highest earning council official received pay package of more than £600,000

The UK’s highest earning council official received a pay package of more than £600,000, nearly four times what the Prime Minister earns, the latest 'Town Hall Rich List' has found.

Janice Hewitt, formerly the chief officer for health and social care integration at the Labour run North Lanarkshire council, was the highest-remunerated local official in the UK, the latest figures between 2018 and 2019 from the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) has shown.

Ms Hewitt received a total remuneration package of £615,550, which included a salary of £146,033, £350,116 added to her pension pot and compensation for loss of office of £119,401 when she left the role.

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[Coronavirus] More tests promised for care homes

All care home residents and staff with Covid-19 symptoms will be tested for coronavirus as laboratory capacity increases, the government has promised.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was "determined" to ensure everyone who needed a test had access to one.

Labour welcomed the pledge but said the social care sector needed more support.

Care providers have been calling for more testing for weeks, with charities saying the virus is "running wild" amid outbreaks at more than 2,000 homes.

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Solace savages ‘inane’ and ‘crass’ Taxpayers’ Alliance ‘rich list’

Chief executives have condemned the Taxpayers' Alliance’s annual attack on local government pay as “inane and distasteful”, particularly in light of the work councils are doing in the Covid-19 outbreak.

Graeme McDonald, managing director of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers also called the alliance’s report “innumerate” and “crass”.

The alliance - which operates as a limited company - has published the list for 13 years and targets what it believes is profligate pay levels in councils.

It said: “The country is facing a profound challenge and the response of workers from the public, private and voluntary sectors has been laudable. But accountability still matters and taxpayers deserve to know if they are getting value for their hard-earned money.”

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Public sector borrowing set to hit record high

Public sector borrowing as a result of the coronavirus lockdown is set to hit a record 14% of GDP this year but then decline rapidly to the levels predicted in the March Budget, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.

The OBR says borrowing as a result of the virus could hit £218bn this year, making total borrowing £273bn or 14% of GDP, the largest deficit in a single year since the Second World War and almost half as much again as the 10% deficit in 2010. Once the crisis has passed and ‘the policy interventions’ have unwound the deficit will then fall back to the Budget forecast of around 2% of GDP.

Total public spending is set to hit 52% of GDP this year, also the highest since the Second World War. Total public sector net debt would hit 100% of GDP this year before falling back to 95%. By 2024/5 it would still be £260bn higher than the Budget forecast, or 10% of GDP.

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[Coronavirus] Care home charity having to source face masks privately at five times usual cost

A care home provider said it is paying five times the usual amount for face masks, while local authorities continue to struggle to get enough protective equipment.

Methodist Homes (MHA) said it was forced to spend £200,000 on face masks from a trusted private supplier because it cannot depend on the Government’s allocation processes.

This works out at roughly 97 pence per mask, when usually they would spend 17 pence when sourcing through the Government.

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[Coronavirus] 'Too many homeless still sleeping rough'

There are still “far too many” homeless people on the streets unable to follow government guidance on coronavirus, charities have warned.

The government said last month it wanted to see all rough sleepers housed within a weekend.

In London, more than 1,000 rough sleepers have been put up in hotels but it is estimated there are still about 900 on streets or in shared facilities.

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Hall loses local government post

Local government minister Luke Hall has been quietly moved aside, with Simon Clarke taking over his role.

Mr Clarke, who was appointed minister of state in February after seven months at the Treasury, has now been handed the regional growth and local government portfolio while Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s former deputy as London mayor, Stephen Greenhalgh, was last month made a life peer to serve as an unpaid minister of state jointly at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and Home Office.

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[Coronavirus] More PPE promised for social care

Health secretary Matt Hancock has promised to increase supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) to social care.

Announcing a social care action plan to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Hancock announced a new online delivery system for social care settings and said kit would be shipped directly to social care providers.

Care providers have repeatedly reported difficulties in accessing PPE stock from their normal suppliers.

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[Coronavirus] Older people being 'airbrushed' out of virus figures

Many older people are being "airbrushed" out of coronavirus figures in the UK, charities have warned.

The official death toll has been criticised for only covering people who die in hospital - but not those in care homes or in their own houses.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told the BBC the daily figure was based on hospital deaths because "it's accurate and quick".

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[Coronavirus] Pressure mounts to re-open primary schools by May half term after catastrophic economic forecast

The government is coming under mounting pressure to re-open primary schools before the May half term, as catastrophic Office for Budget Responsibility figures forecast the economy will shrink by 35 per cent due to the coronavirus lockdown.

A number of ministers are understood to be agitating for younger pupils to return to the classroom as soon as May 11 amid fears the restrictions cannot feasibly be relaxed until workers' children are back in full-time education.

It had previously been suggested that at the earliest, pupils would not be back until after the Whitsun half term, which begins on May 25, the late Spring bank holiday.

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[Coronavirus] Chancellor Rishi Sunak warns of more 'tough times' during COVID-19 outbreak

The chancellor has repeated his warning that the government will not be able to protect every business and household during the coronavirus outbreak, admitting: "These are tough times and there will be more to come."

Rishi Sunak told the government's daily coronavirus news conference that the UK economy was "fundamentally sound" and he was confident there would be a "bounceback in growth" once the crisis has passed.

It comes after the Office for Budget Responsibility, the independent fiscal watchdog, said Britain's economy could shrink by 35% in the second quarter and see unemployment jump by two million because of COVID-19.

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[Coronavirus] Ministers urged to raise pay for care home staff during Covid-19 crisis

Workers in care homes need an urgent pay rise and more robust protection against the coronavirus, union leaders and employers have told government ministers.

Many care home networks are operating with absence rates of about 10% as staff self-isolate. This is stretching already strained rotas because even before the epidemic, there were about 122,000 vacancies in the sector.

There are also fears that, as death tolls in care homes rise and reports of shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) continue, new recruits will be deterred from joining up.

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[Coronavirus] Call for testing of firefighters as 3,000 isolate

Around 12% of firefighters and control room staff in some areas are self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic, says the firefighters' union.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says nearly 3,000 fire and rescue staff across the UK are in isolation.

It has called on the government to provide urgent coronavirus testing of its members so they can return to work. A government spokesman said it is working with fire chiefs to ensure they have the support they need.

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[Coronavirus] UK triples coronavirus response fund for NHS and public services

The government’s coronavirus emergency response fund, set up during last month’s budget to provide financial assistance to public services, has been almost tripled to more than £14bn, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced.

The move comes as the government faces mounting criticism of its response to the pandemic, amid concerns that frontline health workers have not received sufficient protective equipment and that hospitals urgently require more ventilators.

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[Coronavirus] Householders face up to five years in prison if they burn recycling during collection cutbacks

Householders are being warned that they face up to five years in prison if they burn recycling because councils have cut back their regular bin collections.

Some councils have already started to cut back collections to focus on rubbish destined for landfill. More services are expected to be cut this coming week as the coronavirus lockdown continues.

Last week the Government said in official guidance that councils could start to cut back on kerbside collections of recycled waste or garden waste to focus on picking up black bin rubbish and food waste due to staff shortages.

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[Coronavirus] UK Parliament still set to return on 21 April

Parliament is still on course to return on 21 April to debate coronavirus measures and authorise spending on the UK's pandemic response.

It will not be business as usual for MPs, with social distancing measures still likely to be in place.

The government needs to pass its Finance Bill, enacting measures in the Budget, which is due to get its second reading on 22 April.

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[Coronavirus] Loosen rules to let councils borrow for day-to-day spending, says IFS

The Government is being urged to “loosen the rules” to allow councils to borrow in order to fund day-to-day spending in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the Government announced a £1.6 billion funding package for English councils to help them respond to additional pressures caused by the virus.

However, a new briefing published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) suggests that there are big differences in the allocations being received across the country.

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[Coronavirus] England care providers say 10% council fee rise is ‘too little, too late’

Care providers struggling to maintain services during the coronavirus crisis have reacted angrily to an offer by English council chiefs of a temporary increase of 10% in the fees they pay the care homes, to cover their additional costs.

Councils have been given an emergency £1.6bn by the government for extra spending prompted by the crisis. They say that while a “substantial part” of the fund was always destined for social care, they face other exceptional costs and cannot immediately commit to a fee increase beyond the end of this month.

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[Coronavirus] Social distancing measures may need to remain in place 'indefinitely', government experts believe

Social distancing measures may need to remain in place "indefinitely", government experts believe under plans being drawn up in Whitehall which could see Britain begin to emerge from lockdown next month.

Officials are considering a plan to lift the lockdown "in reverse" with schools the first to open potentially from the beginning of June, followed by all shops but larger social gatherings delayed until last. The elderly and vulnerable would be asked to stay at home for longer.

However, it is understood that Britons will be asked to consider whether social interactions - such as going to an office or visiting relatives - are necessary as part of a plan to live with the virus for many months, or even years.

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[Coronavirus] UK restrictions set to be reviewed at special 'lockdown summit'

Senior ministers are gathering for a "lockdown summit" that is expected to result in restrictions on movement being extended until May at the earliest.

Ahead of the COBRA meeting, hopes of an end to the shutdown of pubs, restaurants, shops and other businesses were all but dashed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and other senior politicians.

Some ministers believe a decision to lift the ban will not be taken until the prime minister returns to work - and as this could be several weeks away, there is no end to the COVID-19 lockdown in sight.

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[Coronavirus] Chancellor announces aid for charities

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £750m package to keep struggling charities afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

The move follows concern that some charities are facing collapse, with income shrinking because of enforced shop closures.

Bigger charities such as Oxfam and Age UK have furloughed two-thirds of staff. The measures involve cash grants direct to charities providing key services during the crisis.

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[Coronavirus] Care homes and prisons are next to receive coronavirus test kits

Tests for coronavirus could soon be given to care home workers and prison officers, with capacity about to increase “very substantially”, MPs have been told.

John Newton, the government’s testing expert, told a select committee hearing that “we’re not far off offering tests to all NHS staff that need them”.

“I think the real priority is to get the test out to other core services,” he said, suggesting that care home staff and care workers who visit elderly or vulnerable people in their homes would be the next to benefit.

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[Coronavirus] Crisis cash on its way for NI councils

Councils in Northern Ireland have finally been handed extra funding to deal with the coronavirus crisis, bringing them in line with the rest of the UK.

Earlier this week the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) and Solace called for Stormont to give financial support to councils hit by increased costs and falling income, ‘mirroring the actions already taken in England, Scotland and Wales’.

Now the minister for communities as activated emergency assistance to help cover some of the costs.

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[Coronavirus] Think tank calls for benefit cap to be suspended to protect renters

Social housing tenants are the most likely to be affected by the current economic crisis, a new report has found today.

The think tank is calling on the Government to suspend the benefit cap, which it says isn’t practical in a period of rapidly rising unemployment.

Lindsay Judge, principal research and policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: 'While many homeowners are relatively well-protected in the current crisis via low interest rates and mortgage holiday options, private renters are exposed to rent arrears and even evictions should they lose their jobs.

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[Coronavirus] Treasury agrees extension to emergency overdraft

The government plans to draw from the Ways and Means facility. The facility is a long-established overdraft facility between the Bank of England and the Treasury, which allows for cash advances at times of crisis.

It has not been used since the financial crisis of 2008, when £19.9bn was borrowed.

The Government said whatever sum is borrowed will be repaid to the Bank by the end of the year. It has also stressed that the markets would still be the primary source of financing, and its response to coronavirus would be fully funded by additional borrowing through normal debt management operations.

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[Coronavirus] Scotland's economy expected to shrink because of Covid-19 lockdown

Scottish GDP could contract by up to a quarter if coronavirus restrictions remain in place for three months, economists have warned.

Although many of the effects of the shutdown would be temporary, the extent to which some sectors would be able to bounce back was unknown, it said in an economic commentary.

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[Coronavirus] Dominic Raab says UK 'must keep going' with lockdown measures

Dominic Raab has said the UK "must keep going" with lockdown measures as he warned against giving coronavirus "a second chance to kill more people".

The foreign secretary, speaking at Downing Street's daily briefing, said the government did not expect to be able to give more details on when coronavirus lockdown measures might be lifted until the end of next week.

He urged people to stay home over the Easter weekend, saying social distancing "will have to stay in place" until there was evidence that "clearly shows we've moved beyond the peak" of the COVID-19 outbreak.

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[Coronavirus] Hundreds of UK care home deaths not added to official coronavirus toll

Hundreds of people are dying in care homes from confirmed or suspected coronavirus without yet being officially counted, the Guardian has learned.

More than 120 residents of the UK’s largest charitable provider of care homes are thought to have died from the virus in the last three weeks, while another network of care homes is reported to have recorded 88 deaths.

Care England, the industry body, estimated that the death toll is likely to be close to 1,000, despite the only available official figure for care home fatalities being dramatically lower.

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[Coronavirus] Few UK firms getting coronavirus funds as wider costs mount

Only a small fraction of British companies have successfully accessed financial help from the government to withstand the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, while many more have failed so far, a survey showed on Wednesday.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said 1% of companies had received funds from the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, while 8% said their application had been unsuccessful.

Another 7% received government grants for small businesses, but double that proportion applied unsuccessfully.

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[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson spends night in intensive care after symptoms worsen

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spent the night in intensive care at a central London hospital after his coronavirus symptoms worsened. Downing Street said he was moved to the unit on the advice of his medical team and was receiving "excellent care".

Mr Johnson has asked Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to deputise "where necessary", a spokesman added. The prime minister, 55, was admitted to St Thomas' Hospital with "persistent symptoms" on Sunday evening.

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[Coronavirus] NHS volunteers to start receiving tasks today - here's how they will help

NHS volunteers will begin receiving their first tasks today as they come to the aid of 2.5 million people at risk because of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 750,000 people - three times the original target - signed up to join the "volunteer army" in the war against the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK.

The Royal Voluntary Service, the charity spearheading the effort, will have completed checks for the high volume of applications by the end of Tuesday.

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Birmingham asks Sunak for short term loan to ease cash flow problems

Birmingham City Council leader Ian Ward (Lab) has written to the the chancellor asking for local authorities to be given short term loans to support cashflow through the coronavirus crisis.

Birmingham received £38.7m from the £1.6bn grant allocated to councils to fund additional services required as a result of the crisis, but claims it has already spent that twice over.

Speaking to LGC on Monday, leader Ian Ward (Lab) told LGC the council wrote to Rishi Sunak at the end of last month asking him to facilitate easy access to funding and also revealed the coronavirus crisis was delaying the introduction of the city's clean air zone and threatening the city's readiness to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

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Bid to relax accounts code ‘not acceptable’ to auditors and regulators

Plans to relax reporting requirements on councils' 2019-20 accounts have been roundly rejected, with auditors, regulators and the Treasury raising concerns about the plans.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy and Local Authority (Scotland) Accounts Advisory Committee local authority code board wrote to the Treasury last week to propose a simplified and streamlined version of the accounting code due to be applied to last financial year’s accounts.

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[Coronavirus] Cabinet Office moves to further protect suppliers after coronavirus

A new Procurement Policy Note (PPN) has been published by the Cabinet Office to further protect suppliers during and after the coronavirus outbreak.

Under this new PPN, contracting authorities must take action with immediate effect to ensure suppliers at risk can continue normal operations once the outbreak is over.

Suppliers at risk will continue to be paid as normal according to this PPN, even if the service is disrupted or temporarily suspended, until the end of June at the earliest.

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[Coronavirus] Hundreds of thousands to benefit from 'council tax holiday' during coronavirus pandemic

Councils are looking at plans to ensure people struggling to pay the bills could pay nothing until June during the coronavirus lockdown. Authorities are considering the idea of a council tax “holiday” which would mean people can delay their first installment of council tax for the 2020/21 year until May or June.

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[Coronavirus] U-Turn on free school meals means families will get extra supermarket vouchers

Families eligible for free school meals will continue to receive supermarket vouchers over the Easter holidays, the Government has announced.

The initiative, which was previously introduced to cover term time meals, has now been extended to cover the two-week seasonal holiday.

It means qualifying families will be able to claim additional shopping vouchers of £15 a week per child to help cover their grocery bills.

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[Coronavirus] Allow young people out of lockdown early to get country moving, say business experts

Allowing young people aged between 20 and 30 out of lockdown early could help get Britain moving again and avoid an "extraordinary recession", business experts have said.

As the Government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, told the daily press conference that the epidemic curve appeared to be "flattening off", speculation is growing as to how the UK can escape from its lockdown.

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[Coronavirus] Concerns over Autumn budgeting after regulators reject Accounting Code simplifications

Plans outlined by the CIPFA/LASAAC Local Authority Code Board– sought to replace the 2019-20 Accounting Code with a simplified alternative, to “relieve the burden on finance professionals” during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, the plan has been rejected by auditors and regulators, and the institute has confirmed the 2019-20 accounting code will now be used in full – with CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman concerned about the impact that will have on the sector.

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[Coronavirus] Natwest struggling with calls for emergency loans

Britain's biggest business lender has told the BBC that it is receiving nearly 10 times as many calls as usual from firms wanting to take out emergency loans.

Despite the Chancellor's announcement of an unprecedented package of £330bn in 80%-government-backed loans, there is little evidence that the support is hitting the target yet.

Alison Rose, Chief Executive of Natwest Group (formerly known as RBS), the biggest lender to UK businesses by far, said that although some of the money was beginning to get through, they were facing operational challenges in delivering these unprecedented financial assistance programmes.

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[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson admitted to hospital over virus symptoms

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been admitted to hospital for tests, 10 days after testing positive for coronavirus, Downing Street has said.

He was taken to a London hospital on Sunday evening with "persistent symptoms" - including a temperature. It is said to be a "precautionary step" taken on the advice of his doctor.

The prime minister remains in charge of the government, but the foreign secretary is expected to chair a coronavirus meeting on Monday morning.

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[Coronavirus] Town halls consider council tax payment help

Vulnerable people and those most affected by the coronavirus outbreak are being offered help to pay their council tax. Support ranges from deferred payments to discounts for those on low incomes.

A petition on the Parliament website calling for council tax to be scrapped during the duration of the crisis has attracted almost 100,000 signatures. One council said it would be impossible to keep public services going if relief was applied "across the board".

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[Coronavirus] UK councils face lawsuits over access to education in lockdown

The UK government must ensure pupils from poor backgrounds have computers and internet connections during the coronavirus lockdown or face legal action for depriving children of their education, according to a group of legal activists.

The Good Law Project argues that the widespread reliance on online learning during the lockdown is illegally disadvantaging state school pupils who lack access to tablets, laptops or adequate broadband. It says it will sue local authorities to try to push the government into action.

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[Coronavirus] Residential homes 'desperate' for PPE, as two care workers die

The first two coronavirus deaths among care workers in England were announced, as industry leaders hit out at chronic shortages of protective equipment and urged the government to start treating social care as “a second front line”.

Carol Jamabo, 56, a community carer for Cherish Elderly Care in Bury in Greater Manchester, died last Wednesday.

Another carer died in a home run by MHA, the UK’s largest charitable social care provider, which said it was unclear where she contracted the virus.

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[Coronavirus] Free school meal vouchers to continue over Easter holidays

Teachers' unions have welcomed a government decision that means families eligible for free school meals (FSM) will continue to receive financial help to buy food over the Easter holidays.

Last week ministers said qualifying families could claim shopping vouchers of £15 a week per child in term time.

Now the scheme will be extended in England over the two-week holiday.

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[Coronavirus] Most councils still providing normal waste collections, survey reveals

The majority of councils have been able to provide a normal waste and recycling collection service, a new survey has revealed.

The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) found 85% of councils are still able to provide a normal collection for general domestic waste.

Three-quarters of councils have also maintained their normal recycling services, the survey found.

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[Coronavirus] Military distributing 30 million PPE items for community frontline

More than 30 million items of personal protective equipment are to be distributed to local resilience forums this week for use in adult social care and other frontline services outside hospitals, LGC has learned.

The emergency drop off, which is being handled by the military, follows widespread concern amongst councils about access to the vital equipment for staff working in care homes and domiciliary care and the publication late last week of guidance on the correct use of PPE.

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Steve Reed named shadow communities secretary

Former Lambeth LBC leader Steve Reed has been appointed shadow communities and local government secretary by new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

However, he does not have the housing role, with Labour continuing to split its shadowing of the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government between two MPs.

Mr Reed replaces Andrew Gwynne, who earlier today said he chose to return to the back benches.

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[Coronavirus] Libraries see new online memberships soar amid lockdown

New online library memberships have rocketed by up to 770% in some parts of the country, as the nation turns to books for solace during the Covid-19 outbreak.

With strict instructions to stay at home to prevent the spread of Covid-19, e-and-audio books are being increasingly sought to help soothe anxious minds, the Local Government Association (LGA) said. Despite all council-owned library buildings closing amid the pandemic, services have seen a surge in requests for digital resources.

Hampshire County Council has seen a 770% increase in new digital users, Cornwall Council a 630% increase and Hertfordshire County Council an increase of 332%.

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[Coronavirus] Councils in UK struggle to house homeless despite Government calls to accommodate them during pandemic

Homeless people seeking accommodation have been turned away by local councils for failing to meet complicated bureaucratic requirements, a London charity has said.

According to Glass Door, others have been waiting for days on the streets due to a backlog in accommodation.

The news comes after the Government gave local councils 48 hours to house 100 per cent of England’s rough sleepers in efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus. That deadline passed last Sunday.

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New Labour leader Keir Starmer vows to lead party into 'new era'

Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to lead Labour "into a new era with confidence and hope" after decisively winning the contest to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.

The 57-year old defeated Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey in a ballot of party members and other supporters.

The lawyer, who became an MP in 2015, won on the first round of voting, with more than 50% of ballots cast.

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[Coronavirus] Government bails out bus firms to keep routes open

The government will cover the losses of bus companies in England over the next three months to ensure that services can still run.

The UK's bus industry says passenger numbers have "fallen off a cliff" since the government advised people against all non-essential travel. That caused bus firms to cut services.

A new £167m fund will ensure that bus companies can cover their costs on essential services so that key workers, such as NHS staff, can get to work.

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[Coronavirus] New PPE guidance welcomed but concerns remain over shortages

New guidance on the types of personal protective equipment (PPE) that is needed in different circumstances for those on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis has been published by the government and NHS leaders.

The updated guidance comes after widespread concern and uncertainty about when PPE was required amid a national shortage of equipment.

The guidance has been agreed by the four chief medical officers, chief nursing officers and chief dental officers, and reflects the fact that coronavirus is now widespread in the community.

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[Coronavirus] Distribution of £12bn business grants gets underway

Councils have begun distributing grants to small- and medium-sized businesses forced to close as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than £12.3bn was transferred to council bank accounts by the government on Wednesday to redistribute in grants of either £10,000 or £25,000 to businesses in the retail, leisure or hospitality sectors with a rateable value of £51,000 or less.

Cornwall Council received the largest sum, at £281m, followed by Birmingham and Leeds city councils which are the largest English authorities with business rates administration responsibilities. Council of the Isles of Scilly and Oadby & Wigston BC received the lowest amount at £4.2m and £10.2m respectively, while on average councils received £29.3m.

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[Coronavirus] New PPE guidance welcomed but concerns remain over shortages

New guidance on the types of personal protective equipment (PPE) that is needed in different circumstances for those on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis has been published by the government and NHS leaders.

The updated guidance comes after widespread concern and uncertainty about when PPE was required amid a national shortage of equipment.

The guidance has been agreed by the four chief medical officers, chief nursing officers and chief dental officers, and reflects the fact that coronavirus is now widespread in the community.

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[Coronavirus] Crematorium attendance halted in West Yorkshire

A third West Yorkshire council has confirmed it will take no further bookings for funerals at crematoria, in a move its leader said had been taken "with a heavy heart" following new government guidance.

Kirklees Metropolitan Council said yesterday it has followed Bradford City MBC and Leeds City Council in opting to only provide ‘direct cremations’, which are without mourners and involve no service. Calderdale MBC has adopted a similar policy but a spokesperson for Wakefield MDC said an end to attendance at crematorium funerals was not being considered at the moment.

Kirklees will stop taking bookings at its two crematoria for funeral services on Monday, while graveside burials will continue with a reduced maximum of 10 people permitted to attend.

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[Coronavirus] North East care homes 'need more help' to cope with coronavirus outbreak and protect staff

A body representing North East care homes says staff are frightened as they face the growing threat from coronavirus. Care North East, which represents around eighty care providers, says its members need more help in coping with the outbreak in order to safeguard staff and residents.

The association says it has several key concerns:

- a shortage of personal protective equipment and basic supplies.

- shortages of staff because some are self isolating.

- It's demanding more coronavirus testing for residents and workers.

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[Coronavirus] Downing Street warns: defy the lockdown and we'll introduce more restrictions

The coronavirus lockdown could be tightened if the public flouts social-distancing rules with a warm weekend expected, Government sources have warned.

With temperatures expected to hit almost 20 degrees Celsius, ministers including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, warned that the warm weather was not an excuse to break the lockdown.

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[Coronavirus] Councils' pandemic fight is hampered by central micromanagement

NHS and care workers have gripped public attention as the country responds to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the one million people who work in local government have also been working flat-out – work that will continue well past the present crisis, that has been made much harder by 10 years of austerity, and that is not being helped by some parts of Whitehall trying to micromanage the local response.

As councils cope with a huge wave of demand on every front, from social care to refuse collection, they are taking daily instructions from ministers and officials across Whitehall, themselves under pressure and struggling to keep pace with directions from Downing Street.

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[Coronavirus] Government revamps emergency loan scheme for business

The government loans scheme for businesses struggling with finances due to the coronavirus pandemic has been revamped following criticism from industry bodies and unions.

The changes to the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme include banning lenders from requesting personal guarantees on loans under £250,000, and extending the scheme to include companies regardless of whether they have been turned down for funding via other routes.

Previously, government-backed loans for small businesses were only available to firms that had been turned down for a commercial loan from their bank.

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Video conferencing first at council meeting

A council used software to help decide key planning applications in what is believed to be the first meeting of its kind in the country.

Councillors on Waltham Forest LBC’s planning committee met in a room where they could maintain social distancing to limit the spread of coronavirus, but all other participation was done using a video conferencing facility.

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[Coronavirus] Councils start to pay out business grants

Thousands of small firms have begun to receive £25,000 cash grants from councils as part of a £22bn government package in response to COVID-19.

Leader of Westminster City Council, Cllr Rachael Robathan, said: ‘We are proud to play our part in the Government’s scheme to ensure that businesses are getting the financial assistance that they need.

‘The first 300 grants worth more than £3m have now gone to some of the borough’s small businesses and we are working as fast as we can to process others.’

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[Coronavirus] Scottish unions blast 'inconsistent' way councils are handling coronavirus

Trade unions in Scotland have criticised the ‘inconsistent’ approach to protecting council staff from coronavirus.

In a letter to first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, three trade unions have warned a lack of ‘urgency and consistency’ by some local authorities is putting council workers and services users at risk.

UNISON, Unite and GMB highlight a lack of Personal Protective Equipment for workers, no strategy for testing frontline workers, and concerns that some workers are unable to practice social distancing.

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Councils warn of ‘wave of waste’

There will be a spike in household rubbish due to the coronavirus lockdown, district councils have warned today.

The District Councils’ Network (DCN) said families are likely to generate more waste while staying at home, at the same time as some councils have been forced to reduce certain waste services.

It also issued a plea for residents not to burn rubbish on bonfires, following a spate of incidents across the country.

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Launch of new Buckinghamshire Council

The new unitary authority for Buckinghamshire has been launched, bringing together five district and county councils.

Leader of the new Buckinghamshire Council, Martin Tett, said it was ready to meet the challenges of the current coronavirus crisis.

Mr Tett said: ‘Over the course of the last year or so, specialists from all five councils have been working closely together as one team to prepare for the new Buckinghamshire Council.

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[Coronavirus] Government urged to take action after spike in Universal Credit applications

The government has been urged to get Universal Credit ‘battle ready’ for an unemployment ‘crisis’, after nearly one million people applied to receive UC benefits in just two weeks.

The Department for Work and Pensions confirmed 950,000 successful applications for UC were made in the two weeks from 16 March.

In light of the surge in applications, the Resolution Foundation think-tank has called for the removal of ‘capital rules tests’ that reduce support for those with savings over £6,000 and to ‘disentitle’ those with savings of more than £16,000.

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[Coronavirus] Government to waive duties on some medical imports

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed the government is to waive duties and VAT on medical imports from outside the EU, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

NHS suppliers will no longer have to pay customs duty and import VAT on specific medical goods coming from outside the EU, including ventilators, coronavirus testing kits and protective clothing.

The removal of the tariffs, which can be up to 12% on the price of such goods, is intended to speed up supplies into the UK during the crisis.

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[Coronavirus] Small businesses struggle to get bailout grants as well as bank loans

Thousands of Britain’s smallest businesses face missing out on the £10,000 grants earmarked to help them through the coronavirus recession because councils cannot get in touch to send cash.

The handouts are being distributed through the business rates system because it is simpler and quicker to use existing processes than to create new operations from scratch.

However, councils typically do not have financial information on businesses that have never paid rates.

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[Coronavirus] Councils' plea for residents to avoid 'spiralling waste' during coronavirus outbreak

District councils have issued a plea to residents minimise their household rubbish over concerns that the coronavirus pandemic will cause a "spiralling of waste".

The District Councils Network, which represents district authorities across the country, said it fears the pandemic will lead to a "wave of waste" in the coming weeks with families staying at home.

It added that, while it was pleased that people are staying safe at home, residents should work with local councils to manage bin collections.

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[Coronavirus] UK care home bosses threaten to quit over return of coronavirus patients

Care home managers have threatened to resign over new government guidelines that state they have to accept residents who have coronavirus.

The guidance also says hospitals will not routinely test residents entering care homes, meaning managers will not know if returning residents are infectious but asymptomatic.

“Some [returning] patients may have Covid-19, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic,” the guidance says. “All of these patients can be safely cared for in a care home if this guidance is followed.”

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[Coronavirus] Matt Hancock sets aim of 100,000 tests a day by end of April

The government is aiming to carry out 100,000 coronavirus tests a day in England by the end of April, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, as he announced a "five-pillar" testing plan. It comes as the government was criticised for not increasing the number of tests more quickly.

Currently, there are around 10,000 tests being carried out a day. The new target includes swab tests, which are already in use, and blood tests, which are yet to be launched.

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[Coronavirus] A fifth of smaller UK firms 'will run out of cash'

Nearly a fifth of all small and medium-sized businesses in the UK are unlikely to get the cash they need to survive the next four weeks, in spite of unprecedented government support.

That's according to research published today, which suggests that between 800,000 and a million businesses nationwide may soon have to close.

Many firms have told the BBC that banks have refused them emergency loans.

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[Coronavirus] Virus-hit charities 'need substantial support'

Charities are expecting to lose around a third of their income over the next three months due to the coronavirus outbreak, MPs have been told.

Karl Wilding, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said his group has been “inundated with calls for help”.

MPs heard voluntary organisations needed “substantial” government support to shore up their finances.

PM Boris Johnson has promised a “package of measures” for the sector.

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[Coronavirus] England's children commissioner calls for volunteer social workers

The children’s commissioner for England has called for an army of volunteers to help support children’s social care during the coronavirus crisis in an effort to stop the most vulnerable falling through the gaps and disappearing from view.

Just as doctors and nurses who left the NHS have responded to calls to return to work to help save lives, Anne Longfield would like to see retired social workers and a range of school, nursery and care staff who have been furloughed as a result of the crisis join forces to help keep at-risk children safe.

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[Coronavirus] Coronavirus threatens the future of public transport, councils warn

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed the government is working on a support package for bus services after a warning they are at risk of collapse without emergency rescue funding.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils, said bus companies may not be able to survive the COVID-19 crisis because of falling passenger numbers.

In some parts of the country the number of people using buses has fallen by more than 75% in a month.

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[Coronavirus] Nearly a million universal credit claims in past two weeks

Nearly a million people have applied for universal credit benefits in the past fortnight as the coronavirus pandemic has worsened.

The Department for Work and Pensions said 950,000 successful applications for the payment were made between 16 March, when people were advised to work from home, and the end of the month.

The department would normally expect 100,000 claims in a two week period. Officials said they were working "flat out" to help people get support.

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[Coronavirus] Renters threatened with eviction 'should stay put'

People living in rented accommodation in England and Wales who have received an eviction notice have been urged not to move out.

The government announced a three month ban on evictions as part of emergency coronavirus legislation but the ban only covered new eviction proceedings, not people already in the court system.

Last week, ministers caved in to pressure from Labour and charities and announced a complete ban on evictions.

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[Coronavirus] Care homes refusing patients due to lack of PPE

Shortages of personal protective equipment and a lack of coronavirus testing for social care staff are threatening the ability of the system to cope, it has been claimed, with care homes not willing or able to accept patients being discharged from hospital as a result.

The government says that 170 million items of PPE have been delivered to hospitals, GP surgeries and pharmacies over the last two weeks amid concerns over frontline NHS staff getting sick.

But there is concern that much less is getting through to the care sector, prompting senior figures in local government and the care sector to warn the NHS could be overwhelmed if more is not done to support care homes.

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[Coronavirus] Government seeks urgent PPE audit amid widespread shortages

The government has ordered an urgent national audit of personal protective equipment, body bags, swabs and infection control products.

Local resilience forum planners were earlier this week asked to share stock levels and daily consumption rates of the items at ambulance, acute trusts and in primary care and other services by 9pm on Tuesday.

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Naylor to be Birmingham chief for a year

Birmingham City Council’s long wait for a chief executive eased this morning when it was announced Barking & Dagenham LBC’s chief executive Chris Naylor is to fill the role on a 12-month secondment.

Mr Naylor, who has held the role with the east London borough for five years, this morning told LGC that Birmingham was “coming through” a period of difficulty, describing the role as “a huge job” at “the largest city council in Europe”.

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[Coronavirus] Free school meals children to get food vouchers

Families with children eligible for free school meals in England will be able to claim weekly shopping vouchers while schools are closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, say ministers.

The scheme will allow schools to issue vouchers worth £15 a week per child.

Headteachers have warned that even with the vouchers, some parents will struggle to feed their children.

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[Coronavirus] Thousands of council staff moved to the frontline

Tens of thousands of UK council staff are set to be redeployed in "critical" roles during the coronavirus crisis.

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the closure of hundreds of local authority-run facilities from gyms to historic bath houses.

Council bosses are now carrying out skills surveys to see whether they can move those employees into social care, crematoriums and waste collection.

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[Coronavirus] 20,000 former NHS staff return to fight virus, PM says

Some 20,000 former NHS staff have returned to work to help the fight against coronavirus, Boris Johnson has revealed in a video posted online.

The prime minister, who is self-isolating after testing positive for the virus, said the country would get through the crisis "together".

It comes after England's deputy chief medical officer said it could be six months before life returns to "normal".

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[Coronavirus] Coronavirus forecast to cut UK economic output by 15%

The coronavirus pandemic could cause UK economic output to plunge by an unprecedented 15% in the second quarter of the year and unemployment to more than double, according to dire forecasts.

The deepest recession since the financial crisis is now all but unavoidable, according to analysts at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), after businesses shut up shop and consumer spending fell dramatically as a result of lockdown restrictions.

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[Coronavirus] UK unemployment set to double as GDP collapses

Unemployment in Britain is expected to more than double in coming months, as economists warn that the impending rise will be even sharper than during the 2008 financial crisis.

Investment bank Nomura predicts an unemployment rate of 8% in the April-June quarter, rising to 8.5% in the following three months. In January, the figure was 3.9%

It says the effects of the pandemic will be an economic hit “multiple times that of the global financial crisis”, despite government efforts to stabilise the economy with huge stimulus pledges.

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New permanent secretary at MHCLG announced

Jeremy Pocklington has been named as the new permanent secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

He succeeds Dame Melanie Dawes, who left the civil service to lead Ofcom in February. He has been acting permanent secretary since her departure.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said: "He is a highly talented and dedicated senior civil servant who has been a great support to me since I became secretary of state and most recently as we work intensively to respond to Covid.

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[Coronavirus] Thousands of rough sleepers still unhoused in England, say charities

Thousands of rough sleepers in England are thought to remain unhoused despite an unprecedented government request to local authorities to find housing for those on the streets by Sunday evening to avert the spread of Covid-19.

After the unfunded request from the government last week, which also called for the closure of night shelters and street encampments, homelessness charities questioned whether fulfilling it would be feasible.

On Monday, charities were keen to stress that considerable progress had been made in a short space of time, with the national homelessness charity Crisis estimating that about 4,200 had been rehoused in England within a few weeks.

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[Coronavirus] Care home calls for camper vans to help staff stay on site

A care home where three quarters of elderly residents have been infected has appealed to the public for a camper van or caravan so that its staff can stay on site and not pass on the virus at home.

Families of residents at Oaklands care home in Hove said the virus had spread rapidly through the home despite staff “doing everything right” to contain it.

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[Coronavirus] Homeless people 'scared and hungry' on streets despite promise to house them over weekend

Homeless people are “scared, hungry and desperate” as they continue to survive on the streets during the coronavirus pandemic despite a government order for local authorities to place rough sleepers in hotels or other accommodation over the weekend, charities have warned.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) wrote to local councils in England on Friday saying they must find accommodation for all rough sleepers by the weekend, as part of efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus.

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[Coronavirus] Coronavirus restrictions ‘likely to last six months’

Life in Britain will not return to normal for six months, England’s deputy chief medical officer has warned, as ministers begin preparing the public for an extended period of lockdown.

At the government’s daily press conference, Jenny Harries said that strict social distancing rules may have to be in place for between two and three months.

But she added that it would be a further three months before all restrictions were lifted, and even then there were likely to be “bumps” as new clusters of cases of coronavirus were identified.

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[Coronavirus] Birmingham and Manchester temporary hospitals announced

Two new temporary hospitals will be set up to help cope with the coronavirus crisis, the head of the NHS in England has said.

Sir Simon Stevens said the new hospitals will be built at Birmingham's NEC and the Manchester conference centre and will be ready next month.

A hospital being set up in London's ExCeL centre will be available for use next week, it was announced.

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[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson, 55, has coronavirus: PM tests positive for disease as crisis grips the UK

Boris Johnson today dramatically announced he is suffering from coronavirus.

The Prime Minister said he had tested positive for the disease, after being advised by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty to get checked as the outbreak spreads across the country.

The 55-year-old insisted he has 'mild' symptoms', and will be continuing to lead the national response over video-conference.

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[Coronavirus] Non essential services slashed as focus diverted to coronavirus crisis

Waste collection services are being cut to the bare minimum, libraries closed and road repairs postponed as councils redeploy staff to the frontline of the coronavirus crisis.

This week, county councils began to set aside hundreds of millions to purchase thousands of new beds to ensure that those requiring social care are released quickly from hospital, to free up more space for coronavirus patients, including Buckinghamshire CC, which is taking over a hotel to use its beds to free up hospital wards.

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[Coronavirus] Confusion over local responsibility for ‘NHS’ volunteers

Leading local government voices are calling for clarity over how the national ‘NHS’ scheme to recruit volunteers will join up with the local volunteer schemes being coordinated by councils through specially designated hubs.

The NHS Volunteer Responders scheme, which was launched nationally on Tuesday, has already seen more than 670,000 members of the public apply centrally to carry out tasks to assist those self isolating at home. They will be made up of community response volunteers collecting and delivering supplies, patient transport volunteers to transport those discharged from hospital, NHS transport volunteers to deliver medical supplies and medication and check-in and chat volunteers to support residents over the phone.

Separately, councils have been told by government to organise themselves into ‘local authority hubs’ to help coordinate community volunteers at a local level.

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[Coronavirus] DPH’s call for access to NHS 111 data to track coronavirus spread

Directors of public health are urgently calling on NHS England to share detailed local coronavirus data collected by NHS 111 with councils.

NHS England has been collecting postcode data on the suspected spread of the virus based on callers who ring NHS111 to report Covid-19 symptoms. But so far this crucial information has not been shared with councils, leading to growing frustration among local public health leaders.

Dominic Harrison, public health director for Blackburn with Darwen BC, said that the deaths and confirmed cases data councils are basing their planning on is two to three weeks behind the infection.

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[Coronavirus] Eleanor Kelly: PPE ‘absolutely paramount’ for coronavirus shielding effort

Efforts to free up hospital beds and shield the most vulnerable from coronavirus will struggle without more personal protective equipment for social care staff, a council chief executive overseeing the capital’s emergency response has warned.

Southwark LBC chief executive Eleanor Kelly is one of the four senior public service figures on the strategic coordinating group leading London’s efforts to manage the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The group is chaired by City of London Corporation chief executive John Barradell and Ms Kelly is co-chair with responsibility for tactical arrangements.

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Borrowing still forecast to be lower than 2009 peak

Government borrowing is forecast to be as high £177bn in 2020-21, but still lower than in 2009, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The IFS predicts that the government could borrow an additional £120bn to ease disruption caused the coronavirus pandemic, more than tripling the amount forecast in the Budget.

At around 8% of national income, national debt would be more than in 2008–09 but some way below the peak of 10.2% of national income in the 2009-10, according to the institute.

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[Coronavirus] Government to subsidise up to 80% profits for the self-employed

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced that self-employed people are to receive subsidies of up to 80% of profits up to £2,500 per month, in a bid keep businesses running during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new grant, which goes live in April, will be available to self-employed people who posted profits of less than £50,000 for the last financial year, or if their average trading profit for the last three years, is less than £50,000.

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Fury as millions of council tax payers face inflation-busting 3.9 per cent average rise to above £2,000 a year despite coronavirus crisis

Millions of householders will receive council tax bills in excess of £2,000 next week as town halls put up their charges by twice the rate of inflation.

Ministers revealed last night that bills will increase by 3.9 per cent on average, equivalent to £68 on the average Band D bill or £136 on the top Band H bill.

In no fewer than 36 districts across the country, the Band D bill exceed £2,000. Last year, only seven districts charged more than that.

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[Coronavirus] Council bodies accept Spending Review delay decision

Local government organisations have expressed understanding at the government’s decision to postpone the upcoming Spending Review.

Reacting to the news of the delay, Joanne Pitt, CIPFA local government policy manager, said: ‘’During this time of increased uncertainty and strain on public services, it is understandable that the spending review has been postponed to focus efforts on combatting the Covid-19 pandemic.

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[Coronavirus] Scotland passes Covid-19 business rates compensation law

Legislation to compensate Scottish councils for the loss of business rates revenue in the light of the coronavirus pandemic has been approved by the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs backed an order on Tuesday afternoon which will see the general revenue grant allocated to councils boosted to offset the fall in revenue which will follow the government’s guarantee of total rates relief for businesses worst hit by the spread of the virus.

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[Coronavirus] Social care faces 'complete emergency', Commons committee told

The social care system is in a "complete emergency" and will require a funding top-up to deal with the impact of coronavirus, MPs have heard.

Experts from the sector warned that "we're going to have to pay our way out of trouble" as the virus puts additional pressure on both carers and vulnerable Britons.

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[Coronavirus] UK government unveils aid for self-employed

Self-employed workers can apply for a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits to help them cope with the financial impact of coronavirus, the chancellor has announced.

The money - up to a maximum of £2,500 a month - will be paid in a single lump sum, but will not begin to arrive until the start of June at the earliest.

Rishi Sunak told the self-employed: "You have not been forgotten."

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[Coronavirus] Universal credit 'almost impossible' to complete claim as more than 500,000 apply

Workers attempting to apply for universal credit after being laid off during the coronavirus crisis have described how it is almost impossible to complete a claim.

More than 500,000 people have applied for the vital payments in the last nine days, the Department for Work and Pensions revealed on Wednesday.

However, benefits experts have warned that only a fraction of them will have succeeded because the service is swamped and it is currently almost impossible to talk to anyone at the DWP.

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[Coronavirus] Forces raise concern over resilience plans for elderly through LRFs

Policing Minister Kit Malthouse has been urged to escalate to central government concerns raised by members of some local resilience forums (LRFs) that councils haven’t got the measures in place to lead with support for vulnerable people during the lock down.

The leading charity for older people warned it was vital that “national and local support mechanisms” were operating within days.

But concerns have been raised that some councils have not taken decisions fast enough to be ready. Contacts outside of gold groups were described by one official as “patchy”.

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[Coronavirus] COVID-19 to send almost all G20 countries into a recession

Following the coronavirus outbreak, we have revised our growth forecasts for all countries across the world. The results paint a bleak picture. Across the G20, all but three countries will register a recession this year. The global economy will contract by 2.2%.

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[Coronavirus] £1.6bn for social care ‘unlikely to be enough’ for coronavirus crisis response

The social care sector will have to “pay it's way out of trouble” in order to cover the mounting costs of the coronavirus crisis, the co-chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services James Bullion has warned.

Speaking at a session of the Commons health and social care committee, held remotely on Thursday to hear evidence on preparations for coronavirus, Mr Bullion warned that the unringfenced £1.6bn promised by the government to support social care, which is due to arrive in council bank accounts on Friday, is “unlikely to be enough”.

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[Coronavirus] Sarah Norman: ‘The demands on us are enormous’

The government’s “battle rhythm” of holding early evening press conferences is adding to pressure on staff delivering the local response to the coronavirus crisis, a leading council chief executive has warned.

Speaking to LGC about how Barnsley MBC is working to protect residents and businesses through the outbreak, chief executive Sarah Norman stressed she did not want to be overly critical of the government but said the practice over the past week of making significant announcements late in the day was unhelpful.

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[Coronavirus] Free parking for all frontline coronavirus workers

NHS staff are to be given free car parking with immediate effect at hospitals and other medical facilities for the duration of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Social care staff and health service volunteers will also be exempt from parking charges.

NHS Trusts set their own parking charges, but the Government will cover the cost of any income lost from daily fees paid by staff, the Department of Health said.

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[Coronavirus] Councils coronavirus Q&A with Andy Burns, CIPFA

Council finance officers around the UK are joining the fight against the coronavirus outbreak. PF talks to CIPFA associate director Andy Burns about the challenges they are facing.

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[Coronavirus] Cambridge to lead £20m fight against spread of coronavirus

The University of Cambridge will be taking a major role in the fight against the coronavirus spread after it was announced that a £20m investment will allow for large-scale investigation into the cause of the virus.

The national effort to understand and restrict the novel coronavirus infection is set for a boost as the Government and the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser announced the role of the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium.

Included in this collaboration is the NHS, Public Health Agencies, UK Research and Innovation, Wellcome Sanger Institute and numerous academic institutions, who will work to map the cause of the disease with a view to share that data with hospitals, NHS centres and the Government.

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[Coronavirus] Retired social care workers urged to return to help during coronavirus outbreak

Retired care workers are being urged to return to help the social care sector through the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, has written to care providers saying the sector will need the “support of the nation” if it is to continue helping vulnerable people.

He is calling for retired staff to join the national effort, as well as employees, particularly those from the catering, hospitality and air travel industries, who may be without work.

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[Coronavirus] Retired social care workers urged to return to help during coronavirus outbreak

Retired care workers are being urged to return to help the social care sector through the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, has written to care providers saying the sector will need the “support of the nation” if it is to continue helping vulnerable people.

He is calling for retired staff to join the national effort, as well as employees, particularly those from the catering, hospitality and air travel industries, who may be without work.

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[Coronavirus] Care home staff are being left with no protective equipment and told to self-isolate at work if they test positive for coronavirus

Care home staff are being told to self-isolate at work if they test positive for the deadly coronavirus, a union has claimed.

The GMB claimed many care workers were not being given proper personal protection equipment (PPE), leaving them vulnerable to falling ill with the virus which has infected more than 9,500 people in the UK.

Many carers have also been left without any childcare outside of school hours because of the unsociable hours they work, the union added.

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[Coronavirus] Parliament shuts down for a month

Parliament has shut down until 21 April at the earliest to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Emergency laws to deal with the pandemic have been rushed through both Houses and were given Royal Assent earlier on Wednesday.

MPs voted to plan for a managed return to work on Tuesday 21 April, to deal with Budget legislation.

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[Coronavirus] UK coronavirus home testing to be made available to millions

Millions of 15-minute home coronavirus tests are set to be available on the high street or for Amazon delivery to people self-isolating, according to Public Health England (PHE), in a move that could restore many people’s lives to a semblance of pre-lockdown normality.

The UK government has bought 3.5m tests – which reveal whether someone has had the virus and is therefore thought to have some immunity – and is ordering millions more, it has said.

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[Coronavirus] DWP swamped with half a million universal credit claims in nine days

Almost half a million people have made new claims for universal credit since the coronavirus epidemic took hold in Britain, creating long delays as checks are made before payments are approved.

Dawn Butler, the Labour MP, tweeted a screenshot of one claimant’s computer screen with a message saying there were 76,628 people in the queue ahead of them.

Other MPs said people had described waiting on the telephone for hours to have claims approved, only to be told to ring back the next day.

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PWLB lending limit to be raised £115bn

The Public Works Loan Board lending limit is to be raised from £95bn to £115bn under measures in the Finance Act 2020.

Alongside the rise, which will increase the cumulative maximum councils can borrow from PWLB fromn the current £95m, the act will give the Treasury powers to increase the lending limit further, to a maximum of £135bn.

The Act is still making its way through Parliament, which is set to close early for Easter from today, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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[Coronavirus] Jenrick brings forward payment of £3.4bn in corona crisis cash

Local government should get £3.4bn in its bank accounts by this Friday after ministers acted to bring forward planned cash payments in response to the coronavirus outbreak, LGC has learned.

Robert Jenrick made the announcement on a call to chiefs yesterday afternoon. It will consist of £1.6bn from the Covid-19 response fund which had originally been planned to be paid on 3 April and £1.8bn in section 31 grants in lieu of lost business rates as a result of the major exemptions of business rates.

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Bradford and Kirklees give go-ahead to progress devo deal

Bradford City MBC’s executive and Kirklees Metropolitan Council’s cabinet have both overcome social isolation restrictions to signal the go ahead for the West Yorkshire devolution deal to move forward to its next stage.

As councils are unable to meet in full due to social restrictions put in place by the government to tackle the coronavirus, Bradford’s executive provided their views to the council’s chief executive Kersten England in this morning’s meeting which was held by teleconference. Ms England will take the decision under delegated powers tomorrow.

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[Coronavirus] Now is not the time for Westminster to tighten its centralising grip

In midst of what will perhaps be the biggest crisis of the 21st century, local councils across the UK are being called upon to act in unprecedented ways to support communities, protect the vulnerable – while at the same time taking steps to implement social distancing.

But this requires Westminster to loosen the reins of power and to trust decision-makers in local and combined authorities to know what is right for their communities.

In addition, as COVID-19 spreads, the way the Government acts and responds to the changing context of governance is important.

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[Coronavirus] NHS account deadline delayed due to pandemic disruption

Coronavirus disruption has led officials to push back the deadline for NHS accounts, and delay the implementation of an IFRS accounting standard for a year.

Draft accounts will now not be due until 11 May if provider organisations (foundations and trusts) choose to extend the deadline - currently 27 April - and audited accounts will not be due until 25 June.

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[Coronavirus] York Council leader warns of £20m shortfall due to coronavirus

City of York Council leader Keith Aspden has warned his council faces a £20m shortfall in funding due to rising costs in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.

He has called for government to allocate more funds to the council, which he said is expected to receive less than £5m of emergency coronavirus funds.

Aspen made his intervention in a letter sent to Robert Jenrick, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, Simon Clarke, Northern Powerhouse minister, and Vicky Ford, parliamentary undersecretary of state for children and families.

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Council Tax levels set by local authorities in England 2020 to 2021

Information on Council Tax levels set by local authorities in England and associated information for the financial year 2020 to 2021.

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[Coronavirus] UK brings in strict curbs on life to fight virus

Boris Johnson has outlined strict new measures to tackle the spread of coronavirus, including a ban on public gatherings of more than two people.

He said people should leave home only to exercise once a day, travel to and from work where "absolutely necessary", shop for essential items and to fulfil any medical or care needs.

He also ordered the immediate closure of shops selling non-essential goods.

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[Coronavirus] Home care business to recruit 10,000 new staff as demand soars

A London-based home care firm, Cera Care, is seeking 10,000 new staff across its UK business, in an effort to fight the Covid-19 crisis.

Cera Care hopes to train and certify workers as qualified carers and put them to work in as little as 10 days.

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Fewer potholes being repaired in England and Wales

The number of potholes repaired in England and Wales has fallen by a fifth in the past 12 months amid a decline in road maintenance budgets, figures show.

Local authorities filled 1.5m potholes in the 2019-20 financial year compared with 1.9m during the previous 12 months, according to the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA).

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[Coronavirus] Communities secretary handed power to order virtual council meetings

MPs have backed emergency legislation which paves the way for council meetings to be held remotely.

Government amendments to the Coronavirus Bill, which completed its fast tracked passage through the Commons last night, allow for the communities secretary to specify the frequency, location and manner in which council meetings must be held, including a provision that meetings can be held without any or all of the participants being in the same place.

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[Coronavirus and CSR] Spending review outlining government plans for next three years to be delayed over Covid-19, chancellor says

The comprehensive spending review setting out government expenditure plans for the next three years will be delayed from July because of the coronavirus outbreak, chancellor Rishi Sunak has told cabinet.

No new date was given for the CSR, with ministers told only that it will come "in due course".

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Chancellor's package of support could cost ‘several billion pounds’ per month

Rishi Sunak’s support package for workers could cost several billion pounds per month, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

The new package, announced last week, will see the government cover 80% of employees’ wages for up to £2,500 per month, if they are unable to work.

The IFS predicts that if 10% of employees are affected, this could cost up to £10bn over the next three months. If more take advantage of the support then the cost will be “proportionally higher”.

IFS director Paul Johnson said: “The chancellor has announced a huge package of support aimed at keeping people in employment. The cost of the wage subsidy package is unknowable at present but will run into several billion pounds per month that it is in operation.

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[Coronavirus] Government confirms it will plough £500million into an emergency hardship fund to cover council tax bills for vulnerable people worst affected by coronavirus

Families at most risk of financial hardship as a result of the economic collapse caused by coronavirus will be able to get help with their council tax payments after the Government confirmed set up a £500million hardship fund,.

The money for councils to give tax relief to vulnerable people and households, first announced in the Budget, was confirmed by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick this morning.

The money will go to local authorities in England to enable them to reduce the 2020/21 council tax bills of working-age people who receive local council tax support, he said.

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[Coronavirus] Council procurement innovates around Covid-19 restrictions

As the country, and indeed the world cease operations to tackle this pandemic, public services must continue, and arguably now more than ever - so must public procurement.

Last week, the government made it easier than ever to facilitate the procurement of goods and services in order to allow emergency contracts to be awarded without the delay of red tape.

Paul Meigh, Head of Procurement at Central Bedfordshire Council spoke to PSE about the additional challenges this virus has posed on public procurement.

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[Coronavirus] Councils put at heart of coronavirus response

Councils will be put at the heart of the response to coronavirus by delivering a national network of support to people at very high risk.

The Government has high expectations of the role that councils will need to play in supporting vulnerable people to get the support they need.

New hubs, which will focus on providing access to food, medicines and other supplies, will provide targeted support after 1.5m people deemed clinically vulnerable were asked to stay at home for three months.

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[Coronavirus] People who ignore government advice 'selfish'

People who have ignored government advice aimed at tackling the coronavirus pandemic are "very selfish", says the health secretary.

Matt Hancock said the government was willing to take "more action" if needed to stop the virus from spreading.

Over the weekend, photos emerged showing crowds of people visiting open spaces across many parts of the UK.

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[Coronavirus] Army to distribute masks and protective suits to frontline NHS staff

The Army will be brought in to help get deliveries of protective equipment to frontline NHS staff who are battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Hospital trusts have been told they will be receiving deliveries of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, safety glasses, gloves, aprons and protective suits "around the clock" during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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[Coronavirus] Million undocumented migrants could go hungry, say charities

Approximately a million undocumented migrants living under the radar in the UK could be at risk not only of contracting Covid-19 but also of starvation because of the crisis created by the pandemic, charities have warned.

Nobody knows exactly how many of these migrants are currently in the UK, as the Home Office does not have comprehensive records of their whereabouts.

This group includes asylum seekers whose claims the Home Office has rejected but who are fearful of returning to their home countries and temporary workers whose visas have expired.

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[Coronavirus] What's in the emergency Coronavirus legislation?

What does the legislation include?

The bill gives the government wide-ranging powers, unlike any other recent legislation.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has stressed that the powers in the bill would only be used "when strictly necessary" and would remain in force only for as long as required to respond to the crisis.

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[Coronavirus] Landlords barred from evicting firms that fail to pay rent

Thousands of retail, hospitality and leisure firms have been given a last-minute reprieve allow them to suspend rent payments to landlords for at least three months.

Landlords will be banned from evicting commercial tenants during the period as part of the latest government support for businesses during the coronavirus crisis.

The move comes as a major relief for thousands of firms amid a pending quarterly rental payment due to landlords on Wednesday.

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[Coronvirus] Rishi Sunak faces legal action from gig economy workers

Pressure is mounting on Rishi Sunak to extend his coronavirus bailout to the UK’s five million self-employed people, with gig workers threatening legal action against the chancellor’s current “discriminatory” policy and a survey suggesting half would keep working if they had symptoms.

On Friday, Sunak said self-employed workers could access £94.25 a week in universal credit, but he gave a far more generous deal to employees of 80% of salaries, capped at £2,500 per month.

He is being lobbied to go further in coming days or risk public health by incentivising self-employed taxi-drivers, couriers and other gig economy workers and zero-hours contractors to keep working while ill.

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[Coronavirus] Fraudsters impersonating officials are targeting the elderly

Fraudsters are knocking on the doors of the elderly and scamming them out of their savings by impersonating officials during the coronavirus crisis, a body has warned.

Exploitative criminals are committing burglary or fraud by pretending to be Government, council or medical officers, the Local Government Association (LGA) said.

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[Coronavirus] Boris Johnson announces closure of all UK pubs and restaurants

Boris Johnson took the extraordinary step of ordering pubs, clubs and restaurants across the UK to close on Friday, and announced an unprecedented wage-support scheme to try to prevent a tsunami of job losses.

Announcing the decision in the fight against the coronavirus, the prime minister said that he realised it went against what he called “the inalienable free-born right of people born in England to go to the pub”.

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[Coronavirus] Jenrick in coronavirus cash flow appeal

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick has urged councils experiencing cash flow issues as a result of coronavirus to get in touch.

Some local authorities have decided not to take any April direct debit payments, which will have a significant impact on cash flow.

The Local Government Association is currently collating the financial pressures the sector is experiencing.

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[Coronavirus] Race to implement economic support package

Council finance officials and civil servants have raced to work out how to implement the Government’s enhanced package of economic support for coronavirus-affected businesses.

The Government pledged grant funding of £10,000 for all firms in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief and grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure firms with property that has a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000.

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[Coronvirus] Chancellor prepares wage package rescue plan

The chancellor is set to announce an employment and wage subsidy package to try to protect millions of jobs.

Talks went on into the night with business groups and union leaders, who urged the government to help pay wages amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Many firms are warning of collapse, wiping out thousands of jobs, as life in the UK is largely put on hold.

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[Coronavirus] Tens of thousands of retired medics asked to return to NHS

Letters are being sent to more than 65,000 retired doctors and nurses in England and Wales asking them to return to the NHS to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak.

Senior officials say the ex-employees are needed to boost frontline services.

It comes after the government pledged to ensure that all hospitals have enough protective gear and ventilators.

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[Coronavirus] (COVID-19): guidance for local government

In the Budget on 11 March 2020, the Chancellor announced a package of measures to provide support for public services, individuals and businesses to ensure the impact of coronavirus is minimised.

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[Coronavirus] Whiteman: virus spend could lead to s114s unless borrowing rules eased

Councils battling coronavirus could be forced into effective bankruptcy unless ministers relax restrictions which prevent borrowing to fund services, Rob Whiteman has said.

The chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy spoke to LGC to demand government support for councils on a par with that given to the NHS and business, as well as to predict a new era of state intervention to support businesses and individuals.

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[Coronavirus] Stop going to the pub or I'll BAN you: Mayor of London Sadiq Khan says human rights should be 'infringed' as he slams people for still going to bars and using public transport

The Mayor of London has hit out at people who continue to go to pubs and use public transport, warning he will 'infringe' their human rights if necessary.

Sadiq Khan said 'liberties and human rights need to be changed, curtailed, infringed' in order to protect people and prevent further coronavirus deaths.

He threatened to ban people from going to the pub and cafés in his stark address to the London Assembly last night.

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[Coronavirus] Waste operators call for ‘performance penalty’ relief to keep services running

Waste operators have asked to be excused from performance penalties from the councils they have contracts with as part of the effort to keep services running during the pandemic.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA), the voice of the UK’s recycling and waste management industry, yesterday called on the Government to help keep vital waste services moving.

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[Coronavirus] Clive Betts: Ministers must answer key council questions on coronavirus

Last week’s Budget left a series of answered questions for local government, writes the chair of the Commons housing, communities and local government select committee.

Though delivered only a week ago, the government’s Budget for this parliament already feels like a distant memory. The outbreak of covid-19 has overtaken events. There are now some very serious concerns about public service preparedness for the pandemic.

Coronavirus poses some substantial challenges for local government. Take, for instance, social care – where there are already 120,000 vacancies in the workforce.

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[Coronavirus] PM’s lock down plans came ‘as surprise’ to London’s police and politicians

Government must share its plans for tackling coronavirus in the capital with London local government ahead of making announcements to avoid more of the "confusions and panic" created by suggestions the capital could be put into lock down, senior figures have warned.

The prime minister “set hares running” among the capital's local government leaders when he raised the possibility on national television during his press conference on Wednesday.

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[Coronavirus] Politics latest news: Boris Johnson expected to announce London shutdown today, with pubs and restaurants to close

Boris Johnson is expected to announce the shut down of London today with bars, clubs, pubs, restaurants and cafes all ordered to close.

Shops considered ‘non-essential’ such as clothing stores are also likely to be forced to shut their doors in an attempt to curb coronavirus in the capital.

Well-placed sources said the Prime Minister would make the announcement at his afternoon press conference. London’s mayor Sadiq Khan is expected to make a separate statement.

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[Coronavirus] Universal Credit to be raised by £1,000 a year in £7bn rescue deal

Universal Credit will be raised by £1,000 a year as part of a £7billion coronavirus welfare rescue package.

The "standard allowance" - £323.22 a month for single people and £507.37 a month for couples - will be raised for the next 12 months. Working Tax Credit will be raised by the same amount.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the move would "benefit 4million of our most vulnerable households".

The government will also suspend the minimum income floor in Universal Credit "for everyone effected by the economic impact of coronavirus".

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[Coronavirus] Take your own rubbish to the tip, families told as bin collections cancelled in crisis

FAMILIES have today been told to take their rubbish to the tip as bin collections will be cancelled during the coronavirus outbreak.

Councils across the country have scaled back household bin collections and people have been told take their own waste to the dump rather than wait for lorries.

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[Coronavirus] Government to pay up to 80% of workers' wages

The government will pay the wages of employees unable to work due to the coronavirus pandemic, in a radical move aimed at protecting people's jobs.

It will pay 80% of salary for staff who are kept on by their employer, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month.

The "unprecedented" measures will stop workers being laid off due to the crisis, chancellor Rishi Sunak said.

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[Coronavirus] Buoyant tax income ahead of coronavirus crisis

The last set of public finance figures before the Government’s £350bn injection to combat coronavirus’ economic impact shows a buoyant month for tax income.

However, the long-term impact of small businesses and self-employed traders shutting down for many weeks will inevitably hit future tax revenues.

Borrowing in February was £300m, half the amount for the same month last year.

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[Coronavirus] Social workers call for clarity on carrying out statutory duties

Social workers are concerned they will be unable to safeguard families and carry out their statutory duties in the face of mass isolation.

They are calling for more information on the implications for registration if they are unable to meet duties, timescales or usual legal compliance during this crisis.

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Universal Credit advances fraud could have cost £150m

Universal Credit ‘advances fraud’ is estimated to have cost the Department for Work and Pensions up to £150m in the 18 months to December 2019, according to the National Audit Office.

Advance payments were introduced by the DWP to help claimants who were struggling with the potential five-week wait for their first Universal Credit payment. However, the NAO estimates the DWP has seen 100,000 fraudulent claims in the 18 months since.

A number of illegal practices were identified, including providing false information to boost the value of the advance and fraudulently using the personal identification details of third parties, either knowingly or without their consent.

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[Coronavirus] Local authorities to receive £1.6bn from Response Fund

Councils are set to receive £1.6bn of funding to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, as part of the government’s £5bn coronavirus fund announced during the Budget.

The money has been allocated to help local authorities respond to the increased strain on services, including support for adult social care services and helping the most vulnerable, including homeless people.

The money forms part of the £2.9bn of funding allocated to help local authorities and health services with the pandemic.

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[Coronavirus] Emergency laws will give powers to close airports and detain and quarantine people

The government will today outline details of new emergency powers to contain the spread of COVID-19 when it publishes the Emergency Coronavirus Bill.

It is expected to include details for shutting down the UK's ports and airports and giving police powers to detain people suspected of having coronavirus.

It follows significant economic measures introduced by Chancellor RIshi Sunak

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[Coronavirus] Up to 20,000 troops on standby to help deal with COVID-19 outbreak

Up to 20,000 service personnel will be put on standby to help combat the coronavirus, with troops gearing up to drive oxygen tankers, support the police and boost hospital capacity.

On Thursday, reservists will be put on notice to mobilise if required as part of a war-like effort to prepare the armed forces in case the government calls upon them in large numbers.

But the military must also deal with the threat posed by COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

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[Coronavirus] 40 London Underground stations to be closed

Up to 40 stations on the London Underground network are to be shut as the city attempts to reduce the effect of the coronavirus outbreak.

Transport for London (TfL) announced there would be a partial shutdown of the network from Thursday morning.

Additionally, there will be no night Tube and bus services will also be reduced, it said.

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Council tax reform would help 'level up' north of England

More than 10m households would benefit from lower council tax bills if the government reformed the “arbitrary and unfair” annual property charge to reflect the growing divide between London and the south-east and the rest of England.

Council tax bills would fall by 56% in Blackpool, 57% in Stoke-on-Trent and 60% in Kingston upon Hull, the tax and spending watchdog said, ending decades of punishing tax rates in many of Britain’s most deprived areas.

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[Coronavirus] Business grant commitment sparks major cashflow concerns

Councils will be struggling with cashflow in “a matter of months” unless the government provides funding for the cash grants and rates relief it has promised businesses to mitigate the impacts of coronavirus, finance directors are warning.

On Tuesday, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced no businesses in the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors would pay business rates in 2020-21. He also said that businesses in those sectors with a rateable value of less than £51,000 would be eligible for cash grants of up to £25,000, administered by councils.

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Devon CC’s children’s services criticised for ‘serious failures’

Ofsted has found ‘serious failures’ in services for young people in Devon as they discovered a minority of care leavers had been living in tents.

Devon County Council’s children’s services have been rated ‘inadequate’ after an Ofsted inspection in January.

The inspectors’ report said that senior leaders did not know about the extent of the failures to protect some of the most vulnerable children and young people from harm.

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[Coronavirus] Tenants protected from eviction during coronavirus outbreak

Council leaders have welcomed measures to protect renters from being evicted due to the coronavirus crisis.

The Government has announced emergency legislation to ban new evictions from social or private rented accommodation during the pandemic.

Under the measures, landlords will be unable to start court proceedings for at least three months. During this time, landlords will be given a three month mortgage payment holiday.

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[Coronavirus] Schools shut down to stop spread of Covid-19

All schools, colleges and early years settings will be closed as of next week as part of the effort to contain the Coronavirus pandemic.

Starting next Monday, children will have to remain at home with their families as schools close down in response to the spread of Covid-19.

The children of key workers, such as NHS staff, police, and supermarket delivery people, as well as vulnerable children, will still be able to attend school.

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[Coronavirus] UK interest rates cut to lowest level ever

The Bank of England has cut interest rates again in an emergency move as it tries to support the UK economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is the second cut in interest rates in just over a week, bringing them down to 0.1% from 0.25%.

Interest rates are now at the lowest ever in the Bank's 325-year history.

The Bank said it would also increase its holdings of UK government and corporate bonds by £200bn with an effort to lower the cost of borrowing.

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[Coronavirus] £2.9bn provided to free up hospital beds for coronavirus patients

Local authorities will get more than half of a £2.9bn pot of emergency funding to sort out – at least for now – the long-running problem of elderly and vulnerable people stuck in hospital because the social care they need is not available.

The announcement came as the NHS launched an appeal to 65,000 retired doctors and nurses to come back to help with the coronavirus epidemic, under the slogan evocative of wartime: “Your NHS needs you.” Majority of retired NHS staff don't want to return to tackle Covid-19 crisis

The beds occupied by elderly and vulnerable people who have recovered from illness but need care in the community are now urgently needed for the expected influx of severely ill coronavirus patients.

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[Coronavirus] Volunteers mobilise to ensure children get fed during school closures

The government has said that low-income families whose children are ordinarily eligible for the meals will be offered vouchers, food or meals, even if they are no longer attending school because of coronavirus closures coming into force from Friday.

Around 1.3 million children in England who come from the most disadvantaged families currently benefit from a free school lunch.

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[Coronavirus] ‘No excuses for slacking’ as councils work ‘as one team’ to fight virus

The prime minister has given his personal commitment to senior members of the sector that councils can be “safe in the knowledge” they will have what they need to tackle the coronavirus.

In a meeting yesterday between senior local government representatives and ministers including health secretary Matt Hancock and communities secretary Robert Jenrick, Boris Johnson gave his “personal commitment he will back us” according to John Fuller, chair of the District Councils Network (DCN). “That’s good enough for me,” he said.

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[Coronavirus] £3bn bed blocking coronavirus cash injection

Almost £3bn of the Government’s £5bn Covid-19 funding will go towards freeing up at least 15,000 English hospital beds by the end of next week, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced.

It comes after the Local Government Association called for targets on delayed transfers of care, which reached record levels last month, to be relaxed amid the coronavirus crisis.

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Coronavirus: Care companies fear bankruptcy

Coronavirus has left companies which support older and disabled people in their own homes struggling to cope, says their professional association.

The UK Home Care Association says the firms need more protective equipment for staff and clearer guidance on protecting clients.

The virus has put care companies which were already financially vulnerable under additional pressure, says UKHCA.

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Ofsted slams county after care leavers found living in tents

Care leavers were discovered sleeping in tents on the streets while children suffering from chronic neglect and emotional abuse are being left with their families for too long, a damning Ofsted report on Devon CC’s children’s services has found.

Published on Tuesday, the report downgraded the county’s services from requires improvement to inadequate and said the council had repeatedly failed to address issues raised by the regulator over the past seven years.

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Coronavirus bill to suspend Care Act entitlements

Entitlements under the Care Act 2014 will be suspended so councils are not required to meet all adult social care needs and could opt to delay assessments to prioritise “the most urgent and serious” cases, under measures in the proposed emergency coronavirus bill.

A summary of the bill published yesterday includes wide ranging legislative changes aimed at giving public bodies the “tools and powers” to respond effectively to the outbreak.

The government said the proposed amendments to the Care Act would not remove councils’ duties of care to those at risk of serious neglect or harm, with an expectation they would continue to do all they can to meet needs.

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Fears for democracy amid widespread coronavirus meeting cancellations

Senior local government figures have raised the alarm over consequences for scrutiny and governance as growing numbers of councils cancel meetings.

In Hampshire, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases by local authority area with 69, Eastleigh BC has cancelled all meetings until May and New Forest DC has cancelled some meetings.

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Councils to be fully funded for coronavirus costs

Councils in England will be fully funded for implementing measures to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, the chancellor has confirmed.

Speaking yesterday, Rishi Sunak said local authorities will be fully compensated for the new measures, with the devolved administrations receiving at least £3.5bn in additional funding.

Mr Sunak also unveiled a package of ‘unprecedented’ support for businesses with £330bn of guarantees.

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[Coronavirus] Schools in Wales all closing by Friday

All schools in Wales will close by Friday at the latest in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Welsh Government has announced.

The country's Education Minister Kirsty Williams said she was bringing forward the Easter break.

It comes as Scotland took similar steps with all schools and nurseries there closing from the end of the week and may not reopen before summer.

There is an estimated 200,000 cases of coronavirus across the globe.

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[Coronavirus] Government launches voucher scheme to cover free school meals during closures

The Government is to launch a voucher scheme to ensure children eligible for free school meals will continue to have access to hot food while schools shut down for the foreseeable future.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson announced in the Commons on Wednesday schools in England would close from Friday to all children except those of “key workers” and vulnerable children due to the coronavirus crisis.

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[Coronavirus] Call to lift benefits to help renters

A top benefit advice charity has called for action to protect people who rent their homes.

Turn2Us said universal credit should be increased to help renters who are affected by the coronavirus.

The charity also wants tenants to be shielded from having to return advance benefit payments.

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[Coronavirus] NHS staff 'at risk' over lack of protective gear

NHS staff say they are being put at risk during the coronavirus outbreak because of a lack of protective gear.

One doctor told the BBC that frontline healthcare workers felt like "cannon fodder" as they do not have access to equipment such as face masks.

Health workers also expressed concerns that not enough of them were being tested for the virus.

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[Coronavirus] Andy Burnham calls for volunteers to help councils support the vulnerable

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has called for the mobilisation of a people's army in the region to help councils support vulnerable people as the Covid-19 pandemic worsens.

The former Health Secretary has called for volunteers in the region of 2.8m people to sign up to support council officials in providing food, medicines and care for those in need.

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[Coronavirus] Treasury delays Implementation of IR35 tax until 2021

The government’s implementation of the controversial IR-35 tax rules has been postponed until April 2021, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Chief secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay announced the delay to Commons yesterday, less than a week after the Budget confirmed that tax was to go live next month.

"I can also this evening announce the government is postponing the reforms to the off-payroll working rules, IR35, from April 2020 to April 6, 2021”, Barclay said to Commons.

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[Coronavirus] Cratus creates coronavirus hotline

Cratus Communications has created a hotline service for council leaders and chief executives to help them through the Covid-19 crisis.

The hotline number has been created as a sounding board for advice, allowing them to discuss issues they are facing with Cratus’ team - many of whom have held leadership positions in local authorities.

Cratus will also ask its private sector clients to support councils by sharing their resources and expertise.

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Coronavirus: UK businesses feel impact of latest measures

Britons and UK businesses are feeling the impact of unprecedented coronavirus measures, as the chancellor prepares to unveil plans to help the economy.

Retailer Laura Ashley filed for administration as venues across the UK closed their doors, and airports warned they could shut down "within weeks".

It comes after the government outlined new advice to avoid unnecessary travel and contact with others.

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Coronavirus: Hotels and empty offices should be used to let homeless self-isolate, ministers told

The government has been urged to use vacant buildings such as hotels and offices to provide “safe spaces” for the homeless during the coronavirus crisis.

Campaigners said ministers should block-book hotel rooms to provide “field hospitals” for rough-sleepers to self-isolate as the disease spreads rapidly across the UK.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran suggested offices vacated by home-working staff could also be deployed to offer “a sanitised place to eat, drink water and use the toilet”.

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The need for a social care plan is more urgent than ever [opinion]

In Wednesday’s budget announcement, one word dominated – coronavirus. We are in a public health emergency, and resources rightly need to be spent dealing with it.

Unfortunately, the state of our social care, already at breaking point, will be made worse by the current pandemic. Coronavirus has the most severe impact on older and vulnerable groups and with 95 per cent of people living with dementia over 65, we need to consider the devastating impact this virus could have on them.

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Clean air for all: Lampposts to charge electric cars

An “electric avenue” has been developed where lampposts have been converted into chargers for battery-powered cars.

In what is thought to be the first of its kind, a street in the capital has been transformed into a hub for the vehicles to promote their use in residential areas. Twenty-four lampposts over a half-mile stretch of Sutherland Avenue in Maida Vale, northwest London, have been converted to contain chargepoints, allowing residents without driveways to power up electric vehicles overnight.

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Online political ads should be labelled, says Law Commission

Online political adverts should be labelled or “imprinted” to show who is paying for them, according to the Law Commission, which warns that there is a “very real risk of the electoral process losing credibility”.

The Law Commission’s review is aimed at modernising ballot rules and bringing them together in a single, consistent legislative framework. Other changes proposed include simplifying the nomination process.

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Public health gets above inflation rise but cuts ‘hit coronavirus capacity’

The public health grant will increase by 4.8% next year in a move government says is intended to cover the costs of wage increases for NHS staff working in organisations commissioned by councils.

The overall grant for 2020-21 was finally confirmed this morning as £3.28bn compared to £3.13bn this year. This is 3 percentage points above inflation which stood at 1.8% in January.

However, the grant is still 5.5% (£190m) lower than the overall allocation in 2015-16 of £3.47bn.

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Planning rules and audit deadline relaxed to support coronavirus effort

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has agreed to a string of measures designed to ease pressure on councils and allow them to focus their efforts on helping the most vulnerable through the coronavirus outbreak.

The government is also temporarily suspending routine Care Quality Commission inspections during the outbreak, and Ofsted will "look very favourably" on any requests to defer inspections because of coronavirus.

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Ministers mull legislation for remote council meetings

The government has announced it will now consider bringing forward legislation to allow council committee meetings to be held virtually for a temporary period.

It is also considering removing the requirement for annual council meetings to take place in person, the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government announced following a teleconference meeting with more than 300 council leaders and leading figures from the sector and from Whitehall.

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Reported delay to spending review “unsurprising”, says CCN

A reported delay to the Treasury's Spending Review is “unsurprising” according to the County Councils Network.

Senior Treasury figures said the review could be pushed back to the end of the year to give the government more time to consider the impact of the crisis, The Telegraph reported.

The review will set department spending for public services and investment, covering resource budgets from 2021-22 to 2023-24 and capital budgets up to 2024-25.

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Public health grant to increase by £145m in 2020-21

Central government is to increase the public health grant by £145m to £3.3bn in 2020-21, a real term increase of 2.6% compared with 2019-20.

The total funding package handed down from central government to local government has increased from £3.1bn in 2019-20, to £3.3bn in 2020-21, according to figures released by the Department for Health and Social Care.

Funding from the grant is used for a variety of services including sexual health services, stop smoking campaigns and drug and alcohol treatment.

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Scottish economy faces 'permanent scarring' from coronavirus

Scotland should prepare for “permanent scarring” of its economy as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, a leading think tank has warned.

The Scottish Government said this week that public events involving 500 or more people should be cancelled or postponed in order to protect the resilience of public services.

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Coronavirus: NHS England to cancel all non-urgent surgery to free up 30,000 beds

The head of NHS England hopes to stop the healthcare system becoming overwhelmed during a potential surge of COVID-19 cases.

The health service announced plans to cancel all routine surgery and send as many patients as possible home, with the aim of freeing up a third of the 100,000 hospital beds in England.

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Coronavirus: Chancellor unveils £350bn lifeline for economy

The government has unveiled a package of financial measures to shore up the economy against the coronavirus impact.

It includes £330bn in loans, £20bn in other aid, a business rates holiday, and grants for retailers and pubs. Help for airlines is also being considered.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told a press conference it was an "economic emergency. Never in peacetime have we faced an economic fight like this one."

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Firefighters told to cease ‘non-essential’ action amid fears over keeping “core emergency service” healthy

A number of fire and rescue services have already decided to take measures to restrict interaction between firefighters and the public.

Firefighters have been told to cease ‘non-essential’ action amid fears over keeping the “core emergency service” healthy for as long as possible.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU), which represents workers within the fire and rescue services across the UK, issued the warning despite what it deems as “little directive from central government”.

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Councils must not pay the price of the bailout this time round [opinion]

The 2008 bailout of the banks was followed by a decade of austerity, destroying council services. Rishi Sunak must not repeat George Osborne’s mistakes, writes LGC editor Nick Golding.

If councils had wanted one thing this year it was the end of austerity, with the comprehensive spending review signalling a rise in public sector spend after a decade of contraction.

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Sunak extends coronavirus business rates holiday

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the business rates holiday to all businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector, irrespective of their rateable value.

The move came as part of a dramatic package of measures to shore up the economy as it reels from coronavirus, including the government underwriting £330bn of loan guarantees – something Mr Sunak described as "equivalent to 15% of our GDP".

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Gove to oversee public sector preparedness for coronavirus

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove is to chair a new implementation committee set up to support the government’s response to coronavirus.

The committee will oversee preparedness of the public sector, excluding the NHS, and critical national infrastructure.

It is one of four such committees announced by the government this afternoon, the chairs of which will attend a new daily C-19 meeting of ministers and officials which will monitor progress and refine measures agreed by the COBR committee chaired by the prime minister.

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Jenrick urges councils not to delay on coronavirus spending

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick this week urged council leaders not to put off decisions because of money in their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Addressing more than 300 council leaders via teleconference, he insisted the Government will be ‘supporting you and ensuring the money flows to you’.

Responding to local government calls for the new £1bn hardship fund to be flexible, Mr Jenrick said: ‘We want to see this money flowing out of the door to the individuals who need it as quickly as possible.’

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Jenrick admits no science behind flooding threshold

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick has admitted there is no science behind a threshold that determines whether councils receive cash to cope with flooding.

Under existing criteria, the Government only provides property grants for flood resilience to council tax billing authorities where at least 25 properties have suffered damage.

Mr Jenrick is understood to be resisting councils’ appeals for more flexibility over funding for flood recovery, including looking again at the ‘unfair’ criteria.

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Coronavirus: Downing Street to give daily TV briefings on outbreak

The government is to hold daily televised press conferences to update the public on the fight against coronavirus, Downing Street has said.

From Monday, Boris Johnson or a senior minister will address the media to ensure people are informed about how to protect themselves.

It follows criticism of No 10 for an apparent lack of transparency over its plans to stem the spread of the virus.

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Social care coronavirus guidance urges ‘plans for mutual aid’

Councils have been urged to contact all adult social care providers in their areas, including ones they do not directly commission, to “map out” plans for the impact of coronavirus, under guidance published on Friday by Public Health England.

Three documents focused on the care homes, supported living and home care sectors, which are also aimed at clinical commissioning groups and care providers, outline measures that should be taken in various scenarios.

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Only 10% of councils meeting their pothole repair deadlines

Only one in 10 local authorities are meeting their own target times to fix potholes and other road defects, new research has revealed today.

Cycling UK found most councils set a three week target time to repair non-urgent potholes. However, no councils in Scotland or Wales responding to their freedom of information request achieved this, and only one in six English authorities met this target time.

North Tyneside Council repaired all 39,258 identified potholes on time between 2015-19, making it the most effective authority. It said Wakefield City Council was the worst performer, managing to fill only 13% of reported potholes on time.

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Council suspends all debt-related court action in wake of coronavirus

Sandwell Council said it will not take any court action for debt against residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Council said the announcement would help take pressure off people during a difficult time.

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Shapps announces £90m tech fund to make journeys ‘greener’

The Government has launched a multi-million pound fund to trial new technology aimed at making journeys ‘easier, smarter and greener’.

The £90m funding boost, which has been announced alongside a consultation on UK transport laws, will lead to trials of new transport innovation in three new ‘future transport zones’.

The zones will provide testing for experts, allowing them to work with a range of local bodies, such as councils, hospitals, airports and universities, to test innovative ways to transport people and goods.

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Six councils receive over £1m to ‘spearhead’ digital projects

Six councils across England will receive a share of £1.2m of funding to spearhead innovative digital projects to improve public services, the Government has announced.

Each council will receive up to £350,000 to push forward existing projects aimed at harnessing digital technology to create smarter ways to deliver public services such as housing repairs and the planning process.

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Tory MPs call for more funding for services to prevent rough sleeping

A group of 10 Conservative MPs have called for a move from a policy of ‘housing first’ to one of ‘prevention first’ that would see more funding go to services aimed at preventing homelessness.

In an essay collection published by the think tank Localis entitled ‘Valuing Housing, Improving lives’, the MPs attempt to rethink the social and economic role of housing over the next decade.

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Yorkshire council criticises Ofsted rating based on ‘short inspection visit’

A local authority in Yorkshire has said it is ‘disappointed’ by an Ofsted rating of its children’s social care services which concluded they were ‘inadequate’.

The inspectors said that since the last inspection in 2016 when East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s services were rated ‘good’, there had been a ‘marked deterioration’ in the quality of help and protection support for children in East Riding.

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Coronavirus: PM says everyone should avoid office, pubs and travelling

The PM has said everyone in the UK should avoid "non-essential" travel and contact with others to curb coronavirus - as the country's death toll hit 55.

Boris Johnson said people should work from home where possible as part of a range of stringent new measures.

Pregnant women, people over the age of 70 and those with certain health conditions should consider the advice "particularly important", he said.

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Birmingham City Council CFO resigns after chief executive snub

Birmingham City Council finance chief Clive Heaphy has resigned after his application for the vacant chief executive role was unsuccessful.

Heaphy joined the council in January 2018 after previously holding senior finance positions at HS2 and Brent Council.

In a statement to colleagues, Heaphy said: “Following my unsuccessful application to become chief executive, I have decided that it is no longer in mine or Birmingham’s interests for me to continue to work for the council.

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Northamptonshire predicts £119k budget surplus

Northamptonshire County Council has predicted a surplus of £119,000 on its 2019-20 budget.

The forecast, presented to a cabinet meeting, is based on income and expenditure up to the end of January 2020, and will see an underspend of £119,000 against the approved budget of £417.7m.

Most of the underspend is to be made up from a £2.7m reduction in adult social care costs, compared to last month’s estimates.

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Government plans to draft in Army to keep hospitals and supermarkets secure, escort food convoys and build tented field wards next to care homes to cope with crisis as deaths almost double in 24 hours

Ministers have drawn up plans to put troops on the streets to help deal with the coronavirus crisis after the number of deaths almost doubled within 24 hours.

With the death toll jumping from 11 to 21 and the number of confirmed UK cases leaping by almost 40 per cent, Downing Street accelerated plans to ban large public events and implement the self-isolation of entire households where any member has succumbed to the illness.

In a bid to 'shield' the most vulnerable, the Government is also expected to tell people over 70 to stay in strict isolation at home or in care homes for four months.

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Coronavirus: Supermarkets ask shoppers to be 'considerate' and stop stockpiling

Supermarkets are urging shoppers not to buy more than they need amid concern over coronavirus-linked stockpiling.

In a joint letter, UK retailers have reminded customers to be considerate in their shopping, so that others are not left without much-needed items.

"There is enough for everyone if we all work together," it adds.

It comes after some shops began rationing the sales of certain products to avoid them selling out completely.

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Bus cuts leave a million people without a regular service

More than a million people in Great Britain now live at least a mile from a bus stop with a regular service, BBC research suggests.

The Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) said cuts to services had left some people "trapped in their homes".

Bus pass use by older and disabled people in England has fallen by almost a fifth in a decade.

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Calls for better support for homeless shelters and food banks amid coronavirus outbreak

Volunteers working in food banks and homeless shelters in the UK say they need more "guidance" and "support" as the coronavirus outbreak worsens.

Those helping the vulnerable and homeless told ITV News they fear they will not be able to continue running services if restrictions - like an Italian-style lockdown - are brought in.

It comes as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK rose to more than 1,300, with 35 deaths from the virus.

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Coronavirus patients not self-isolating could be arrested as ministers plan police powers

Ministers are planning to give police the power to arrest people with coronavirus who are not self-isolating, the Health Secretary has confirmed.

Matt Hancock said "we will stop at nothing" in tackling the Covid-19 outbreak as he detailed a series of severe measures the Government is considering.

Bars, restaurants and shops other than supermarkets and pharmacies could be shut while over-70s will be asked in the coming weeks to stay indoors for up to four months, he said.

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Coronavirus: teaching union asks PM why schools are not being closed

The National Education Union – the largest of its kind in Europe – has written to the prime minister calling on him to clarify why he has not closed schools as part of the UK’s coronavirus strategy.

The letter underlines staff concerns about UK policy, which has been criticised for being out of step with other nations’ responses to the pandemic.

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Councils make urgent appeals for supplies of hand sanitiser and face masks amid coronavirus fears

Councils across England have begun appealing for supplies of hand sanitisers, face masks and body bags amid fears they will run out as public demand for them surges.

Local authorities have placed extra orders from their contractors to ensure that essential hygiene products are well stocked, as experts predict a rapid growth in Covid-19 cases over the coming months.

Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council has issued an urgent tender notice for suppliers to deliver foam sanitiser, surgical latex gloves, face masks with earloops and gel hand sanitiser.

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Local elections postponed for a year over coronavirus

The government has announced that May's local and mayoral elections in England will be postponed for a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

It comes after the Electoral Commission said on Thursday the polls should be delayed until the autumn to "mitigate" the impact of the virus.

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New major road network and large local major schemes announced

The Government has announced the successful major road network (MRN) and Large Local Major (LLM) schemes proceeding to the next stage of development.

The Treasury's Budget document names 15 schemes that will be taken forward - calling them a 'second round' of projects, despite this being the first funding round for the MRN (2020-2025).

A handful of MRN schemes were previously announced by former transport secretary Chris Grayling in 2018; however these were not mentioned in the Budget.

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Edinburgh allocates £2bn for coronavirus fight

City of Edinburgh Council has allocated £2m of a £7.43m award from the Scottish Government’s recent budget to tackle impacts from the coronavirus outbreak.

The council announced the cash will be available to minimise the impact of the virus on its communities and council services, with an emphasis on health and social care funding.

Latest figures show that 60 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Scotland – up from 24 on Wednesday – with 11 in the NHS Lothian area in which Edinburgh sits.

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Changes to stop R&D tax credit fraud delayed by chancellor

The chancellor has delayed planned changes to a tax credit the government had previously identified as being subject to fraud.

Measures to cap the amount of research and development tax credits small businesses could claim were set to come into force in April, as announced in last year’s Budget.

But Rishi Sunak has put their implementation back a year, with the Treasury planning to "update the design" of the changes.

The government currently spends about £4.5bn on R&D tax credits, most of which goes to large companies, according to the National Audit Office.

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Interactive map to be created for council audits

The National Audit Office (NAO) is working on creating an interactive map helping members of the public find out the outcome of their council’s audit.

It is understood that interested parties would be able to use the map to find their council, with links directing them to auditor reports, letters and further information.

Reports by auditors are notoriously hard to find on council websites and the NAO is hopeful that its new tool will be ready to make 2019/20 audits easier to access.

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Jenrick 'deeply disappointed' in housing delivery under Khan

The number of homes being delivered in the capital under Sadiq Khan has been ‘deeply disappointing’, according to secretary of state for housing Robert Jenrick.

Mr Jenrick has written to the mayor of London calling for a revised London Plan that takes proactive steps to surpass the housing requirement in the Plan.

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Government debt to rise by £125bn by 2025

Public sector net debt is forecast to rise by £125bn or 4.6% of GDP, as government embarks on the largest spending increase since 1992, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.

The figures were revealed by the organisation in the OBR's economic and fiscal outlook, released alongside the Budget.

In the early years of the Budget, net debt is expected to be over 1% lower than previously forecast in March 2019, according to the OBR.

By 2023-24, net debt is expected to be 2.9 percentage points higher than the OBR's previous forecast in March 2019, rising to 75.6% of GDP.

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Coronavirus: PM set to escalate UK's response in a matter of hours

Boris Johnson is set to escalate the country's coronavirus response to the next phase - which could put the UK on the path to school closures, the cancellation of sporting events and people being made to work from home.

The prime minister will chair an emergency COBRA meeting on Thursday where he is expected to declare that the UK will switch from trying to contain COVID-19 to delaying its spread.

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Biggest boost in decade for affordable homes

More funding for affordable housing and accommodation for rough sleepers has been announced as part of a programme worth more than £12 billion.

The government has pledged to extend a key affordable housing programme for five years from 2021, when the present £9 billion investment ends, and to increase allocations from the fund by a third to £12.2 billion.

Rishi Sunak said that it would be “the largest cash investment in affordable housing in a decade”.

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Planning paper shows Thatcher’s ghost lives on in Johnson government

The industries nationalised on then prime minister Clem Attlee’s watch, like coal and steel, have been privatised, leaving the NHS as the main remnant of his administration’s reform programme.

Another is the Town and Country Planning Act, which continues to provide the framework for how land use is controlled, nearly three quarters of a century on from its passage in 1947.

This legislation established the green belt, which like the NHS, continues to exercise a powerful hold on the British imagination.

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Hancock: Social care to get ‘everything it needs’

Health secretary Matt Hancock has promised the government will ensure the adult social care system will get “everything that it needs” to respond to the coronavirus crisis, after a £5bn response fund was announced in the budget.

Mr Hancock said the government is working closely with the social care sector on preparations, with details of what further measures may be necessary expected following a COBRA meeting.

Mr Hancock said social care was at the “frontline” of the government’s response to coronavirus.

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Coronavirus: Plans for homeworking stepped up as concern grows over new burdens

There is increasing concern over whether authorities will be paid back for the additional expenses they are accruing as a result of having to accommodate coronavirus-stricken visitors to their areas, LGC has learnt.

And as the coronavirus crisis deepens, councils are putting plans in place to enable much of their workforce to operate from home, while facing increasing calls to postpone elections.

If somebody tests positive for coronavirus, in the event they do not have a home in the authority area to go into immediate quarantine, LGC understands the government is telling local authorities to provide accommodation for them.

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LGA chair self isolating after minister meeting

The chair of the Local Government Association James Jamieson (Con) has announced he is self isolating after attending a meeting with health minister Nadine Dorries, who has been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Cllr Jamieson, who is leader of Central Bedfordshire Council, said he has taken the decision today following the meeting on Friday.

Ms Dorries announced she has tested positive for coronavirus.

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Jenrick outlines sweeping planning reforms

The government has announced a review of the way councils calculate their housing needs as part of a wider reform of the post-war planning system.

Robert Jenrick, the housing and communities secretary, unveiled the proposed shake-up - which would also see designated zones under which development is made easier and money back for applicants who win planning appeals - in the House of Commons this morning.

He told MPs that a planning white paper will be published in the spring to bring up to date the existing system, which he said “has failed to keep pace” and is “complex, out-of-date and fails to deliver enough homes where they are needed”.

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UK confirms digital services tax despite US threats

From April, the digital services tax will introduce a 2% levy on revenues of social media services, online marketplaces and search engines, and the Office of Budget Responsibility projects will raise £280m in its first year.

“Something has to be done, and until more comprehensive reform happens the government is going to continue to lose billions of pounds,” said George Turner, director of think-tank Taxwatch.

“The DST – imperfect as it might be – ensures that some of that money is not lost.”

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Budget 2020: Rishi Sunak's spending plans 'not as generous as they appear', says IFS

Austerity will remain in place for many of the country’s public services with spending levels by the end of this Parliament at nearly a fifth lower than when the Conservatives first came into power in 2010, a leading think tank has said.

An analysis of the Budget by the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned the Government’s current spending plans are “nothing like as generous as they appear”.

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UK interest rates cut in emergency move

The Bank of England has announced an emergency cut in interest rates to shore up the economy amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Policymakers reduced rates from 0.75% to 0.25%, taking borrowing costs back down to the lowest level in history.

The Bank said it would also free up billions of pounds of extra lending power to help banks support firms.

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Budget 2020: Business rates suspended for shops and cafes

Tens of thousands of England's retail, leisure and hospitality firms will not pay any business rates in the coming year, the chancellor has announced. Companies with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will be eligible for the tax holiday, Rishi Sunak said.

The measure applies to firms including shops, cinemas, restaurants and hotels.

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Two-mile tunnel underneath Stonehenge COULD go ahead as part of £27billion Budget masterplan to improve Britain's roads

A tunnel could be built under Stonehenge after plans were given the green light as part of a £27billion masterplan to improve the nation's roads.

For decades, motorists on the A303, which passes the stone circle, have endured severe congestion on the popular route to and from the South West.

Opponents have argued that plans for a 1.8mile (2.9km) tunnel to ease gridlock around the World Heritage Site could ruin the prehistoric archaeological surroundings.

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West Yorkshire £1.8bn devolution deal agreed

West Yorkshire is to get its own elected mayor, unlocking an expected £1.8bn in investment for the area, the Chancellor has confirmed in the Budget.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in the statement a "minded-to" agreement was reached after months of negotiations between council leaders and ministers.

The mayor will oversee policies such as transport and housing, working with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

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Budget 2020: £1bn fund to strip cladding from tall buildings

A £1bn fund to help strip combustible cladding from homes in privately owned tower blocks is “a huge step forward”, but likely to be too little and would still leave thousands of people in financial and safety limbo, leaseholders said.

The building safety fund goes beyond the £600m already set aside by the Treasury to remove the specific type of aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding used on Grenfell Tower.

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Budget 2020: A "new era" for the country

New Chancellor Rishi Sunak has delivered his first Budget today, (Mar 11) less than a month after taking on the role.

Mr Sunak began the Budget speech by addressing the issue of coronavirus with a £30bn “fiscal stimulus”, stating the government is prepared to give the NHS “whatever resources it needs” to cope with Covid-19.

"Whether it's research for a vaccine, recruiting thousands of returning staff, or supporting our brilliant doctors and nurses. Whether it's millions of pounds or billions of pounds. Whatever it needs, whatever it costs, we stand behind our NHS."

Mr Sunak also committed to refunding small businesses with fewer than 250 staff for two weeks of sick payment, starting from day one rather than day four.

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Budget 2020: Mayoral authorities win big in transport

The Government has unveiled £4.2bn for urban transport as part of its spring budget giveaways.

The cash will be released from 2022-23 as part of five-year funding settlements for eight mayoral combined authorities, however, some authorities will have to put in place an elected mayor to win their share of the cash.

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Budget 2020: £27bn for national roads and £2.5bn for potholes

Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged an extra £2.5bn for local road maintenance in the Budget.

Councils will get an extra £500m a year from 2020/21 to 2024/25 through a new potholes fund.

The Treasury said the cash will 'fix up to 50 million potholes ... but will also be available for local authorities to undertake longer-term road resurfacing works to prevent potholes from appearing in the first place'.

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Budget 2020: Flood-hit areas to share £200m defence fund

Flood-hit areas will vie for £200m in funding to improve flood defences, the chancellor has announced in his Budget.

A £200m ‘place-based resilience programme’ has been announced that will go to 25 areas around the country, chosen based on criteria including ‘repeated significant flooding in the past’.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said that overall investment in flood defences in England will total £5.2bn over the next six years, doubling spending and reducing national flood risk by up to 11% by protecting 336,000 homes and non-residential properties.

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‘Sustainable council finance – the Budget DOESN’T get it done’

Rishi Sunak’s first Budget showed the government is thinking big – but not necessarily thinking about the big problems councils face, writes LGC editor Nick Golding.

“People’s Budget from a People’s Government” delivered by Rishi Sunak confirms a fundamental shift in economic policy.

Restraint has gone, big spending is in. You couldn’t imagine the speech being delivered by the other chancellors of the past 12 months, the more fiscally conservative Sajid Javid or, in particular, Philip Hammond.

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Budget 2020: Sunak gambles on capital spending splurge

Despite volatility caused by coronavirus and a sluggish increase in the economy, the chancellor has decided to gamble that a big increase in capital spending will deliver higher growth and productivity by the next election.

Total departmental spending is expected to grow twice as fast as the economy over the three-year period of the Spending Review to 2024.

Day-to-day departmental spending is expected to grow at the fastest rate over a spending review period since Spending Review 2004.

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Social care funding gap inquiry launched by MPs

MPs have launched an inquiry to establish how much money the social care sector needs to avoid shortages.

The Health and Social Care Committee will look at how much extra money is needed from the Government over each of the next five years.

Members will also examine workforce shortages and what measures are needed to address these.

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Homelessness: Councils 'telling people to contact private landlords'

Councils are being forced to "leave homeless people on the streets" because of a chronic lack of affordable housing in their areas, Crisis has said.

The charity said its research showed more than a third of those asking their local authority for help saw their situation remain the same or worsen.

In some cases, the only help people were given was a list of potential private landlords for them to contact.

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Councils pile back into PWLB following coronavirus rate drop

Local authorities dived back into Public Works Loan Board borrowing this week after the interest rate on some loans dropped below 2% following the coronavirus outbreak.

Council borrowing from the government facility fell dramatically following the decision by the Treasury in October to add one percentage point to the rate.

But councils have been tempted back to the facility after rates – based on the price of government gilts – fell dramatically due to coronavirus fears.

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Coronavirus: Boris Johnson to hold emergency Cobra meeting

The meeting is expected to consider whether "social distancing" measures should be phased in. These could include banning of big events, closing schools and encouraging home working.

It comes after a man in his 60s became the UK's third death linked to the Covid-19 virus.

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The tax that hits struggling High Streets hardest

In the 1980s and 1990s, firms would have been fighting over the keys to 18-22 Victoria Street, a large, modern two-storey unit directly opposite the shopping centre. Not any more.

Until last month, the property had been rented to Topshop and Topman. But their owner, Sir Philip Green's Arcadia group, walked away when the lease came up for renewal. His shops have been struggling to keep up with the competition, and dozens, up and down the country, are being closed.

"We are having difficulty attracting any interest, never mind a national retailer," says Paul Moran, a ratings surveyor whose company, Mason Owen, is tasked with finding a new tenant.

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Labour challenge Chancellor to make up £27 billion social housing cash shortfall

labour has challenged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make up a £27 billion shortfall in social housing funding in Wendesday's budget.

If the Tories had maintained the level of investment in social homes when they came to power in 2010, there would be 200,000 more of these homes today, according to the party’s analysis.

Instead, the number of new, Government-funded homes for social rent has fallen by 30,000 a year.

The number of households renting from private landlords rising by more than a million over 10 years.

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Councils warn 3.6 million extra cars are damaging Britain’s roads

Council leaders have warned the number of extra cars being driven on the roads would cover the entire length of Britain’s coastline if lined up next to each other.

Figures show that 3.6 million additional cars were licensed between 2009 and 2019, an increase of 13%.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said that over the same time period, annual council spending on highways and road maintenance fell by 32% as a result of funding cuts and increased demand for other services.

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Home Office extends funding for EU Settlement Scheme

Local authorities will be allowed to bid for a share of £8m to help vulnerable people apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

The funding will enable councils to provide legal support, caseworker services or advice to those that are hardest to reach.

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PM welcomes £5.2bn flood fund and announces further £200m

Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed a £5.2bn investment into flood defences during a visit to Bewdley in Worcestershire on Sunday (Mar 8).

The town, home to the River Severn, was badly hit by floods following the wettest February on record. And although the area of Bewdley is slowly getting over the devastation as the river levels continue to reduce, lasting damages continues to disrupt daily life.

The multi billion pound fund, set to be outlined in Wednesday’s Budget (Mar 11), will help to build 2,000 new flood and coastal defence schemes and protect 336,000 properties in the country.

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City threatened with 114 notice in budget row

Councillors at Peterborough City Council were last week told a section 114 notice would be issued the next day unless they reached an agreement on budget plans for next year, it has emerged.

Savings proposals for 2020-21 put forward by the Conservative group, which leads the council as a minority administration, were voted down at a meeting of full council on Wednesday.

Party leaders were then called into private talks in a bid to break the stalemate and told by officers a section 114 notice would be issued the following day if the budget proposals were not agreed.

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Environment Bill new burdens could cost districts £300m

District councils will be left out pocket by an average of £1.75m a year as a result of planned reforms to waste collection in the Environment Bill, the chair of the District Councils Network has warned.

The Environment Bill, which passed its second reading through Parliament at the end of last month, features a host of measures that require significant costs to be factored into councils’ revenue budgets, including mandatory food and garden waste collections and a rewuirement that all councils collect the same sets of materials.

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Tory MPs demand Chancellor kick starts a council house building boom in Wednesday’s Budget

TORY MPs today demanded Rishi Sunak uses his Budget to kick start a council house building boom to repay voters’ trust.

In a stinging letter to the Chancellor, 27 Tory MPs from across the party say the Government is failing to provide enough cheap houses.

The record collapse in the size of social housing stock has been “ignored for too many decades”, they also argue.

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Parents of sick babies to get extra £160 a week

Parents of newborn babies who fall ill will be given £160 a week on top of maternity and paternity pay in a budget windfall for families this week.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, will announce the change when he unveils the government’s economic plans on Wednesday, which will see upwards of £50bn poured into infrastructure projects over the next five years.

Under the plans, parents who need to take time off to care for a sick child will be able to claim the extra money for up to 12 weeks. The payments will help the families of the 40,000 babies born each year who have to spend more than a week in neonatal care.

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Top-speed broadband will reach even remotest parts of Britain, promises Chancellor

Billions of pounds is to be invested in next-generation broadband to deliver fibre broadband to the remotest parts of the country, Rishi Sunak has said.

The Chancellor also announced plans for a £1 billion deal with the mobile phone industry to improve 4G coverage significantly across the nation and bring to an end the curse of mobile "not spots" for millions.

The Conservatives pledged at the election to bring full fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business in Britain within five years.

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Workers over 40 to be taxed 2.5% to fund cost of old-age care under plans being considered by Matt Hancock

All workers aged over 40 would have to pay a fixed levy to fund the cost of their care in old age under plans being studied by Boris Johnson.

The radical proposals are designed to end the nightmare of pensioners being forced to sell their homes to pay for social care.

Commons sources say it would be based on a German system where employees contribute 2.5 per cent of their wages.

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New budget rules for councils may hit special needs school spending

Campaigners have raised fears that children with special needs, such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, could lose out from new government rules that will prevent councils from subsidising education spending from other parts of their budgets.

The failure of government funding to match growing demand has led many councils to overspend on their education budgets and raid their reserves, with the situation particularly acute in special-needs education.

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LGA responds to CIPFA council tax research

This increase will cost councils an extra £220 million this year - this is to cover increased contract costs to home care and residential care providers.

Responding to research by CIPFA into council tax increases this year, Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, said:

“Faced with ongoing funding pressures such as homelessness and looking after vulnerable children, councils continue to be left with little choice but to ask residents to pay more to help them try and protect their local services.''

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Councils face £6.5bn funding gap by 2025

Local services are facing a £6.5bn funding gap over the next five years, town hall chiefs have warned today.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said that while extra money has managed to halve the funding gap in 2020/21 compared to the year before, rising cost pressures and unprecedented demand will see the gap rise again significantly by 2025.

Adult social care services are facing the shortfall at £3.9bn - making up almost two thirds of the overall gap.

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Service reform needed to tackle persistent use of Spice within homeless population

Legislation has failed to reduce the use of Spice by homeless people, a new study has concluded.

Research from Manchester Metropolitan University has found that legislation such as banning the sale of ‘legal highs’ has failed to reduce its popularity within the homeless population due to its high potency and low price.

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Boris Johnson close to breaching 100-day promise on social care talks, warn councils

Next week’s Budget should be used to make urgent progress on the cross-party talk on adult social care which Boris Johnson promised within 100 days of the December election, local councils have said.

The budget falls just 10 days short of the prime minister’s self-imposed deadline, with no sign of the talks getting under way.

Council bosses warned that without a new settlement for social care, local services in England face a funding gap of almost £6.5bn by 2025.

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Matt Hancock asks MPs and peers for views on adult social care reform

Matt Hancock has written to MPs and peers, urging them to help secure a cross-party consensus on reform of the adult social care system, as the government commits to finding an answer to the ongoing problem.

In his letter, the health secretary says he is determined to find a sustainable solution to the problem of people being hit by large costs that are hard to plan for when their loved ones require social care.

The government has committed to the principle that nobody should be forced to sell their home to pay for care, saying that everybody accessing care must have safety and security.

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More than £100m allocated for local government Brexit preparations

Local government organisations have so far received £104m to prepare for EU Exit according to a new report by the National Audit Office, which criticises the government for showing a “limited picture” of overall EU Exit spending and putting “little information” in the public domain.

Between 2016-17 and 2019-20, the Treasury made £6.3bn of extra funding available to cover the costs of the UK leaving the EU with or without a deal. Of this, £104 million was allocated to councils, ports, health authorities and other local organisations to support preparations according to 'The cost of EU Exit Preparations' report.

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MHCLG spent £85m preparing for EU Exit

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spent a total of £85m preparing for EU Exit up to the end of January this year, says a new report today from the National Audit Office (NAO).

The report on the cost of EU Exit preparations found that since June 2016 and the 31 January this year, local government organisations received £104m in funding to prepare for EU Exit.

The report does not come to a value-for-money conclusion on government’s spend on preparing for EU Exit.

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Fears raised after Scottish government borrows £200m to balance budget

The Scottish Government is to press for greater borrowing powers to deal with the increasing fiscal risk arising from the devolution of tax and welfare powers, after it borrowed £200m to pay for next its 2020/21 budget.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes said she would use the government’s forthcoming medium term financial strategy – due on 21 May – to make the case for enhanced borrowing and reserve powers, arguing that existing levers are inadequate to manage the volatility inherent in the fiscal framework.

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Consultation on new business rates funding model expected in the summer

Whitehall officials and the Local Government Association are holding ongoing discussions on an alternative model of business rates retention under which councils would be compensated for the impact of appeals.

A consultation on this and other changes to the design of the move to further business rates retention is now expected to take place in the summer, according to a report to be presented next week to the LGA’s executive board.

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Council closes offices amid coronavirus scare

East Devon DC has closed its offices in Honiton to the public after a member of staff was identified as possibly having coronavirus.

The member of staff, who recently returned from a high risk country, has been displaying potential symptoms.

All members of staff were sent home on Friday and the majority will be able to continue working remotely.

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2 million over-55s live in dangerous homes, say charities

More than 2 million people aged over 55 live in homes that endanger their health, according to a report, with older homeowners who cannot afford to maintain their home most at risk.

Accidents and illnesses caused by dangerous homes cost the NHS £1.4bn a year, according to Home and Dry, a report by the Centre for Ageing Better and Care & Repair England based on analysis of the English Household Survey.

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Hot air from the Tube recycled to keep homes warm

More than 1,000 homes are being heated by warm air extracted from Tube tunnels in a pioneering scheme that could be replicated across the London Underground network.

A new energy centre on the site of the abandoned City Road Underground station, closed in 1922, is using a large fan to suck air via a six-storey shaft from the Northern Line. The air passes over a series of pipes to heat water that is pumped to 1,350 homes, a school and two leisure centres in Islington.

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Coronavirus could shut down parliament for months under emergency plans

Parliament could shut its doors for months under emergency government plans to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.

It follows the UK's biggest day-on-day increase in cases, with 87 people now confirmed to have the disease.

MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee committee are due to question England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty on Thursday as to how well prepared the UK is to deal with the impact of a possible global pandemic.

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NHS long-term plan did not include workforce needed to deliver, says NAO

The £33.9bn NHS Long Term Plan did not include detailed plans to secure the workforce needed to deliver them, according to the National Audit Office.

Based on a review of two service areas, the NAO found that, at the time of drawing up the Long Term Plan, there were estimates of nurses required for mental health service commitments.

However it said: "It did not include detailed plans for how it would secure the nursing workforce required to deliver the commitments: it stated that a workforce plan would be published in 2019, as Health Education England budgets for workforce education and training beyond March 2020 were not yet agreed."

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Coronavirus will brutally expose the effect of a decade of public service cuts [opinion]

If there’s an epidemic on the scale Public Health England warns of, the government may not be able to keep its citizens safe.

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Government delays Budget infrastructure plan

The long-awaited National Infrastructure Strategy is to be further delayed, and not released next week as expected, the BBC understands.

The delay will allow the new chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to refocus the strategy, to reflect potentially larger resources available, and to incorporate the challenge of achieving "net zero" carbon emissions over the same 30-year timescale.

Treasury sources say the overall ambition to make investments to "level up" the regions that also help meet commitments on climate change, remains and will be reflected in next week's Budget.

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Flybe collapse hits council-owned airports

Council-owned airports across the country have been hit by the collapse of Flybe.

The airline entered administration this morning, ceasing trading and leading to the grounding of all flights.

It operated domestic flights between dozens of regional airports but encountered financial difficulties last year and, despite new ownership, narrowly avoided going under in January.

The Government is ‘urgently’ working to find other airlines to take over Flybe’s routes, which would offer a lifeline to airports that relied on the airline.

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Councils and teachers call for over £5bn of extra school funding

Local authorities, parents and teachers have joined forces to call on the Government to increase school funding by £5.5bn.

The Government pledged last year to increase school funding by £7.1bn over the next three years – a figure which fell short of the £12.6bn they estimated was needed to deliver a sustainable world class education for every child.

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Kier suffers £41m loss

Outsourcing specialist Kier has posted losses of more than £41m in the past six months.

Reporting its results for the second half of 2019, the firm suffered a loss before tax of £41m, but the figure has reduced from £45m compared to the same period in 2018.

Kier's net debt stands at £242.5m.

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People moves: MHCLG confirm interim permanent secretary

Jeremy Pocklington has been appointed interim permanent secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, replacing Melanie Dawes who is now chief executive at Ofcom.

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Councils report 'huge overspends' on social care

More than eight out of ten councils overspent on children's social care in the last financial year, with nearly half (47%) spending more than their adult social care budget, new figures have shown.

Analysis by financial adviser Grant Thornton UK shows that council expenditure on social care has risen by an 'alarming' rate.

In 2018/19, 47% of councils overspent on their adult social care budget, a 7% increase compared to 2017/18. At the same time, 82% overspent against their children’s social care budget.

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Tackling ‘two-tier’ access to care in Central Bedfordshire [opinion]

During my career in social care and housing I have seen trends in how care services are delivered come and go. Councils who acted to divest themselves of in-house care provision have often had cause to regret it further down the line, and I consider that I have been fortunate in working within authorities that have retained significant direct provision of care services.

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The Tories say austerity is over: this budget will prove it isn’t [opinion]

The budget will at last define a government that has stayed tantalisingly opaque. Who are they really? What do they really mean to do? This budget arrives amid a battalion of crises: coronavirus, severe flood damage from climate crisis and our homemade Brexit fallout, with billions wiped off stock markets.

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Civil servant 'tried to kill herself after Priti Patel bullying'

A civil servant allegedly attempted to kill herself after being bullied by Priti Patel and later received a £25,000 payout, it has been claimed.

The BBC said it had seen legal correspondence claiming the woman had taken an overdose following the alleged incident in October 2015, when Ms Patel was employment minister.

The woman claimed that Ms Patel had shouted at the woman in her private office and told her to "get lost" and "get out of her face". Ms Patel denies the claims.

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This Budget needs to remember local government

Chancellor Rishi Sunak needs to increase funding for local government in his forthcoming Budget if the government is serious about it's aim of 'levelling-up' the UK economy, says Paul Dossett.

"The local government sector has seemed to be a forgotten and neglected element of public services in recent years.

Whilst the government’s increase to local government funding for 2020-21, announced in last year’s Spending Round, was welcome and indeed greatly needed, it only responded to in-year funding pressures.

It does not take into account some of the underlying pressures being faced by the sector long-term, in particular from demand-led services.

Social care continues to be the number one issue impacting councils’ finances in England, given the trilemma of shrinking budgets, an ageing population and rising costs..."

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Council warned of section 114 notice danger as reserves dry up

Low funding and dwindling reserves mean a local authority in Derbyshire risks considering an unbalanced budget by 2021-22, councillors have been warned.

Amber Valley Borough Council faces the prospect of a section 114 notice if it does not take action to redress its underlying budget deficit, its executive director of resources has warned councillors.

This would mean the authority would not be able to make new spending commitments while the notice was being considered, effectively ending non-essential expenditure during the process.

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The 'levelling up' agenda cannot overlook shire counties, says report

A new report today warned Government that counties are lagging behind other parts of the country.

The analysis by Grant Thornton for the County Councils’ Network (CCN) laid out the economic challenges facing shire counties ahead of the Budget.

Next week’s Budget is expected to focus on levelling up ‘red wall’ areas in the north and Midlands – but the report reveals that growth in county areas has lagged behind the rest of the country by 2.6% over the last five years.

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DCN chair slams district’s plan for ‘climate emergency’ tax hike

Concerns have been raised by the chair of the District Councils’ Network over Warwick DC’s plans to hold a referendum on increasing council tax to fund climate action, claiming there is an "asymmetry" to the question in a town with such a large student population.

Councillors in Warwick voted unanimously last week to hold a referendum on introducing a climate action fund precept, equivalent to a 34% council tax increase in 2020-21. This would increase council tax by the equivalent of just over £1 per week for a Band D househol

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Unitary’s children’s services leaps from requires improvement to outstanding

A West Midlands unitary has become only the second council ever to see its children’s services go from an Ofsted rating of requires improvement to one of outstanding in one go.

Telford & Wrekin Council was rated requires improvement four years ago with inspectors finding caseloads significantly above statutory guidance, variable quality of assessments and risks not always identified or responded to quickly enough.

Since then the council has invested in children’s services, including using profits from its commercial enterprises commercial enterprises like Nuplace lettings company and its solar farm.

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Dorset facing £16m overspend following ‘challenging year’

Dorset Council’s expected overspend for the financial year has grown to almost £16m.

A report to senior councillors said that the projected budget gap had reached £15.9m, up from £12.6m at the end of the first quarter.

Higher than expected demand for social care has been the main driver of the overspend, with the adults services directorate accounting for almost £5m and the children’s services directorate accounting for more than £8.5m.

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Lincolnshire council ‘delighted’ by £3.5m Grimsby investment

Grimsby will receive over £3.5m of Government funding, including £2.2m of new investment for the next phase of its landmark Town Deal.

In addition, the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has awarded £1.3m, provided through the Government’s local growth fund program.

The investment brings the total commitment of public and private funding to over £90m to deliver targets of over 8,000 new jobs and nearly 10,000 new homes in Grimsby through the UK’s first Town Deal.

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Jenrick voices support for East Midlands Combined Authority plans

District and borough councils in Leicestershire have announced they will be taking forward discussions about creating an East Midlands Combined Authority after the Government welcomed the idea.

The seven Leicestershire councils wrote to the secretary of state for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, in January in support of devolution and to make clear their willingness to work with the Government on its devolution framework.

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Coronavirus set to restrict chancellor’s Budget choices

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been warned he will have to reassess the plans his first Budget, in response to the economic disruption caused by the spread of the coronavirus.

According to The Times, the Office for Budget Responsibility will alter its forecasts to recognise the economic strain resulting from the outbreak.

An OBR source told the paper that it would take into account the latest information when it publishes its report alongside the government’s tax and spending plans.

The source added that Robert Chote, head of the OBR, would also address the threat of the virus to the government’s economic calculations.

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Warwick District Council gives green light to council tax referendum

Residents are to be given the chance to vote on a proposed 34.2% rise in Warwick District Council’s share of council tax.

If approved, the increase would amount to an increase of £57 per year per household for a Band D property to £223, £52 of this increase will put into a £3m annual ‘ring-fenced’ Climate Action Fund with the remaining £5 going towards the Council’s other services.

Spending plans for the extra income include reducing congestion, improving air quality, enhancing biodiversity and building more energy efficient homes and public buildings.

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To truly ‘level -up’ we need to power up counties

Today the County Councils Network releases a new report that speaks directly to the government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda; a programme that will be fleshed out further in next week’s Budget.

The origins of the need to level up are rooted in globalisation, exacerbated by the financial crash, and partly manifested in the Brexit vote. For those not living in London, or in the centre of the major cities, it is difficult to see the fruits of a global and increasingly technological and services economy, but easy to feel investment in their public services is insufficient.

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'My husband's care will cost me my £2m house'

Changes to social care funding, which would have eased the burden on squeezed family finances, could now be scrapped or delayed.

Older people qualify for support if they have less than £23,250 in assets. This was due to rise in April to £27,000 when the person’s house is not included and £118,000 when it is, as recommended by Sir Andrew Dilnot’s review in 2011.

But sources at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said changes to the means test would be part of Boris Johnson’s care funding plan, due to be published by the end of the year. The Prime Minister has promised no one will have to sell their home to pay for care.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak to snatch £3bn entrepreneurs’ tax relief to pay for the north

Businesses will be hit with a £3bn tax rise to pay for a budget spending spree in the north of England, it can be revealed.

Rishi Sunak, the new chancellor, will scrap entrepreneurs’ relief, which allows those who start a business to pay a preferential rate of tax, according to two sources familiar with the plans. The relief allows entrepreneurs to pay capital gains tax at 10% rather than the usual rate of 20% when they sell a business, up to a lifetime limit of £10m.

Sunak has decided to scrap it because it mostly benefits wealthy businessmen in the south of England. He will divert the cash to pay for nurses and police officers as well as building projects in the Midlands.

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Cash-starved councils face big bills after buying up shopping centres

Almost 150 miles and a three-hour drive separate Malvern Shopping Park, Worcestershire and Surrey County Council’s offices in Kingston.

Surrey’s £74m acquisition of the rather tired retail park in mid-2017 was among the most eyebrow-raising of a wave of deals by local authorities in the commercial property market.

“It was insane,” says an industry insider. “They bought it at the top of the market, rents are high, everyone knew there was going to be a dip in retail warehousing and they paid yesterday’s price for this big lump.

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County lines car thefts: Police chief says gangs target youngsters to steal luxury vehicles

Car theft gangs are using county lines recruitment tactics to groom youngsters into stealing high-value vehicles, a police chief has said.

Dave Thompson, Chief Constable for West Midlands Police, said cars are now easier than ever to steal because keyless technology has led to a "dramatic" increase in vehicle crime.

Criminals are turning to "exactly the same" strategies as those employed by county lines gangs to encourage children and teenagers to work for them, such as offering to buy food for their family, said Mr Thompson.

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Number of rough sleepers falls for second year in row

The number of people sleeping rough has fallen for a second consecutive year in a boost for efforts to eradicate the most visible form of homelessness within five years.

An annual tally by local authorities in England estimated that 4,266 people were sleeping rough on a single night last autumn, 9 per cent lower than in 2018. This significant drop followed a fall of 2 per cent a year earlier, from a peak of 4,751 people in 2017.

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Coronavirus: Shares face worst week since global financial crisis

Stock markets across the globe are suffering their worst week since the global financial crisis of 2008 as fears over the impact of the coronavirus continue to grip investors.

Markets in Europe fell sharply on Friday morning, with London's FTSE 100 index sinking more than 3%.

Asian markets saw more big falls, while in the US, the Dow Jones recorded its biggest daily points drop on Thursday.

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Social care 'cracks are turning into chasms' and system faces collapse in 2029, the Government is warned in an alarming report

The social care system could collapse by 2029 unless the Government intervenes to prevent a funding crisis and a shortage of beds, says a new study.

Action is needed or a 'tipping point' will be reached where older people are unable to afford care, councils lack funding to look after them, and care homes don't have enough room to meet demand, it warns.

The 'Elderly Care Crisis' report calls for an overhaul of funding, including raising the £23,250 wealth threshold at which financial support currently kicks in, to help elderly people struggling to pay massive care bills.

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County hopeful of ‘devo alternative’ growth deal

Hertfordshire CC is hopeful of soon securing a growth deal from the government, with leader David Williams (Con) telling LGC it could represent an alternative to mayoral combined authorities in what government officials describe as “unreformed” county areas in the south of England.

However Cllr Williams (pictured), who is also chair of the County Councils Network, told LGC Hertfordshire may be forced to pursue reorganisation and a mayoral devolution deal to prevent the area being “left behind” if the government decides this is the only option for areas seeking significant new powers and funding.

He said he was hopeful a growth deal would be agreed soon, with a potential announcement in the Budget next month, This follows regular discussions with Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government officials on funding for housing and infrastructure, similar to the £215m deal agreed with Oxfordshire councils last year.

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LGPS funds given discretion over employer exit payments

The government has unveiled measures giving Local Government Pension Scheme funds greater control over exit payments to employers leaving the scheme.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has announced amendments to regulations which require funds to pay exit credits where pension liabilities have been overfunded.

It said it was responding to concerns that some outsourced contractors were claiming exit payments on top of existing benefits from agreements designed to share pensions risk.

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PM announces extra £236m to end rough sleeping

An additional £236m in funding has been announced by the Prime Minister to help get rough sleepers off the street. A new independent advisor, Dame Louise Casey, has been appointed to lead an urgent review into the causes of homelessness. This will serve as a blueprint for action, for Government to deliver additional action to end rough sleeping.

Housing First style ‘move on’ accommodation for up to 6,000 vulnerable people on the streets will be made available through this new funding, giving stability and certainty on a more long-term basis.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said ahead of a visit to a homeless charity: “It is simply unacceptable that we still have so many people sleeping on the streets, and I am absolutely determined to end rough sleeping once and for all."

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Maintaining performance - Social Care IMPOWER INDEX

We still don’t know how the Prime Minister intends to ‘fix’ social care, so being able to evidence current performance is vitally important for the sector. Without this, politicians could point at perceived or actual variability in the system as a reason not to substantially increase funding.

Most people working in the sector have a shared vision of what ‘good’ adult social care looks like – it involves greater levels of independence and control, so that people can live more fulfilled lives and remain in their homes and communities for longer.

What is less easy to find consensus on is how to measure and evidence the extent to which the sector is currently achieving this. In a complex system such as adult social care, focusing on a group of specific indicators is controversial – can numbers really reflect what is ‘good’ for any individual person? And can performance metrics understand and represent the importance of local variation?

Given this context, the IMPOWER INDEX uses publicly available data to evaluate council productivity, measured as outcome value per pound spent.

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District approves 34% ‘climate emergency’ tax hike

A Conservative run West Midlands district has unanimously approved plans to become the first local authority to hold a referendum on increasing council tax in order to raise funds for tackling climate change.

At Warwick DC's budget meeting yesterday (Wednesday), councillors from all parties backed a recommendation to vote in favour of holding a referendum on the introduction of a 'climate action fund' precept that would be equivalent to a 34% increase on council tax in 2020-21.

This would mean a rise of £57 a year for a band D property, which Warwick says is only equivalent to a 3% increase on residents' total council tax bill once Warwickshire CC and the police and crime commissioner precepts are taken into account.

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London boroughs’ joint chief to depart

Paul Martin is to step down as joint chief executive of Richmond upon Thames and Wandsworth LBC.

Mr Martin, who joined Wandsworth as chief executive in 2010 and took on the joint role at Richmond in 2016 under a shared staffing arrangement, said it was the “right time” for someone new to take the councils through their next stage of development.

The arrangement has delivered £60m efficiency savings across the two councils, enabling them to deliver better social care, cleaner streets and more leisure services, he added.

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Housing benefit reform a ‘false economy’

A new paper from economists at the University of Warwick has found that since 2011, for every pound the Government has saved in housing benefit, councils have been forced to spend 53p more on temporary housing.

The researchers also found the cuts have had ‘substantial’ human costs such as an increase in evictions, individual bankruptcies and homelessness.

They found that forced evictions in the private rented sector rose by 22% after the cuts were implemented, with the number of households living in council-provided temporary accommodation increasing by nearly 18%.

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Peterborough plans £7m repeat of controversial capital receipts treatment

Peterborough City Council has revealed plans to use £7m of capital receipts to help balance its in-year revenue budget and 2020/21 spending proposals – despite controversy surrounding similar moves in previous years.

Last year MHCLG investigated Peterborough’s use of capital receipts to offset its minimum revenue position (MRP) charge after questions were raised about the lawfulness of the practice.

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Gove outlines EU trade talk plan

- Statement from Michael Gove on the UK's future relationship with the EU

- Further statements on rough sleeping and child protection

- General debate on Welsh affairs later

- Lords meets for questions to ministers

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Budget 2020: Chancellor must raise taxes in first Budget, says IFS

The new chancellor must raise taxes in his first Budget or break the government's rules on borrowing, a leading economic think tank has warned.

Rishi Sunak is under pressure to increase spending on the NHS, social care and schools.

He has also inherited a fiscal target from his predecessor Sajid Javid to bring spending in to balance by 2022.

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Treasury plan for land value duty falls on stony ground